Depending on who you ask today, many are likely to say that the Church is dying. Often times, at least in my experience, by “death,” one means that the Church is loosing its top-down political and cultural influence in such a way, that they feel this loss of prominence is equitable to its impending death. With that fear being shouted from every corner, pulpit, diner, or legislative floor, it is hoped that it will lead to the mobilization of professed followers of Christ to “take up arms” and “stand for what is right.” I however, am of the opinion that the church is not on the decline, but rather as Ed Stetzer noted, it is “just being more clearly defined.” It is because of this clearer definition, along with other reasons, that I am strongly hopeful for the future of the Church.
One of the initial reasons that I am not worried about the future of the church, is because it is not our church in the first place, it is Jesus’ Church. In Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, he noted that the Church, not that of stone but of people, is “built on the foundation of apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (2:20). Jesus himself testified to this line of succession and building of his Church when he told Peter in Matthew 16 “you are Peter [rock], and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” As a person of faith, I do not believe that anything God sets into motion can fail, so how foolish of me, and others, to believe that the Church would cease to exist. Jesus’ church is bigger than any building, denomination, political party, or societal prominence, because it is not easily defined by human boundaries nor does it belong to us in the first place.
I also take courage about the future of the Church, because thanks to relationships and experiences I have had with Christian fellowships around the world, I know that the success of the Church is not tied solely to its health in the United States of America. As privileged Americans, we often can be trapped in cocoons of our own making, blind and ignorant to the rest of the world. It is in many of these other parts of the world where the Church is actually thriving, often in places without prominence or recognition. There are still certain people groups who have yet to have a chance to experience the Gospel in their own language, let alone, experiencing it at all for the first time in any language for the matter. The possibilities continue to expand and present themselves to the Church-universal for growth. So I am excited because I have seen the work that is being done by sisters and brothers in the far corners of the world to share and show the love of Christ to their neighbors. What may seem to be one area of weakness (America), may actually be just a way for us to the see the body’s strength somewhere else.
As stated above, I agree with Stezer that what constitutes the “Church” is being more clearly defined. Where in the past people used to identify “culturally or congregationally” as Christian, today people are more likely to acknowledge their own apathy or lack of involvement by defining themselves as “spiritual” or as “nones.” So the statistically recognized Christians that we are left with, though lower in number, are actually people who are committed and invested in the Kingdom of God. This decreased but authentic group will now operate from the outside looking in, and I think working from the margins actually benefits the Church. Operating from the margins means that Christians now have to think outside of the box in getting its message to the world because we are no longer speaking from a position of power and universal acknowledgement. The Church of the future will have to physically “act” as the Church rather than verbally proclaim such. If the Church was to become “persecuted” as so many Americans fear it will someday be, then I say so be it. Throughout its 2,000 plus year existence, the moments of great growth for the Church have be in light of accusatory notions from the outside. I think this is because the authenticity of who the followers of Christ are, and what the Body represents, shines a light of hope upon a broken world.
So with some questioning the future of the Church, I welcome its future incarnations. I desire to see how the future generation of leaders will respond to the trying calamities of their culture. I look forward with great anticipation to how the Body will be mobilized to respond in creative ways to fulfill serving the least of these. I expect to see the Church spreading throughout a society like the yeast that quietly raises the dough to its full measure. In so doing, the Church will not be weakened, but strengthened, because what lies ahead is not its failure, but rather its victory, which has already been proclaimed by its risen Lord.
 Ed Stetzer, The State of the Church in America: Hint: It’s Not Dying, Christianity Today, www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/october/state-of-american-church.html, Oct. 1, 2013, Accessed February 10th, 2015.
 Stetzer, Ibid.