What the Future Church May Look Like

post date: April 5, 2007
Keith Drury teaches at Indiana Wesleyan University. Lately he has been studying his students to get some hints on what the next generation of church leaders might look like. He offers 25 prominent characteristics of the coming wave in the church. Here are a few that caught my eye.
3. Expect lots of structure. They “never went out to play” on their own. They were taken on play dates, to organized sports, to dance lessons, to clubs after school. They expect directions and instructions and supervision and help. When they are told “there is no syllabus or assignments in the church” it terrifies them. They don’t seek a job “where the pastor leaves me alone” but want plenty of structure and mentoring.
10. “Journey conversion.” They were raised in youth groups that expected them to be saved but offered them dozens of times for commitments and recommitments and they assume that conversion is a journey more than an event. Their approach to evangelism is thus helping others on that journey step by step.
12. “Organic.” They like simple things, authentic stuff, being real and they expect everyone to confess their sins even publicly on their blog. To hide a sin is a bigger sin than the sin itself. And they don’t like fancy—many complain about super-super video streams running behind the choruses and call for a simple white screen—they think lots of boomer worship is fake and almost all bands are too showy. Some even argue that the band should be in the back of the church.
15. Minor concern for evangelism. They have a tiny bit of concern for the lost. Mostly their “evangelistic” concern is a pre-evangelism concern for how the world views loud Christians who noisily scold the world for things. They’re embarrassed by the past scolding activism of the church and think the church has more confessing to do to the world than visa versa.
19. Leisurely approach to getting started in life. Most expect to get settled in life and ease into life by age 30. My denomination’s ordination system (college plus two years of service then ordination) is designed for my generation not theirs. They feel rushed by such a system and many want to settle their calling by age 30 or so.
24. Woefully trained in “life skills.” Many have never learned how to balance a checkbook or file their income taxes or make a budget. When they get their first apartment off campus they are shocked to discover that they have to pay for water. “Water??? Why would I have to pay for water?
25. Not afraid of holiness. While many of their parents have hidden the term under the bushel they are keenly interested in the call to holiness and many really think it is possible to become a “fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.”
It’s all very fascinating, including these online responses to the column. As with every generation, it’s a mixed bag of positives and negatives. If I could add my own two cents, I find myself very excited about the twentysomething generation. To be more specific, I am very impressed by the generation above us–the Builders, the Greatest Generation–because they laid the foundation and did the hard work that resulted in the post-World War II explosion of the evangelical movement. They led the schools, pastored the churches and founded the parachurch ministries that produced the evangelical renaissance. And when I look to the up-and-coming generation–the young men and women Keith Drury is talking about–I see a passion for Jesus and a hunger for God that goes far beyond anything I saw or experienced when I was their age.
God is up to something with the twentysomethings. He is birthing a new generation that may make as big an impact as their grandparents.
Comments, thoughts, questions? What do you think of the 25 characteristics? What would you add? Do you see the same passion I’m seeing? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future as these young men and women take the reins of spiritual leadership in the next two decades?

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