Author Topic: Twenty Years from Now  (Read 3989 times)

Dave Benke

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Twenty Years from Now
« on: October 08, 2021, 12:11:26 PM »
I was taken by this phrase from the Corona Virus thread - 20 years from now, and thought maybe we could spin it out a bit.
I am in process of completing my participation in events connected to September 11, 2001.  One big event to go in a couple of weeks.  It brought national attention for awhile, with one of the primary insights being how for a brief shining moment, the whole nation came together. Except of course that the "shining" was planes hitting buildings and killing thousands. 

Personally, I did not take any active role on September 11 itself this year, and instead was given a better opportunity, for me, which was to reflect and participate as a listener/singer/receiver of prayer and pageant.  Which was very positive for me.  What is relatively unique to the New York metro area is the effect of those 3000 deaths on those we know, families and systems of family support.  And "we will never forget" seems to me to me to be in large part true in the metro area. 

Will that be the case 20 years from now based on what we've been going through for the last 18 months?  I don't know - it's been taken in directions in polar opposition.  Maybe people will simply choose to wipe this period out of their minds as quickly as possible.  Events of such high significane took place ten to fifteen years later - Depression/Hitler/Dust Bowl/ramp-up to WWII, that the flu pandemic was way in the rearview mirror.

20 years out - how about church?  If participation continues at the current pace of downturn, I would guess a third of the congregations of any kind will be gone.  The rise of the Nones seems destined to continue as less and less individuals and families know or care about the Story.  We're on a bit of a vacay and I stumbled on an ale called Church Music.  Sharp, hoppy, sing-alongy in that sense.  Of the three places I had it, only one of the young servers made a connection to - church.  I would go, "Church Music - what a name.  What's it sound like?"  And two of the three servers went - I don't know that it has a sound - it's ale.  Just a little vignette there. 

20 years out many people are thinking of a great societal dissolution, as the current polarization accompanied by what certainly seems to be a turbulent period in weather patterns and natural disasters lead to .........what?  A turning to God?  Seems unlikely.  A turning to violence?  Seems more likely.  A turning to common sense solutions that unite?  Seems impossible.

Your thoughts welcomed.

Dave Benke

peter_speckhard

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Re: Twenty Years from Now
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2021, 12:55:42 PM »
Here is what the banks are saying about churches twenty years out. Our property appraised in the 1990’s at four million dollars. Recently we had it appraised again and we’re taking guesses. 25 years of appreciation on fifteen acres in a residential neighborhood of an affluent suburb where home prices have been going through the roof— some 5 or 6 mil would be the new appraisal, other thought much bigger. Actual appraisal? 3 million. First paragraph of the bank’s report says Covid 19 has negatively impacted religious institutions so drastically and, they fear, long term/permanently, that there is no market for buildings like ours. Hmmmm.

Luckily we aren’t selling. Neighboring Lansing, IL is not doing nearly as well as Munster. A few years ago a Dutch Reformed high school relocated from Lansing and built a beautiful new campus in St. John, Indiana, leaving a high school and five acre campus for sale in Lansing. They budgeted several years ago to get 4 million for that. They recently sold it for 60 thousand. A 98.5% discount. A lot of that has to do with Cook County and Illinois generally, but still.

Twenty years from now? We hope to be going strong, but if we are, we expect to be an exception. The bank blames it on Covid, but there are a lot of other headwinds involved.

D. Engebretson

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Re: Twenty Years from Now
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2021, 01:07:33 PM »
The pandemic may be remembered 20 years from now much the same way 9-11 is (with less personal connection), but its effects will have a lasting impact whether we realize it or not.  In terms of the church I think that it has hastened what was already in process: a gradual and irreversible numeric and spiritual decline; a much smaller church with a smaller footprint on society.  If church attendance was already spotty compared to previous generations, it will be worse.  People stayed home out of necessity, or because they were required to, and now, with regard to church, that will only continue. Many will never come back. While technology gave us other options I do not believe it is the next great chapter in the church's history.  A tool, yes, but not a replacement.  We are designed to gather with real people in real time to partake of God's grace as the real presence of a real God.  We will have less people doing this, but possibly closer and more committed communities. I'm not sure of the fate of the 'mega churches,' but suspect they will peak out and if they survive in any shape or form, they will be increasingly indistinguishable from the outside culture.   

