Dave Gibbons: What's Next for the Church?

Recently, I returned from the southern region of India where I attended a tech conference. Every time I travel to India (this was my sixth time to be there), I see dramatic changes from my previous visit that illustrate the nation’s emerging wealth and influence. The conference was held at the Infosys Technologies campus—a facility of more than 300 acres with European-style architecture with Corinthian columns, a huge pool and a large workout gym, two large eating areas, a convenience store and a bank, all on the premises, which is also home to more than 5,000 resident interns.

Against this backdrop suggestive of India’s economic growth and technological innovation, Sweden’s Hans Rosling, a brilliant statistician, spoke of the emergence of the East, and fielded the question, “When will the East surpass the West in per capita income?”

The projection? On July 10, 2048, China and India will overtake the West, a development that can be tracked in real time on GapMinder.org, where dynamic graphics depict the West’s skyrocketing economic growth, its plateau, and then the surge of the East.

How will the West manage the inevitable fear of the transition of economic power? And how will the East deal with its increasing power? We face great uncertainties. Right now in the midst of economic crisis, the West is concerned with survival; we’re just trying to find our bearings. It’s like the period of time of a deep personal loss—you’re still in a stage of unbelief. Moreover, as one part of the world gains power over the other, is war likely? Add to that the rogue potential of great destruction or dramatic transformation by smaller groups of people, and you have a changed world that continues to rapidly morph into a fusion of cultures on the one hand and economic polarity on the other.

But this is not just a time of massive economic and geopolitical shifts. Great change is sweeping the global Church. Even today, the small nation of Korea is poised to overtake America and the West as the leading missionary-sending nation. Brilliant theologians will continue to rise from the East and from nations of great oppression and suffering. Their insights are pregnant with fresh perspectives and depth. We face unprecedented opportunity. How will the Church respond? What’s next?

The Joel 2 Generation

I believe this is a Joel 2 generation that will see an incredible unleashing of supernatural power as the Church advances and people are transformed. We all know that the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity, but some in the evangelical world have been reticent to embrace His work, perhaps because of what they associate with a sort of “charismania.” But I see a growing movement of the Holy Spirit that is gentle and deferential, focused not on a persuasive leader yet nonetheless miraculous. The Spirit knows what the Church needs, and I believe we will see—even in America—greater demonstrations of healing and prophetic words and gifts of knowledge. This is the generation in which the beauty of God will be unleashed through this new wave of visionaries and dreamers.

Justice and Mercy

I also believe that at this time of significant transition in the world, in the Church we will see an even a greater emphasis on compassion and justice than what we’ve experienced already. Compassion is a focus of mercy in response to an immediate need. Justice addresses and resolves the systemic issues that prevent a society from being healthy—issues like education, access to quality health care, clean water, effective governance, economic sustainability and spiritual vitality—the key systems of a healthy society. I believe there is a discernable shift in the Church today from common short-term responses of compassion to a long-term focus on systemic issues related to justice.

We may continue to see churches do isolated service projects and short-term treks, but I sense a greater awareness among church leaders that dramatic transformation requires sustained effort over 10 to 15 years. It’s hard work. It’s dirty work. And it takes a commitment to long-term relationships. But increasingly, the Church is responding with renewed enthusiasm and vigor.

An Anthem for This Generation

In this time of international upheaval and spiritual opportunity, Isaiah 58 offers a metaphor for this generation—an anthem for an active expression of worship that will fill the world with beauty.

“This is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. … Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory [beauty] of the Lord will protect you from behind (verses 6-8, NLT).”

My hope and desire is that the Beauty of God will be unleashed through this new generation of zealots.

Dave Gibbons
Dave Gibbonshttp://www.newsong.net/

Dave Gibbons is the founding pastor of Newsong, a multisite, international church with campuses in inner city L.A., North Orange County, Irvine and Bangkok, among other places. He's also the CVO and founder of Xealots, a nonprofit that equips creatives, entrepreneurs, activists, artists and innovators to discover their destiny and live it out.