Let’s complete our look at the seven trends currently unfolding in society and in the Church as younger people begin to exert greater influence on the direction our world and the Church is taking. We have looked at six of the seven…
Trend #1: The Changing of the Guard
Trend #2: The Rise of a New View of Life
Trend #3: Dismissing the Irrelevant
Trend #4: The Impact of Technology
Trend #5: Genuine Relationships
Trend #6: Participation in Reality
Trend #7: Finding True Meaning
Our last major trend seen as a result of the world view of the younger generations is that they are seeking for true meaning. Every generation wades through the murky waters of life’s meaning. The discovery process is never easy, and the answers are often a long time coming. The eternal struggle to find meaning in life – which cannot occur without recognizing how God has designed us and how to apply that design to the context in which we live – is in full force today.
Despite all the advances in technology and communications, our society’s complexity and fragmentation have only served to heighten the struggle to make sense of our place in the world.
One of the most startling signs of growth, though, is the younger generations accelerated openness to understanding themselves through two components that have been largely ignored for many decades: sacrifice and surrender. Granted, this commitment or pattern is not widespread at this moment, but we are seeing growing numbers of people who are considering sacrifice and surrender as the possible missing links to their maturation and fulfillment.
Wrapping things up on this part of our journey into “The Church That Jesus Is Building”…
So we have a new spiritual landscape. Whether or nor you currently understand the implications of these trends, two things are true. First, you don’t have to like the outcomes of things you cannot change, but you do have to deal with them. Second, the more you can anticipate some of the transitions resulting from these trends, the greater will be your ability to help shape the world in ways that are likely to honour God and advance your spiritual maturity. This will impact your own life and the lives of others with whom you interact.
What outcomes are likely in the spiritual landscape of the world as a result of these seven trends?
Perhaps the most significant relates to how increasing numbers of people will be most likely to experience and express their faith in the coming years. A radical transformation is in progress related to the means through which people’s faith is made real.
As we entered into the 21st Century, the local church was the focus of most people’s spiritual lives. About 70 percent of born again Christians relied upon some local congregation to be their dominate source of spiritual input and output. A few individuals – roughly 5 percent of the population (a North American statistic) – were engaged in a faith journey that revolved around some alternative type of faith community. A similar small percentage of people identified their family as their primary faith pod. A larger, but still minority, group (an estimated 20%) turned to various cultural sources – the media, the arts, or other institutions – as the outlets designated to satisfy their faith needs.
The seven cultural trends described in this part of a rather long series of blogs, have unleashed a massive shift in emphasis. By the year 2025, the spiritual profile of many nations will be dramatically different. Specifically, we can expect that only about one-third of the population will rely upon a local congregation as the primary or exclusive means of experiencing and expressing their faith; one-third will do so through alternative forms of faith-based community; and one-third will realize their faith through the media, the arts, and other cultural institutions. Unfortunately, as far as anyone can determine, the family will remain a mere blip on the radar screen when it comes to serving as the conduit for faith experience and expression, remaining central to perhaps 5 percent of any given people group.
I celebrate the development of new ways for people to grow and reach maturity in their faith. The relatively compromised and complacent state of faith in most nations today suggests that any new means through which people – especially younger people – can make their faith come alive and become more center stage in their lives, without conflicting with scriptural imperatives, will represent a welcome breath of fresh air in the stagnant landscape of most national and local churches.
As I said, you don’t have to like this transition, but you must deal with it. You can approach it with a defensive, negative attitude, or you can deal with it in the hope of learning and experiencing great breakthroughs in your life and in your church. The choice is yours.