The general culture will continue to be antagonistic to the Christian church and its people, especially if its moral code collides with generally accepted behaviors. Like in those early centuries of our history, Christians may find it increasingly difficult to enter certain vocations, or participate in certain groups, unless, of course, they swear allegiance to the new morality.  Trends we have witnessed over the last several years are increasing in speed of acceptance and implementation. It's the same phenomena as the development of technology.  The rate of development is now in rapid ascent. 

I think that governmental control over our lives will be more, not less in 20 years.  This trend, as well, has been going on for years and is increasing in speed.  With the upcoming bills in congress of mammoth proportions, it is obvious that people have an appetite for free healthcare and free education (among other benefits) even if it means losing personal control and handing it over to others.  Many like the idea of the government providing things and are seemingly oblivious to the control that will necessitate.  In some ways it's akin to that experiment of the frog in the kettle gradually heating up....

20 years may seem a short period in some ways, but I think it will be a time of unprecedented change in all aspects of our lives.  I am pleased that at that point, if I am still alive, I will be much, much closer to departing to be with Christ, which is far better.
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Randy Bosch

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Re: Twenty Years from Now
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2021, 01:30:45 PM »
"It's tough to make predictions, particularly about the future." Yogi Berra

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Twenty Years from Now
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2021, 01:33:28 PM »
I remember reading an essay a few years ago (not connected with COVID at all); that congregations should think about what they will be like in 50 years from now. Who will be the leaders in the congregation? It's likely, they are not members there now. They are probably not even born. The issue was about recruiting young families whose children might stay in the congregation and become leaders.


When I read this, I knew that the congregation I was serving was not getting in the people who would be the future leaders.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Dave Likeness

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Re: Twenty Years from Now
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2021, 01:34:22 PM »
During the next 20 years there will be a big increase in parishes that close.
Financial viability will be the issue that leaves many churches no choice.
To afford a full-time pastor for a small congregation will no longer be
possible. The birth rate in America is at record lows.  As families shrink
in size we will miss the internal growth of a parish.

Bottom Line: As seminary enrollments continue to dwindle the supply of
pastors will become less and less.  Congregations will need to share a
pastor with other parishes.  Dual and triple parishes will become the norm.

J. Thomas Shelley

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Re: Twenty Years from Now
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2021, 01:36:28 PM »
We made a horrible mistake in allowing Church:  Worship, Ministrations, Sacraments...you name it to be labeled (actually, libeled) as "non-essential" just as we were entering into the holiest season of the Church Year.

If the Pasch of Christ is non-essential and expendable, dear God, what have we become?

A demonic seed was planted and its fruit will be reaped for generations.
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Twenty Years from Now
« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2021, 02:57:47 PM »
We made a horrible mistake in allowing Church:  Worship, Ministrations, Sacraments...you name it to be labeled (actually, libeled) as "non-essential" just as we were entering into the holiest season of the Church Year.

If the Pasch of Christ is non-essential and expendable, dear God, what have we become?

A demonic seed was planted and its fruit will be reaped for generations.


What is "essential" about worship, ministrations, sacraments? Within this topic, I'm not sure that I would say that the survival of a church building or a full-time minister are "essentials."
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

peter_speckhard

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Re: Twenty Years from Now
« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2021, 03:02:18 PM »
We made a horrible mistake in allowing Church:  Worship, Ministrations, Sacraments...you name it to be labeled (actually, libeled) as "non-essential" just as we were entering into the holiest season of the Church Year.

If the Pasch of Christ is non-essential and expendable, dear God, what have we become?

A demonic seed was planted and its fruit will be reaped for generations.
We did several weeks of remote worship before going back to in-person. Neither I nor my associate wanted to do that, and I didn’t make the decision for public health reasons but in an effort to keep the congregation united. Once you’re seen as the defiant congregation, you become a niche church. We made clear in the announcement that we were not doing this response to any mandate or governor and that we were free to worship quite apart from any law. But words and impressions are different. Some churches did in-person services throughout. Others did remote-only for well over a year. I suspect twenty years from now the former will be proud of their behavior and the latter will be asking for understanding for theirs.

