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10 predictions about the future Church and shifting attendance patterns

Every generation experiences change.

But sometimes you sense you’re in the midst of truly radical change, the kind that happens only every few centuries. Increasingly, I think we’re in such a moment now.

Those of us in in Western culture who are over age 30 were born into a culture that could conceivably still be called Christian. Now, as David Kinnaman at the Barna Group has shown, even in America, people who are churchless (having no church affiliation) will soon eclipse the churched.

In addition, 48% of Millennials (born between 1984-2002) can be called post-Christian in their beliefs, thinking and worldview.

I think the change we’re seeing around us might one day be viewed on the same level as what happened to the church after Constantine’s conversion or after the invention of the printing press. Whatever the change looks like when it’s done, it will register as a seismic shift from what we’ve known.

So what will the future church be like? And how should you and I respond?

Predictions…Really?
Okay, before we get going, a few things.

I realize making predictions can be a dangerous thing. Maybe even a bit ridiculous . But I want to offer a few thoughts because I’m passionate about the mission of the church.

So, borne out of a love for the gathered church, I offer a few thoughts. Consider it thinking in pencil, not ink.

While no one’s really sure of what’s ahead, talking about it at least allows us to position our churches for impact in a changing world.

10 Predictions About the Future Church

So what’s likely for the future church? Here are 10 things I see.

1. The potential to gain is still greater than the potential to lose

Every time there is a change in history, there’s potential to gain and potential to lose.

I believe the potential to gain is greater than the potential to lose. Why?

As despairing or as cynical as some might be (sometimes understandably) over the church’s future, we have to remind ourselves that the church was Jesus’ idea, not ours.

The reports of the church’s death are greatly exaggerated. Click To Tweet

It will survive our missteps and whatever cultural trends happen around us. We certainly don’t always get things right, but Christ has an incredible history of pulling together Christians in every generation to share his love for a broken world.

As a result, the reports of the church’s death are greatly exaggerated.

2. Churches that love their model more than the mission will die

That said, many individual congregations and some entire denominations won’t make it. The difference will be between those who cling to the mission and those who cling to the model.

When the car was invented, it quick took over from the horse and buggy. Horse and buggy manufacturers were relegated to boutique status and many went under, but human transportation actually exploded. Suddenly average people could travel at a level they never could before.

The mission is travel. The model is a buggy, or car, or motorcycle, or jet.

Look at the changes in the publishing, music and even photography industry in the last few years.

See a trend? The mission is reading. It’s music. It’s photography. The model always shifts….moving from things like 8 tracks, cassettes and CDs to MP3s and now streaming audio and video.

In the future, churches that love their model more than their mission will die. Click To Tweet

Companies that show innovation around the mission (Apple, Samsung) will always beat companies that remain devoted to the method (Kodak).

Churches need to stay focused on the mission (leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus) and be exceptionally innovative in our model.

3. The gathered church is here to stay

Read the comments on this blog or any other church leader blog and you would think that some Christians believe the best thing to do is to give up on Christian gatherings of any kind.

This is naive.

While some will leave, it does not change the fact that the church has always gathered because the church is inherently communal. Additionally, what we can do gathered together far surpasses what we can do alone. Which is why there will always be an organized church of some form.

The church will always gather. What Christians can do together far surpasses what we can do alone. Click To Tweet

So while our gatherings might shift and look different than they do today, Christians will always gather together to do more than we ever could on our own.

4. Consumer Christianity will die and a more selfless discipleship will emerge

Consumer Christianity asks What can I get from God? It asks, What’s in it for me?

That leads us to evaluate our church, our faith, our experience and each other according to our preferences and whims. In many respects, even many critics of the church who have left have done so under the pull of consumer Christianity because ‘nothing’ meets their needs.

All of this is antithetical to the Gospel, which calls us to die to ourselves—to lose ourselves for the sake of Christ.

As the church reformats and repents, a more authentic, more selfless church will emerge. Click To Tweet

As the church reformats and repents, a more authentic, more selfless church will emerge. Sure, we will still have to make decisions about music, gathering times and even some distinctions about what we believe, but the tone will be different. When you’re no longer focused on yourself and your viewpoint, a new tone emerges.

