One of the key responsibilities we have as Christian leaders is to remain continually attuned to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us in our day (see Rev. 3:22). The eternal destinies of millions of people depend on us hearing this living word, obeying it and leading those under our care to do the same. Additionally, we must have clear insight as to what the times demand of us as Christian leaders, or forget it--not only won't our ministries thrive, they won't even survive.
That's why Ministries Today asked some of the church's most respected leaders what they believe God is doing today and what trends we need to be aware of in order to be most effective in our ministries. An edited version of their answers appears below. For an in-depth, unedited transcript of our interview with our forum guests, log on to our Web site at www.ministriestoday.com and click on the "Web Exclusives" link for the January/February issue.
What will the next decade require of pastors and church leaders?
We would be wise to dedicate the next decade as a "decade of return to full integrity." Everything that's been coming down in the church internationally, from the scandal regarding Catholic priests to the slack moral standards and sloppy attitudes toward marriage in the evangelical/charismatic sector is, I believe, forcing God's hand.
Purifying judgment--even through the world's systems of law and persecution--is already manifest. Unless purity of motive, clarity of communications, sanctity in marriage, chastity in sex and fidelity in marriage become our hallmark, many won't have to pack up and close church doors: God will use the world to do that.
Founder, The Church on the Way
Van Nuys, California
First, I would encourage pastors to be solid in their own lives--solid in their character, faith, beliefs, convictions, what they know and what they teach.
Second is relevance. The church for too long has not been relevant, and we have to be able to connect with the culture in which we live.
Third, pastors need to be prepared for team leadership. I think we have, for too long, had one pastor, one leader in a church, and basically everybody just followed him or her. The pastors who are going to be successful in the next 10 years are going to be people who put a good team around them, people who complement their gifts and skills. It's just impossible in our changing society [for one person to have] all the answers and all the gifts the body of Christ needs to express.
John C. Maxwell
A major requirement will be for pastors and church leaders to tune in to the establishment of the biblical government of the church, including recognition of the gifts and offices of apostle and prophet. These offices did not cease with the first apostolic age, even though for 1,800 years they have not been properly recognized. By the end of the decade we will be quite comfortable with the roles of apostles and prophets.
C. Peter Wagner
President, Global Harvest Ministries
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Currently, we are in the midst of a great reformation of the church. One of the greatest attributes that all pastors and church leaders will need is flexibility.
President, Generals of Intercession
Colorado Springs, Colorado
People are demanding increased authenticity with less fluff and spin. Church leaders who are professional Christians by occupation won't be tolerated in the same way the last generation tolerated them.
Second, we need a reemphasis on the role and necessity of the local church. Every community I know of that has been measurably impacted by the gospel has been impacted by the planting and development of life-giving local churches. Other nations (and communities in the U.S.) that have seen measurable, societal impact from the gosepl have a strong local church or a set of local churches at the center of their efforts.
Pastor, New Life Church
Colorado Springs, Colorado
It seems the next decade will require the same as all the previous ones--prayer and preaching Jesus. Though trends come and go, the call of church leadership is still the same: Be a priest, and be a pastor/prophet. Pray for the people and present them with the story of Christ.
Pastor, Oak Hills Church of Christ
Urban communities have become melting pots. However, it is still reported that the most segregated time of the week is Sunday morning. Although highly marketed megachurches across America project multiracial congregations, the average churches are not there yet. That means a large percentage of people drive back to old neighborhoods to comfortably facilitate their time of worship. Pastors and church leaders must diversify, reaching out to all ethnic and cultural groups in our communities.
Barbara McCoo Lewis
Women's leader, Church of God in Christ
The next decade needs pastors with a heart and ministry for young people. I believe we are going to see a major revival of young people (age 30 and under) come to Christ. This will be like the Jesus Movement we saw in the late 1960s and 1970s. The church needs to be user-friendly for this age group. Because this is a high-tech group, as well as a broken generation, they will need to be "high touch"--meaning, these young people will need a lot of love from pastors and leaders.
Pastor, Harvest Rock Church
Because of an appalling abuse of power by many Catholic and Protestant clergy, trust will be harder to gain and easier to lose. More than ever, integrity, intimacy with Jesus and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit will be imperative. An extreme generation will take us seriously only if we are radicals, but we must be anchored radicals--anchored by the logos and focused by rhema. True radicals defy the whims of their times and call people back to root realities.
