Last week I was with a friend of mine who has served in ministry for many years. We talked about a lot of things, but one of the topics we spent some time on was the future of the church in North America. What will the church look like in 10 years? Where are things headed? How will the church change over the coming years?
I’m hopeful for the future of the church in North America. Most of that hope is rooted in Jesus and his promise that He would build His church and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. Do we have some challenges in front of us? Certainly. But I’m hopeful about what I see as I look at North America and the opportunities for Gospel ministry.
One of the developments emerging that gives me hope is the rise of micro expressions and movements of micro expressions. When you look at the growth of Christian faith across the globe, it’s fueled largely through micro movements – house churches, cell churches and smaller groups that make disciples of Jesus and reproduce or multiply rapidly. While this has been the norm around the world, it hasn’t been the case in North America. Today, we’re beginning to see what I hope is the beginning of the same kind of movements in a couple of places in the U.S. The potential for micro-movements to reach entire cities and areas is exciting.
As I shared with my friend about what I’m observing with micro expressions, he immediately asked the following question: “what do you do with the kids and the youth? Don’t they need something geared for them?” It’s a valid question. The thought of trying to do something meaningful and helpful for a roomful of folks when a couple of bored children are terrorizing the rest of the room is intimidating. I fully understand why he asked the question. We want our kids to grow in their faith too.
I almost hesitate to share my response to his question here. Give me some grace and hear me out. I responded with the following: “We aren’t exactly hitting it out of the park with our current methods… how many ‘church’ kids do you know from over the years who have walked away from their faith? Maybe we need to come up with new approaches rather than keep on doing what we’ve always done.”
Before I get hate mail and angry responses… please hear my heart. I’m an old youth pastor. I’m not trying to disrespect any of my friends in youth or children’s ministry. I know how hard you work and your passion to see kids’ faith in Christ come alive. I’m just asking us all to consider whether we’re getting the results we really want? Look at the rise of the “nones” or the fact that the younger you are, the less likely you are to embrace the Christian faith. I’m just offering that perhaps our approach, as well intentioned as it might be, may not be producing the results we ultimately want to see.
I know for many of you, this is more than just a statistical exercise or cold data… those young people have names and faces because they’re your children or grandchildren. Please don’t hear this as blanket dismissal or condemnation of the great work being done to point our young people toward Jesus – it’s not. It’s simply a question of whether we’re seeing the kind of result we want to see? Are our kids growing up to be disciples of Jesus? Are they developing a lifelong pursuit of Jesus and His mission? If they are, thanks be to God. If they’re not, what needs to change?
My sense is that the future of the church in North America will see some different expressions emerge to navigate the challenges our culture brings. Some of those changes will require us to radically rethink our approach to ministry to our kids and that may not necessarily be a bad thing, particularly if we want to see them become disciples of Jesus.
CGGC eNews—Vol. 15, No. 28