David Garner

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Re: Twenty Years from Now
« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2021, 03:05:52 PM »
We made a horrible mistake in allowing Church:  Worship, Ministrations, Sacraments...you name it to be labeled (actually, libeled) as "non-essential" just as we were entering into the holiest season of the Church Year.

If the Pasch of Christ is non-essential and expendable, dear God, what have we become?

A demonic seed was planted and its fruit will be reaped for generations.

What is "essential" about worship, ministrations, sacraments? Within this topic, I'm not sure that I would say that the survival of a church building or a full-time minister are "essentials."

What is essential about being in the presence of God, in sacred space, of receiving God's forgiveness, of obtaining the medicine of immortality?

When you put it that way, well, it sounds kind of ridiculous to even ask.  Perhaps it depends on what one thinks those things truly are?
Orthodox Reader and former Lutheran (LCMS and WELS).

Dan Fienen

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Re: Twenty Years from Now
« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2021, 03:18:20 PM »
The imminent demise of Christianity has been anticipated, predicted, and celebrated for at least the last two hundred years. Yet we are still here. Extrapolating future trends on the basis of current trends is inherently risky and not just subject to error but virtually guaranteed of error. Society as a system is extremely complex, operates on time frames beyond a single human lifespan, and subject to factors that are frequently unanticipated. It would be interesting, to say the least, to compare the vision of what life would be like in 2020 that people of 1920 anticipated with reality. Or even compare the vision of technology and society envisioned in the 1968 2001: A Space Odyssey with what we were actually doing in 2001.


A number of factors make predictions of the church 20 years from now especially difficult.


One is that many people base their thinking on the comparison between the place and relative success of the church now compared to the church in the mid-20th century. Churches and Christianity in general has lost much in numbers, influence, and cultural hegemony from the 1950s and 1960s and now. But what is not often taken into account was that the mid-20th century itself was anomalous in the history of church in America. Church membership and attendance as will as the influence that churches exerted on society was appreciably greater in those decades than it had been earlier in the 20th century, or later. To take those decades as the normal base line against which subsequent decades would be measured insured that our more recent experiences would be disappointing. Social, cultural, and church factors and trends converged to make those decades conducive to full and expanding churches. Those factors would eventually diverge.


There is also a tendency for trends to be to an extent self limiting and self-correcting. The pendulum swings and eventually can no longer sustain the swing in one direction and begins to swing back.


As I look at where the church will be twenty years from now, I anticipate that some of the trends that have resulted in the shrinking of the church will diminish before the church expires. We will not get back to the glory days of the mid-20th century, they were anomalous, but at some point the current downward trends are likely to stabilize. They sky is not falling. Meanwhile we need to adapt to the prevailing trends, do the best that we can to respond to our society as it is with the Gospel that God has given us. Whether people know it or not, recognize it or not, accept it or not, people really do need what God has given us to offer them in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the wisdom of God's Law. Some will come to see that. Our goal should not be to recapture the Good Old Days of the 1950s, that ship has sailed, but to faithful offer the changeless Good News to a changing world.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

peter_speckhard

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Re: Twenty Years from Now
« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2021, 03:40:25 PM »
Certainly the Word of the Lord endures forever, and gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. The issue is whether the church as we know it has a future. That is, professional clergy, dedicated sanctuaries, membership rosters, etc. or whether the churches will be so transformed as to be very little like the churches we were born and grew up in. Massive transformations, even necessary ones, come at great cost.

Randy Bosch

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Re: Twenty Years from Now
« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2021, 03:53:51 PM »
The imminent demise of Christianity has been anticipated, predicted, and celebrated for at least the last two hundred years. Yet we are still here. Extrapolating future trends on the basis of current trends is inherently risky and not just subject to error but virtually guaranteed of error. Society as a system is extremely complex, operates on time frames beyond a single human lifespan, and subject to factors that are frequently unanticipated. It would be interesting, to say the least, to compare the vision of what life would be like in 2020 that people of 1920 anticipated with reality. Or even compare the vision of technology and society envisioned in the 1968 2001: A Space Odyssey with what we were actually doing in 2001.


A number of factors make predictions of the church 20 years from now especially difficult.