5. Sundays will become more about what we give than what we get

The death of consumer Christianity will change our gatherings.

Our gatherings will become less about us and more about Jesus and the world he loves. Rather than a gathering of the already-convinced, the churches that remain will be decidedly outsider-focused. And word will be supplemented with deeds.

In the future church, being right will be less important than doing right. Sure, that involves social justice and meeting physical needs, but it also involves treating people with kindness, compassion in every day life and attending to their spiritual well being.

This is the kind of outward focus that drove the rapid expansion of the first century church.

In the future church, being right will be less important than doing right. Click To Tweet

That’s why I’m very excited to be part of a group of churches that has, at its heart, the desire to create churches unchurched people love to attend. While the expression of what that looks like may change, the intent will not.

6. Attendance will no longer drive engagement; engagement will drive attendance

Currently, many churches try to get people to attend, hoping it drives engagement.

In the future, that will flip. The engaged will attend, in large measure because only the engaged will remain.

If you really think about this…engagement driving attendance is exactly what has fuelled the church at its best moments throughout history. It’s an exciting shift.

7. Simplified ministries will complement people’s lives, not compete with people’s lives

For years, the assumption has been that the more a church grew, the more activity it would offer.

The challenge, of course, is that church can easily end up burning people out. In some cases, people end up with no life except church life. Some churches offer so many programs for families that families don’t even have a chance to be families.

Simplified churches will complement people’s witness, not compete with people’s witness. Click To Tweet

The church at its best has always equipped people to live out their faith in the world. But you have to be in the world to influence the world.

Churches that focus their energies on the few things the church can uniquely do best will emerge as the most effective churches moving forward. Simplified churches will complement people’s witness, not compete with people’s witness.

8. Online church will supplement the journey but not become the journey

There’s a big discussion right now around online church. I think in certain niches online church might become the church for some who simply have no other access to church.

But there is something about human relationship that requires presence. Because the church at its fullest will always gather, online church will supplement the journey. I believe that online relationships are real relationships, but they are not the greatest relationships people can have.

Think of it like meeting someone online. You can have a fantastic relationship. But if you fall in love, you ultimately want to meet and spend your life together.

So it is with Jesus, people and the church.

9. Online church will become more of a front door than a back door

There’s no question that today online church has become a back door for Christians who are done with attending church.

While online church is an amazing supplement for people who can’t get to a service, it’s still an off ramp for Christian whose commitment to faith is perhaps less than it might have been at an earlier point.

Online church has the potential to become a front door for the curious and the unconvinced. Click To Tweet

Within a few years, the dust will settle and a new role for online church and online ministry will emerge. Online church has the potential to become a massive front door for the curious, the unconvinced and for those who want to know what Christianity is all about.

In the same way you purchase almost nothing without reading online reviews or rarely visit a restaurant without checking it out online first, a church’s online presence will be a first home for people which for many, will lead to a personal connection with Christ and ultimately the gathered church.

10. Gatherings will be smaller and larger at the same time

While many might think the mega-church is dead, it’s not. And while others think mega-churches are awful, there’s nothing inherently bad about them. Size is somewhat irrelevant to a church’s effectiveness.

There are bad mega-churches and bad small churches. And there are wonderfully effective mega-churches and wonderfully effective small churches.

We will likely see large churches get larger. Multisite will continue to explode, as churches that are effective expand their mission.

The future church will become bigger and smaller at the same time. Click To Tweet

At the same time, churches will also establish smaller, more intimate gatherings as millennials and others seek tighter connections and groups. Paradoxically, future large churches will likely become large not because they necessarily gather thousands in one space, but because they gather thousands through dozens of smaller gatherings under some form of shared leadership. Some of those gatherings might be as simple as coffee shop and even home venues under a simple structure.

We will see the emergence of bigger churches and smaller churches at the same time as the gathered church continues to change.

What Do You See?

