The excitement of attending last week’s WFX 2016 conference in Louisville continues. One observation, stays with me as I recall the intensive gathering of many evangelical and growth church leaders. Other than youth gatherings, this is probably the youngest assemblage of church leaders I’ve attended recently. And by young, I mean under 50, since that’s often the youngest crowd at many church gatherings. Here, it was 30- or 40-year old speakers doing most of the presenting. The message was clear. The church is changing, and changing rapidly.
These are leaders who are trying new ideas, building on innovations, and at times, challenging the status quo. And many of their ideas are defining the vanguard of faith sharing and faith formation around the globe. These are people like keynote presenter Bobby Gruenewald, of Life.Church based in Oklahoma but with locations in 25 cities and a membership of over 100,000 who participate through their Church Online.
Greunewald holds the title of Innovation Leader, but he could just easily be called a revolutionary with his vision of truly reaching out with the Good News to any and everyone in the world. Telling the origin story of his YouVersion Bible App, there’s no doubt we should anticipate many big changes. Where translating and distributing the Bible used to be hugely expensive and took decades of work, this app and its technology has used crowd sourcing to do Bible translations in weeks so it is now available in hundreds of languages. As we met, Guenewald noted the YouVersion Bible App was nearly on its 200 millionth download.
But what I didn’t see, among all the fancy lighting systems, sound boards and wall-sized video screens was anything that related to the intimate and physical connection between spirituality and place. I’m not discounting the importance or power of all the new ideas and innovative thinking. I just felt that at least one significant aspect of faith, one I spend a lot of time studying, is the way we grow in our spiritual quest when we locate in a spiritual space. This may be a place in nature, it may be a church or other kind of landmark or monument. With all these new ideas about faith, this aspect of worship shouldn’t be overlooked.
There was one place at the WFX conference that I thought would have focused on the spiritual environment. At the end of one line of conference rooms was a sign for the Hideaway, a place for quiet and reflection. I opened the door carefully, not wanting to disturb anyone in prayer, but curious to see how this space would be arranged. What kind of prayer room would appeal to millennial leaders? The lights were dimmed, but the room had no decorations or arrangements. In fact, there were mostly crates for speakers and sound equipment lined up along the wall. It looked like a storage room. In the lit section of the room, on a mismatched assemblage of couches, were a group of musicians trying out a new Christian themed song, oblivious to their makeshift surroundings.
The Hideaway room symbolized for me that the growth church movement is still very new, still in transition. The challenge of associating faith and space really hasn’t yet been embraced by this movement. I hope the coming years will see the maturing of these new ideas to create even more ways to share faith and to share sacred space. And I’m hopeful that my firm and I can help out wherever possible.