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Posts from January 2015

Guest Blogger Ashley Tarkington: "My Journey From PK to Child of God"

Growing up in a pastor's home is not easy. Oh it can be a tremendous blessing, but there are also the pressures that those who do not live in this "fishbowl" just don't understand. My daughter, Ashley, is graduating from the University of North Florida this spring. She has been a pastor's kid (PK) her entire life. She's known no other story. While many PKs find themselves pushing strongly against the values and biblical worldview that is taught in the home and echoed in the church, and thereby creating the bad stereotype that is joked about often within church circles. However, there are many more PKs who discover a faith that is their own, not just a carbon copy of their parents. That faith is right and true and Gospel-centered and leads them onto journeys that rightfully bring glory to God.

This summer, Ashley plans to serve internationally as a summer missionary. As always, God has the right to change those plans, but her prayers and opened doors seem to leading down this path. In preparation for this summer, she must be able to clearly articulate her story of faith (i.e. her personal testimony.) She has been journaling for years and today at lunch, she shared the following with me. So, here's Ashley, my "Guest Blogger" speaking truth as a Pastor's Kid, but more importantly as a Child of God. . .

In 2000, a movie was released based on the popular book series, Left Behind. Now, it wasn't a great movie, but there was a message at it's core that had me asking questions. I was only six years old and up to that point (and even up to today) I had been in church all my life. At the time, my dad was the youth pastor at our church. You could say that I had never missed a Sunday or Wednesday service. As a child, my life revolved around church. Not only did I attend all the children's activities and events, I was also "cool" enough (at least that's what I still believe) to go to many youth events.

Staff - atarkAt the time of this film release, I was six years old. I was in first grade. I knew right from wrong. I knew that every Sunday I would sit in the front pew with my dad, while mom sang in the choir. Dad would stand down front at the close of each service with our pastor waiting for people in the congregation to come forward for prayer or to make a spiritual decision public in their lives. At this time, to me at least, it seemed like people were coming down front following the worship services to make a decision every week. It always seemed like there were baptisms happening as well.

Now, as much as my six-year-old self could understand, this was a great thing. People were being saved! Then, I thought to myself, "Am I saved?" 

I knew who Jesus was. I knew most of the major stories in the Bible. I knew Jesus going to come back one day. The Left Behind film was shown at our church when it was released and the building was packed. The story showed how horrible scenario was for those who were not saved. To me, so many in my church were making decisions for Christ and the thought came to my mind, "What if what happened in the movie happened now? I would be left behind. I'm only six-years-old, my mom pretty much did everything for me. I can't be by myself."

It was a moment of panic for me.

One Wednesday evening after church, I was riding home with my dad in the backseat of our Honda. I was asking questions. I didn't want to be left behind. The movie was just that. . .a movie, but my dad shared more about God and his promises. I prayed to God and received Jesus into my life as Savior. I was so excited. A few weeks later, I was baptized, and the cool part was that my dad baptized me. It was a great day! I even told my teacher at school about what happened.

But, life just kept going. I still attended every church thing that was offered. I grew in knowledge and as a Christian and did all the "churchy" stuff. As the years went by, some things changed in our lives. Right before I entered high school, my dad became the Lead Pastor at our church. Our previous Senior Pastor retired. I always said that dad was now the "big man." It was cool, I guess, but there weren't as many fun trips with him anymore. 

I went to the youth group, but it wasn't the same as when my dad was the youth pastor. High school was. . .well, high school. It didn't change me. I knew who I was and I was not ashamed of it, but I was pretty quiet most of the time. I behaved like I was expected to, how a PK should. I never pretended to know it all. Lord knows I never did. . .or will, but people would act like I did, or should. That was probably one of the most frustrating things.

I thought youth group was supposed to be more than it was. I wanted to be more involved and be a leader so I could make an impact. My life was pretty busy, though. I played basketball at school and during the season we had a lot of mid-week games, so it was impossible to make the leadership meetings.

I felt like I had nothing to offer. I was not blessed with the ability to sing or play an instrument. I wasn't super-outgoing and bubbly, so I wasn't sure how to engage with new people. I wasn't sure how to relate to people. In some ways, I felt that people were intimidated by me because of who my dad was. I hated going to youth group at times. I felt as if I didn't really belong, but no one could tell. I was good at putting on masks.

This was high school and at this point you're supposed to figure out where you belong and somewhat about who you are, right?

