The Church Today – Part Five
So what about the Church after God’s own heart in the future? What changes will be needed to bring about the Church of the future? What will the Church look like? How will it function? Will we see traditional type churches continue on into the future? Will, the institutional church simply fade and eventually disappear?
There are so many things to consider and so many questions to answer. And, no one has all the answers nor does any particular flavour of the Church even have all the questions.
But, we can see over the horizon and begin to get a glimpse of the future. George Barna wrote:
“The United States will see a reduction in the number of churches, as presently configured. Church services will decline as Christians devote their time to a wider array of spiritual events. Donations to churches will drop because millions of believers will invest their money in other ministry ventures … A declining number of professional clergy will receive a livable salary from their churches. Denominations will go through cutbacks, and executives will be relieved of their duties as their boards attempt to understand and halt the haemorrhaging. To some, this will sound like the Great Fall of the church. To Revolutionaries, it with be the Great Reawakening of the church.” (Revolution, pages 107-108)
Statistics show that the number of Christians who attend a traditional church will drop from 70% to 30% in the next 20 years. (Revolution, Page 49)
If that truly happens, we will see the demise of the institutional church as we know it today. Not that it is going to vanish, but the number of Christians who are wedded to it will drastically decrease making the survival of some churches totally impossible.
We will also see the rise of the ministry of the apostle. A rise in numbers; a rise in influence and authority; a rise in visibility. As a result churches will begin to receive the ministry of the apostles and new life will be released and received.
Apostles (and prophets) are foundational for the Church to be built correctly and for the Church to become effective (Ephesians 2:20). Along with the apostles we will see full fivefold ministry teams ministering in churches (Ephesians 4:11) as the Church – the people of God – are equipped and trained for the work of the ministry. As a result we will see the mobilization of the Church as she begins to effectively reach out proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14) and seeing the lost saved.
Programs will disappear as more and more churches embrace organic life and leave behind the institutional aspects of the Church. Personalities who are charismatic and strong will no longer be the leaders of these churches as the regular believers will rise up and lead so that it is no longer a “one man show” as it has been over the many centuries. Many para-church ministries will fade in importance and even cease to exist due to declining donations and thus a lack of income. Also, as many new churches are planted – the majority being in homes – the need for para-church organizations will decrease because the church will once again be locally oriented (in each neighbourhood) and will be truly the Church in the society thus eliminating the need for para-church organizations because, once again, the Church will be doing what the Lord has commanded it to do – win the lost, disciple the believers, equip the saints, mobilize the troops, and release them into the work of the ministry.
The Church of the future will resemble what we see in the Book of Acts and the Epistles to the early churches. However, the Church described in the pages of Scripture will simply be the starting point for the Church of the future. Yes, we will look like the early Church and we will see and experience what they saw and experienced. However, we cannot limit ourselves to repeating what has already been. What we know from the Scriptures will be the foundation upon which Jesus can then built His Church. A Church that will truly take the Gospel of the Kingdom to every nation and people group on the face of the earth.