One is that many people base their thinking on the comparison between the place and relative success of the church now compared to the church in the mid-20th century. Churches and Christianity in general has lost much in numbers, influence, and cultural hegemony from the 1950s and 1960s and now. But what is not often taken into account was that the mid-20th century itself was anomalous in the history of church in America. Church membership and attendance as will as the influence that churches exerted on society was appreciably greater in those decades than it had been earlier in the 20th century, or later. To take those decades as the normal base line against which subsequent decades would be measured insured that our more recent experiences would be disappointing. Social, cultural, and church factors and trends converged to make those decades conducive to full and expanding churches. Those factors would eventually diverge.


There is also a tendency for trends to be to an extent self limiting and self-correcting. The pendulum swings and eventually can no longer sustain the swing in one direction and begins to swing back.


As I look at where the church will be twenty years from now, I anticipate that some of the trends that have resulted in the shrinking of the church will diminish before the church expires. We will not get back to the glory days of the mid-20th century, they were anomalous, but at some point the current downward trends are likely to stabilize. They sky is not falling. Meanwhile we need to adapt to the prevailing trends, do the best that we can to respond to our society as it is with the Gospel that God has given us. Whether people know it or not, recognize it or not, accept it or not, people really do need what God has given us to offer them in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the wisdom of God's Law. Some will come to see that. Our goal should not be to recapture the Good Old Days of the 1950s, that ship has sailed, but to faithful offer the changeless Good News to a changing world.

Yes.  The church is not a snapshot in a time of remembered elysium.

A fairly insightful lay leader has said that progress is a trade. 
"It's easy to imagine that over there, just a few steps ahead, our problems will disappear.  Pessimists, of course, are sure that instead of disappearing, tomorrow will make things worse.
The truth is pretty simple: all we do, all we ever do, is trade one set of problems for another.  Problems are a feature.  They're the opportunity to see how we can productively move forward, not to a world with no problems at all, but to a situation with different problems, ones that are worth dancing with." (Seth Godin)

Church attendance in the USA still ranges 3-4 times as high as in most of Europe (also 3-4 times higher in South and Central America.  Christianity in a chunk of the world has been not just decimated but destroyed by other militant religions and theocracies - Iraq almost emptied out, along with Syria, and Turkey actively moving in that direction.  Hic sunt dracones. Yet, Christ's purpose and work were for centuries done in those areas.  And, we might be surprised to find that His work is not completed there yet, until He comes again.

Despite anxieties and real challenges, how blessed the church in America is to have opportunity to face stasis and entropy, and to find the work of Christ living in the work He gives it.  May He open our eves to it.


J. Thomas Shelley

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Re: Twenty Years from Now
« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2021, 04:05:27 PM »
We made a horrible mistake in allowing Church:  Worship, Ministrations, Sacraments...you name it to be labeled (actually, libeled) as "non-essential" just as we were entering into the holiest season of the Church Year.

If the Pasch of Christ is non-essential and expendable, dear God, what have we become?

A demonic seed was planted and its fruit will be reaped for generations.

What is "essential" about worship, ministrations, sacraments? Within this topic, I'm not sure that I would say that the survival of a church building or a full-time minister are "essentials."

What is essential about being in the presence of God, in sacred space, of receiving God's forgiveness, of obtaining the medicine of immortality?

When you put it that way, well, it sounds kind of ridiculous to even ask.  Perhaps it depends on what one thinks those things truly are?

Acquiescence to lockdowns was the 21st Century's Donatism and the triumph of Zwinglianism.
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Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

Chrismated Antiochian Orthodox, eve of Mary of Egypt Sunday, A.D. 2015

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Twenty Years from Now
« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2021, 04:53:14 PM »
What is essential about being in the presence of God,


We are always in the presence of God. Gathering together in a church building doesn't make God present.



Quote
in sacred space,


Creation is God's sacred space.


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of receiving God's forgiveness,


At least in our tradition, confession and forgiveness doesn't require a priest.


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of obtaining the medicine of immortality?


Whether for good or ill, I had a father who regularly offered holy communion to his family. He could read the words of institution as well as any ordained pastor.

Quote
When you put it that way, well, it sounds kind of ridiculous to even ask.  Perhaps it depends on what one thinks those things truly are?


How did the pandemic stop God from being present, from sins being forgiven, etc. It stopped, in some places, Christians from gathering together. Thus my question, what essential things about our Christian faith, became non-essential?
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]