Thinking Out Loud

December 31, 2008

National Trends Affecting Your Local Church in 2009 — One Blogger’s Opinion

2009In the previous post we handicapped last year’s predictions, and now it’s time to jump into the fray again with some thoughts on trends and issues that may give rise to changes — big and small — in the place where you worship.

Rather than do this one as a post, it’s been set up as page, right next door to last year’s.   Feel free to disagree with some choices, or to suggest something else that you see bubbling that you think is going to impact your chapel, church or tabernacle.

The fun begins here.

Disclaimer:   Professional stunt driver, do not attempt this at home.   If any of these symptoms appear, consult your doctor.    Warranty is limited to ordinary use and may contain exclusions.    Your mileage may vary.  Not valid in Quebec or Puerto Rico or the Channel Islands.    Packed by volume, not weight.

(Last disclaimer may contain more truth than you realize!)

National Trends Affecting Your Local Church in 2008 — Evaluating Our Predictions

Filed under: Christianity, Church, Faith, theology, worship — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:16 pm

This blog began in February, but has a previous history as a bi-weekly e-mail that was sent out to about 250 people in our local area.  On December 30th last year, I published a list of fifteen trends I saw in play that I felt my original, Ontario readers might want to consider.   Now, it’s time to check the scorecard and see how I made out.

First things first, the rest of you need to see the original article.   It’s been placed as a “page” on this blog, or you can simply use this link.    Then you can return and read the comments below.   Later today or tomorrow, I’ll post a new list for 2009 which I think contains issues that are going to be more relevant, and makes last year’s list look somewhat superficial.

>>> pause to read the original article, if you wish <<<

Scorecard:

  1. Longer Teaching Time — The ‘originals’ did a good job of this, but some of the ‘copycats’ can’t sustain audience interest past the 32-minute mark.   I see the sermon length continuing to expand to 35-40 minutes in places where it heretofore has not.
  2. More Expository Preaching — I was wrong on this.   Didn’t see the trend grow, though I got personally hooked on Greg Boyd.   For many others, I think verse-by-verse is a rather lazy approach if you aren’t going to include background material and related texts.   But it’s easy to be a critic if you’re not crafting a weekly sermon.
  3. Less Sung Worship — I was wrong.   For most worship leaders, it’s still largely about the musical material; though many are now busy designing media pieces.  (See 2009 trends list.)
  4. Fewer Overt Offerings — I was wrong.  This turned out to be more of a 2007 trend than anything new playing out in ’08
  5. More Direct Involvement in the Third World — Yes!  Financial and personal through mission trips.
  6. More Direct Involvement in Meeting Local Poverty — Yes!  Though it’s still not affecting every local church.
  7. More Small Groups and Smaller Churches — Yes!  It was the smaller churches part of the prediction that became more relevant.
  8. Church Closings — I was half right.   The closings that took place weren’t for the logical reasons given but often had to do with the economy or leadership scandals.
  9. The Youth-ification of Sunday Morning — (Only I didn’t phrase it that succinctly…)  This trend continued, although since Ancient-Future means that everything old is new again, it’s actually hard to tell if “Be Still My Soul” is a hymn of antiquity, or the coolest, new, ” in” worship song.
  10. Increased security at Church — It’s been awhile since 9/11 and while larger churches have plain clothed and uniformed security people, as well as detailed emergency plans, most medium-sized churches didn’t spend time this year considering this.
  11. Empowering the Broken — Giving voice to divorced people or single moms at the leadership level is something that is taking place very slowly over a longer period of time.
  12. Real Community — If this is playing out more at all, it’s playing out in conjunction with factor #7.   Larger churches which do their small groups by zip code instead of just having homogeneous interest groups are ahead of the curve on this trend.
  13. Continuity Throughout the Church Year — With so many pastors preaching ‘series’ messages, the only way to measure the ‘interruptions’ is to see if there’s a break Sunday between series.    This item should have clarified to include not only the quality of the teaching, but the quality of the worship.  The issue of ‘disruptions’ should have been dealt with separately.  Also, some pastors are simply away from their church too often.  There.  I said it.
  14. Unity across Denominational Lines — Yes!   Heard  more good stories of cooperation and financial support.   The younger generation doesn’t really care whether the sign outside says “MacDonald’s” or “Wendy’s” as long as you can buy a hamburger.   (Okay, so the analogy has some issues…)
  15. Several Sabbaths — I’d guess I was wrong on this.   Most churches still focus on “weekend” programming as the high point of the week.   Don’t hear too many stories of amazing things taking place on a Tuesday or a Thursday in most cities, and now, even New Community on Wednesdays at Willow is part of history.   (We drove from Canada just to attend a New Community; drove the border guard nuts trying to explain we were driving just to see a church service!)