President, Global Advance
The next decade will require that pastors and church leaders learn the art of self-encouragement in the Lord. After David and his men found out that the Amalekites had taken their families captive and that their city was burned down, they wept to the point of exhaustion. Then his followers were talking of stoning him because of this great defeat. In this extremely distressing and dangerous circumstance we read in 1 Samuel 30:6 that "David strengthened himself in the Lord his God" (NKJV). Then he was able to receive instructions from the Lord and, consequently, to defeat his enemies and rescue all the missing families.
Traveling revivalist, author
South Bend, Indiana
As pastors and leaders we must become more involved with the shaping of our communities. Just as with corporate America, the world is looking for integrity in its leaders. How much more as the leaders in the Christian faith?
It's simple--do what Jesus came to do: (1) seek and save the lost (the sinner is not our enemy, but our purpose); (2) bring deliverance to the captive; and (3) [teach people they can] have life more abundantly. What a great job we have, giving people the good news.
New Beginnings Christian Center
What are some emerging trends, and how will they affect the church?
Hayford: Two emerging trends impress me--one positive, one negative. First, and truly positive: The increased degree that true intercession in local church prayer ministry is expanding bodes well for the body of Christ's continued advance in penetrating evangelism this coming decade.
Second, and negative: There is a growing misguidance evident among many church singers and musicians who mistake "music" for "worship" (with an absence of pastoral insight, instruction and correction to help them avoid this). More and more, "excitement" is all worship is often producing.
Maxwell: The church needs to be aware of the need for what I would call integration--the church being able to meet all the needs of society. The church needs to be a Sunday through Saturday deal. It needs to be able not only to have the spiritual message, but also to be able to communicate to the emotional, physical and social needs of the community. The churches that are going to be greatly successful are the ones who are meeting all those needs, and people in the community, whether they're members or not, can feel free to come to have certain of those needs met.
Wagner: Possibly the most significant trend today is the growing recognition that the activity of believers in the marketplace, or the extended church, is ministry, every bit as legitimate as ministry in the nuclear church. Moving from this to understanding that there are apostles in the marketplace, just as there are in the nuclear church, will help open the doors for the release of unprecedented amounts of wealth for completing the Great Commission.
The development of the New Apostolic Reformation is a powerful trend. In it we are seeing the most radical change in the way of doing church since the Protestant Reformation. According to David Barrett, this is the only megablock of Christianity today growing faster than the population and faster than Islam.
Jacobs: One emerging trend that I see is the move toward the understanding of the working relationship of apostles and prophets (see Eph. 2:20). This foundation-laying relationship is critical in seeing the church change cities.
Another trend I see is that of the release of marketplace ministries. This is probably one of the most exciting revelations God is giving to the church today. A fresh understanding that business, government and educational leaders are called to bring revival to their institutions is on the forefront of the current move of God.
Haggard: Globalization, with its expansion of free trade and freely elected governments, is opening the door for us to reach the darkest areas of the world. This trend will continue through the next generation and will provide incredible opportunities for Western Christians to build strong ministries here and use the resources of those ministries to reach throughout the world.
God is also providing leadership with a fresh outpouring of apostolic thinking. Regularly I hear pastors, teachers, missiologists, bishops, elders, Christian businesspeople and parachurch leaders talking about reaching into the world and penetrating some of the strongholds of religious tyranny. We have a generation of young apostle Pauls growing up right now. We need to intentionally encourage this next generation in their potential, their ability and their opportunity.
Lewis: First, modern technology will enhance and broaden ministry range. Second, the role of women has always been significant--Jesus continually affirmed and utilized their numerous abilities. With the desperate needs people have today, they don't care whether you are male or female. They just want to be delivered.
Third, as we minister to spiritual needs, we must also attack social and economic disparities. The church's agenda must include intercessory prayer, and increased revenue allotment coupled with holistic training of home and foreign mission workers.
Shibley: The rise of postmodernism and Islam are imposing challenges. We need a general knowledge of both ideologies and the ability to refute them by Holy Spirit power and Bible-based apologetics. Also, I'm concerned about encroaching universalism, even among some high-profile evangelicals and charismatics.
