By Kiefer Dooley — You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. —Matthew 5:14
The church that I want to belong to in 2026 will not only be a warm, welcoming, and inclusive body of believers, but will also focus on the broader context of local community. The church that I want to belong to is a fresh expression of the Seventh-day Adventist movement that puts more emphasis on Jesus and less emphasis on being “SDA.” This church worries equally about creating holistic outreach opportunities through community partnerships as it does about creating Sabbath School lessons that will inform participants about the “straight and narrow.” Did I say equally? My church forms partnerships, meets needs, shows love, and offers truth. My church knows that the gateway to the straight and narrow is love.
This church might have all the normal, liturgic forms to which we are accustomed–music, a community prayer time, a sermon, a benediction, and a closing song. But it also might introduce snacks at the beginning of the service. Those snacks might grow to be a whole breakfast bar. That I wouldn’t mind.
Yes, the church of the future should definitely have a complete breakfast bar.
This church might also have all the “hip” church lingo, sleek marketing, fun church band, and a pastor who wears skinny jeans (or whatever the trend is in 2026).
Does all this matter—the breakfast bar and the marketing and the skinny jeans? Maybe yes; maybe no.
What really matters is that the church I will belong to will be comprised of a community of members who care deeply about three things:
- Their individual relationships with Jesus,
- The church community to which they belong,
- Sharing their excitement about items 1 and 2 with everyone else.
At my church in 2026, the people do not come to church on Saturdays to consume a service; they arrive to create a service.
There is a passion and excitement centered around the hard work of engaging community that fuels the creation of music sets and sermon series, outreach programs, Saturday morning jam sessions, Saturday afternoon Bible studies, and every-day ministry in the workplaces, classrooms, and non- profit community organizations all across town.
New arrivals in town hear about this church because, after all, it cannot be hidden. When church wraps up on Saturday afternoons, it’s not the end of the service but the beginning of it. From there, my church spreads throughout the entire community into schools, workplaces, gyms, auto shops and grocery stores. Where the people go, so does my church.
Saturday’s sermons usually prompt hearty conversation and sometimes spirited debate. Discussion takes place not to prove “right” or “wrong” but to seek understanding and continues through the lunch hour and often at the dinner table.
Members don’t ask my church to serve them better, to cater more fully to their desires, to put out a better breakfast bar or to wear skinnier jeans. My church understands that a community that only looks inward, seeking after its own selfish desires, and feasting on its own strife, loses its flavor and appeal. After all, “. . . if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matthew 5:13).
No, there is no inward focus in my church. Its members there are too focused on diligently creating a safe and healthy space for others that they lose track of their own preferences. A rotating group of community members share the responsibility for leading and directing the church from crafting sermon series to running sound or setting up the breakfast bar. At my church, genuine passion, generosity, and excitement about how Jesus meets our needs drives our desire to wholeheartedly meet the needs of others. We seek those needs and selflessly work to fill them.
My church in 2026 feels like it holds the center of gravity for its community, actively drawing in those around it, meeting needs, sharing the Gospel, inspiring action, and granting responsibility. Everyone knows and everyone cannot help but be, all in.
A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
— Kiefer Dooley is RMC corporate treasurer for asset management. Until recently he was RMC youth ministry director. Email him at [email protected]