predictions for 2008

let me pretend i talk with dead people and see if i can predict the future. well not really "dead" people, like in the whole "oh no, my heart stopped and i'm dead and either going to heaven or hell" thing going, that would be too freaky. i am talking about "dead people," you see i do speak with a great many people in a great many churches and most of them seem dead, and that counts. in my conversations with these "dead people" i have developed a "insight" into what i believe will be the problems facing the church in 2008 [besides the whole dead thing] - now, i could be wrong, but i don't think i am - you see, of the people i speak with and the things shared with me i believe i have a pretty good handle on what will be happening over the next year in the church - so, here is what i think will be the three greatest issues facing the church in 2008:

gay clergy [or just gay people in general]
for many in the church the idea of "gay" tosses them for a loop - they can not process that reality, and they are not sure how to handle what that brings to the table. you have to remember that most people in the church were "born" into the church [their parents were believers] and raised in the church [attended church their whole life] so many have a collective of some 50 years hearing about how all gays are "going to hell in a heap of fire, wrapped in the chains of twisted sin and covered in the grease of indecency." in that, there has been a great tension building in and around the church concerning "gay people" that i believe will come to a head in 2008, or come close to a head [maybe a neck].

i believe churches will split over this issue more in 2008 then in 2007. in 2007 whole sections of the episcopal church left the american church over this issue, and i believe it will cause others to do the same - in all denominations. while this will not "kill" the church, it will lead to a bigger problem for many of the "old line" and "main line" churches - some will be seen as "closed" and others will be seen as "liberal" - and the pew picking begins. but the issue goes deeper then just gay clergy, it speaks to how will the church open its doors to gay people, in general - this i believe will be a big wall the church will need to knock down in 2008.

what is a possible solution? i think what needs to happen is we as a church need to walk away from looking at everything in terms of "sex." sure, "sex sells" but it also destroys. i often wonder about the idea of sex in the church. too many people are too driven with the idea of "weeding out" people with sexual issues yet, the idea that they are so driven by the sexual issues of others means they in themselves have a sexual issue. the idea here, for me, is to trust in God and know that God is the head of the church and in that God will deal with the issues God desires to deal with. we are not the "moral police" - we are followers of a loving, gracefilled, giving master called Jesus Christ; and Jesus asked us not to judge other. we need to open our hearts and find ways of allowing God to change the people we come across in our walk.

decreasing membership
i am always amazed at churches that look over their own stats and just do not see it - they refuse to name the elephant in the room and they ignore that the elephant is even in the room taking a dump all over the place [which only attracts "dug beetles']. many churches look over the "member stats" and see that there is a very large gaping hole of people between the ages of 18-40. many simply say "we want to attract those people" and yet they are willing to do noting to bring those people into the church - they continue in their non-relevant reality. but even more, many of those churches have no idea how to change and become relevant to the community they are called to serve.

i believe in 2008 the church is heading deeper into a "non-relevant" phase in the minds of many people outside the church [you know, the ones we are trying to attract] - 2008 can be a "make or break" year for many churches seeking to be relevant to the communities they serve. unfortunately, many of the churches in this position will simply place their collective heads into separate hole [theological differences preclude the sharing of the same hole] and ignore the issues facing them. many will see this time as a "time of persecution" and stand firm on the legal aspects of what they believe. they will refuse to look at themselves and see that they are the problem, and that the message of Christ is still pure and sweet, but the words they are using are anything but.

what is a possible solution? at some level that is simple, get relevant, change, redirect, look to the community you are called to serve and see what needs to change to serve that community. if you look around and the community is filled with young people, and none of them are in the church, you might not be reaching them with the style of music and "sermon" you are use to - be the "bigger christian" and be willing to change. in my time consulting with churches i have found that the ones with immature christians are the ones unwilling to take a deep and honest look into who they are and change. for some reason, the church is tied to this idea that we must hold to the traditions of past generations, when the reality is we should be looking to do what it takes to bring the next generation into the church. it has never been about yesterday, it has always been about tomorrow.

church planting
with more and more churches hemorrhaging members due to the train wreck they call "church" many churches will see planting new churches as taking away from "their" resources and members. this will cause a "circle the wagons" mind set even deeper then the current one. this will bring about churches disconnecting from there associations, denominations and communities while going deeper into themselves. these churches will see church plants as a threat to their survival and even gather to "pray against" the plants. these church will become bitter and simply add to the close minded nature of their reality.

what is a possible solution? bite the bullet. realize that it is not about how your church it's about the kingdom being served. if your church is unable to reach out to others, other gatherings of the faithful maybe able to do it better. support them, help them, work with them - regardless of their denomination. if you own a restaurant, offer free meals to the planter and their family; if you run a theater, offer a free evens out to the planter and their family; if you are a doctor, offer free medical care to the planter and their family; if you are a lawyer, offer free legal assistance to the planter and their family; if you own a business that employees different people, offer the planter and their spouse a job - don't complain about what they are doing to your church, glorify what they are striving to do for the Kingdom of God.

based on the conversations i have with dead people, i believe this is where the church is heading. those are mine three - i am sure others see other issues - so, let's share; what do you believe are the three big issues facing the church in 2008?


malachijones said...

Hi John,

I'm thinking your predictions are pretty much right on. I agree in large part.

I'd add a couple of caveats:
- "Gay Issues" may increase but will not actually end up being all that significant - as most churches/denominations working through these issues are already irrelevant.
- I agree that church attendance will continue to decrease - BUT that we'll see another huge year for megachurch growth - perpetuating the illusion that Christianity (however you see it - religion or faith movement) is growing; allowing huge swathes of people to enjoy ignorance towards mission/evangelism for one more year
- I don't think denominations will "circle the wagon" in regards to planting churches, BUT they will circle the wagons in regards to FUNDING church plants. We'll have groups of old white guys telling doe-eyed groups of young white guys to go plant churches - taking all the personal financial and vocational risks - then pilfering accolades if the church survives into 2009.

Just my addition to your predictions.

Jerrod (www.essentialethos.ca)

rdnakx250 said...

You forgot one big issue coming in 2008. More SCANDALS. The fox is in charge of the chicken coop and so many are looking the other way. What has ripped through the catholic church is going on under our noses and leaders look the other way until they are cover with the excrement explosion.