Church 3.0: Upgrades for the Future of the Church

File this one under books that make you think, excite you, and frustrate you (the last chapter’s first sentence is “It is entirely possible that this book has offended you”), but Neil Cole’s observations about church life and necessary adjustments in Church 3.0 is a great read for ministry and mission leaders in todays America. I recently discovered that in my region of the Bible belt, less than 5% of teenagers and 10% of adults are attending evangelical churches. What does this say about the next generation? Do we need to upgrade to a new operating system? Cole says yes.

What is Church 3.0? Church 1.0 would have been Jerusalem Church which needed a lot of patches and didn’t last very long (many leaders long for Jerusalem’s crowds without considering it’s eventual outcome). Antioch would have been 1.1. Reproduction and sending voluntarily and on purpose started there. Galatian churches would have been 1.3, Corinth 1.4, as Paul added patches and shifted with the Spirit along the way. Church 2.0 came with Constantine and the establishment of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church. 2.1 came with the Protestant Reformation, 2.2 with the Anabaptists and radical reformers. And now Cole says the shift is happening to Church 3.0.

What’s the upgrade?

From the Introduction: “The change to Church 3.0 is a shift from a program-driven and clergy-led institutionalized approach of church to one that is relational, simple, and viral in its spread. Instead of seeing church as something that serves its people, church becomes people who serve – God, one another, and a hurting world. Church is no longer a place to go, but a people to belong to. Church is no longer an event to be at, but a family to be a part of.”

The rest of the book answers questions about Church 3.0 and Organic Church.

A few of the questions:

  • What about the Church’s mission? From Coming to Going
  • What about Church growth? From incremental to Exponential
  • What about Church models? From Congregations to Networks, From Centralized to Decentralized
  • What about Gatherings? From One-Size-Fits-All to Tailored Groups for Effective Function
  • What about Heresy? From Better-Trained Pastors to Better-Trained People
  • What about Finances? From Ten Percent to the Whole Enchilada

Agree with Cole or not, you will be challenged to think about simplicity and mission. Here’s a few of my favorite quotes and ideas from the book that seem to have stuck with me:

  • We must transition from seeing church as a once-a-week worship event to an ongoing spiritual family on mission together.
  • it’s possible to do church but fail to demonstrate anything of the person and work of Christ in a neighborhood.
  • One side effect of pursuing excellence in church production is that common Christians become spectators who can contribute a percentage of their income to keep things going, though little more. we have raised the bar so high on how church is done that few believe they could ever do it themselves.
  • we have lowered the bar of what it means to be a Christian, such that simply showing up to the weekly one-hour event with some regularity and a checkbook is all it takes.
  • I want to lower the bar of how church is done so that anyone can do it, and raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple so that they will do it.
  • three roadblocks to church multiplication: buildings, budgets, and big shots.
  • Buildings are not bad or wrong; they are simply not alive and therefore cannot reproduce.
  • People don’t mind being called a servant, they just don’t like being treated like one.
  • we have made church about something that is less than the gospel itself and more about how the particular speaker makes us feel on Sunday morning.
  • The Gospel is not an invitation to walk down an aisle or a sawdust trail; it is an invitation to the adventure of a lifetime!
  • church has become a religious event that takes place once a week, rather than a spiritual family on a mission together.

Are you provoked yet? For good? Thoughts? Read the book. It will make you think.

Posted on April 15, 2011, in Books worth reading. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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