Then, my senior year began (2010-2011.) It was finally here! I was so excited. This was the year that I was going to become somebody and excel in the sport I loved. I was so ready for basketball season to begin. I had the potential to play in college. There were three schools looking at me at this point. Then, during our first game of our season, I suffered an injury - an ACL tear. I was  so angry and upset. 

Why me?

Wasn't I showing Christ to my teammates?

Did I not use my ability to play basketball to impact people for Christ?

My basketball career was over. I didn't know what to do.

This was the first time I cried out to God. I knew He had it all under control and that he had plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11), but I had to get to the point I truly believed that. I had to be able to see my complete identity in Christ. 2011 was the year that I felt I really became close with Christ. Our relationship went to an entirely new level for me. I knew I didn't want to just settle and live comfortably. I wanted to live for Him. I wanted, and still do, want people to see Christ in me way before they even see me.

Now I know this is pretty long and I've been told that testimonies, if you call this that, should only take two minutes to share, but this was just the beginning of my story. It's still being written. God is always working in my life, giving me desires and passions for Him and His glory that I never thought possible.

I find my identity in Christ. In some ways, I always have. I had to figure out how to bring Christ everywhere I went, to live for and become more confident in Him. 

It does not matter that I have not been given a talent as a singer or artist. God can, and does use me the way I am, exactly how He created me. 

I'm not as quiet anymore (I know some of my friends and family would laugh in agreement with that statement.) It's funny - when you get excited about Christ and what He does for you, you just can't really shut up about Him.

So, here's my two minute "testimony":

I was lost. I asked questions. I didn't want to be left behind. Christ died for me. He forgave me. I live for Him. I can't just keep that to myself.

I mess up. I sin. Yet, He still loves me and his grace is overwhelming.

I am saved. 

Now, I'm ready to go into all the world.

To tell others.

Everyday I try to live for Him and become more like Him.

As I said before, my story isn't over. Christ has put a passion within me that I am ready to act upon. Im ready to be sent. That could be across the street or across the world. I want to make an impact for His kingdom. I want to pour into teenagers and college students the truth of the Gospel. I want to be a part of the "big picture" - to live missionally and worship Him daily. To encourage, engage and serve.

I want to go.


The Church Doesn't Need Volunteers

It's sounds totally opposite of what we (church leaders) have been saying for decades, but hear me out.

For years we have sought to find volunteers in our churches to serve in positions of leadeship and even behind-the-scenes roles. Most often these seem to center around the need for leaders in areas such as preschool and children's ministries. The truth is that I have never been in a growing church that reaches families where all needed leaders in these areas were in place. 

However, even as volunteerism seems to be on the rise and the millenials seek to find causes to support, the type of volunteerism that is propagated outside the church may not be the type that is needed within the church.

One of the reasons, I believe, is that the form of volunteerism that seems to be increasingly promoted is centered on the volunteer more than the service being done. It may be due to the growth of required community service needed by high school students and others. Perhaps it is due to the "need" to be a part of something larger than oneself. Consequently, volunteers are continually being sought for good causes and events throughout our communities. 

Don't get me wrong, I really see nothing wrong with people stepping up to serve in areas where there is a cause and a need. I think of the cancer walks and the community events and the school activities where volunteers are continually needed. (BTW - I believe in most cases, the church should step out to live missionally and engage, but that's a posting for another day.)

It is within the church that I have heard statements such as. . .

  • I'm a volunteer. You can't fire me.
  • I'm a volunteer. It doesn't matter if I show up.
  • I'm a volunteer. If I don't do it (whatever "it" may be) someone else will.
  • I'm a volunteer. Can I get a letter for community service hours?
  • I'm a volunteer. This is just short-term.

With these built-in excuses for not being fully committed to the cause, volunteerism in the church has become little more than spiritual tourism with no lasting life-change. 

Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, penned these encouraging and challenging words to the church in Corinth. . .and ultimately, to us as well:

For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. 1 Corinthians 3:9 (ESV)

"Fellow workers" or as some translations put it - "co-laborers." This phrase speaks more deeply than simply volunteering. 

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The church does not need volunteers. The church is to be made up of co-laborers. We have a stake in this story. Our service is not about us, but about bringing glory to God. It's more than just a catchy phrase, a T-shirt, a bumper sticker or a trending hashtag on social media. This cause is deeper than any other the world would place before us. 

