Traveled into Mississippi for the first time. It’s a lot like South Dakota where I live, except they have trees and hills and funny accents.
What surprised me more than anything was the number of churches. It’s not only the Bible belt, it’s the church belt. Wow, there are really a lot of churches. And they love steeples. Tall, white spires top many of the church buildings. The pastor I visited serves four United Methodist churches and three of the four are within a couple miles of each other. Did I mention there are a lot of churches?
The church we currently attend would probably be classified as contemporary worship that is held in a leased space in a small strip mall, is one of five campuses, and the sermon delivered via technology. The two previous churches we attended were in a rented space on a university campus and an older church with beautiful stained glass windows and heavy woodwork.
Many are holding church services are being held in rented spaces, schools, bars, and other places of convenience. Too many cathedrals and downtown ornate churches sit beautiful and empty. Like much of our society we seem to be polarized on big churches and tiny churches and not as much in the middle. I’m not as concerned about the church building (see Ambivalent – http://parsonageparables.com/2013/12/06/ambivalent/) – it makes me wonder what the future holds for churches.
- What happens when contemporary is no longer contemporary?
- Why do we ask people on the inside what they prefer instead of asking those on the outside what would get them to come inside?
- What happens if we run out of organists or choirs or bands?
- What if students figure out seminary is way more expensive than they’ll be able to afford as pastors?
- Will churches simple dry up as more people become “spiritual” but not that interested in gathering for worship?
- Will there be an explosion of alternative worship style offerings?
- Will technology take over and our worship community will be electronic instead of face to face?
- Will we buy the pieces of worship we like on Amazon? I’ll take one candle lighting, 5 minute sermon, and contemporary music in a La-Z-Boy please. No on the interpretive dance and potluck.
You’re probably hoping I don’t travel through Mississippi any time soon with way too much time to think about the future of churches.