The future of the local church

In the past ten years, I have witnessed remarkable changes in the local church and the coming decade will usher in even more transformations. While the ancient Sacraments will remain, everything else is up for debate. How we worship, when we gather, what is said, who is leading and where the gatherings happen will all undergo scrutiny and debate.

I have four predictions for the next decade of local church.

1. The places where we gather will become smaller

Every social and cultural trend is leaning toward the smaller, more intimate gatherings and away from the stadium worship experience. Mega churches that purposely create numerous worship settings that promote intimacy and community will see the most significant growth. There will always be a group of church people who will come to the big building, but if we want to see significant growth among skeptics and seekers, we must create less threatening venues for them to explore the issues of faith.

2. The church will be launched into real mission.

The local church is hungry to embrace the mission of the New Testament and this will only increase in the next decade. This next generation is tired of the hype of events and is eager to give their lives to something that requires sacrifice and results in biblical justice. They want to get their hands in the dirt of humanity and see real change in the communities where they live. They will come to the church building for some of the attractional events, but will get disillusioned quickly if these events do not result in real opportunities to serve their world.

3. The church will return to its ancient roots

If it’s new, it’s probably not truth. If its truth, it’s probably not new. I believe the ancient, yet simple recipe of local church will return. We will gather often, read the Scriptures, worship intently, pray fervently, be led by servants, live authentically, and honor the Sacraments. For sure, we will continue to be creative and inventive, but not at the expense of the ancient structure which has transcended all generations for over 2000 years.

4. The church will return to wonder and awe

The churches that embrace the supernatural nature of God will see the most growth and have the most influence in the coming decade. Good preaching, trendy stage sets, and clever videos will not be enough in the next ten years because people want to see God intervene more and more in the affairs of the earth with miracles and healings. Sound theology must prevail and we must not return to our sloppy Charismatic tendencies, but we must also embrace the mysterious and risky nature of God and not be afraid of wonder and awe. While the Holy Spirit may be unpredictable, the results are always predictable – people will find God, people will be healed and people will discover real freedom.

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  1. “Presence driven.” That’s what so many lives should be, but usually aren’t… and that’s what worship should be, but so often isn’t. Learning to hear. To discern. To be obedient. Oh, the rewards that will come!!! There’s an amazing song that’s older, but so good. “I cry freedom from the chains that bind our children, Lord, freedom from the chains that bind our praise to You, freedom from the lies of the enemy, freedom we cry…” I should send you the mp3… if I could find it.

  2. Pastor Brady,
    I think you’re right on with your four points. It all makes sense and it’s exciting to think of the next decade of changes in church. Your sermon today, Jan. 3, was terrific — loved it.

    P. Cosel

  3. I must say that when I anticipated reading this blog I was expecting to offer a wager against the predictions. However, having read them I will definitely not make such a wager. In light of what I KNOW is coming, I would say that you are right on. The changes hopefully will begin early in 2010.

  4. I go to church on Sundays, but what makes me a Christian is the way I live my life outside the church walls and there are plenty of ways to serve and glorify God.

    I launched an online ministry for women who for a variety of reasons, are hanging on by a very thin thread. It has grown over the last year and I have now ministered to as many people as a moderately sized church in America. And I’m a nobody!…well, you know what I mean.

    The internet is a great way to address more personal issues, such as infidelity, sexual abuse, drug addiction. Many people are not ready to open up publically with those issues, but they are ready to receive ministry in the privacy of their homes.

    I guess you could say that God has called me to encourage the crawlers until they can stand.

    God is always reaching for us.

  5. “This next generation is tired of the hype of events and is eager to give their lives to something that requires sacrifice and results in biblical justice.”

    So true! Praise God that pastors such as you understand this and are not disconnected from reality.

    God Bless

  6. Pastor Brady,

    Two thoughts:

    1) The big church auditorium has become a “safe” place for seekers to come and allowed to be more-or-less anonymous as they check things out. It’s harder to be anonymous in a small venue. That being said, connecting with people, following up with visitors, being intentional and genuine in being welcoming and hospitable are hallmarks of healthy churches regardless of size; anonymity is available to a point, but it shouldn’t be because the church is passive.

    2) People are in greater numbers, actively seeking or are hopefully searching for wonder and awe. I appreciate you being specific in warning against “sloppy Charismatic tendencies”, which are barriers to inviting those looking in from the outside. The balance of Biblical orderliness and the freedom of spirit-led worship and teaching that I’ve personally experienced at Gateway are the hopeful future for churches wanting to teach the full Gospel without the sloppy tendencies.

    Well said, Brady. Do you believe existing charismatic churches are become more aware or is it a shift from historically more conservative churches opening up the truth of freedom?


  7. Pastor Brady,
    Your points above confirms the very reason(s) why God is planting a church through my wife and I. I (Gregory) have been a Christian for just over 4 years and my wife over 12. The raw gospel teaching through many preachers/teachers and school has created in me and my wife a hunger for the Word. Not only that, but a hunger for ACTS style Church. We are devoted to God’s will! You are awesome, Brady and we pray your fire only gets stronger. Jesus loves you!
    Gregory Speck

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