Perhaps the local church needs to stop trying to pigeon-hole every Christ follower in the congregation into a systematic form of discipleship and help believers discover their unique SHAPE for ministry so that we can get on with making disciples.

The church was never commissioned to go and make volunteers. We are to go and make disciples. 


It's Time to Stop Justifying Our Lack of Racial Diversity in Church

On this day of remembering the life of civil rights leader and pastor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the nation pauses to reflect on those who suffered for years in a culture of racial inequality, remembering a march on Washington DC that changed the course of our nation and declare that Dr. King's dream is coming to fruition.

Well, at least that's the idea.

477879_32397088While we have come so very far, as we reflect on the news stories of the past year and see tensions grow stronger in many areas of our nation between the races, the inevitable question arises, "Have we really made much progress?" 

Life is always filtered through current events and personal circumstance. In the larger picture, much progress has been done. No longer are there "Whites Only" and "Colored" water fountains in public places. There are no legally designated "black schools" and "white schools." No one can legally be denied service due to the color of their skin in our nation. That which would be categorized as unthinkable if not impossible about five decades ago has occured in our culture - a black man has been elected President. 

Yes, progress has been made in some areas.

We still have so much further to go. 

Sunday Is the Most Segregated Hour

Years ago, Dr. King stated that Sunday morning was the most segregated hour in America. He was referring to the reality that church gatherings, for the most part, were far from racially diverse. While marches and protests were happening calling to allow people of differing races to go to school together, sit on busses together or even have a sandwich together in a restaurant, many were satisfied with keeping their houses of worship segregated. This is a generalization and this feeling was not held by all, at least intentionally.

Recently, LifeWay Research released data collected regarding diversity in churches. The results have been shared in numerous venues and news outlets with varying degrees of response and interpretation.

Here are some highlights of the research:

  • 8 out of 10 congregations are made up predeominantly of one racial group.
  • Two-thirds of American church-goers state their church has done enough to be racially diverse.
  • Fewer than half believe their church should do more to be racially diverse.
  • Evangelicals are most likely to say their church is doing enough.
  • Whites are least likely to say their church should become more diverse.
  • African-Americans and Hispanics are most likely to say their churches should become more diverse.

6f72afa3-cf3b-4e69-86be-e38616953bea-need-more-diversity

"Surprisingly, most churchgoers are content with the ethnic status quo in their churches," Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, said. "In a world where our culture is increasingly diverse, and many pastors are talking about diversity, it appears most people are happy where they are -- and with whom they are." (Read the full article at Baptist Press here.)

Are you a Black Church or a White Church?

Author, blogger and church consultant Scott Williams (Big is the New Small) shares of when he was attending college and visiting local churches. He was getting his shoes shined and preparing to go to a predominantly black church one week when he struck up a conversation with the man shining his shoes. The man began to tell him about his church to which Scott asked, "Is your church a black church or a white church?" The man's response was classic. He said, "Young man - that's the stupidest question you could ever ask. It's not a black church. It's not a white church. It's God's church."

 

That is the right perspective.

But, We Worship Differently

As LifeWay's data has been shared, I have read some of the reader comments provided. In most cases, there is a common theme of "Yes, we need to be God's church and let racial barriers melt." However, there are many comments that are obviously well intentioned that seem so short-sighted and wrong. In these cases the argument goes something like this. . ."Each culture and race worships differently and therefore, segregated Sunday mornings are a good thing."

I don't discount that different groups have unique worship styles and practices. Our missionaries are educated in this as they serve in international locations in order to keep from leading those in other cultures to "do church the American way."

While there are numerous churches in my community with varying styles of worship, music and instrumentation, teaching styles, and meeting times, to say that we are satisfied being identified as a "white church" or "black church" or some other shade of melanin is to say that division is godly.

I have a dream, too. Mine is that the color designators of church will one day fade into history and that we will become wise as a shoe shine man and with our diversity, uniqueness and varying backgrounds settle only for being part of God's church.

Diversity's Symphony from Emanate Media, Samson Varughese on Vimeo.

 


When You're Done With Church

I shared some info this morning at church that struck a nerve with some of the people in attendance. This wasn't a controversial topic or something from Scripture that necessarily elicits debate. It was a reference to a segment of people in our culture who used to be faithful, active and engaged in their churches, but now are done.

That's right, they're DONE.

