Reinventing Church For The 21st Century

What does the church in the 21st century look like? Many are looking for the answer and searching to re-invent church to make it both potent and relevant to our world.

We want a church that’s not lost it’s saltiness as well as one that’s out of the saltshaker. We want a church that’s inwardly intimate, yet outwardly motivated.

Surprised By The Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is, for most of the time, predictable. Many eyes are on the possibility of a surprise idea from God – something new and unusual. At times, the unusual does occur, but the thing that makes it so unusual, is that it is cast against the backdrop of the usual. The ‘usual’ business of the Holy Spirit is to relay the pattern of sound teaching given through the inspired Word of God.

Paul writes, “What you have heard from me, keep as the PATTERN of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:13)

Patterns are always repetitive arrangements of a set design. Church design in the 21st century is still based upon a ‘set piece’ that involves 5 major areas of church life.

The Five Zones
The role of the church is to take people from Community to Core. Its mission is to lead people from living with no knowledge of God to become maturing disciples of Christ. The journey takes the person through 5 zones of destiny.


Zone 1 – Community Zone
Motto – serving our worlds in action and real friendship.

This zone encompasses everything to do with our presence in our communities and cities. It includes – community projects and personal relationships. It sows the seeds of authenticity and integrity that creates listening ears. The first miracle of Jesus was to turn water into wine at a wedding. Community projects need to celebrate the great times as well as assist in the hard times in people’s lives.

The first miracle of Jesus could have been to heal a hundred lepers, but He chose it to be a miracle not to the marginalised of society but to the main stream of society. Weddings, birthdays and anniversaries represent the entire community and the celebration of these kind of events link the church to the entire community. Our church houses Sheffield’s second largest indoor children’s play centre. This is one of our flagships, and just behind it is the care for the marginalised. It works out to be a good mix.

Many churches marginalise themselves by strong community presence with marginalised groups only. People think church is for when you’re down and out. Our presence needs to prove them both right and wrong!

When it comes to issues of morality and integrity, we have no right to criticise our society until we’ve first enhanced it. We don’t have the right to speak – we earn the right to speak!
Zone 2 – Discovery Zone
Motto – helping people to discover the good news about Jesus through great communication.

This zone encompasses everything that sows the seed of our testimony. It includes personal sharing as well as evangelistic programmes. After discovering you, they now discover your story. People will always firstly make decisions about you, and then your message.

Zone 3 – Foundation Zone
Motto – introducing people to the first steps of new life in Christ.

This zone is the maternity ward of church life. It leads the new Christian along the first steps in their walk with Christ. It’s done one on one or facilitated by various church programmes.

Zone 4 – Growth Zone
Motto – nurturing people to growing strong in God.

The growth zone is the zone of maturity. It’s often facilitated by the main service, departmental services and by small groups. It’s also facilitated by rubbing shoulders with people while doing tasks together. It’s where responsibilities are developed. It’s all about Caanan living, not wilderness living. It’s about sowing seeds, digging wells and fighting fights.

Zone 5 – Equippers Zone
Motto – equipping people to work in teams for the success of the vision.

The equippers zone involves both leadership development and development of teams for the overall success of the vision. It can include a partnership programme that initiates real partnering in the vision. It’s vital that all five zones are strong in the life of the church. In involvement, people have a tendency towards one particular area of church life. They gravitate towards their strengths. As a leader it is essential that the chain from community to core doesn’t have a weakest link. Each zone of the journey and it’s link to the next zone of the journey is essential for the success of the church.

Are Cells the Answer?
The major key to the success of every church lies in its leadership. Leaders tend to have major strengths and non strengths. Some will be brilliant in the community and some brilliant at leading small groups. Some are pioneers, some are settlers. The idea of creating homogenous portfolios for the majority of leaders is both a daunting and unnatural task. Many cell church models are based upon the principle that all 5 of the zone activities are in operation in every cell. For most, that is an impossible task.

You can train weaknesses and produce limited strength. It will never be as strong, however, as a person who naturally flows in their strength. To create ‘all-rounders’ out of people who may be ‘half circles’ will create unnecessary frustration.

Every person has a strength – a God given strength. The task of the overseer is to maximise people’s strengths, create character and manage people’s weaknesses.

Cells are excellent places to encourage fellowship and discipleship and mobilisation. Many leaders are good at leading a small group and many aren’t good at it. Some leaders who excel in events organisation fail badly when placed in other arenas. Many with a focussed heart for evangelism who are placed into cell leadership produce cells that lead people to Christ but have a very low retention factor. Again, you can train a leader in anything you like, but unless they have eyes to both see the big picture and gifting to do something about it, results will be very limited.

The answer to the re-invented church of the 21st century is diversity in operation – putting your best people in the community zone and your best people in each of the other four zones. Each of these people need to be connected and empowered by both the oversight, departmental leaders and small group leaders.

Fathers In The Faith
Another limitation of streamlining through defined ‘cell’ groups is that it can limit the number of fathers or mentors in the faith that someone is accessible to. Most people are looking to find a mentor in the faith, yet there is rarely only one. Proverbs advises us that wisdom is found amongst many advisors (Proverbs 11:14). Brothering is the powerful advantage of small groups but fathering is limited by them. The solution is for someone to be involved in a number of groups in the life of a church, each with another facet of fathering in operation.

The Sunday Service / The Living Room
The prophetic word preached through a series of sermons blasts a hole through the mountains of impossibility. The evangelistic gifts lift out the blown apart pieces of rock. The pastoral strengths shape them into living stones and the teaching strength builds supports for the newly created tunnel. The apostolic strength oversees the entire operation. It’s necessary to demonstrate each of these strengths in the Sunday service.

The Sunday services are the living room of the church. The living room is the place where people congregate, kick off their shoes and celebrate life. It’s the place of bold declaration and the place of great praise. It’s the place of networking and fellowship. It majors on the growth zone but also includes the foundation zone as well as the discovery zone. It’s not exclusive to one strength. It’s the most popular room of the house.

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