Recently I read an article on crosswalk.com by Ed Stetzer called “Future Trends in Evangelicalism.” The article began by talking about how for the first ten years of this new millennium churches have been finding new and successful ways to communicate the gospel. Stetzer went on to say, “For that to continue in the next decade, several issues will need to be discussed and resolved.” Here are four specific issues he highlighted:
Evangelicals must learn to navigate what I call a “post-seeker context.” In the past churches have targeted “seekers” from the Baby Boomer generation who, for the most part, have some kind of religious or spiritual memory or knowledge. In the future we will need to develop new models of outreach that recognize people who don’t have that same memory or knowledge.
Evangelicals need to regain confidence in the gospel. In the past several years many churches have experienced numerical growth by catering to the superficial needs of people rather than the one great need of all men everywhere, a need that can only be met with a clear proclamation and acceptance of the gospel. In the past decade the emerging church (however you want to define “emergin” because everyone seems to define it differently) has sought a broader and more “holistic” gospel that was less authoritative and more inclusive. That’s a false gospel. We need to get back to the pure gospel of the Bible.
Evangelicals will need to address the definition of evangelicalism. Stetzer writes, “Right now, people often define evangelicals as anyone from Joel Osteen to John MacArthur” (If you’re familiar with those two men, you know they could not be more different in their approach to the Scriptures, to preaching, and to the stewardship of their influence). If you apply the term evangelicalism to everyone and everything, it will end up meaning nothing.
- Evangelicals must address our shallow definition of discipleship. Stetzer reveals that Life Way Research has published a book called The Shape of Faith to Come by Brad Waggoner.
Based on a study of 2,500 regular Protestant church-goers, he found statistics revealing that only 16% of participants say that they read their Bible daily, and another 20% say they read the Bible a few times a week. Only 23% agreed strongly with the statement, “When I come to realize that an aspect of my life is not right in God’s eyes, I make necessary changes.” In the past six months, only 29% said that they had shared with someone how to become a Christian twice or more, and 57% said they had not done so at all. Perhaps the most disappointing, however, was what had happened when they were surveyed again a year later. There was very little change in the actual data, but over 55% indicated that they had grown spiritually in the past year.
It’s this last observation that troubles me the most. James 1:22 says, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (NIV) Jesus says, in Matthew 7:24,Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man. . .(NIV) The key to discipleship is not just “hearing” God’s Word; it’s putting it into practice.
I’ve got some very real concerns about what the future holds when it comes to the local church. One of my biggest is what kind of influence will the church have on the world when it’s filled with people whose lives are indistinguishable from the world? It’s time for Christians to recognize and embrace the call to be different. Not odd. . .different. When Peter wrote his first epistle to encourage suffering Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor, he wrote, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (I Peter 2:9 – NIV) That’s a great description of what it means to be different. We need to be people marked by different priorities, different passions, different parenting, and different pursuits; different. . .you get the idea. But this only happens when we make knowing and obeying God’s Word the foundation of our lives.
My prayer for Mount Pleasant Christian Church is that we would be a people who love God’s Word, know God’s Word, and live God’s Word so that we can be a church that presents a clear reality of who Jesus really is and how He wants to heal and change broken lives.