Changing Currents in Today’s Church
Churches that continue to interact with the culture that they wish existed instead of the one that actually does, will continue to grow increasingly disconnected from their community, and become less and less affective extensions of God’s love and truth in this world. Dozens of churches are closing their doors every day in the U.S. Even if this is a result of unrelated circumstances, one thing is for sure, church attendance in the U.S. is on a downward trend– as is Christianity. The chasm between traditional Christian doctrine and the worldview of today’s culture is ever-widening as hot button topics such as homosexuality, pre-marital sex, hell and suffering become insurmountable divides for many younger people who have been indoctrinated their entire upbringing with relativism, universal acceptance of not just people but what those people believe and practice, and “scientific evidence” that proves the notion of God and creation is absurd. This was ignorable for a short while, but as those young people grew older and are now our parents and teachers and professors who are raising and educating our future, we look back and see the seemingly irreversible affects of not actively and universally engaging these trends in our society. As this worldview chasm widens, criticism and animosity grows against the traditional church, as the “freedoms the church continually tries to deny people” become the headlines instead of how the church is reaching out and serving others. The perception of the Body of Christ is not one of freedom and redemption, but of oppressive rules enforced by uneducated and judgmental buffoons who want others to live in fear as they themselves do.
Many, if not all, churches are aware of this to some degree. It is interesting to see how churches do ministry in light of such trends. In many churches we see a watering down of doctrine, even to the point of dismissing Biblical truth for the sake of staying relevant with their people and community. In many other churches (the dying ones), they just keep doing ministry models the way they have always done things (after all, it’s the culture not the church that needs to change) until they slowly fade away. Thriving churches are adapting how they engage the world while remaining true to Biblical convictions. Some of the most common projections of church in America in 5-10 years are: more churches closing their doors, more house churches, greater division on the “hot-topic” issues, more family pastors and less youth pastors (gearing ministry towards equipping parents to raise up Christian kids instead of trying to do it for them and enabling parents to be disengaged), less paid staff, less Christian education credentialing in staff, fewer seminaries and Bible colleges, and the epicenter of Christianity in the world will shift from North America to the southern hemisphere as we become more like Europe.
As a youth pastor, when I was first thinking about these things, it was cause for some anxiety. There are some big changes already in motion—and many, possibly for the worse. But I’ve been thinking… What could set the stage better than this for the next big revival? When parents are lovingly held accountable for their God-given roles and encouraged and equipped to step up for their families; when the church is less saturated with people just playing church because church will be unpopular; when the church body collectively makes sacrifices like the early church in Acts in order to reach out to its community instead of depending on staff and programs that they can attend as determined by their convenience and busy schedules; when staff spend more time equipping and rallying the troops for action and abandoning the lone ranger leading model, when the church cries out to God on their knees for Him to move amidst us AND moves where He leads; when churches die when their congregants focus is not on Christ’s will… And I have to be clear when I speak of revival. I’m not speaking of a numbers boom that will return churches back to comfortable routines and programs and things as they always were. I’m talking about the church returning to what the church was always meant to be-—an authentic sacrificial family of believers building each other up, rallied around and unified in the love and purpose of Christ, undeterred by troubles and suffering, fears and doubts blinded in the light of Christ, humbling ourselves daily before Christ and sharing Him with the world… salt and light in this world. I crave this authentic church and look at the future with only hope–this church that doesn’t merely wish to survive cultural changes but to engage them and thrive at impacting our communities for God. No more sitting on the bench, everyone is needed to get in the game. There has always been a group of faithful servants here. But I have seen people step up at ACC even more this year, particularly in the children’s ministry. I see the waters of change stirring here, and the change I see is exciting!