Is there a Future for the Church?

In a recent blog post Adam Hamilton challenges UM pastors to encourage young people to consider whether God may be calling them to a vocation in the church or on the mission field.

I am a 42 year old who decided to go back and get a seminary degree after teaching high school for 8 years. I am currently a commissioned provisional elder in the UMC and just beginning my vocation as a pastor. I have a passion for the younger generation and genuinely want to see emerging generations embrace faith in Christ and find a home in a local church. However, there seems to be a great deal of talk these days about the demise of the church in America. The Barna Group continues to publish books that show "statistical" evidence of this downfall (cf. Revolution and UnChristian), and more and more folks seem to be jumping on the "Missional" bandwagon which promotes a more organic, anti-institutional form of church which essentially eliminates the need for ordained clergy altogether.

I have been advised by well meaning older clergypersons to consider what my options might be in the event that the church as we know it ceases to exist (which, they confess, seems to be a very real possibility).

I am not only concerned for my own security and future, but the future of the young people that we are encouraging to consider a vocation in the church. I too, had the privilege of laying hands on students today and confirming them into the church. I also got to sit back and watch the youth of your church lead us in worship today. I observed young men and women who may have a call of God upon their lives to serve him as music ministers, youth pastors, pastors, missionaries etc. And I would like very much to begin a conversation with them about seminary and a possible vocation in the church. But I am deeply concerned that there may not be a church for them to serve in 10 years.

I pray that those who are prophesying the end of the church as we know it are wrong. I pray that there will be a future for me and for those 17 and 18 year old men and women who may wish to consider serving God in the church. But I'm not sure. I'm just not sure.


  1. Keep praying. And keep following God's lead.

    The church will probably end as we know it, but that does not mean it will remain dead. We are Easter people after all.

  2. No no...The church is just slow to respond to the changing world. We'll be just fine. johnmeunier does capture a bit of truth in writing, "The church will probably end as we know it," but it is also an overstatement. Ideally, we are an Easter people, but we've fallen behind the quickening pace of the Easter-Man. (which is a weird phrase that I've never actually used before but I suppose it does identify the person and work of Christ in an illuminating way.)
    There are many churches that are growing (Methodist and otherwise, across the world and in the States) and they have remained faithful witnesses to the body of Christ in the world. Most of those churches also demand excellence in worship and preaching and theology, etc. I wonder why many churches expect their secular communities to join them on a Sunday morning of mediocrity, boredom, and un-impassioned rituals that they don't understand anyway?
    The UMC is already responding both to our changing world and the church's self-inflicted apathy through renewed visions and bold approaches under Methodist leaders that are not afraid to examine and transform the mold. Thanks Sean. Keep encouraging those youth! Their generation (and mine-ish) represents the critical mass that will fully endow and empower the UMC in a 21st century revival of true religion...seeking both vital orthodoxy and vital orthopraxy.


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