What are the Waves of Deep Change for the American Church to Ride?

April 11, 2011
What are the critical waves of deep change that will impact training leaders
for North American Church ministry?
Roy King

Framework for discussion:
(What follows is my attempt to recognize where change is occurring.) Below are areas or levels of change that I detect:

Change in how we organize ourselves –
Denominations will continue to fade in influence
The old categories of church vs. parachurch will not be adequate to define the structures being created as hybrids and new expressions take their place
Informal. Organic, web type networks will continue to provide platforms for partnership, training, and sharing best practices
New networks will be more global w/ much of the leadership coming from outside the church in the North America
Even within individual congregations organization, leadership, titles and job descriptions will be more unique and customized and continually adapted to address the mission and strategy.
New doctrinal groupings and labels will replace charismatic, evangelical and liberal. Etc.,

Change in how we live out congregational life —
World Evangelization will continue to decline as a personal responsibility – Churches will not consider cross-cultural, outside North America essential to being an effective church. At best it will be a footnote or specialized focus of a few within the congregation.
What has been identified as charismatic doctrine (examples: activity of Holy Spirit, emphasis on personal experience of God, Gifts, Women in leadership) is now the belief system held by the majority of Christians in the world.
A very high value by leadership on Relevance defined by Western arts, media and technology will shape how we communicate and design large and small group expressions.
One to one – coaching, counseling models of discipleship that can be organic and customized to the individual’s growth will replace large scale life stage type groups (Age graded Sunday School, Hot Topic study classes etc.,)
Large Congregations will place high priority on experiencing community and not just being a spectator crowd.
Small Congregations will adopt more bi-vocational, second career, new expressions of the circuit preacher servicing multiple congregations (ie., multi-site), and volunteer driven leadership models as economics (including benefit packages) continue to price fulltime pastoral staff beyond their reach.
Doctrinal and Practice issues will be debated within the church in such areas as:

1. What happens when we die? (is there conscious eternal punishment for those who do not know Christ?)
2. What is the Gospel? (Understanding of Grace, Truth, Wrath, Holiness)
3. How does the church give witness to the Gospel (relationship and priority of incarnational “holistic” serving in mercy and justice causes and the proclamation of Christ)

Change in the context of ministry will drive change within the church
Reports vary on when (2030 to 2050) but the United States will no longer be a white majority. African American, Asian American, and Hispanics will rise in leadership and influence. The number of multi-racial/ethnic people who checked more than one race category on the census grew dramatically and is predicted to continue to increase.
First generation immigration of Hispanic, African, and Asian peoples will often bring strong church leadership with them and will plant a new wave of first generation churches.
People under 40 will continue to leave the 380,000 existing congregations and will form expressions of spiritual life that are:
1. Designed out of and individuals perception of need or preference
2. Will utilize social networking through technology
3. Organic webs of relationships w/ Christians in their work, neighborhood and their children’s activities.
4. Not based on a membership level commitment to a congregational structure.
Baby Boomers will create opportunities for a wave of second half services and products related to issues of aging.
Having spiritual interests and considering one’s self as spiritual will continue as an assumption of the majority of Americans but will be less and less influenced or defined by a biblical worldview.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?

3 comments

  1. John Heflick

    Roy – Love the thought provoking peeks into the future.

    How will the economic rise of the global south & China affect church planting in the West? If history is any indicator, North Africa and the Middle East will open to new freedoms eventually. How will this affect the global church?

    Some things seem written on the wall already…

    Globalization driven by real-time technology will produce a generation (probably my children’s generation) which will be ultra-national. They will change continents like we change jobs. They will be bi/tri/quad-lingual. They will work like their lives – on the move – collaborating with people around the world who work in the same way.

    I think this will nearly destroy the institutional church as we know it, yet may free the real Church. It may wind up looking a lot like the first churches (Roman Empire = Internet/Democracy/English???). It will live wherever believers live, be extremely relational (yet definitions of “relational” will be different), and be nearly desegregated as the constructs of “race” break down.

    The only thing I’m not sure I agree with is the challenge of liberalism to missions. Will believers in the next decade or two care less about taking the gospel far away? Like the revivals of missions that came and went at the turn of the past two centuries, I foresee a new thrust of evangelism on the horizon. (SFMF again?) Will this finish the job? Will this be the “till all have heard” push? I sure hope so!

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  2. Kevin Riley

    I see (and pray for) an emergence of house churches across the US. This is the only way the US and other countries can be evangelized and discipled. We cannot plant enough brick and motar churches to reach the lost in the US.

    I wonder also if the influx of international church leaders and believers into the US will adopt US church culture or maintain their own church culture.

    How will the 2nd and 3rd generation of internationals be reached and congregationalized as they become more “American” than their parents and grandparents?

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  3. John Teeling

    Very well presented, Roy. I think there will be a rise in social networks of Christians across the globe who are passionate for Jesus, for one another and for being His reflection to the world starting with their neighbor.

    I heard a Pastor recently say, “We are doing satellite campuses to take gospel closer to Communities.” I wondered how closer can we get than next door? I say this knowing that next door is not easy. It was at CIU where I read a book by Paul Little and a quote from his book, “To love the world for me is no chore, my problem is the guy next door.”

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