Lightstock_116950_medium_david_tarkingtonAs a parallel to the popular NONE grouping that researchers have identified among the American population (those who designate "NONE" as their religion of choice) the DONES truly exist and most of us who serve in church or have been a part of a local church for any length of time can attest, we know them.

Here's the information I presented from Thom Schultz's blog "Holy Soup":

At Group’s recent Future of the Church conference, sociologist Josh Packard shared some of his groundbreaking research on the Dones. He explained these de-churched were among the most dedicated and active people in their congregations. To an increasing degree, the church is losing its best.

For the church, this phenomenon sets up a growing danger. The very people on whom a church relies for lay leadership, service and financial support, are going away. And the problem is compounded by the fact that younger people in the next generation, the Millennials, are not lining up to refill the emptying pews.

Why are the Dones done? Packard describes several factors in his upcoming book, Church Refugees (Group). Among the reasons: After sitting through countless sermons and Bible studies, they feel they’ve heard it all. One of Packard’s interviewees said, “I’m tired of being lectured to. I’m just done with having some guy tell me what to do.”

The Dones are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play. They want to participate. But they feel spurned at every turn.

Will the Dones return? Not likely, according to the research. They’re done. Packard says it would be more fruitful if churches would focus on not losing these people in the first place. Preventing an exodus is far easier than attempting to convince refugees to return.

Of course, as I mentioned this morning, there is a danger in shirking the Gospel for the sake of keeping attendees in church. Sometimes, those within the fellowship who are disheartened and frustrated are so due to personal sin, perhaps, or lack of understanding God's vision for the church. Of course, there is also the real possibility that the church leadership is missing the message of the Gospel as well and moving forward with no thought to the church membership at all. 

Nevertheless, in the church where the Gospel is preached, Gos is worshipped in spirit and truth and the pastor and leaders are seeking the face of God and leading humbly, there are still some within the body who have served, declare their love for God and yet, find themselves done with it all.

And this truly is a problem. 

While it’s easy for an expert to proclaim what to do at a conference (no disrespect intended - I appreciate the data,) the reality is that without a movement of God among His church, a willingness for his church to listen to Him, and ultimately do as He is guiding and live for Him, we will not “gain the land” so to speak and when a generation forfeits this simple plan, the “nones” are born and a generation is lost.

I, for one, am not willing to forfeit the calling.


"Touring Heaven" - A Marketable Genre, But Bad Theology

There have been numerous books, and even movie adaptations, focusing on heaven experiences over the past few years. It seems that the infatuation with angels that many in our culture had in the 1980s and 1990s has been replaced with stories of "touring heaven." These stories of people dying, going to heaven, encountering dead loved ones, strange animals, Oz-like venues and even hanging out with Jesus personally have become best-sellers. 

I would say that most of the lure of these stories has little to do with God and Jesus and much more to do with the seeking of hope and answers regarding the eternity and whereabouts of loved ones who have died. As I have had the honor and privilege of preaching at numerous funeral services, the grieving families and friends are often grasping to know if they'll ever see their loved ones again.

I believe that is the pull of such stories as Todd & Colton Burpo's book Heaven is For Real

For some time, even though many Christian bookstores and sales outlets have carried the "Heaven Tourism" genre of books, many believers have warned of the dangers of such books, declaring them unbiblical. 

Heaven tourism is in the news again this week due to the revealing letter written by Kevin Malarkey, author of one of the first popular books in this genre titled The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven (since pulled by the publisher and removed from most bookstores.) Here's the content of his letter to LifeWay and other booksellers:

An Open Letter to Lifeway and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven.

10928626_10204948860017913_449404330_n-1Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short.

I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.

I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.

It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of Heaven outside of what is written in the Bible…not by reading a work of man. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough. 

In Christ,

Alex Malarkey.

Alex is a quadriplegic as a result of the accident that prompted his heaven story and the subsequent book. The letter is brief, but to the point and is affirmed by his mother, who began sharing of Alex's recounting of his story as far back as 2012. 

Some would say that Alex's statements do not disavow the entire genre of stories and ultimately, that would be true. However, it should be noted that the sufficiency of Scripture is paramount here. No extra-biblical accounts are truly needed if we believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of God's Word. 

While more stories and personal accounts will undoubtedly rise up, more movies will be made (there's a "90 Minutes in Heaven" one in the works, apparently) and more books published, I would encourage people to skip these stories of false comfort and go to the source itself. 