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About the author


ChristianWeek Columnist

Carey Nieuwhof is founding pastor of Connexus Church north of Toronto and is author of several books, including his latest #1 best-selling work, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow. Carey speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership, change and personal growth. He writes one of today’s most widely read church leadership blogs at careynieuwhof.com and hosts the top-rated Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast where he interviews some of today’s best leaders.

  • Justice4all

    *Slow claps*
    Love. This. My brain exploded when I read #5 as my hubs and I had this very convo just last night. I felt the Lord’s encouragement through this whole article as it confirmed things we’ve been sensing, dreaming and praying about. I’m literally giddy right now 🙂

  • Mike Poirier

    i like the topic. i felt your outlook is tilted toward what you would *like to ultimately see trend in the church.. ie conventional, positive/ healthy growth. As opposed to where church seems to be trending currently. I think a shakeout will continue, partly from worldly negative influence and persecution. Partly from a revival move by God. Net result may be shrinkage (at first) but strengthened. Ultimately an expedited harvest that is sovereign in nature, not clever planning by us.

    • Judith Jessop

      A good read. Interesting to read analysis from USA. In church change we are ahead of you in the UK. Not sure I have much to add, but my denomination is shrinking fast, especially away from London and the economic powerhouse of the South East (some shift in population to that part of the country of course)

      • Sharyn Yetman

        A had a friend of mine from the UK studying to become a pastor and he said his girlfriend was convinced that the church as an institution was going to fade over time. Back in the late sixties I could not fathom the huge cathedral’s not being full of people. I did not understand the full meaning. Now the scope is much more than just the institution. #10 is addressing this and I think the writer is correct. People will still want to gather together in several venues.

  • Michael L. Fraley

    Good article. I particularly liked #8. Jesus came to us “in person” after God had tried to reach us through covenant, law, and prophet.

  • Ron

    With the new technologies I see a time that all eyes will be able to see Jesus when he comes back.

  • I appreciate the hopefulness of this and specificaly the point around #7. We have to stop pulling people out of their natural communities in order to grow “ours”…

  • Tad Richard

    When we measure the growth of the Church in breath (number of attendees) only, and not also in depth (relationship with God), it’s easy to get away from the mission. The church is not the building, nor simply what happens in the building on Sunday.

  • Mark Campagna

    Why rebuke a brother?

    What is the name of your book?

    Here is a scripture for you with LOVE from me.

    1 Corinthians 13New International Version (NIV)

    13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

    4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
    None of these predictions were at all blasphemous or heretical, why attack?

    • BingoJoe

      “Why rebuke a brother?”

      I didn’t… I spoke the truth about the folly of what he wrote… With the hope that it may help open his eyes to see his error, and turn from it.

      Unfortunately, these days there aren’t many brothers and sisters who are willing to speak a strong word to the church in order that we all may grow with the growth of God.

      “What is the name of your book?”

      I have 66 books… Starting with Genesis, and finishing with Revelation… I’m confident that you’ve heard, and even read, them.

      “Here is a scripture for you with LOVE from me.”

      Oh… So your speaking to me is in “LOVE”… But you judge my speaking to the author of this folly article, and others who may read it, was not done in LOVE… How gracious of you.

      1 Corinthians 13-19, New International Version (NIV)… “If I speak
      in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a
      resounding gong or a clanging cymbal… If I have the gift of prophecy
      and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith
      that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing… If I give
      all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may
      boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing… Love is patient,
      love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…
      It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily
      angered, it keeps no record of wrongs… Love does not delight in evil
      but rejoices with the truth… It always protects, always trusts, always
      hopes, always perseveres… Love never fails. But where there are
      prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be
      stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in
      part and we prophesy in part,… but when completeness comes, what is in
      part disappears… When I was a child, I talked like a child, I
      thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I
      put the ways of childhood behind me… For now we see only a reflection
      as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part;
      then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known… And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’

      Wonderful scripture verses… And thankfully, my first comment reflects all that was said in the above scripture verses.

      “None of these predictions were at all blasphemous or heretical, why attack?”

