I was really intrigued by a Twitter thread a friend shared with me about the future of work by @chris_herd. You can read his predictions in the full thread here – 2020s are the Remote Work Decade. I couldn’t help but begin to think about what a similar approach to the future of the church might look like. I don’t profess to be prophetic, but here are some predictions of the future church in America in the 2020s based on what I’m seeing currently.
Evangelicalism as we know it will end. The once simple term within the greater Protestant church has taken on too much baggage and more and more people will disassociate from it in the coming years. Not because they no longer believe in sharing their faith, but because the movement simply brings to many unwanted associations to be worth keeping the title.
Church will trend smaller in numbers. COVID 19 has only accelerated the growing movement of house churches and smaller community focused churches. Smaller communities and neighborhood gathered expressions of church will be seen as less strange and become a socially embraced form of church.
Conversational learning will replace modern preaching. The dissemination of information will shift to community learning and conversation-driven engagement of scripture instead of a singular oratory style of teaching. The beauty of communal study will bring forth multiple perspectives and applications to the conversation that traditional preaching is unable to offer.
The practice of Communion will be central to weekly gatherings. Communion will be restored as a central and catalyzing event of the church gathering each week. The restoration of communion to a weekly practice provides stability, clarity in the Gospel message, and an opportunity to connect with and engage the larger Body of Christ both globally and historically.
Oversized buildings will be repurposed. Many churches will need to find opportunities to use their large buildings in new and innovative ways that better serve the community. Many will also find opportunities to earn revenue from their buildings while having a more direct kingdom impact – co-working spaces, entrepreneur development, micro-enterprise sub-leases, schools, coffee shops, etc…
CEO style leadership will be replaced with a team approach. There’s a growing and painful trend of CEO style church leaders collapsing – moral failures, emotional breakdowns, and even suicide. Many churches are finally acknowledging that this is not a healthy or biblical model. Leadership teams will emerge, many following the APEST model, to collectively carry the mantle of leadership for the congregation.
Digital church will become a legitimate ministry option. The days of in-person only ministry have quickly been challenged and churches are learning rapidly to engage their congregants through digital formats. Even when the current health concerns are removed, many will continue to engage through digital venues and the church must find a way to actively care for people through virtual means.
There will be a return to liturgy and historical church practices. There is already a growing movement of Christians (re)embracing a liturgical expression of church and worship. Liturgy, call and response prayers, the engagement of the historical church calendar, and other traditional practices provide a grounding of faith in the known streams of Christianity over the past 2000 years.
New expressions and movements of faith gatherings will emerge. Movements will form around the reimagining of the church away from a largely observational weekly worship service. Gatherings around common meals, care for the community, interactive prayer, and other expressions will spring up in communities as new opportunities for church reimagined.
Worship gatherings will become simplified and less extravagant. As the Millennial generation comes into adulthood they generally have a desire for a simplified and more authentic worship expression than the common current worship experience. Value will be placed on the services that provide the opportunity to engage genuinely over services that seem entertainment-driven.
Midsized congregations will struggle. Existing mega-churches will continue to grow and many small church expressions will launch, but midsized congregations will struggle in a shifting landscape. They often lack the programming and influence of a mega-church while also being too large to provide a tight-knit community or personal feel. Finding viability in facilities, staffing, and funding for churches in the 500-1200 attendance range will be growingly difficult.