What is the future of the church? How must the North American church change? How will ministry be different over the next 20 years? When will my thoughts go from new ideas of an the next generation to outdated ideas of a dinosaur?
Some of these thoughts might be absolutely idiotic. Some might seem controversial and bother you a bit. Others might seem brilliant and insightful. Those will be the thoughts that I got from someone else, the rest will be my own. Take them as you wish, but please add your own thoughts as I would love to discuss some of these things. These thoughts will be brief and held back for later development. Some things I won’t defend or justify at all. Here you go.
1) We must reverse white flight. For years the church has left the inner city to move into the booming suburbs. I grew up at Baltimore First Church of the Nazarene. It was in Elicott City, MD about 15 miles from downtown Baltimore. I was on staff at Denver First Church of the Nazarene. It is in Englewood, CO this is nowhere close to downtown Denver. We have abandoned the cities and flocked to the safe areas where affluent white people live. The future of the church is a reverse of this white flight.
2) Women, as leaders of movements, are the future of the church. The leadership of women in particular, not just in management or service roles, but as primary leaders, will be essential for kingdom breakthrough.
3) The Holy Spirit will decide the debate on affirming same sex marriage within the church. Denominations affirming same sex marriage or ordaining homosexuals began decades ago. All of the denominations that have done so, however, have suffered massive decline and have had little impact for the kingdom. With some very different denominations and churches joining this camp, either through theological shift or practice, time will tell as to whether or not the Holy Spirit will continue to be present. Will churches that embrace and affirm same sex marriage (this is different than simply not fighting it as a legal reality) continue to have kingdom impact? I am willing to wait and watch what happens. How will God react?
4) The hope of the Church of the Nazarene does not rest in the leadership of old white men from the Mid-west. That doesn’t mean we don’t need them too, but our denomination has been obsessed with the leadership of one particular group. We love pastors who have served at a handful of powerful churches within our denomination. We are seeing that beginning to change, and the more that it does the more hopeful our future.
5) The Church needs hospice care, morticians and reproduction. Churches are closing there doors everyday in our country. This trend isn’t going to change, it will accelerate. Denominations would be wise to spend less resources propping up churches that are dying and instead investing into the creation of new churches. We need to honorably close down dying churches, dismantle the bodies, reuse and repurpose what we can. Next, we need to start making some babies. If we took the resources we use to keep dying churches on life support and instead through them into thriving churches to help them reproduce we would see far greater impact from our investment.
6) The best thing that could happen to the church might be losing our tax-exempt status. What would happen if the game changed and we were no longer tax-exempt organizations? It would hurt, really bad. People would give less, churches would less be able to afford staff and buildings, and there would be far less money for programming. Maybe that is the best thing that could happen to us. It would force us to better utilize and develop non-clergy leaders, get outside of our buildings, spread out around a geographic area and invest more heavily in compassionate ministries. That might just spark a revival.
7) In 100 Years the church will look back at the our time and wonder why we ever thought corporate structures and slick marketing were compatible with the work of the kingdom. I think we are all blind to how much we have allowed our culture to dictate our actions on behalf of the kingdom of God. We are so deep into our consumer culture that we don’t even realize it. We are like fish swimming in the ocean that don’t realize there is something called water. We will be judged by history and I fear that the judgment will be harsh for our failure to offer our world an alternative culture to the pervasive consumeristic culture of our day. Lord have mercy.
Those are my thoughts for today. Feel free to mock them, offer your own, or add any discussion you might have.