      LOL… Do you know the meaning of “blasphemous” and “heretical”… I’m asking, because I believe if you did you would not have worded you question with these words.

      Mark… I didn’t say, or even suggest, anything in the article was “blasphemous” or “heretical”… I said it was all hogwash… Which means nonsense.

      And it all was most certainly nonsense… The type of nonsense that is being pumped into the heads of young (immature) believers, causing them to stumble, and hindering them from growing in God.

      Both very negative matters in the eyes of the Lord.

      • Carl Werner

        amen brother……………..when Jesus said on the cross….”it is finished”….He meant just that……………everything that could ever be done was finished there and then…………He paid the ultimate price and we received the benefit gratis….(Of course you have to accept and believe that…otherwise its the empty gong again)…….the “GRACE” spoken of means unmerited favour….ie free, cant be bought or earned…..Gods Riches At Christs Expense….grace….all this traditional nonsense is designed by Satan to seduce the body away from the head…incense, robes,alter boys, fetes,bake sales………squabbling about this and that and all the time God is standing outside the church…waiting patiently to gather us back again…………religion is man made and will only reap man size rewards………………..we were put on the planet to colonise earth with the precepts of heaven……..to extend the kingdom and to live here like they do in heaven….thus the Lords prayer….”on earth as it is in heaven”…….the current earthly traditional churches do need a stern word but the problem mostly is that its pearl before swine…..people have difficulty discerning spiritual matters and while religion keeps those in a sunday only mentality….(like a little dab will do )….theres little hope for the pouring out of Gods spirit in the volumes the Lord needs to get this present age over with so he can send Jesus back to fetch us and usher in the end times…….

        • Myrtle Macdonald

          “It is finished” means I think that His mortality was over and that the next phase would be the Kingdom of the Holy Spirit. Each one of us may receive Him to cope with daily life in any situation, even a bake sale and a school trustees meeting, in a parade or lost in an avalanche. This is the ongoing way of His Grace. The old way of legal rules and regulations were fulfilled. I think fulfilled is a better translation than finished.

  • Albert Hahn

    2. While mission is certainly more important than models, quality of the church mission is at issues as well. The churches with diluted sense of mission are likely to suffer in near future. 4. The contrast between the consumer Christianity and selfless discipleship is exaggerated. The consumer Christianity is not a new phenomenon. More often than not, initial approach to Jesus (and the ministry of the church) has been based on self-interest. My prediction is that consumer Christianity will continue and even thrive. The challenge of the future (as it was in the past) is whether “selfless” disciples will be able to nurture and lead “consumer Christians” in transforming journey or not. Too often in our time, the disciples followed the consumer Christians.

  • Some of us focus on “the good old days” when all you had to do was open the church doors and the crowds would flood in. Others fixate on that future moment of Christ’s return, and are, as my seminary professor used to say, “so heaven-minded they’re of no earthly good.” The church is about relationships. And relationships take place in the here and now… loving the people God loves. http://davidepowers.com/2016/01/30/the-good-old-days/

  • Connie Hart Goeden

    #9 is certainly what has brought me back/is bringing me back after years of burn-out. Hope these ideas do turn out to be the coming trends!

  • Bill Cater

    Strictly speaking, #1 is not a prediction.

  • Eileen Harrop

    Thanks Carey. It’s not a future or predicted scenario because, thankfully, there’s already evidence of it happening. The church is indeed Christ’s idea (for those who believe in the authenticity of the Gospels in reporting Jesus’ ministry), although I wonder if it’s Mission first (God’s mission) before model rather than not model drawing on the guidance of Acts and the Epistles. Once again, thank you.

  • Laurie McKnight

    This just changed my life. Using this in my D.Min. prospectus/research proposal. Thank you.

  • John Leasure

    I agree except with item four. There have always been charlatans and false prophets. The consumer Christianity movement is just that. They will survive as will a truer Christianity.

