ChuckWarnock.com

Confessions of a Small Church Pastor

Ten Trends to Watch in 2010


The end of the year brings out the list-maker in all of us.  Not to disappoint you, here are the 10 trends that I’m going to be watching in 2010:

  1. Mobile everything. As the mobile phone morphs into the mobile communications device, 2010 will be a break-through year.  Google will introduce the first “unchained” phone in a a few days, giving Americans a taste of what the rest of the world already has — the ability to buy a phone separate from the mobile service provider.  Also, watch for “carrier billing” on phones, allowing you to purchase directly from your cell phone and have the item billed by your mobile provider.  Apple should introduce its new tablet, which will revolutionize the whole mobile entertainment world.  Think video, ebooks, ezines,  iTunes, podcasts, email, gaming, web browsing, and more, all from a tablet device that’s always on, always connected, and multi-capable.  The YouVersion Bible mobile app is a great example of how one church, LifeChurch.tv, recognizes and is capitalizing on this mobile trend.
  2. Economic recalibration. We are quickly learning to live on less, save more, and hedge against the next financial shockwave.  Paul Krugman writes of a contraction of the economy in mid-2010, so the pain of the past 15-months will extend another 6-9 months at least.  But economic recalibration is already taking place at the state and local government level — government will deliver fewer services and more of us will be on our own than ever before.  This economic adjustment will be longer lasting that other pull-backs and may mark a new attitude toward money and material goods on the part of Americans across the board.  Charitable giving, including church giving, will be affected by this adjustment.
  3. Prolonged polarization. The nation continues to be divided almost evenly into increasingly rigid camps.  What passes for political and social debate will continue to be little more than playing to the entrenched positions of the base of each party, ideology, and theology.  With the fading culture wars of the last century, of which The Manhattan Declaration is probably the last vestige, churches have a unique opportunity to bridge the social, racial, political, gender, class, and theological divide.  It remains to be seen if we will take that challenge.
  4. Weariness with war. With the battlefield focus shifting to Afghanistan, and possibly Yemen, we’ll grow increasingly tired of the whole idea of War, including the costs both human and financial.  Again the church may or may not grapple with the theology of war, but the issue will not go away in 2010.
  5. Multiple church models. Tall Skinny Kiwi has pronounced 2009 as the year the emerging church movement ended, and I think he’s probably right.  But the bright spot in its fading is that the emerging church discussion opened the way for multiple models of church to find legitimate expression.  The traditional, attractional, missional, postmodern, house, monastic, marketplace, mega, multi-site, multi-ethnic, and other models now exist and flourish in communities all across America.  For the first time in my lifetime, no one church model is THE model that everyone must follow.  The good news in all of this is that small churches are viable in many of these expressions, and small churches are receiving recognition as a healthy, legitimate church model.
  6. Denominational disinterest. Okay, this one is pretty obvious already, but it will only continue into the next decade which begins in a few days.  Rather than use the word “decline,” I am using “disinterest” because that is the attitude I see toward the centralized denominational headquarters model.  There is not a big push to dismantle denominations either, unless you’re a Baptist or Episcopalian, both of which are self-destructing without outside interference.  Mostly, the question of denominations is a big yawn for the next ten years.
  7. Spiritual longing. The opposite pole of denominational disinterest is spiritual longing, the desire for a meaningful spiritual connection to something bigger and better that can help us live life with more satisfaction.  Americans are taking a “do-it-yourself” approach to creating their own spirituality.  Churches can address this desire, or miss this moment.  As Andrew Jones says, we aren’t going to meet this kind of longing with a church like grandpa’s.
  8. Limited access. Fewer students will be able to afford the college of their choice, or any college.  Fewer families will rise out of poverty into the middle class. Fewer opportunities for advancement will accompany the flat job market.  In short, access to many of the possibilities we took for granted in the decade just passing will be limited in the decade just arriving.  The question for churches is, “How does hope flourish in a world of diminishing opportunity?”
  9. The problems of pluralism. We are just learning to recognize other faith traditions, and in 2010 the problems of religious (and non-religious) pluralism will continue to present themselves.  The traditional American response of “this is a Christian nation” will prove to be an inadequate response to other faiths and traditions claiming their place on the religious, or non-religious, smorgasbord.  Churches will adopt either an attitude of defensiveness, or of dialogue with non-Christian groups.
  10. Age, gender, and sex. These issues will continue into the coming decade as the baby boomers reach their 70′s, gay marriage becomes both accepted and rejected in various jurisdictions, and churches are increasingly challenged on the issues of gender in leadership of both ordained and laypersons.  The Anglicans have center stage in this drama right now, but no religious group will escape this discussion in the years ahead.

Obviously, I don’t have a crystal ball, and most of these things are already self-evident, but I believe we will continue to see these issues impact what and how we do church in the next year, and in the next ten years.  What would you add to this list?  Or what do you take issue with?  What are your 10 trends for the 2010?

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Categories: culture, economics, ethics, Global issues, trends

5 replies

  1. I think you are right on with #1. Everything seems to be going portable. Ironically the ability to make phone calls will probably be a minor feature of these devices. I can’t live without my smartphone!

  2. This a good list to provoke discussion within the church — thanks for writing and sharing it.
    Ron Kerr

  3. Your reflections genuinely challenge the church to the ‘historic Jesus’ model of compassion & commitment to those most vulnerable.

    I would add two issues the church has opportunity to change culture & society around the world if we but see their ‘global covenantal connectedness’ for God’s sake:

    SERIOUS CLIMATE CHANGE & DEVASTATION IT WILL BRING

    SERIOUS COMMITMENT TO ANIMAL/PLANT SPECIES SURVIVAL

  4. Chuck, I agree with your list though I would include watching how the church embraces internet marketing. Maybe I should use the term “internet evangelism” instead of marketing. To date most churches are way behind reaching out to their city through online avenues yet internet search volumes for churches are steadily increasing. Here are just a few numbers to illustrate this ideology. In my area of Augusta, GA there were over 4000 internet searches performed last month for information for churches in Augusta. That is an incredible amount of searches. In your neck of the woods, information for Danville Churches was searched over 1900 times last month and Roanoke had over 2400 internet searches last month. These are monthly searches and just on Google. These numbers do not include Yahoo, Bing or any of the other search engines, and give us an indication of search trends for churches. Alarmingly, what we have found is that even with these high volumes of searches for churches each month, most pastors do not have an internet strategy to capture them. It’s unfortunate that each week so much effort is put into hearing God for a message, yet the only ones that hear it are those that attended the service. The inspired message is then filed away into a file cabinet or tucked away on a hard drive. Wouldn’t it be better to have it available 24/7 and to the entire community or world if desired. With the right strategy and use of technology the inspired message could be available forever to the local community. Churches have always been behind businesses in their outreach efforts, but I believe that will change this year somewhat, and if the church can fully embrace a marketing effort online, I believe it will see the growth it desires, and not just in bodies on the pew.

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