So, like I said, this list is going to seem somewhat superficial when we look at some trends I’m concerned about for 2009.    Stand by.   In the meantime, don’t comment on these unless you’ve read both the above and the original predictions on the link.

Top Trends Affecting Your Church in 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:38 pm
National Trends Affecting Your Local Church in 2009 Visiting websites and blogs; interacting with pastors in other communities; and tracking articles in books and periodicals; there’s no doubt that the only thing that stays the same is change. Here is this year’s list:

 

 

Trend # 1: Virtual Church Attendance — Why shave or even brush your teeth when you can simply wait for the podcast? There are already enough lone rangers on the fringes, now some pastors are legitimizing the ‘pod parishioners.’ Being in “regular attendance” at a church means “once a month.”

Trend # 2: Shifting Doctrines on Salvation and Eternal Punishment — Okay, we’ve established that the author of The Shack is not a universalist, but increasingly, lots of others are. A trend that started almost a decade ago with some key theologians adopting an “annihilationist” position is also starting to snowball. One could ask, “Then why do we need a Savior?” A seismic shift is taking place in our “God-view,” and suddenly God is neither judgemental or wishing to exclude anyone. A kinder, gentler God.

Trend # 3: Multi Media Mania — Now that every church has a projector, a graphics program, and a guy with a camera and a YouTube login, it seems you can’t have church without ‘screens.’ But does everybody really understand how to use each media best? Is participation waning as the congregation continues to become “audience?” The use of DVD curriculum and worship aids for home groups however, is something to celebrate.

Trend # 4: Sexually Active Youth Groups — What takes place in the larger society eventually finds its way to church. (Disagree? Check out divorce rates for both groups.) As I’ve written elsewhere, we now are seeing the first generation of humans who have lost the ability to blush, one of only a few things which distinguishes us from animals. There is no sense of shame among today’s teenagers, and often no priority put on purity. The challenge in 2009 for youth pastors, youth leaders, youth sponsors and parents where this issue is concerned is massive.

Trend # 5: Mission Trip Industry Grows — When a church like Northpoint in Atlanta proposes doing over a hundred trips in one year, you know that the mission trip has become a staple of church life. Costs are huge, while benefits are hotly debated on the internet. Can you accomplish long-term mission goals with short-term workers?

Trend # 6: Economic Fallout — The people bringing a non-perishable food item for the food bank last year are now considering standing in line at the same food bank for a handout; as the mortgage crisis and job losses devastate communities.

Trend # 7: The Gay Issue — I debated how to phrase this. I’m not even sure what aspect of this is going to play out in your church. I just guaranty that at some point during the year, you’re going to deal with various aspects of the gay debate. (If you haven’t already.)

Trend # 8: Church Closings and Mergers — I am renewing this prediction from last year. It’s the only way for survival. Older congregations simply must pass the torch to the next generation a la Paul and Timothy. Smaller congregations simply must consider joining forces with others.

Trend # 9: Fragile Leadership — They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Local churches, the district offices of denominations, parachurch orginzations; they all have one thing in common: They lack the bold, confident, maverick, visionary leaders of yesteryear. Nobody wants to be the person where the buck stops. But someone has to, or certain Christian organizations and churches will flounder.

Trend #10: Conflicting Spokesman — Who will be the next Billy Graham? It probably won’t happen that the future will see the focus on a single individual who speaks for all Christians or all Protestants or all Evangelicals. Since many key spokespeople disagree on secondary and tertiary issues, it will sometimes appear to that there is a lack of concensus.