  • Jesse

    Thanks, Carey. Some of your points were particularly encouraging. With some friends, we’re kind of living out some of this already as a missional community – focused on doing life together, discipleship, and mission. While we are organized as a local church, we value being connected to and blessing other local churches and Christian missions in our city. That extends beyond the usual forms of support. We look for people we can hang with. For example, we hold a worship gathering one Saturday a month, but most of us connect regularly with other church gatherings on most Sunday mornings. It may be too much to predict that membership boundaries will matter less, but I wonder.

  • David McJonathan

    While certainly the article in its entirety with all 10 points is the best, I tweeted a number of the points as well as the whole, #10 is what galvanized me the most. The small, the personal, the intimate group where our level of trust and faith is sufficient to let all barriers down is essential. Yet the structure, the efficiency of the larger church is necessary for the technology and “front door” through which the catacumen may enter, except today’s catacumen is not preparing to receive the Eucharist at the Lord’s Table, but the Holy Spirit that will refine the individual spirit that will serve with the fullness of being.

  • revrobertwaters

    We go to church for what God gives us. We have nothing to give Him. Everything flows from what He gives us in the sermon and in the Sacraments.

    I think there is some serious misunderstanding of what worship is for reflected here. And if our “model of the Church” doesn’t reflect what we understand the Church to be and to be about, we’re already in trouble.

    I agree that the Church is the Lord’s and that ultimately its destiny is in His hands. But it’s up to us to be what He put us here to be. That is not fluid. It remains the community where we gather to be instructed for, empowered for, and given direction for everything else from the same source these have always come from: the Word and the Sacraments. Where anything crowds these out, the gathered assembly isn’t the Church anymore.

  • Larry Ehren

    Very thought provoking. Thank you.

  • Adriaan Adams

    This is really thoughtful. I just returned from a seven(7) week research trip through South and Eastern Africa, and what you mention is exactly some of the trends we identified. You can read our report here – http://movingintoaction.co.za/followthebus-3/

  • Peter Cartlidge

    There are too many false Gospels around within and without the church. PC has a lot to do with it.
    PC has no place in Church as the Word of God does not recognise PC.
    The Gospel needs to be stamped all over the people of God once again.
    God will then honour his word and the church will again thrive.
    The Gospel is this: all have sinned and fallen short of the kingdom of God. No exception! There is none righteous, not even one !!
    The problem with this is that we have mixed up friendship evangelism and Seeker friendly Church with the absolutes of scripture. Sin is still sin.
    There is therefore now no condemnation to those that are in Christ. But we forget the anyone who is not In Christ stands condemned already.
    In our striving to show the love of God and welcome all ( which we need to do do not misunderstand) we have broken down the absolutes of Gods word.
    He is both the all loving all giving all caring God and the absolute Judge of the whole world.
    God sent Jesus as propitiation for sin through his death and resurrection not so that we can allow people to live in their sin and come into his presence how they like.
    This Gospel is an offence to many and if we find it no longer an offence then we have moved away from the potency of its cause and effect to a gospel that denies the power thereof.
    People need to feel uncomfortable in the presence of God. This is known as the conviction of the Holy Spirit. But the church no longer wants people to be convicted but only excepted.
    My call is to our leaders within the church teach the truth preach the truth, the life and the way.
    Then and only then will the church rise and thrive.
    We grow up tears and wheat together and in the pulpit and in the church there are sheep and goats.
    False doctrine alongside rightly devided doctrine.
    But why don’t strong leaders who do preach the truth stand together and oust those that are leading generations away from it by tickling ears with what people want to hear. Then we can happily predict yes even prophesy an explosion of the church in the future.

    • BibleBasedBashingIsDeadly

      And this is EXACTLY the dogmatic claptrap that drives people from religion. There is about to be an explosion within the church–It’s self-destruction is self-evident.

