Only God knows the future. But if current trends in Christianity continue, we can expect great change in the church by 2063. I predict the church will become both larger and smaller; less centralized and more efficient at meeting people’s needs. Doctrinal differences will continue to shrink, and emphasis on mission will continue to grow. Here are my predictions of what we can expect the church landscape to look like fifty years from now:
The church-on-the-corner that’s been the bedrock of American Christianity since colonial days will cease to exist by 2063. These churches of 50 to 500 souls will become too expensive to staff and their aging buildings too difficult to maintain. These so-called “family churches” are already losing members to megachurches that offer superior preaching, music and programming. Pastors are shunning their pulpits, preferring to plant new congregations. In their place we will see:
An explosion of satellite campuses. Some of these will have a physical building holding hundreds of worshippers, and some will be microchurches of less than 50 people. These churches will have little or no staff. Microchurches will be led by a layperson (or couple) and will meet in private homes or in rented spaces. These will not be “house churches” as we know them now, because they will be affiliates of megachurches. The common denominator: they will receive their teaching from an external source. In other words, these campuses and locations will not generate their own “sermon-content.” Instead, that content will come from parachurch organizations and megachurches.
About 200 megachurches will come to dominate American Christianity by 2063. In the same way WalMart took over the mom-and-pop store, a handful of megachurches will absorb thousands of other congregations – including other megachurches. They’ll do it by planting satellite campuses in thousands of cities and towns in America, delivering their teaching and music via video. Just as there are Baptist churches in nearly every city in America today, in 2062 there will be satellite and microchurch affiliates in every city and town.
The multi-site church will become the norm. In case you hadn’t noticed, most megachurches have stopped building ever-larger buildings. Instead, these king-sized congregations are going multi-site – beaming their teaching (and sometimes their music as well) into satellite campuses. By 2063, 80% of U.S. churchgoers will receive teaching from a pastor who’s not in the room with them.
The seeds of this innovation were sown in the early 1990s, when churches began adding cameras and screens to their sanctuaries. Projecting a magnified image of the pastor on the screen allowed worshippers to feel closer to him — even in a big room. Worshippers became comfortable seeing their minister on a screen.
Very quickly, churches like Saddleback began routing that video image to other buildings on their campus. Thus, Saddleback was able to offer multiple musical formats (traditional hymns, hard rock, country-and-western, Polynesian, etc.) but each venue featured the same sermon, piped in by video live from the main sanctuary.
Without realizing it, Saddleback had proven that believers would accept a sermon delivered by a pastor who wasn’t in the room.
Once churchgoers began to accept preacher-on-the-screen, the door opened to satellite campuses. Typically a megachurch rents or renovates a space in another part of the city and beams its pastor’s teaching into that venue. Satellites allow one pastor to teach in many locations. He can reach more people, relieve congestion at the main campus and shorten the drive for many attendees.
But why stop at the city limit? Some megachurches are planting satellite campuses in other cities and states. This trend will continue and accelerate.
By 2063 denominations as we know them will be gone – replaced by about 200 “mother churches” with tens or even hundreds of thousands of members worshipping in satellite and microchurches in thousands of cities across the globe.
No denominations? You heard me. Since 1517, churches have branded themselves around denomination. But the old brands have died before – and they’re dying again. In 2063, churches will brand themselves around their teaching pastors (see I Cor. 1:12):
- 1600s brands: Calvinist, Puritan, Anabaptist, Quaker, etc.
- 1800s brands: Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Church of God, etc.
- 2000s brands: Joel Osteen, Mark Driscoll, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, etc.
By 2062, America will have about 200 well-known preachers. These pastors will be the new brands. They’ll all possess three key gifts: 1) God’s spirit, 2) amazing communication skills, and 3) ambition. These men will establish satellite campuses and microchurches in every city and town in America. Their messages will be so compelling and so widely distributed they will make mediocre preaching obsolete. That quality gap will drive many churches-on-the-corner out of business.
So what do you think of these predictions? In my next blog entry I’ll give my opinion. In the meantime, I’d like to hear yours. Comments are open below. Or join the discussion on my Facebook page.