Future churchLEADERSHIP, Ron Keener Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013
Just a few years ago, did you anticipate a café in your church and smoke machines as part of worship?
David Murrow, the Alaskan who, a few years back, wrote the book Why Men Hate Church [www.ChurchforMen.com], had some wisdom for the contemporary church.
In a recent blog, Murrow took on the role of prognosticator for how the church will look 50 years from now. If current trends in Christianity continue, he says, we can expect great change in the church by 2062.
“I predict that the church will become both larger and smaller; less centralized and more efficient at meeting people’s needs. Doctrinal differences will continue to shrink, and emphasis on mission will continue to grow,” he writes.
He says the church-on-the corner of “50 to 500 souls will become too expensive to staff and their aging buildings too difficult to maintain. These so-called ‘family churches’ are already losing members to megachurches that offer superior preaching, music and programming. Pastors are shunning their pulpits, preferring to plant new congregations. In their place we will see an explosion of satellite campuses and microchurches.”
A friend of mine and former pastor wrote the other day about his last church, with which I am familiar. It is a church of 50 people that had a million dollars in the bank after selling their property to the school district next door. Instead of doing something missional and creative with that money, they – you guessed it – built another church.
“I got to the point that controlling people and their constant maneuvering to prevent anything from changing or happening drove me to utter frustration,” my friend wrote.
“No job is perfect, but having 50 bosses who are not in contact with our Lord (and HIS church was really their church) was more than I could deal with after 42 years [not at the same church]. It was way too apparent that the highest and best good among existing congregations was ‘leave us alone to die.’ Typically, the building was their idol and it was often their downfall.”
Murrow envisions the coming of microchurches of less than 50 people, led by a layperson (or couple) and meeting in private homes or in rented spaces. He doesn’t mean house churches as we know them now, but rather “they will be affiliates of a small number of cutting-edge megachurches led by amazingly talented communicators.”
Murrow predicts that 200 megachurches will dominate American Christianity in the next 50 years — “planting satellite campuses in thousands of cities and towns in America, delivering their teaching and music via video.”
He says 80 percent of churchgoers in America will receive teaching from a pastor who’s not in the room with them. Saddleback Church is routing its video to other buildings on the campus, but what is unique are the multiple musical formats. Take your pick from traditional hymns, hard rock, country and western, or Polynesian in the room of your choice.
As many churches have compelling messages, speakers and programming, Murrow says “the quality gap will drive many churches-on-the-corner out of business.”
You’re skeptical, you say. Murrow adds that “50 years ago no one could have predicted rock bands in the sanctuary, people wearing shorts and flip flops to church, or churches beaming their message to satellite campuses across town” [or to other states and countries, for that matter].
The churchgoers of 1962, he says, “would have scoffed at expresso machines in church, youth mission trips and smoke machines in worship. Yet all those things are quickly becoming commonplace.”