      • Michael Bagnall

        With all due respect…that is exactly the dogmatic “claptrap” that is based on God’s Word, and not the ideas or desires of sinful men. The idea that we need to change the church to meet the needs of modern people, is in fact, nothing more than worshipping man not God. The Church does not cater to man, man becomes part of the Church, this is what it means to have communion with God, not on your selfish terms, but on His, because He is God and you His Creation. When Christ Crucified is no longer the center of your teaching then you are serving your own selfish whims and not the Gospel. Your desire to throw the baby out with the bathwater is precisely what has led to this situation in the first place, if God is God, then let Him rule the Church not you, let His Word be the source and norm for the Church, not what you think needs to be done. What you are proposing to toss aside for a “better” way, is precisely what the Church has done successfully for two thousand years, it is the model of Church that Christ Himself established to engage the world…”Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, Baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…and lo I am with you til the end of the age.” Engage with His Word and His Sacraments…with the tools He Himself gives.

        • Mike Stidham

          Part of your thinking is indeed the reason that tomorrow’s churches will be smaller. As the article said, “Engagement will drive attendance, instead of attendance driving engagement.” The ones who are engaged with God’s Word and “the tools He Himself gives” are the ones who will be the regular attenders. Semper fi, brother.

        • Michael Bagnall

          The issue that seems to be overlooked, is that God has told us that the Church would get smaller, that there would be those who would reject the Gospel, and that what would remain would be the faithful “remnant”. The fundamental difference in thought is this…what is the purpose of the Church? If you believe the underlying purpose of the Church is to “save the lost”…then you will naturally believe that the Church must change to engage the culture; but if you believe that the underlying purpose of the Church is to be faithful to that which God Himself gives…and from there flow the gifts of the Spirit through which God grows His Church, as Jesus said to St. Peter “Feed my Sheep”…then you will naturally believe that the Church does not change to suit the culture, but remains as a bulwark in the midst of change, and people change as they are engaged by God in His Word. One is God working through His Church to transform lives “in time” with the promises that exist “outside of time” i.e. the resurrection, Baptism, The Sacrament of the Altar….the other is people, genuinely trying to save others but not having the ability to do so, as conversion/faith is the work of the Holy Spirit. Yes the Church will shrink, but this does not mean that She should change, these predictions of “Implosion” have come before, and will come again…but there will always be those whose faith clings to Christ alone and the promise of His Resurrection. .

  • I would be inclined to question this statement: “we have to remind ourselves that the church was Jesus’ idea, not ours”. Apart from Jesus’ commissioning of Peter I can’t think of anywhere else that Jesus is recorded as speaking about the church. However he spoke extensively about the Kingdom of God. Further he neither laid down any structures or formalised doctrinal statements for the church.

    • John F

      Consider Chapter 2 & 3 of Revelation. All Red Ink. He had a ton to say about Church done right and done very wrong….

  • Mark

    I’m always suspect about people who write about the church but have little experience pastoring one (I’ve pastored three churches over 31 years). Having said that, I agree with a lot of what the author says.

  • Johan JP Venter

    I hope the future church will also re-examine its relationship with other faiths

  • xaade

    The article is mostly good, but I have a few points that I slightly disagree. These are mostly balancing counterpoints. It’s not my intention to paint the article negatively or be dismissive of it.

    First, I feel that there’s a great deal of vagueness that could imply to someone that throwing stuff at a wall is a good idea. There is already well tested trends that work and draw people in. Almost always it involves taking someone in through a small group or another detached environment, and then ministering to them. This is a little too much touchy and feely and will bolster counter-cultural efforts in people that aren’t well grounded. I can say from experience, counter-culture gets you almost always nothing. And much of the time, will risk a cult that is not grounded in theology. Be careful that your language doesn’t inspire torching long-standing wisdom.

    Social justice is not a wise target for ministry. Jesus had opportunities to address it, and chose not to. Being a positive force in people’s lives to balance the incoming negatives is a much better solution, and it’s how God works in general. Social justice revolves around the concept of forcing people to treat people right. Not only are you forced to create dystopia to do this, you also fight subjective definitions of what is right. Then it includes equity of results, which is exactly not what Jesus stands for. See the parables for this. Talents, Vineyard, Wedding, all show that equity is not a value God holds.

