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Confessions of a Small Church Pastor

5 Evangelical Trends for 2014


trends

In keeping with end of the year predictions, here are mine. Of course, several years ago I predicted $5 per gallon gas. Thankfully, we never got to that point. But in light of my obvious fallibility I’m framing my prognostications in the familiar “what’s in and what’s out” categories. Here’s what I think (and hope) are in and out for 2014:

1. Out: Celebrity Christians. In: Communities that model love for God and others.

More articles and blog posts appeared in 2013 lamenting the culture of “celebrity” that has infected the evangelical world. Celebrity Christians include people who are already celebrities, like Paula Deen and the Duck Commander, but celebrity Christians also include regular guys and gals who are clawing their way to the top of the bestseller list and the next big conference. Christian book publishers love the celebrity culture, but the rest of us are beginning to feel a little used.

In for 2014 are faith communities that model love for God and others. These communities are multiplying in American Christian culture, and have great appeal to everyone’s target group, Millennials. Beyond their attractiveness, communities like Grace and Main in Danville, Virginia are replacing celebrity with service and fame with friendship. Watch for more like them in 2014.

2. Out: Big evangelical conferences. In: Small local peer groups.

Apparently there are about 75 major evangelical conferences each year. Most of these target pastors, and obviously no pastor can attend all or even most of these conferences. The big conference model is coming to an end, just like the big electronic conventions of years past. Time and cost will be major factors in their decline. Also, if celebrity Christians are out, conferences which feature celebrity Christians will also fade away.

In for 2014 are small local peer group conversations. Book discussions over lunch, peer-to-peer support, and contextual problem-solving will grow in importance in 2014.

3. Out: Coaching.  In: Spiritual direction.

Coaching has reached critical mass in the church world. Anyone can be a coach, and unlike in the sports world, church and pastoral coaches aren’t graded on the success of their coaching. Coaching is a metaphor borrowed from the sports world that is losing currency in the church world.

Spiritual direction, on the other hand, is a traditional and appropriate helping ministry in the Christian community. Spiritual direction focuses on spiritual disciplines and insights such as discernment, guidance, insight, wisdom, vocation, and mission. The growth of spiritual practices such as lectio divina, the daily office, and the use of prayer books portend the rise of the ministry spiritual direction in 2014.

4. Out: Major Christian publishers. In: self-publishing for local ministry.

With a few notable exceptions, major Christian publishers continue to churn out pop books from celebrity authors. The costs, distribution, marketing and mass audience targeting of Christian publishing results in fewer authors with higher profiles (“celebrities,” see Item 1).

However, self-publishing platforms like Amazon provide free access to the author who has something to say, but has a limited audience. More self-published books will be available in 2014, and more of these will be written for a specific congregation or community. Mass marketing, in other words, is out, and contextual publishing is in.

5. Out: Preaching for “life change.”  In: Pastoral care.

Rick Warren popularized “preaching for life change,” which most pastors interpreted as preaching topical sermons on practical subjects like parenting, finances, and marriage. But not everyone is as good as Rick Warren at this type of preaching, and it easily degenerates into telling people how to live.

Pastoral care in sermon and practice, however, walks with individuals and families through all of the significant passages of life, and life’s unexpected difficulties, too. This “alongside” preaching and practice ministers to people in their life experiences, and encourages them to find God’s presence in moments of joy and sadness.

Those are the trends I see for the coming year.  Of course, there are negative trends that we in churches will have to deal with, too. I’ll leave those to others, and wish you a Happy New Year!

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15 replies

  1. this is great, I hope these trends continue

  2. Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog and commented:
    I don’t know if these will actually become the “trends” of 2014 but I do hope and pray that they will become the “goals” for 2014 for the Church/Christianity.

  3. Amen, I, too, hope these come true!

  4. I hope your predictions prove true, brother. Except that $5 gas one.

  5. How about:

    Out: unthinking evangelical Christian support for the state of Israel and its occupation of another nation’s land, on the basis of the misapplication of Biblical prophecy to the present age

    In: a growing awareness among evangelicals, promoted at conferences like Christ at the Checkpoint 2014, that the NT says lots about justice and hardly anything about the land, and that any theology which is used to justify the dispossession and oppression of an entire nation,(the Palestinians) must be flawed theology?

    • I encourage you to fast and pray for God to confirm your conviction. I am persuaded He will not. No Christian supports the state of Israel to preserve the status quo: the country is bound in a societal secularism ,America is embracing and a religious legalism that binds the truth. The prayer for Israel is that it be preserved even as God has preserved the Jewish people, even as God gave them the land, forever. God is not finished with the Jew. Until His redemption is complete in Israel, Christians are spiritually bound to pray for and support it. Those who hate Israel are in rebellion to God and will never be blessed. It is only God’s justice that matters, there is no justice to be found in the countries that surround Israel and despise it.

    • Dear Stewart. Thank you for your comments, but my conviction is rooted in Scripture and there is absolutely no spiritual obligation on me or any Christian to pray for the State of Israel. God’s promise of the land to Abraham and his descendants was conditional on ethnic Israel’s obedience. While Genesis 17:8 describes the land as an ‘everlasting possession’, this verse cannot be taken out of context. In the very next verses, God says to Abraham, ‘As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come’… Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant (Genesis 17:9,14). See also Leviticus 18:24-28. The land promise is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, which is why Jesus never mentioned the land. As Paul notes (1 Corinthians 1:20), ‘For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ’. Blessings come by faith in Jesus, not ethnic identity. Also, the references to blessing and cursing Israel in the OT do not apply to a modern state created by men in 1948. I refer you to a magisterial sermon on the different meanings of Israel by the great evangelical theologian John Stott. I encourage you to fast and pray and see your theological error.

    • Please spare us the contentiously endless arguing over “theological errors,” which the Pharisees embraced with the greatest passion.

      If you want to know who the real enemy of Christ is, please listen to the following. If you will not listen to the whole discussion, at least listen to the last 3 minutes, which eruditely expresses the relationship between Jews (Israel) and Christians.

      God bless you.

    • Sorry, the quote from Paul above is of course from 2 Corinthians 1:20.

    • Can whoever is moderating this blog please approve my comment of 14 January in reply to Stewart Hough? Thanks.

    • I can see your comments. Maybe You Need To Refresh Your browser. Don’t know why my phone capitalized the second sentence!

    • No, it is definitely not showing up, even when I refresh my browser.

    • Dear Stewart. Thanks for the clip, but Avi Lipkin is a well-known and slightly deranged anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist and, as a Jew, someone singularly ill-qualified to lecture us Christians on how the Book of Revelation might apply in modern times to the state of Turkey. Leaving aside his nonsense, it is a serious error, sadly common among many US evangelicals brought up on the quasi-theological and apocalyptic writings of Tim LaHaye and Hal Lindsay, to interpret Biblical prophecy through modern events. This is like saying that God has only started working in His world in the 20th and 21st centuries.

  6. It would have been preferrable for these “trends”, while well directed, to have been offered not as predictions as the world serves them up but rather as resolutions for prayerful intercession based on spiritual conviction, What the Church needs is unity under the Holy Spirit and to end its institutionalizing and enterprising of religion and become the bride of Christ alone.

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