Trend # 11: The Blog Barometer — The blogosphere will be the source for more traditional Christian media. What you read online is now the origin of various Christian magazine articles (though the print editions of the magazines themselves are dinosuaring.) The bloggers you enjoy most are also being watched by Christian publishers as potential writers. Today’s blog posts are generally tomorrow’s Christian news headlines. Today’s bloggers are tomorrow’s mainstream Christian authors.

Trend # 12: Re[tro]volution in Kid’s Ministries — You’ve heard the saying, “A generation that does not impart its sacred texts to its children is one generation away from extinction.” People are seeing this truth playing out in some communities and recognizing the need for some fine tuning. Keep the media. Keep the interactives. Keep the cool music. But we’ve got to bring back the memory verse, the memory chapter, and the memory Psalm.

Trend # 13: Book Study Sunday Series — We’ve seen small groups do book studies for several decades; now the book study is starting to come to church on Sunday mornings. An entire congregation buys and/or hears sermons based on a recent Christian title; which is a win/win situation both for Christian publishers and pastors who wish their people would get passionate about a Christian book now and then.

Trend # 14: Unaffordable Retreats — While pastors head off to national conferences in record numbers, we’re seeing a widening gulf between the price of weekend retreats and what the average person can afford. Add in the economic climate, and you’ve got a recipe for retreat disaster. (Perhaps some of the pastor’s conference budget should be reassigned to become a retreat subsidy for those who can’t afford the costs.)

Trend # 15: Tentmaking — With more people getting their feet wet in ministry on mission trips (#5) and more social service needs that churches are being challenged to meet (#6) and less available money to pay staff (#6), it is incumbent on paid church staff to see their work as more half-time or part-time and supplement their ministry with income from other sources.

~ Compiled by Paul Wilkinson from a variety of sources and discussions

December 30, 2008

BBC Chart Show: Top Songs of 2008

Filed under: family, music, parenting — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:56 pm

bbcradio1What is wrong with this picture? I’m sitting listening to streaming audio of the Top 40 songs in the U.K. for the year, and my teenage kids are yelling at me to turn down the music?

Sure is good to hear some different songs. And energetic announcers, who, because there are no commercials, have to keep up a fairly high level of energy. If I were a North American FM radio program director, I would simply toss out the window everything the music industry in Nashville and New York City and Los Angeles is telling radio they must play, and instead steal the playlist of just about any European radio station.

The Hot Study Bible for 2009: Koine Greek

Filed under: bible, books, Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:49 pm

You celebrated with the 30th Anniversary NIV Study mid spring; you upgraded your NLT Life Application to a NLT Study at the end of the summer; and in October, like everyone else, you got the “everything in it but the kitchen sink” ESV Study Bible.  (Kitchen sink available as an optional extra on some models.)

So why do you still feel like something’s missing?

Maybe the Bible buying market is right for the study Bible, the only study Bible anyone would ever need; maybe All Things Are Better In Koine.

HT: BW3 (Dec 24)  video runs 4:06  (It’s all Greek to me…)

Shopping for a Bible – May I Take Your Order?

Filed under: bible, Christianity, Christmas, Church, Humor — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:50 pm

bible-bookstoreA few days ago in my Christian bookstore industry blog, I told some stories of Christmas shoppers from this year.   But this one, from ten years ago is my all-time favorite:

We’re taught to qualify shoppers needs with a few questions before making recommendations, usually asking things like “Who is it for?” and “Do you have a translation preference?”   I began with the last question first.

She said, “I’m looking for a Bible, but it has to be in one of the very modern, very easy-to-read translations.”

I went to the other question, “Is it for yourself?”

“No;” she replied, “It’s for me.”

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Photo:  Store in Durham, North Carolina (which may or may not still be in business, considering their  website has been under construction since January, 2008)

December 29, 2008

7 Canadian Students Suspended for Not Participating in Anti-Christian Classes

Filed under: Christianity, current events, ethics, family, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:06 pm

quebec-flagSeven Christian students in Quebec [Canada] have been handed suspensions in the last few days – and could face expulsions – for refusing to participate in a new mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture course that, according to a critic, is a “superficial mishmash of trendy theoretical platitudes” with the goal of convincing children that “all religions – including pagan animism and cults – are equally ‘true.'”

