This week’s email from ChurchLeaders.com has an article from Brady Boyd sharing four predictions about the future. All four of them are worth taking the time to ponder for a moment. Although I agree with all four, there are a few nuances to point out in order to avoid giving the impression that these four will dominate the future. I think they will be a significant part of the future, but not nearly all of it. Since we are entering a world of either/or, it is important to unpack these predictions a bit.
- “The places we gather will become smaller.” I would prefer if Boyd had said “many of the places we gather will become smaller.” I remember back in the 70s (I know, some of you were not even born then) E.F. Schumaker’s book Small is Beautiful. Many people were saying then that small, in any situation, was better than large. It didn’t come true. I can also remember saying in 2000 that the day of the megachurch was coming to an end. Well, I had to eat crow in an article. I’m convinced that the future will need both the mega and the micro church to transform the world. So far, I don’t see the megachurch phenomenon subsiding one bit; in fact, it seems to be escalating at the moment. Many mega churches are forming multiple venues which are smaller in nature but still much larger than the average church of today or the last 100 years. What we fail to realize is that a 500-in-worship satellite church is not anywhere near a small church. Even the smallest effective churches today are larger than a large church in the past.
- “The Church will be launched into real mission.” Again, some churches will and most effective ones will, but not all. However, we are seeing more and more books on the “heart of the matter” and the daily “intentional practices” that will change the way Christians live. This emphasis is rivaling the normal church growth logistics of the past. Still, no matter what is in the heart, without the institutional church, I don’t think Christianity can thrive in the Western world. On the other hand, if we all lived like Christ, the world would change.
- “The Church will return to its ancient roots.” Man, I hope this becomes true because it is the only way the church is going to become effective again. I just wish Boyd hadn’t said, “We will gather often, read the Scriptures, worship intently, pray fervently, be led by servants, live authentically, and honor the Sacraments,” because there weren’t any defined sacraments then. I bring this up to say that much of what we think is important today probably hadn’t even been thought of in the first century. To use the word “sacrament” leaves out a lot of Christians who don’t think of certain practices as “sacraments” but as remembrances that have no sacramental efficacy.
- “The Church will return to wonder and awe.” I so hope this will happen, but so far in the West, I haven’t seen this at all. If you have, I would love to hear the stories. For this to happen, we will have to regain an appreciation for the Holy Spirit as Len Sweet has been telling us for years. But still, wonder and awe has to have order, as the Apostle Paul reminded us over and over. I’m not sure the world is looking for miracles as much as authentic love and relationships. But again, both would be wonderful.
All in all, Boyd gives us four excellent glimpses of what might happen in the future. I just felt the need to round out the predictions with the either/or facet of the world we are entering.
Question: How else do you think the either/or nature of the world will play out in the future? Share your ideas in the Comments section below.