Next Decade – Prediction Number 1: Church Will Revisit 1930’s

Yeah. I know it’s a month away from end-of-decade-prediction time but I feel the first one coming on now. I think the next decade of 2010 to 2020 will involve a revisiting of the 1930’s, especially in relation to church and mission.

Why?

The church in the West will use up much of this coming decade to rebound from the financial recession and to restructure in a more sustainable way, much like the church did in the 1930’s after the Great Recession which started about 1929. As a response to the financial bruising on the Western church system (church, seminary, publishing. parachurch, conference – all of which are co-dependent and therefore suffering together), new forms of Christian based co-operative structures will emerge, as they did with Toyohiko Kagawa in 1930’s Japan.

I wrote in 1999 that the next decade (this present decade) would see young people “turn old church buildings into art lounges. That happened. But in this new decade, many of these new art lounges, recording studios, coffee houses, craft spaces, and new media labs will move to a deeper level of involvement and empowerment.

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In the next decade, a stronger business sense will inform these new forms as well as assist the new monastic communities and traditional churches in general. In a concerted effort to get church ministry on a solid financial footing, or to start new ministries with a diminished budget, many traditional churches will offer their buildings mid-week as micro-business enterprise labs and will become micro-credit unions for their local communities. The word “fellowship” will regain its meaning of sharing and risk-taking. Emerging church energies will be re-directed from creative worship arts to creative social enterprises which will enable long term sustainability. In both realms, women will come to the front as some of the most successful missional entrepreneurs

1930′ s writings from theologians Barth and Bonhoeffer will continue in their popularity (no-brainer) but we will also revisit Dorothy Day (USA) and Dorothy Sayers (UK).

Having already “re-traditioned” and “re-sourced” our theological and missiological base for church and mission, we will feel more confident to launch out further into the world with transformational models that will change the world without draining the next generation’s resources. The next decade will be a time of sustainable outreach, measurable by a far more holistic criteria of success (4 bottom lines?) and we will find helpful and surprising precedents in the 1930’s.

But then again, I am not a prophet and I could be horribly and embarrassingly WRONG!

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

12 Comments

  • With some guys here we’ve been pretty excited about ‘The Fourth Turning’ by William Strauss and Neil Howe for the the last year or so. Their theory claims that history is organised in ‘saecula’ (ages), each about 80 yrs long. During each ‘saeculum’ there’s crisis (winter) and spiritual revival (summer). They checked their theory against anglo-american history and of course it worked perfectly 😉
    Anyway, your prediction fits well to what those two historians wrote. Winter’s coming (like it did in Oct ’29), and various institutions (including church) start to behave winter-like. So, I don’t know if you’re right or wrong, but at least you’re supported by two influential authors. Greetings from Poland!

  • I think you are absolutely right. Thanks for laying it out like this. Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together” might as well be a manual for emergent communities and his critique of the institutional church (which failed horrendously in responding to the crisis of their day and ended up furthering the Nazi cause) is spot on as well.

  • Yes – that feels about right. It’s clear that there’s a lot of energy for mission that can’t and shouldn’t be contained by current church structures.
    I’m starting to see the inability of the central hierarchies to finance mission as part of what’s meant to be happening.
    ISTM that authority – in terms of having an accountability structure and knowing where you are sourced – has got mixed up with finances so the central financing of ministry has resulted in an overly controlling way of structuring it.

  • I agree with Cathryn – what will be interesting to see is what happens to those ministries who do not heed your prophetic wisdom.
    To this I would add your earlier predictions that we’re moving to neighborhood network models and online modalities (e.g., Nines Conference) with the infrequent in person gathering events (e.g., Slot, Greenbelt) in lieu of the economically and environmentally unsustainable preacher fests (your phrase not mine) – this all goes to your comments about creating more horizontal leaderships where writers like myself function more as scribes and storytellers instead of being the story ourselves.

  • Amazing stuff, Andrew. I can’t express how much these thoughts mean to me, especially:

    Emerging church energies will be re-directed from creative worship arts to creative social enterprises which will enable long term sustainability. In both realms, women will come to the front as some of the most successful missional entrepreneurs.

    It really revives a lot of my hope to see things like that. I’ve tried to structure my life so I can move into areas like that and these specific words express a lot of what I’d love to move into, but it does take a lot longer than I’d like and sometimes gets discouraging (as opposed to doing things more traditionally, I guess). So thank you.

  • Andrew – another trend I’m seeing is a return to mysticism – look at how many communities are developing rules of life, prayer books, etc. Now with that is coming a slew of crapola as some folks think they discovered “doubt” for the first time – sort of like the songs penned by teenagers who just got born again. But books like “God of Intimacy and Action” (Tony Campolo and Mary Darling) seek to marry social justice and contemplation – Richard Rohr’s stuff on this subject is pretty amazing on this front as well.

  • I am interested in how churches could be like mini credit unions. Are you just thinking of them giving interest free loans or something more such as people paying in money that they could draw out in the future?

  • One of the Baptist churches I pastored had over 400 people involved in 40 different crafts, arts and artisan skills. Some turned their new skills into a micro-business. But we could have gone one step further by enabling each other to launch out fully through small loans.
    There are some good examples in overseas mission of this working well. Father Topshee recommended 100 people as the minimum number required to start your own credit union which could move a whole community towards sustainability.
    The advice of Henry Venn of CMS on missions starting credit unions and microbusinesses is worth reading. i have some thoughts on it here.

  • I agree with most of that- I already see some of that happening. But surely there will be down-sides to all of this good stuff- wouldn’t it be more “prophet-like” (at least if you’re following the Biblical prophets) to warn the church of the traps that will be fall into examining the mistakes of the 1930s church?

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