    And, I’m not sure that outward focus is as prioritized in the Bible as we often are led to believe. I personally find that individual-to-individual is far more effective and resembles the “as you go” command that Jesus gave. Sure, you can meet people’s physical needs, but my interpretation is that the early church gave prioritized members in their giving. “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” I find, all too often, a strong focus on mission tasks/projects/trips can lead to a person neglecting personal spiritual growth and create an almost the spiritual equivalent of a “manic-depressant” spiritual walk.

    My advice to each individual person, before you spend all your “spiritual effort” on mission trips or weekend projects, ensure you are spending sufficient focus on improving your behavior day-to-day.

    Now, this doesn’t mean to say that any of the current Country Club(TM) styled churches are correct, because they aren’t really attending to needs in a humble way, but maintaining an atmosphere that promotes resistance to change and tightly grasping onto an unchanging tradition. That’s not what I mean by a church prioritizing inward needs. What I mean to say is that you attract people by your behavior and how God has blessed you to overcome consuming sin, as a primary means, with community volunteership being a secondary means of attracting new members.

    The short version, you absolutely do prioritize inward ministry. But you have to include broad spectrum outward ministry that looks more like consistent behavior than special projects. In other words, point #7, but articulated with a priority for inward ministry that benefits the needy within the church.

    So, what is valid and invalid external ministry. The reason being is that some people desperately need basic needs met before they can consider their spiritual life, and those are the ones that you target. For example, prioritize members when you fix their house or help them with chores, externally prioritize people who are the most destitute, homeless, widows, orphans, etc.

    I’ve seen too many times churches choose vanity when helping external members, opting for something that has an image that they can show off. Bringing iPads to children is not the best investment.

    In other words, I feel like people see a strong focus on unessential inward ministry that creates a club atmosphere and feel an urge to focus on outward ministry and neglect inward ministry, and get the wrong idea that outward ministry is the priority. The real problem is where we are directing and how we are applying inward ministry, neglecting to help the needy and focusing on competing with secular clubs for activities.

  • Dustyn Holland

    The church must drive for authenticity. I think that is where so many churches fail today. My generation (born 1985) can sniff out unauthentic churches a mile away. There is an attempt by so many churches to manipulate people into attending through the implementation of trends, but it fails. If an individual wanted to experience trends they never really have to leave their homes. Regardless of what people may think, people need the church to be a refuge, an escape from the constant noise of society and the burdens of social expectations. The church needs to be a place where people can be who they really are, full of flaws, confusion, concerns, and questions. And perhaps the technological paradigm shift we are experiencing is to blame for this, most definitely in my opinion. Social networking and the accessibility of information has created a generation of introspective people. A generation that sees the flaws in the fundamental consumer Christian model and wants a deeper, more authentic relationship with God. I think these are the reasons that so many Christians have issues with the church model, never the mission. Too often when we bring our concerns to the surface we are met with a “Well if you don’t like it, fix it” reply from those within the church (location, not people). The problem with fixing it is always the same however, churches are political systems and even worse, businesses. This is one of the reasons that I disagree with the effectiveness of the mega-church. Large organizations such as those have large staffs, large buildings, and therefore large amounts of overhead. Churches must market and sell themselves in order to keep afloat. I absolutely believe that there are those mega-churches that care for their congregations, but financial obligations must come first on that scale, not personal authentic relationships. Really I couldn’t begin to offer any serious advice to solving the problems regarding church attendance. I believe the issues are far too complex and deep rooted. I do agree however that the image of the church will be different and many denominations will not make it. If I was to make any sort of prediction myself I would say that by the time my children are my age there will only be three types of “churches” to survive, 1) Fundamental Extremist Churches 2) Small Social Justice Driven Churches 3) Roman Catholic/Lutheran Churches (The order of this list has no relevance to order of size). But what do I know, I broke a shoelace this morning…

  • Christopher Macel

    Christianity will decrease, Islam will increase, Lack of religious belief will also increase in the US. Once we move towards a more secular society, we will be more educated and all religions will die out as they should.

