As we face a new year, some of the issues churches will likely need to address haven’t changed. On the other hand, we seldom address these issues unless we’re reminded to consider them. Here are some of those issues I’m seeing:
What is the relationship between social justice, social ministry and the Great Commission? Evangelicals don’t even define the terms the same way, but we’re debating their priorities again. We need to talk with each other rather than about each other regarding these matters.
How will our budgets change (if at all) if pastors lose their current housing allowance benefit? This discussion has been on the table for several years now, and it is still in debate. The benefit is not an insignificant one, however, and its potential loss would affect pastors.
How will we minister to those struggling with same-sex attraction while maintaining a biblical commitment to sexuality and marriage? Speaking truth without a willingness to love and minister to those with whom we disagree is insufficient.
Do we have any responsibility toward the thousands of churches that will close their doors in 2019? If 6000-10,000 churches may close this next year, surely we have some role in helping them find new life.
How will we deal with illegal immigrants who attend our churches? All of these issues are complicated ones, and this one is wrought with political tensions, too – but we cannot ignore it.
Do we genuinely believe in the possibility of church revitalization? It’s hard to think about some churches ever changing, but hopelessness should not be a mark of our faith. I’m grateful for groups like Revitalize Network and Church Answers that are leading the way in this arena.
Are we willing to affirm the role and calling of bivocational pastors? Not everybody affirms my thoughts on this subject, but I’m convinced we won’t reach North America or the world without affirming and promoting this calling.
Do we really care about the Great Commission? We’re beginning to see churches that recognize they need help in evangelizing their neighbors and reaching the nations, but the depth of their burden remains to be seen.
How will we reach generations raised on the Internet (and sometimes, seemingly by the Internet)? The Internet has dramatically changed the world of education, and churches must operate in that changing world, too – without losing who we are in the process.
What other questions/discussions would you add to this list?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless is Dean of Doctoral Studies and Vice-President of Spiritual Formation and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, where he also serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions. In addition, he is team leader for Theological Education Strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.)