In my previous post regarding this subject, I shared Dr. David Platt's (President of the International Mission Board, SBC) addresses this. His clarity is refreshing. I re-share that video here for you to view:

 


"Now It Gets Real!" - Church Planting in the Suburbs

Our church has been advocating church planting and partnering with church planters throughout nation and Canada. Some of our planting partners are in urban cores, others in college towns and still others in the suburbs. 

Each church is unique and each planter/pastor is seeking God's lead in how the church will honor Him and reach the people in their respective communities.

Some of these churches are planting in community centers. Others borrow space from local businesses or even other churches. Still others are renting out public school facilities on the weekends. 

1342346_75720596There is a new church beginning soon in our county. I have met with the planter and his wife and even participated in his assessment through our network. We seek to help them in any way we can to engage the community where they are planting. 

This new church will begin with a "kick off" service on February 8. They have secured a cafeteria/auditorium in the local elementary school and have already sought to truly bless and encourage the teachers and administrators in the school.

Recently, they posted on Facebook about their kick off service and had their first taste of push back from the community (or at least one person in the community.)

The argument is not new. It's been used before.

How is it OK to have a church that operates out of a state and federally funded elementary school? Is this not in conflict with the separation of church and state? And then to have the audacity to advertise to the local community of taxpayers...

Whenever a church, especially in our nation and in our community, rents a public school facility for meeting, there are those who seek to stop them from doing so on the grounds of "separation of church and state." Instances in Brooklyn over the past months have pushed this to the forefront once again, but as has been stated, even by the organizations that pride themselves on being anti-church (under the guise of civil liberties) have admitted these churches are not breaking any laws by meeting in schools.

Here's a brief statement regarding these issues from the Freedom From Religion organization's website:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation often receives queries from shocked members of the public who receive flyers at their home inviting them to attend “church” at their local public school. Or citizens notice prominent signs at public school entrances on Sundays advertising church meetings. “Public schools can’t host church meetings, can they?” we are asked.

Unfortunately, two decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court provide for the use of public school buildings by churches, religious and political groups on a viewpoint-neutral basis, if the public school districts are already renting their facilities after hours to other community groups. The subsidy involved in use of public schools by religious organizations, however, continues to create concern, confusion, and litigation. The law on the limits of church use is not completely settled. While schools are not permitted to discriminate against religious groups because they are religious, schools can create regulations that impact church use of school buildings (see Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Educ. of City of New York). One appellate court, the 2nd Circuit, ruled in 2011 that a school board’s prohibition of hosting a particular type of activity, religious worship services, was constitutional.

Since public school districts often have the least expensive rental rates available in a community, rental to churches often involves what many of us consider taxpayer subsidy of congregations. Start-up churches often take advantage of low school rental to establish themselves. They obtain a prominent site for a new church, collect church donations on public property, and use their savings to eventually buy their own tax-free buildings. No wonder many taxpayers are concerned! (Full text here.)

I disagree wholeheartedly with this organization's motives and purpose. Yet, even in their concerted effort to shut down churches meeting in such venues, most often through threats of litigation and even verbal bullying, the facts of the matter, even as stated on their own site, is that churches have the legal rights to meet in public school buildings.

When I saw the response on my friend's announcement post, I messaged him. He admitted feeling some shock and wondered what should be done. Should he seek legal counsel? Should he respond? What's the best?

I counseled him as best I could and reassured him that these battles are not new and the fact they're showing up for him now can be viewed as affirmation that the church God's planting through him is needed at this time and in this area. The Enemy doesn't like this new plant already and the battle lines are being drawn. I encouraged him to press on, seek God's face continually and be strategic in his blessing strategy and serving plans for the school and community.

Christ will be proclaimed in this church. God will be honored (He already has been) and the real battle will be won, resulting in life change for many. 

This pastor said to me "It's really made this whole process leading up to Launch a more 'real' thing - that it's not just the attractional side, but the spiritual side as well. We haven't forgotten that, but we have been focusing on decor, and music, and kids and other necessary things and a simple attack is helpful in remembering that our goal is to show God's grace to all people, not provide a comfy thing to do on Sundays."

Amen, pastor. 

It's getting real now.

(And it's going to be worth it.)


