Ten Trends Impacting American Churches (Part 2)

October 13, 2011





By Dr. Randy Stone, Associate Professor of Christian Education and Director of the Doctor of Educational Ministry Program at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary


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.


This article was originally posted in the Pursuing Ministry Excellence blog, and is reposted here by permission of the author.

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Chris Roberts

More good thoughts. Thanks!

Dean Reynolds

Great info yet again for those of us in the trenches. Now if we, local pastors, can transfer this great info to the people in the chairs, or pews, maybe we can redirect our churches back to the real mission. Thanks Dr. Stone!

Alan Cross

Randy,

I just posted a question in your part 1 about where you got the 80% of SB’s attend churches with 1,000 or more in worship. You sourced it, but I didn’t see reference to that stat in the article you sourced. Do you have that someplace else?

    Randy Stone

    Alan,
    The statistics come from the Leavell Center for Evangelism at NOBTS. Our staff does an amazing job of evaluating the denominational direction.
    Thanks for the read.
    R Stone

      Alan Cross

      Randy,

      Thanks. Is there an article or link anywhere? I am asking because Thom Rainer on a post he wrote about SBC churches over 1,000 people last month said that the number was 23% of the SBC is attends churches with over 1,000 in worship, which is a big difference from what you are saying. I am wondering which is right. The implications of the 80% number are huge, and I have heard that number a couple of times in the past few weeks and just want to know more about it.

      Thanks!

Steve Cornell

Out of interest, compare this with Ten guidelines for ministry to 18-29 year olds http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/ten-dos-and-don’ts-for-effective-ministry-to-18-29-year-olds/

    Randy Stone

    Steve,
    I do think there are connections…Now that we’re seeing the direction, we need to walk the path and bring some folks with us.
    R Stone

Tim Rogers

Dr. Stone,

Church growth is now collecting the disgruntled members of a neighboring congregation.

No truer statement than I have seen in a long time.

Blessings,
Tim

    Randy Stone

    Thanks Tim.

    Alan Cross

    Tim,

    I am seeing much of the same in my context. It is really interesting to see what is happening as people move from place to place.

Brian Prucey

Randy,

Your #7 really hits home. Many of my church members have already watched local mega-church celebrity pastors on TV in the morning before coming to worship. In many places there is an expectation that their pastor should be like “Dr. Big Church” since he must know what he’s doing because he’s on TV every Sunday. What they don’t realize is the Dr. Big Church has a large staff that handles the grunt work of administering the church whereas the smaller church pastor has to be everything from business administrator to Xerox repair man.

    Randy Stone

    Brian,
    Thanks for reading the post. Some of these trends are disconcerting. In the midst of such chaotic times…God can show himself strong. A fresh move by Holy Spirit would certainly shake things up….He always does!
    R Stone

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