Scataglini: One emerging trend I see is a renewed passion in the church to preach holiness and the fear of God. I believe the main result of this will be a renewed passion to reach the unsaved. The primary reason the church is not more evangelistic is because we have a spiritual sickness--partial holiness.
Another trend I observe is a more diverse church. We see churches that are known as seeker sensitive, others as prophetic and others for their prayer centers, for example. As a result of this diversity, a greater variety of people will be reached with the gospel.
What are our 'blind spots'? How might pastors address these in their own lives and churches?
Hayford: My exposure to pastors are deeper now than they have ever been--more are inviting me into their lives than in all my years of ministry--thereby I feel emboldened to make this statement assertively. Pastor: Seek a new and deeper focus on people as priority, in contrast to programs, achievements and style. The shepherd who pleases the Great Shepherd's heart will be the man or woman whose sole objective is to serve people and grow them big, instead of buying into the compulsive gamesmanship and pursuit of growing big churches.
Maxwell: Blind spot No. 1 is aloneness. I think it's a terrible blind spot in many pastors' lives because they've withdrawn and they do not have prayer partners. No. 2 is lack of character. The most important person a leader ever leads is himself or herself; and till we lead ourselves, we should not be trying to lead anyone else.
No. 3 is lack of discipline. So many great people, who have some tremendous spiritual gifts and a high calling such as ministry, never get to the top because they truly lack discipline. They do not have the ability to make the right decision--they make the convenient decision, the personal decision, the fleshly decision or the quick fix. Show me a leader who has discipline of life, and I'll show you a leader who can maximize his or her potential.
Jacobs: One possible blind spot is that of doing "business as usual" in the church. Each generation needs to examine its belief systems by taking a fresh look at Scripture.
Another might be an inability to incorporate the new moves of God into the life of the church (such as marketplace ministries and youth). A third blind spot comes from isolation in "our own group" as opposed to having a "listening ear" to what God is saying to the whole body of Christ. This causes blindness that results in becoming ingrown.
Haggard: One blind spot is narrow expertise. Christian leaders need to know more. It was embarrassing years ago, for example, when Christian leaders argued that because we were not on the gold standard, the Dow would never pass 2,000 points and we would enter an economic depression. They were horribly wrong because they didn't understand free-market economics. For Christian leadership training institutions to survive, they must broaden their field of study and start producing more healthy, influential people; otherwise, the next generation of world leaders will come from other sources.
Another blind spot is that we often have weak ideology. Some ideas empower people, others weaken people. Some ideas are permission-withholding and others are permission-granting. Some ideas open the door for creativity, innovation and prosperity. Other ideas thwart and stifle people. These are ideologies Christian leaders must understand. If they don't, they will wander from conference to conference, wondering what will work in their ministries. We need to settle our ideological positions in order to serve the people we're called to serve.
Lucado: The blind spot of the pastor is invincibility. Let enough people tell you that you are a man or woman of God, and you start to believe it. Pride is the maternity ward of a host of heartaches. A leader who feels bulletproof forgets to wear protection. Trace immorality, corruption and dishonesty back to too many lungfuls of mountaintop-thin air.
Shibley: There has been a huge neglect of teaching on our ultimate accountability to God and the judgment seat of Christ. Now we're reaping the consequences of that gaping hole in our theology. Our thinking and ministry vision need to move from temporal to eternal and from local to global.
People are craving hope in our terrorized world. We can only minister hope that springs from God's promises and the assurance of the coming worldwide reign of Jesus. The American church must rediscover aggressive, intentional, compassionate evangelism. Doing this kind of evangelism will cost us--but not doing it will bankrupt us.
Scataglini: The first blind spot I see is seeking personal success rather than God's glory. Second is practicing holiness without fruitfulness. We need complete holiness for a complete harvest of souls, not just for personal spiritual enhancement. Third is having a revelational lifestyle without redemptive purpose.
Prophecies, power gifts and other divine charisma should be used only with the final purpose of honoring God and reaching the lost.
Huch: I know in my own life I've found that God wants me to be more involved with the direction of our government, both local and national. I absolutely believe it is our duty to pray for our officials. But that's not enough. We as Christian leaders and laypeople also need to get involved politically. I believe until the Lord comes back it is every Christian's duty to know the issues our government leaders face and support them not only in prayer, but also in action so that America will continue to be "one nation under God."