Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; Only what’s done in Christ will last.
Every believer is a witness whether he wants to be or not.
“I am only one, but I am one; I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do I ought to do, and what I ought to do, by God's grace, I will do.”
2019 10 PREDICTIONS ABOUT THE FUTURE CHURCH
This is a series about the future church. Hope you find the 10 prediction informative.
1. THE POTENTIAL TO GAIN IS STILL GREATER THAN THE POTENTIAL TO LOSE
As despairing or as cynical as some might be (sometimes understandably) over the church’s future, we have to remind ourselves that the church was Jesus’ idea, not ours. It will survive our missteps and whatever cultural trends happen around us. We certainly don’t always get things right, but Christ has an incredible history of pulling together Christians in every generation to share his love for a broken world. As a result, the reports of the church’s death are greatly exaggerated. What people see is how we act, and sometimes whose actions lead people to believe the church is dead. Think about it, are you contributing to this picture?
2. CHURCHES THAT LOVE THEIR MODEL MORE THAN THE MISSION WILL DIE
That said, many individual congregations and some entire denominations won’t make it. The difference will be between those who cling to the mission and those who cling to the model. When the car was invented, it quickly took over from the horse and buggy. Horse and buggy manufacturers were relegated to boutique status and many went under, but human transportation exploded. Suddenly average people could travel at a level they never could before. Churches need to stay focused on the mission (leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus) and be exceptionally innovative in our model.
3. THE GATHERED CHURCH IS HERE TO STAY
Christians believe the best thing to do is to give up on Christian gatherings of any kind. This is naive. While some will leave, it does not change the fact that the church has always gathered because the church is inherently communal. Additionally, what we can do gathered together far surpasses what we can do alone. Which is why there will always be an organized church of some form. So, while our gatherings might shift and look different than they do today, Christians will always gather together to do more than we ever could on our own.
4. CONSUMER CHRISTIANITY WILL DIE AND A MORE SELFLESS DISCIPLESHIP WILL EMERGE
Consumer Christianity asks What can I get from God? It asks, What’s in it for me? That leads us to evaluate our church, our faith, our experience and each other according to our preferences and whims. In many respects, even many critics of the church who have left, have done so under the pull of consumer Christianity because ‘nothing’ meets their needs. All of this is antithetical to the Gospel, which calls us to die to ourselves—to lose ourselves for the sake of Christ. As the church reformats and repents, a more authentic, more selfless church will emerge. Sure, we will still have to make decisions about music, gathering times and even some distinctions about what we believe, but the tone will be different. When you’re no longer focused on yourself and your viewpoint, a new tone emerges.
5. SUNDAYS WILL BECOME MORE ABOUT WHAT WE GIVE THAN WHAT WE GET
The death of consumer Christianity will change our gatherings. Our gatherings will become less about us and more about Jesus and the world he loves. Rather than a gathering of the already-convinced, the churches that remain will be decidedly outsider-focused. And word will be supplemented with deeds. In the future church, being right will be less important than doing right. Sure, that involves social justice and meeting physical needs, but it also involves treating people with kindness, compassion in everyday life and attending to their spiritual wellbeing. This is the kind of outward focus that drove the rapid expansion of the first century church.
6. ATTENDANCE WILL NO LONGER DRIVE ENGAGEMENT; ENGAGEMENT WILL DRIVE ATTENDANCE
Currently, many churches try to get people to attend, hoping it drives engagement. In the future, that will flip. The engaged will attend, in large measure because only the engaged will remain. If you really think about this…engagement driving attendance is exactly what has fueled the church at its best moments throughout history. It’s an exciting shift. In the meantime, what do you see?
1. We are a nation of small churches.
2. The smaller the church, the greater the rate of decline in attendance.
3. Growing churches are primarily growing through transfer growth.
4. If a church is growing, it is highly likely to be growing faster than the community in which it is located.
5. Churches growing through conversions are intentionally evangelistic.
7. SIMPLIFIED MINISTRIES WILL COMPLEMENT PEOPLE’S LIVES, NOT COMPETE WITH PEOPLE’S LIVES
For years, the assumption has been that the more a church grew, the more activity it would offer. The challenge, of course, is that church can easily end up burning people out. In some cases, people end up with no life except church life. Some churches offer so many programs for families that families don’t even have a chance to be families. The church at its best has always equipped people to live out their faith in the world. But you have to be in the world to influence the world. WHAT DO YOU SEE? Ultimately, I have a lot of hope for the future church. I hope you do too. The mission is too important to feel otherwise. If you want some even more specific changes, I think will characterize the future church (including a few not covered here),
8. ONLINE CHURCH WILL SUPPLEMENT THE JOURNEY BUT NOT BECOME THE JOURNEY
There’s a big discussion right now around online church. I think in certain niches online church might become the church for some who simply have no other access to church. But there is something about human relationship that requires presence. Because the church at its fullest will always gather, online church will supplement the journey. I believe that online relationships are real relationships, but they are not the greatest relationships people can have. Think of it like meeting someone online. You can have a fantastic relationship. But if you fall in love, you ultimately want to meet and spend your life together. So, it is with Jesus, people and the church.
9. ONLINE CHURCH WILL BECOME MORE OF A FRONT DOOR THAN A BACK DOOR
There’s no question that today online church has become a back door for Christians who are done with attending church. While online church is an amazing supplement for people who can’t get to a service, it’s still an off ramp for Christian whose commitment to faith is perhaps less than it might have been at an earlier point. Within a few years, the dust will settle and a new role for online church and online ministry will emerge. Online church has the potential to become a massive front door for the curious, the unconvinced and for those who want to know what Christianity is all about. In the same way you purchase almost nothing without reading online reviews or rarely visit a restaurant without checking it out online first, a church’s online presence will be a first home for people which for many, will lead to a personal connection with Christ and ultimately the gathered church.
10. GATHERINGS WILL BE SMALLER AND LARGER AT THE SAME TIME
While many might think the mega-church is dead, And while others think mega-churches are awful, there’s nothing inherently bad about them. Size is somewhat irrelevant to a church’s effectiveness. There are bad mega-churches and bad small churches. And there are wonderfully effective mega-churches and wonderfully effective small churches. We will likely see large churches get larger. Multisite will continue to explode, as churches that are effective expand their mission. At the same time, churches will also establish smaller, more intimate gatherings as. Paradoxically, future large churches will likely become large not because they necessarily gather thousands in one space, but because they gather thousands through dozens of smaller gatherings under some form of shared leadership. Some of those gatherings might be as simple as coffee shop and even home venues under a simple structure. We will see the emergence of bigger churches and smaller churches at the same time as the gathered church continues to change.