Beyond Even the 21st Century

I thought this article was very poignant to the ongoing discussion of church renewal:

(Andrew Bell, “Our Moment is Now #3synod15,” Called and Sent. Online available:

Leonard Sweet has great insights for engaging our 21st century world. A number of his books fill my shelf (and they are marked up heavily by this reader).  He was recently the presenter at the 2015 Tri-Synod gathering of ELCA leaders in Texas. One of my colleagues, Andrew Bell, wrote the above reflection in response. I’ve heard/read/shared a lot of Sweet’s ideas before, but one new concept I had not thought of prior to reading Bell’s article was this insight:

“We are teaching children and young adults who have a better than average statistical chance of living well into the 22nd century (let that sink in).”

Woah. I did let it sink in. Amazing. Now I have a question to consider…

How are we in the church preparing for the 22nd century?


In many ways churches are always playing catch-up. Many of our churches are still trying to learn the tricks of the late 20th century church-growth movement which has come and gone. These communities have not even reached the 21st century, let alone set sights on the 22nd. What life will be like then is anyone’s guess, but my hypothesis is that technology will only continue to reshape our existence and that we will increasingly “opt in” to what we find meaningful and worth our time while we “opt out” of that which does not.

The digital age has moved us away from one-way communication. As ongoing learners we have access to more and more information at our fingertips customized by our use of search engines like Google. As participants we want to help shape our experiences into what we are doing rather than just receive things the way they are. As networkers we have (and crave) the ability to connect with people all across the globe cheaply and instantly to test and share ideas. As these values continue to widen, many of our churches still use a delivery system that is more or less one-way communication given from a particular point of view. It’s not bad. I use one-way communication too. It’s just becoming a smaller way we interface with the world around us.

Like many others I’m searching for what either modifies or replaces “the church service” (as we know it now), “a sermon” (as something one person prepares and presents), and “a newsletter article” (even this blog post is one-way communication until you write a comment below).

How can we learn from one another to better look to the future?

I think we have to broaden our horizons, but remember our starting vantage point as we explore new directions. As a white, male, American, Lutheran Christian I understand my viewpoint is particularly limited and that engagement with other perspectives beyond my experience is paramount. I also believe Lutheran Christians have something to add when considering humanity’s future and seek a place at the table. I have a strong sense that any institution that has aspirations of being relevant needs to find ways to help people “opt in,” participate and shape the conversation as ideas get put into action or they will eventually cease to exist. I know the future is unpredictable, the challenges are many and that there are no guarantees for success.  But isn’t that where faith comes in? I hope so!

Let’s get to it then. As Bell suggests, “Our time is now.”

As we keep looking ahead, we can help each other see things in new ways as we challenge our assumptions and explore possibilities. As far as the church is concerned, I want to be part of the shaping of things to come. I hope you do too. Got any ideas?


“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) 

About geoff sinibaldo

Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, Son, Friend, Change Proponent, Goofball, Seeking Faithfulness in the 21st Century
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