7 Predictions for the North American Church

7 Predictions for the North American Church January 24, 2023

Today, I wanted to share some reflections on the future of the North American Church.

Free Light Chapel photo and picture

Image via Pixabay

Goodness knows I am not an expert, and I am not presenting these as “prophecies” or speaking in the Name of the Lord.

That being said, much prayer and reflection has gone into these ideas, and I present them humbly as something for you to consider and pray into.

What follows are some prayerful observations on where I could see things going. I am not saying that every thing listed here is good or healthy, necessarily – that is for the reader to prayerfully weigh out.

Although perhaps challenging, as change always is, it doesn’t need to be disappointing – it can’t be so, when we trust that, whatever happens, Christ is building His Church, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against her, no matter what! (Mt 16.18)

I love the Church dearly, have given my entire adult life in her service, and everything that I share comes from a place of deep love for the people of God.

As a preamble, I do think we are likely living through the beginning of a fairly significant shift in the North American Church. Although most change in Church happens slowly over time, I believe we will look back on the 2020’s and onward as a time where much happened that transformed the Church profoundly forever.

With that, here are 7 things that I can see coming for us here in North America:

 

  1. The ongoing decline of Christendom will not reverse. There was a time in Western culture when the whole culture itself was considered “Christian” – everyone knew the Story, everyone shared the common morality, the Church and State were often intertwined, and the Church had much public influence in the culture. We called this combination “Christendom,” and it has been in decline for decades in North America. Unfortunately for some, it will not be returning, and will continue to disappear. This doesn’t need to be bad news at all, although it will certainly be an adjustment! We look back now and know that under Christendom, still, the vast majority of people were neither trusting nor living for Jesus, even if a nation was so-called “Christian.” There will always be a remnant of true Christ-followers, and they will passionately continue the work of Jesus wherever they find themselves. Neither Jesus nor the apostles needed any broad cultural influence or platform in order to transform the world. The Gospel, the Word, and the Holy Spirit were more than enough. If they didn’t need Christendom, then neither do we, and the Church will survive just fine without it.

 

  1. The various wings of the Church will divide further apart. This is not a particular profound thought – it is an obvious one. Progressive and Conservative Christians will polarize further and further away from each other, with many Christian leaders on both sides building their brand by demonizing the other side and gathering followers not to Jesus, or even to the Church, but to their personal opinions and perspectives. Christians are called to love one another in disagreement and not treat “the other side” with contempt (Rom 14), but this will be sorely tested, especially when it appears that such churches are doing well on paper in terms of numbers. For a time, it will “pay” to be divisive and contemptuous. Loving disagreement, in a spirit of grace and mercy for our brothers and sisters in Christ, is a much harder but much godlier road.

 

  1. Churches will get smaller and nimbler. The megachurch will decline and eventually be very rare. Boomers loved size and scope, but the following generations are less impressed, and are looking for connection, authenticity, and acceptance – all things that are very difficult to find in larger churches. The budget and resources required for massive churches and ministries will be increasingly difficult to maintain, as churches will move towards smaller, nimbler, and more intimate expressions of community.

 

  1. Denominational dynamics will be very different. Denomination loyalty will be far less important to the average Christian than people finding church communities that they can truly connect with. Being a lifelong “Pentecostal” or a lifelong “Baptist” will not be a priority nearly as much as finding a real God-and-community connection with another group of believers. The titles will be far less important than the shared beliefs and the communion that happens.

 

  1. The Church will become much more comfortable with mystery. After a long era where churches prided themselves on the weight of their systematic theologies and having answers to every tough question, the generations to come are less concerned with such black-and-white pronouncements, and will be much more content to speak clearly about what is clear in Scripture, and rest comfortably with the uncertainty of what is less clear in Scripture. Truth will always be crucial, and the Christ-follower must pursue it, but we will also be very comfortable saying, “I don’t know.” God does not owe us answers to everything, and trusting Him, even in the not-knowing, is a mark of maturity.

 

  1. The thriving churches will be the ones where love prevails. As the world increasingly moves online and distant from true connection, something deep in peoples’ souls will cry out for true and authentic community – a place to be known by others, and to truly know others. They will ultimately go wherever they can find it, which may or may not be the Church, depending on how well the Church loves. Slick programs and click-baity content aren’t a bad thing necessarily, but won’t be able to last if they leave people feeling disconnected. Love for God and others has always been the primary mark of a true Christ-follower (Mt 26.35-40; Jn 13.33-34), and the churches that do this very well might not have the sharpest worship or teaching or programs, but they will flourish nonetheless.

 

  1. The thriving churches will be the ones actively seeking true communion with God. In a time where we can get good teaching anywhere online, good worship, good discipleship resources, etc., a church that has great structure and professional content will actually be a lot less important than a church that helps people truly and authentically connect with the living God. Spiritual intimacy with the Lord will be a priority for the truly hungry, and the churches that do well will be the ones that facilitate true, authentic, and life-giving communion with the living God, and not the ones with the greatest production. When people are thirsty, only water will do, and when people thirst for the Divine, only Jesus will quench that thirst.

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