The year is 2015. Flying cars and hoverboards are everywhere, and most of us will have graduated from seminary. Maybe most of the world’s problems will be fixed in this short amount of time. There could be self-drying clothes and pizza that takes just seconds to hydrate—but probably not. And regardless of whether life is any easier five years in the future, Christian ministry will remain a tough task. So what are some of the challenges we will face in the future as we lead churches and ministries? It’s impossible to predict exactly what issues will face the church in the years to come, but it is highly likely that three problems which currently plague the church will only continue to be a problem if we don’t do anything about it.
Apathy against holiness- The first of these three problems is a general apathy: a nominal version of Christianity. The church doesn’t have a problem getting people into the pews—the real problem is getting those same people out of the pews and into the streets as ambassadors for Christ and sold-out disciples. The problem lies in a consumerist mindset found in our culture: that we go to church only to receive a service, and we need not make any contribution. There are many today who say that they believe in Christ and that they have been born again, but their life testifies that they have never truly been changed. They rely on a past conversion experience to get them by as a form of ‘fire insurance’ to save them from hell, but there is no true fruit of salvation in their lives. If we look closely at Matthew 7:13-23, we see the danger of living no differently than the world and not having any fruit that accompanies genuine repentance. This faulty mindset that says holiness and a changed life is not a necessary fruit of salvation is often a result of:
Illiteracy concerning the Word- A second major problem in the church is a lack of knowledge about Scripture. The Bible might be the best-selling book of all-time, but unfortunately it isn’t as often read. If we don’t teach our congregations to dig deep into the Scripture and hide God’s Word inside their hearts, they will not be affected by God’s truth, convicted by the Spirit, encouraged by God’s promises, and strengthened to fight daily against sin and temptation. The danger here is evident. Christians who don’t know the Word will lack discernment, and will be spiritually malnourished. And without discernment, many will be deceived and led into.
A distortion of the gospel- Possibly the greatest danger facing the church now and in the future is a distortion of the gospel. When people see God as some sort of all-powerful Santa Claus who exists to shower them with earthly riches and make them feel good about themselves, we have reduced Christianity to nothing more than one great therapy session, and when we do this we leave the key doctrines of our own sinfulness, Christ’s work on the cross, and his victory over the grave far behind. I was once told to ‘never preach a sermon that would still be true if Christ has not been raised.’ This is the greatest advice I have ever received. If we lose sight of the gospel and of the glorious work of Christ, we have lost the essence of true Christianity. If Christ had not died on the cross, we would still be dead in our sins, and if Christ had not been raised, we would have no hope at all. We must keep these truths in the forefront of our minds and our teachings.
Of course we do not know what the future will hold, and it would be silly to make the claim that we do. But if these trends continue, they will remain serious issues for the church to contend with for many years. As those entrusted with the gospel and pursuing Christian ministry in some form, we need to lead the charge against these faulty ways of thinking. We must preach expositionally, teach and disciple individuals with fervor, and set the example ourselves. If we do not take a stand for faithful discipleship and sound doctrine, revival in the church will seem as unimaginable as flying cars in five years.