I’ve had in mind a weather metaphor for churches today, but it’s now clear I had the wrong metaphor. While the new metaphor is heavier than the former metaphor, I’m still hopeful for the future of churches.
Growing up on the Great Plains, each summer we dealt with “pop up” thunderstorms. In the afternoon, huge thunderheads would form, sweeping across the plains. We would watch the direction of the thunderheads, wondering if this one would wash out our baseball game or pelt the house with hail.
I have a sense that many churches are like those of us who grew up on the Plains. Their leaders see the changes in the church environment
- They see the values of younger generations are different than the current leadership in the church.
- They sense society has moved from marginalizing the faithful to challenging believers.
- They feel the changes in the financial reality for churches in America.
The response of leaders to the changes makes it seem like they are hoping the storm clouds will pass by their congregations. If the thunderstorms do roll through their churches, the storm won’t last too long.
The problem is, I don’t see the above changes as blips on the radar. The changes started with Generation X, gained momentum with the Millennials and will continue through Generation Z. The change in the environment will last at least another 30 years.
Time for a new metaphor.
Churches are facing a prolonged drought. Droughts are stressful, straining relationships and stretching resources. I realize this metaphor paints a darker picture of the challenges facing churches. Yet, I remain hopeful for churches.
I’m hopeful because droughts make it difficult to cultivate crops, but don’t change the seeds. Seeds are a biblical analogy for God’s Word. Despite the drought in the social and cultural environment around churches, God’s Word will continue to bear fruit.
I’m also hopeful because I know history. The infamous Dust Bowl was in the 1930s. While the drought that decade was real, farming practices contributed to creating the disaster. Farmers adapted agriculture practices to help end the fallow season.
I trust that God, who granted wisdom to agriculture leaders in the 1940s, will guide church leaders to adapt ministry practices.
The next few weeks we’ll look at potential changes in practice that could improve the environment where God is bearing fruit through His Word. What gives you hope for your church in this challenging season? Leave your thought in the comments or shoot me an email.
Addition posts in this series include: