Ten Trends Impacting American Churches (Part 2)
For Dr. Stone’s discussion of the first five trends (Church Size and Time; Institutional Internalization; Crisis in the Clergy; Dropout, Disillusioned, and Disengaged Christians; and Search for the Supernatural), see Part 1.
# 6 — Evangelism Explosion (…Not !!) Christians like to get together…with one another. We like to “Rally to Worship” but distain “Reaching the World.” The passion and urgency, once primary characteristics of the evangelical church, are all but gone. Fear is the new emotion of the church. Church growth is now collecting the disgruntled members of a neighboring congregation. We rely on transfer and biological growth rather than regenerative growth to sustain our churches. The New Testament church was known for their unwavering witness of Christ.
# 7 — Celebrity Pastors Replacing Congregations. Decades ago, churches were known for their geographic or sociological identity. Neighborhood churches were meeting significant social, spiritual, and educational needs within the community. Pastors had positive relationships inside the community but depended on the laity for program and ministry leadership. Now it seems pastors, rather than the people, are the face of the church. Church attendees seek out celebrity pulpiteers. High profile pastors as well as television and radio preachers have become the primary spiritual leaders for many disconnected and disenfranchised members. With the rise of the celebrity pastor we often see a congregational dependence. Congregations expect the pastor to “draw” new people to the worship services with sermons. A personal responsibility to share their life and faith is abandoned.
# 8 — Technology Turmoil. A new generation of church goers has come of age. The millennial age bracket is digitally dependent. High tech teaching, social media access, and smart phone interfaces are changing the way people connect, relate, worship, and communicate. As a whole churches have not learned how to incorporate the new technologies into their communication strategies, worship planning, and educational models. Older generations are fearful and uncertain of new technologies and fail to recognize their value. Recent generations are seemingly dissatisfied with the purchase and integration of new technologies. Finding the right balance between spiritual authenticity and technology savvy is a real challenge for the modern church.
# 9 — Seismic Social Shifts. Four key areas should be considered.
- Social Structures. Families are undergoing radical changes. The traditional nuclear family is a distant memory for many. Communities are seeing a dramatic change in the ethnic makeup. The world is coming to America bringing with them different moral attitudes, economic expectations, and political beliefs and values, not to mention languages.
- Schedules. We live in a twenty four hour a day, seven days a week world. You can shop, eat, go to school, and be entertained all day every day. The constant world doesn’t exclusively fit our Sunday morning (and Sunday evening schedules.)
- Education. We are seeing a revolution in the educational systems in America. From a new wave of home schooling (and non schooling) to online college and graduate education the delivery methods, teaching/ learning styles, and schedules of education are changing at every level.
- Entertainment. Entertainment is paramount. Despite the fact that we are in severe economic times, movies are attaining record receipts. Music downloads, video games, etc. seem to be higher priorities than clothing or even food.
# 10 — Denominational Downfall. Churches and their leaders have allowed the two extremes of creedalism and liberalism to drive wedges of division. The unifying virtue of selfless abandon to fulfill a shared mission would be a worthy alternative. Where did the quest to reach the lost, proclaim the truth, and disciple Christ’s followers go? Denominations have become known more for their fights and feuds than a radical love for one another as part of a spiritual family. We are more determined to “get my way” or push others “out of the way”, than to lead those far from God “to the Way.” Conventions and assemblies have become places that personal projects are promoted and pet peeves remedied. Committees are formed and function to serve the desires of a few rather than the laity mobilized to accomplish the unimaginable. We have spent too much time and money majoring on the minors.
These are just a few of the conclusions I have made about the direction of our churches. These are my opinions; I welcome yours.