Every generation changes. That is the constant theme from generation to generation. Our foreparents brought their worship traditions to these shores. Church music changed forever by the influence of Thomas A. Dorsey. Preaching styles changed forever with the advent of preachers like C.L. Franklin, Jasper Williams, Donald Parson, and others. As I gaze from my middle-age perch, I want to confront ten things that Pastors will be facing in the future:
#1 – Multi-culturism – The days of the “exclusively black” church are going by the wayside. In many of our congregations, they are become mirror images of society at large. With a sharp increase of interracial marriages and relationships, especially in the spike of black females with non-black males, the black church is turning into the brown church. I think we’ll still have our distinctive flavor, but some rhetoric is on the way out.
#2 – Un-Conventional Conventionalism – The days of the power of black baptist conventions is starting to wane now. Their influence from 35 years ago has dramatically shifted. 35 years ago if you crossed a President or Moderator, you were banished to the land of “never heard from again.” But now Conventions are dramatically smaller, in most cases struggling, and power is no longer in one man’s hand that can hurt or cripple you in your home area. Instead, the local pastor can fight back by refusing to play the games and withhold finances.
# 3 – Media Matters – The pastor of the future will have to be a tech-savvy pastor. If he thinks an iPad is a paper product, and iPhone means it belongs to you, and power point is a loud point in your sermon – you’ll be left in the dust. Our constituents are tech savvy. They come to church to praise the Lord, check their Twitter fee, look at e-mail and read Scripture on their tablet – ALL AT THE SAME TIME. A tech-savvy pastor will utilize technology to his or her advantage in order to draw members closer.
# 4 – Lack of Interest in Sunday School – Please don’t kill the messenger. But most pastors know that Sunday School is a dying art-form within the black baptist experience. The lack of trained, qualified teachers combined with a lethargic pew and, in most cases, a disinterested pulpit is the perfect storm. Sunday School will have to modify and try new things. Classes may have to combine and in some cases, the Pastor may have to chip in more and more into the mix. Otherwise, Sunday School is on track to catch up with her country cousin, Baptist Training Union and YPWW.
#5 – Unintentional Competition – Many pastors in the future will be forced to be different. Because this is, as one minister stated, a “Free Agency” Christianity. If you’re a clone of the pastor across town and someone is looking for a church home – imitation is not flattery, it’s deadly. I believe God will use this to discontinue the practice of imitation and begin a new wave of preachers giving the word in their own comfort zone.
# 6 – New Voices – Somewhere out there is not the next T.D. Jakes or Paul Morton or Julius Scruggs or William Shaw or Donald Parson. There are new voices that will be raised up because churches today that are smaller in membership are easier to grow than established mega churches which have “arrived” in their own minds. Remember the top 10 churches in membership were all small churches when they were started. And all of the “prime time” pastors all began as struggling novices.
# 7 – The end of Pomp and Circumstance. The end of the “celebrity pastor” is nigh. Bodyguards, armor bearers, adjutants, and all of that ilk are on the way out. If you need two go through five channels to get to your pastor, the church persons of the future will just find a pastor they can connect with. I’ve never been a great one on all of the protection and remember when I preached at a particular mega-church, that they had something there that burned an impression in my spirit. They had a Nurse following me just in case someone shook my hand so I could wash that “spirit” off of me immediately. Tick, tock . . . that clock is winding down.
# 8 – The end of Super Titles. 35 years ago everybody wanted to be called “Reverend.” Then everybody wanted to be called “Doctor.” Then everybody wanted to be called “Bishop.” Now other titles are starting to pop-up. This will end in the future. People don’t associate themselves with titles, they associate with personalities. When your soul is hurting a “Doctor” is not more important than a “Bishop.” Dr. Isadore Edwards, preaching at the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. reminded the convention that “John called Peter Peter” and “Peter called Luke Luke.”
# 9 – The rise of an educated pulpit. 35 years ago Pulpit Committees didn’t require as much schooling as some do today. If you could “hoop” you were in. If you couldn’t hoop, you better have had an education. That’s changing because those who churches select want a pastor who is educated, pushes education and believes in education. Of course, this is not universal, and there is a hindrance because many of our once proud schools are either closing or having financial trouble. Bishop College’s demise put a dent in pulpits all over the country.
#10 – A return to a Father-Child paradigm in ministry. 35 years ago a Father in the Ministry was essential for pastors. Then came sons and daughters who moved away from that when their church size was larger than their parent’s church. However, that is now changing since the demise of conventions and you’re finding more pastors looking for pastoral mentors. I have a group of young pastors across the country that I connect with and although I’m not their pastor, I’m a father-figure to them. We’re going back to the Father-Child paradigm because Presidents and Moderators are being deemed non-essential.