Missed this December 20th item on World Net Daily, as well as the original National Post story, but thanks to the blog Defending…Contending was able to find out about what is taking place in the province next door to us.

You can read the entire World Net story here.

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Graphic:  The provincial flag of the province of Quebec, which some Quebecers, much to the consternation of other Canadians, refer to as “Quebec Nation.”

Separated at Birth

Filed under: Christianity, Humor — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:01 pm

ricky-gervaisrick-warren

The Office creator and U.K. comedian Ricky Gervais and Saddleback Community pastor and author Rick Warren.

Their stage persona is quite different, though.

December 28, 2008

Advent Conspiracy: Our Good Intentions Finally Realized

ac_logo_thumb_verticalMany weeks ago, (Nov. 28) like many other bloggers, I posted a link to the Advent Conspiracy video, which encourages people to spend less on themselves at Christmas, and instead, provide fresh water to parts of the world where it is lacking.

It was a noble bandwagon to jump on.  (I’m really good at telling other people what to do; wishing “Bob” had heard today’s sermon; forwarding links to something I think “Fred” needs to read…)   Furthermore, I decided that this was the year that we would indeed do something, instead of just talking about it.   But it was yesterday, December 27th, that we actually got around to sending a donation; and sadly, there wasn’t a huge contrast between this and other Christmases gift-wise, because when we started collecting things to wrap them on Christmas Eve, we discovered we had been in gift-acquisition mode since mid-September, though many of them were from a chain of thrift stores here called “Value Village.”   It’s not like there was just one thing under the tree and it was implicit in this that the rest was going to Africa.   That the kids would have remembered.

So the boys didn’t exactly do without, but if we added it all up, I’m guessing we spent about 60-66% of what we did the year before, and decided on a project from Alongside which is a division of a Canadian tedcharity, Partners International.   We chose this one because my wife Ruth’s uncle, as it turns out, is part of a team that has gone to Nigeria several times to not only install wells, but rehabilitate wells that are not functioning.   It sounds good when a mission or relief agency is installing wells, but if there are perfectly good wells there that just need some repair work, it makes more sense — and it’s more efficient — to fix the wells you’ve got before you start  drilling new ones.  Besides, this way, we get a Canadian tax receipt.   (Not that this should be the motivation.)

So credit card in hand, we made what was probably a modest donation, but for us it was a big deal.   Hopefully it starts a trend, and hopefully next year, we’ll get to it before much of the other shopping has commenced, and as we get to know the organizations involved better, perhaps it will be larger or there will be two gifts to two different agencies.

At the very, very, very least; you owe it to yourselves to watch the 2 1/2 minute video that got all this started for us.   You can click here to view it.  You’ll know what your heart is telling you to do after that.

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*If you live in the U.S., the designated charity for the Advent Conspiracy is actually an organization called Living Water International (click for direct donation link after watching the video).

Photo:  Alongside website photo  highlighting Ruth’s Uncle Ted, who, we’re pretty sure, is the one on the left.

December 27, 2008

Has the Charismatic Bubble Burst?

Filed under: Christianity, Church, Religion, theology — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:19 pm

jleegrady_newThis post actually dates back to mid-November, but after reading it again, I wanted to share it with you. J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine shocked me when he said;

“Was it supposed to end like this? How did a movement that was at one time focused on winning people to Christ and introducing them to the power of the Holy Spirit end in such disgrace?”

For Charismatics*, 2008 wasn’t such a great year.   Go back to the beginning of the article here.

*Charismatics are distinct from Pentecostals, though many use the terms interchangeably.   In Australia, for example, members of  the non-mainline branch of Protestantism are called EPCs, short for Evangelicals, Pentecostals and Charismatics.   Pentecostals and Charismatics emphasize the power of the Holy Spirit and the supernatural gifts of the Spirit recorded in I. Corinthians.   Pentecostals trace their roots back to the early 20th century, while the Charismatic movement is more recent, dating back to the ’60s or ’70s.   In North America, the term Pentecostal is often reserved for those who are members of a Pentecostal denomination such as the Assemblies of God or the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.

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