3 Important Church Trends for the Next 10 Years

by | Jul 9, 2015 | Church & Ministry

As someone who both cares about the mission of the church and leads a research organization, I watch the trends in the church and the culture. Occasionally, someone asks me to share some thoughts on the big picture, in the case of the North American context, questions related to “streams” of Protestantism.

Based on research, statistics, extrapolation, and (I hope) some insight, I notice three important trends continuing in the next 10 years.

1. The hemorrhaging of mainline Protestantism. This trend is hardly news—mainliners will tell you of this hemorrhaging and of their efforts to reverse it.

Mainline Protestantism is perhaps the best known portion of Protestantism, often represented by what are called the “seven sisters” of the mainline churches.

Mainline churches are more than these, but these seven are the best known, perhaps:

  • United Methodist Church
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
  • Episcopal Church
  • Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
  • American Baptist Churches
  • United Church of Christ (UCC)
  • The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

They tend to fall on the progressive side of the theological continuum, but there is diversity of theology as well (Methodists, as a whole, are probably most conservative, for example).

Mainline Protestantism is in trouble and in substantive decline. Some are trying to reverse this, through evangelism and church planting initiatives.

However, this is an uphill battle and, as a whole, mainline Protestantism will continue its slide.

According to the General Social Survey, about 30 percent of Americans would self-identify (through their denominational selection) as mainline Protestants in 1972. Now they are down to 15 percent. In other words, based on the GSS, they lost half their people over 40 years.

Now, the GSS is not the same as membership rolls and attendance numbers, but it does reflect people’s connection. And, if that trend continues, the math does not look good.

2. Continued growth of Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement. The second thing I think you’re going to continue to see is the continued growth of Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement. The charismatics and Pentecostals have already won the worship war—most churches are now comfortable with what would be “Calvary Chapel” worship in 1980. They are in the process of winning the spiritual gifts debate concerning cessationism, a view that seems in decline in the next generation.

Yes, that growth has slowed in North America and the charismatic practices (both inside and outside of the movement) have also been tamed.

In other words, Pentecostals and charismatics are growing and influencing, but they also look a lot less like the Pentecostals and charismatics of a few decades ago.

Many in the movement are shying away from the oddities and excesses of Pentecostalism, while evangelicals are moving towards the theology of Spirit-filled and Spirit-led ministries.

I see both of those trends continuing.

If you are interested, here is my series on the continualist movement:

3. Networks will explode in number and influence. Denominations still matter—and they actually, for example, do most of the church planting in North America. However, networks are growing in influence and impact.

Ironically, some networks are going to become denominations (or denomination-like). For example, both the Vineyard and Calvary Chapel, some of the early forerunners of networks, basically function like denominations today.

Networks are predominantly made up of non-denominational evangelical churches. The fastest growing category in North America is non-denominational evangelicalism—so growth here is inevitable.

The future is less mainline denominations or flat evangelical denominations, and more non-denominational evangelical networks.

All of these trends have implications—some good, and some not so good. But, facts are our friends. As we look to the years ahead, we need to do so with discernment and hope about what God is doing in the world through his churches.

Ed Stetzer is the executive director of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit pastors.com.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

Dr. Alveda King’s Urgent Message for Christians

Dr. Alveda King’s Urgent Message for Christians

On Sept. 1 President Joe Biden took the stage in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and called MAGA Americans a "threat to democracy." He emboldened Americans to join him in defending democracy against the millions of people who support President Donald Trump. After listening...

Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: Don’t Deceive Yourself

Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: Don’t Deceive Yourself

People are deceived by pride, by sin, by evil people, by strong drink and by living in fear. If a person is teachable and adheres to the instructions found in the Bible, they will recognize any errors in their thinking and correct themselves. For the rest of this...

8 Contrasts Between the Confessing and Compromising Church

8 Contrasts Between the Confessing and Compromising Church

During the days of Nazi Germany, there arose a Confessing church movement that rose against the German church movement, which became the religious arm of the Fascist Nazi Socialist movement. Of the 18,000 pastors in Germany during that time (from 1933 to 1945), less...

Will the New Set of Seven Years on the Jewish Calendar Be Our Last?

Will the New Set of Seven Years on the Jewish Calendar Be Our Last?

Note: This is the second of a two-part series. For part one, click here. Beginning at sunset on Sunday, Sept. 25, our Jewish friends (and increasingly many Christians) will begin a two-day celebration of Rosh Hashanah, their time for new beginnings or a "new year."...

Is America Preparing the Way for a One-World Ruler?

Is America Preparing the Way for a One-World Ruler?

The culmination of history is approaching. The end of the world may be at hand. Yet Jesus tells us we should not be alarmed. Why? Because we are engraved in the palms of His hands. Because we are carried in His arms. Because we are the apple of His eye. The time is...

A ‘Davidic Anointing’ is Descending Upon Musical Instruments

A ‘Davidic Anointing’ is Descending Upon Musical Instruments

I once heard a testimony where the Holy Ghost was falling upon the people during worship. The preacher, R.W. Schambach, testified how the piano player got so filled with the Spirit that she fell off of the piano bench and the piano kept right on playing. No other...

RECENT ARTICLES

Joyce Meyer: How You Can Make God’s Love Your Lifestyle

I have made it a priority to study about love in the Word of God. Getting a revelation about how much God loves me and learning to receive His love has been life-changing for me. It’s been the key...
Rod Parsley: Are You the Pharisee or the Tax Collector?

Rod Parsley: Are You the Pharisee or the Tax Collector?

As with all virtues, humility has an opposite: pride. It should not surprise us that revival and restoration begins with humility, because all “falling away” begins with pride. Pride sent the archangel Lucifer plummeting from the heights of glorious splendor near the...

What to Do with an Urgent Warning from the Lord

What to Do with an Urgent Warning from the Lord

Many people are receiving urgent warnings from the Lord about things taking place in the earth. Releasing those warnings can be difficult. Done the wrong way, people will turn a deaf ear and the last thing you want to do is breed fear. Maybe you aren't getting...

Pin It on Pinterest