I watch church trends. The last few years have been an interesting journey for the church in the United States. As I observe the work of the church in our country, I’ve noticed eight trends that we should all consider. Many of these are difficult to quantify by a research project but they are all having an impact on the landscape of ministry.
Multisite: According to the findings from Leadership Network/Generis, there are more than 8,000 multisite churches in the United States. Whether you consider a digital form of circuit-riding preachers, a new form of church planting, or just a healthy model – it is going to be with us for a while. We can learn a great deal about how to multiply leaders in our churches as a result of this movement.
Deeper divides: With the same new tools that are being used to call for revival, they are being used to deepen the divide between various streams of Christianity. Simply addressing the realm of Evangelicals, I can regularly find voices shrieking over several discussions: between the theologically-driven and the methodologically-driven church, Calvinism and non-Calvinism (though we struggle for a name for it), worship wars (yes, this is still a thing), and highly programmed versus highly organic church models.
Teaching Teams: Churches are doing more to access the giftedness of those in this membership when it comes to the Sunday preaching or teaching in worship services. The rise of teaching teams is harder to track but we are seeing more churches rely less on one super-preacher and more on how God has gifted many people in the body. Personally, I lead a teaching team in our church and find it to be a healthy way to study better.
Tribalism: Because we have moved far past the constraints of geography dictating association, tribalism is, in some ways, overtaking denominationalism. Formerly, if you were a Presbyterian in Kansas City, then you associated with others of your denomination in the region. Now, you can join any tribe you wish based on ministry methodology, social cause, missiological orientation, and an endless list of factors. Networks are now the “cool kids” that everyone wants to sit with at the lunch table.
Bivocational staff members: Bivocational ministry has been around since the apostle Paul was making tents to earn a paycheck. But today more mid-sized and larger churches are staffing with bivocational ministers. Similar to teaching teams, it is a way to leverage the giftedness of people in the church in a renewed way.
Smaller facilities: Anecdotally, it seems as if adult Bible study groups meeting in homes is on the rise while groups meeting on campuses is on the decline. Local congregations will have to determine if that is good or bad for them. However, fewer churches are investing large sums of money to build traditional education buildings. In some cases, churches are using facilities that intentionally put them into multiple worship services so that they can save on building and/or build-out costs.
Continued growth of parachurch ministries focused on global justice: Denominations have systems by which their congregations can do mission work domestically and internationally. However, with limited funds, most have chosen to focus on a precious few goals; like church planting, evangelism, and disaster relief work. It leaves a wide field of work to parachurch groups that have a laser focus particular issues. Orgainzations like the Gideons International exist to distribute Bibles. Groups like Compassion International dedicate their work to releasing children from poverty and introducing them to the gospel of Jesus. More congregations are working through such groups to accomplish their church’s mission.
New ways to call for revival: Many local pastors have renewed their call, prayers, and work for a sweeping revival in the United States. It is a great thing that seems to always bubble under the surface for the church. With new tools like social media and electronic books, the call is taking on a new form; which is good.
Philip Nation serves as the Director of Content Development at LifeWay, as well as Teaching Pastor of The Fellowship Church. He is the co-author of two books: Compelled: Living the Mission of God and Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow.