Alan Knox pointed to a great post by David Fitch on the kind of leaders the church will need in North America in the future. (Here’s a hint: The answer is not more of the same). David focuses on the type of pastors we will need but I think we should focus more generally on the kinds of leaders we will require because if we try to rely on pastoral leaders in the future, it is not going to be adequate.
These are his ideas for what these leaders will look like.
1.)BE RESOURCEFUL – OFTEN ABLE TO EARN THEIR OWN LIVING
2.) COMMUNAL SHEPHERDS – CULTIVATORS OF COMMUNITY IDENTITY IN MISSION
3.) INTERPRETIVE LEADERS - FUNDERS OF IMAGINATION THRU SCRIPTURE FOR WHAT GOD IS DOING AMONG US AND AROUND US
4.) DIRECTORS OF SPIRITUAL FORMATION – SHAPERS OF PLACES THAT SHAPE OUR LIVES INTO CHRIST AND HIS MISSION
5.) LEADERS WHO GIVE AWAY POWER – DISPERSERS OF AUTHORITY AND LEADERSHIP INTO THE NIEGHBORHOODS
Powerful stuff, visionary stuff. Whether or not you agree with his assessment and his recommendations, you have to appreciate that he is looking outside of the blinkered culture of the church that looks at the future and sees everything the same as it is today. The world is changing and the cultural Christianity we grew up with is unraveling. The next generation of church leaders needs to be able to function outside of the comfortable confines of seminary and traditional churches. The next generation of leaders are not going to have a lot of the support structures that we have come to take for granted and are going to need to be, as David says, more self-sufficient, more creative and more willing to let others take part in leading the church.
Like a lot of people, including myself, David sees the church moving into a few camps, an ever increasing megachurch presence, a rapidly declining and dying traditional church and a burgeoning but hard to wrap your arms around organic/missional church movement. I think that is dead on and that the evangelical church of the future in North America is going to be dumbbell shaped, with a large number of Christians involved in giant churches on one end and a similar number of Christians involved in diffuse communities on the other end. I especially liked this comment regarding the ever larger “megachurches”:
Whatever you might think of these forms of church life, the reality is that these large mega centers are good at making Christianity work for already existing Christians. They lack the flexibility however (and the cultural dynamic) to engage the many less affluent unreached contexts of the West.
I think that is somewhat accurate. A co-worker mentioned to me yesterday that there was someone she knew professionally that went to her church but she never realized it because they went to different services. If you don’t even know that a person attends the same church as you, how are you really a functioning faith community? Churches of that size fulfill, however poorly, a need for busy suburbanites to get their church booster shot at the beginning of each week, provide a place for them to take their kids in between all of the other stuff going on in their lives and giving these busy Christians an identity (I am a member of “Insert Church Name Here”). For reaching the lost outside of those comfortable with the church culture? Not so much. We absolutely need to change our mindset from “Come and Hear” to “Go and Tell”. It seems that lost people are less likely and less comfortable with “going to church”. That makes not going to them….not an option.
We certainly need more big picture, visionary discussions of the church and when questions are raised, we likewise certainly don’t need a bunch of knee-jerk responses, we instead need more conversations and Scripture studying. Defending the traditional model, calling for more preaching, ever more intellectual pastors, etc. might be good for selling books and being invited to speak at conferences but I am not sure at all that it is effective in spreading the Gospel.