The future of the traditional evangelical church as I see it is:
a.) mega churches continuing to grow, consolidating what is left of the Christendom populations, providing a traditional church services to the shrinking masses of already existing Christians and lapsed Christians coming back into the fold,
b.) smaller churches of under 200 slowly dying and eventually closing, and
c.) the birthing of new missional communities through either seeding new missionary communities or transitioning (the aforementioned) dying small churches into vibrant places of mission.
The fact is according to statistics approx. 20% of all existing evangelical churches are heading into category a.) 80% into category b.) and there is alot of church planting going on (that I can’t quantify) that looks like c.). I am not optimistic that alot of transitioning is going on from churches in b.) category to becoming more like c.). Does this experience jive with your observations? the statistics in your denomination?
If the above is true, the kinds of pastors we will need the most will be those who can lead category c.). We of course will still need the polished smooth speaker-CEO’s that can lead the largest of mega churches. These churches will continue to survive in providing the kind of church that fits in with the increasingly busy market driven lives of the traditional suburban evangelical. 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. If the church is to engage the growing contexts of post Christendom West for mission, we will need more of churches in category c.) and pastors to lead these missionary enterprises.
These pastors will be:
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
This all leads me to suggest that the church that is left in N America should throw the bulk of its resources in training pastors for the work of churches in category c.), or the work of transitioning churches in b.) to c.). Just as the Irish monastaries saved civilization from the takeover of the barbarians in the 4th century Western Europe, so it will be the spread of these kind of self sustaining missional communities over the continent to breed a new witness of the Spirit and the harvesting of a whole new generation of Christians, participants in God’s Kingdom life. If you ask me, the N American church should spend a significant part of its resourses and efforts in training missionary pastors to lead these kind of missional communities to inhabit all the places deserted by the wealth of mega churches for here is where the life of the Spirit “in Christ” shall breath again, where God shall bring forth new life to transform our society until he comes. I said this all back here in this piece. This is my take on where seminaries should go, and where church resources should go before it is too late. What say you?