A Look Back at Predicted 2011 Church Trends

On January 1, 2011, church consultant and founder of Auxano, Will Mancini posted and article on his blog titled "Vision and Strategy Church Trends for 2011 and Beyond." Mancini's writing is always challenging and in most cases he's been right regarding trends and church and culture analysis.

Will-manciniI thought it would be interesting to look back at his predictions and see how many of these items have truly trended (not from a statistical analysis viewpoint, but from a totally unscientific view based on my opinions.

So, here are Will's trends, as he listed them with my 20/20 hindsight:

TREND #1: Expect Increasing Diversity of Opinion on What Good Vision and Strategy Look Like. 

Over the past few years, I have attended conferences and viewed webcasts featuring authors, pastors, leadership consultants, denominational and corporate leaders all focused on the same thing - vision and leadership strategy. In each case, the information gathered was helpful, but as Will stated, there are so many diverse opinions and plans, that it is easy to be overwhelmed with the options. Therefore, it seems that the danger many pastors face is hitching their vision and strategy wagon to one idea and then changing gears after the next book or conference has come out. There are many opnions on how to cast vision and develop strategy. This reminds me of the story (maybe true) when D.L. Moody was asked which translation of the Bible was best and he responded "The one you read." In this case, it may be the best vision and leadership strategy implemented in the local church is "the one you use."

TREND #2: Articulating the Biggest Picture will be the Leader’s Greatest Asset Like Never Before.

For years, even under my leadership, church members and staff members have made statements like "We're not even sure who we are or why we do what we do." That can be a hurtful statement if one keeps his feelings on his sleeve. However, beneath this statement was a declaration of frustration that I needed to hear. Unless the church (and especially the leadership team) understands the big picture - the "why" of what we are doing, the ministries, activities, events, community actions, etc. become little more than things that keep the church looking busy and eventually leads to burnout and shallow service.

TREND #3: The Digital World and Social Media will Open New Possibilities for More Churches.

Churches are behind in this area, and always will be. However, that doesn't mean that we must remain disconnected and refuse to utilize the tools available online and through digital media. At one time, cost of equipment and fear of technology kept many churches out of this realm, but with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites, there are no longer any excuses for churches to not have an online presence.

We now have a Director of Social Media who is responsible to continually keep communicating through social media sites as well as seek new venues to help the church find an online presence.

Just having a presence on social media isn't enough and the technology keeps changing. Who knows what the next five year holds, but the church needs to be prepared to step into this realm, not just to be trendy, but ultimately to fulfill the BIG picture vision (TREND #2) of reaching people.

Our church members and attenders are already engaged online. We now have wifi throughout the church and use the YouVersion Live Bible for notes during services. Our app is available free online, but as with websites, unless there are regular updates and new options, these will not be regularly used.

Online giving used to be a no-no in our church, but once instituted, it has consistently grown as a viable option for giving tithes and offerings and especially for registering for camps, mission trips and events. I believe in the next five years most of our giving will be online. 

TREND #4: Visioning and Spiritual Formation as Disciplines will Merge More Visibly.

I have begun to see this develop in our network. There's still quite a bit of the corporate visioning in place, and with value, but the focus has shifted.

TREND #5: Small Will Continue to Be the New Big

It's interesting that within the last ten years or so, at least two churches in our county sought to reach more in the community by using a 1980s "Field of Dreams" strategy where "If we build it, they will come" became the apparent theme. As of this writing, each of these churches faced dramatic downward spirals in giving and attendance (due to various reasons beyond just entering a building program) and ended up with newer, bigger buildings, mounting debt and ultimately merging or partnering with other churches just to survive.

While this isn't always the case, (Celebration Church Jax) new, bigger buildings don't seem to impress people as they apparently did decades ago. 

At the same time, we have seen a dramatic increase in our network of church planters and new starts. Some of these new churches are meeting in homes, in schools, workplaces and even in other church's buildings. Some would be described as "ethnic churches" (which, I believe we will eventually see the end of the racially divided church designator soon) but most are multi-ethnic, designed to glorify God by connecting with the unchurched. 

Through multiple, smaller plants, we are seeing more engagement in the community and local churches (at least, that's my perspective.)

Within the church, we are seeing a growing increase in small groups that meet off campus, in homes or restaurants. Rather than begging people to come to the church, we are seeing a greater trend of the church going to the people.

Overall, I'd say that Will Mancini is right. These trends continue to impact the church in our culture. May the church continue to be as the men of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32) and know the times and impact the culture for Christ.