We’re in a swirl of rapid change. In the last 10 years the church in America has seen more rapid change than in the entire century before.
What people believe, how they exercise their faith, and how they interact with the established church–or not–are all undergoing significant change. Where is this juggernaut of change taking us? A Christian think tank, LifelongFaith Associates, has been tracking spiritual shifts in America, and has observed 13 trends that will drive change in the next 10 years. I’ll preview the first three trends from the group’s Faith Formation 2020 study.
Trend 1. Declining participation in Christian churches. The study states that current trends indicate 85% of Americans will be staying away from worshipping God at church by 2020.
Trend 2. Growth in the “no religious affiliation” category. “The number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8% to 15%,” according to the report.
Trend 3. Becoming more “spiritual” and less “religious.” A growing segment of the population does not want to become involved in churches.
The study goes on to consider some possible outcomes if these trends continue. You can see the entire report here: http://bit.ly/c9Xcxb
This study, and many others, beckon us to look just 10 years ahead and consider how the church will need to adapt in order to effectively serve and impact our culture. As I’ve talked with church leaders across the country, the thinking seems to circle around one of three mindsets:
1. “We need to work harder.” These folks seem to think things will get better if we just do more of what we’re already doing. Or some think we just need to do what we’re doing, but do it better. But the pace of change is outpacing their ability to peddle faster.
2. “I can make it to retirement.” These leaders realize their ministry needs significant transformation, but they don’t have the vision, energy or appetite for risk that is required. So they’re coasting, hoping they can hang on long enough to hand off the future to someone else.
3. “We need to try some entirely new directions.” These leaders are willing to step out in faith to really refresh their ministry with new approaches. I’ve been energized to get to know many of these pioneers who have stepped up to join the network of Lifetree Cafe operators. Lifetree is a “conversation cafe” that helps today’s culture connect everyday life issues with faith in Christ. http://lifetreecafe.com/
In these times of rapid change, God’s message is as relevant as ever. But how we deliver that message will need to change–if we wish to see the church also be relevant in 2020.