    • Micah Weaver

      Satan and men haved tried since 5 beginning of time to stamp out God, Jesus, Christianity, the Bible. They have not nor will they ever. Started in the garden of Eden, didn’t happen. God made provision. Pharaoh tried it. Haman tried it in the time of Esther. Herod tried it, tried to kill all the baby boys to kill the seed. Didn’t happen. Inquisition came and went. The Crusades. Nazi Germany. Not even the Anti Christ will be able to, though times will be horrific. I’ve read the Book. I’ve read the end of the Book. Jesus always comes through. He wins!

  • moreta57

    Consumer Christianity will die and a more selfless discipleship will emerge, please may your prediction chime to pass

  • Mark Wiley

    While online church is an amazing supplement for people who can’t get to a service, it’s still an off ramp for Christian whose commitment to faith is perhaps less than it might have been at an earlier point.

    “Commitment to faith is perhaps less than”. This is a presumptive statement based ….on a model of ATTENDANCE. Was the model ever about gathering as a check the box?….or as those early individuals collecting when or where the Spirit drove them to. It might be purposed, might be spontaneous. Might be purposed worship or the joy of faith oriented folks spending time together, but might be shared giving of one self to a need individually or collectively. When two or more gather in my Name I will be in the midst… isnt a catch phrase. IT IS THE ESSENCE.

  • dlplife

    For the most part, a good article. I
    tend to agree with him in general. The exception I make is that Carey,
    like most white American observers, is really talking only about the
    trends in white American churches. He is not really investigating the
    trends of Christianity in other ethnic groups
    in America. Though the white church experience will in some way impact
    all others, the others will also impact white population. For example,
    here in Europe – though the scene is different because the state
    churches and Christianity in general have played a slightly different
    role than in America – the international churches, such as the one I
    pastor, are making an impact. How Hispanic churches in America react, or
    Asian churches, or African- American churches – all of these are
    variables. These people groups see their situation differently. Where
    White Americans are depressed and saddened by the trends in society,
    Hispanic Americans are more upbeat and excited about their advances. So I
    would have to say that Carey reveals the flaw that is mentioned often
    in Church Growth writings – “people blindness.”

  • Bob Ruth Neill

    I have read a lot of these type posts and articles – all hopeful about the future. While I have hope, it isn’t in a church, it is in the Saviour. Too many churches are busy helping people with their problems and ignoring the fact that the real help people need is to find Jesus and be forgiven of their sins. God doesn’t want us to try and clean up before we meet him. He is just fine meeting us the way we are. In fact, His goal is to take us from how He finds us and make us like His Son. That’s our faith journey. I have been blessed to be part of loving fellowships all over the province that know their mission is to reach people who are lost. The problem is that they fail to execute the mission, instead they get sucked into trying to help people fix themselves instead of sharing the truth that only Jesus can make any real, lasting change in our lives – and then only as we yield to Him.
    The world is not getting better. Churches (being very general) are not doing their job, and it’s as much my fault as it is anyone else’s.
    We need to love our neighbour with the goal of sharing Christ with them, because He is the only hope this world has.

  • P. Reed Haley

    As a atheist I have always believed that religion was created and functions to answer questions that science can’t…ergo, the more science reveals, the less religion is needed. But, as can be seen by the persistently large number of people in the U.S. and elsewhere who deny science and rationality, religion will remain vibrant and relevant for far into the future.

    • David Vance

      Ahh mate, it’s not about denying science. Science isn’t always right about everything. I’ve got 40+ years experience as a scientist to know that. It’s about separating the fields of science. There are some areas of science where things can be observed happening right now and that stuff is reasonably reliable. There are other fields of science that rely on interpreting things that happened a long time ago, and in those cases, a lot depends on your assumptions and your pre-conceived ideas – much less reliable and quite legitimately open to criticism – and sometimes, even ridicule.

  • Lee Mulcahy PhD

    Every 50-75 years, America has experienced revival– -which in turn brought citizens returning to houses of worship. The message of the gospels to love your neighbor creates community.

    America is long overdue for revival. With the hate that Trump promotes, we must offer our fellow citizens a different message: the love of our Lord and the love for our neighbors. It must start with the youth.

  • Christoph Koebel

    Right on brother. Love #4. Many “dead” churches should just close