20 leaders offer their vision of life for the church in 2020
I am an optometrist’s worst nightmare. Having worn contact lenses since my early teen years, I’m familiar with eye charts, air puffs and dilated pupils. I don’t mind those tests, nor do my results give eye doctors fits. No, optometrists hate me because I’m cheap. In an effort to save money, I stretch the life of a set of disposable lenses far past the standard of healthy vision. In my eyes (figuratively and literally), a pair intended to be worn for two weeks can last anywhere from three to six months with plenty of TLC and daily cleansing.
That logic doesn’t cut it with the docs—and for good reason. The longer I go without replenishing my lenses, the more risk I run of damaging my eyes. To maintain healthy vision, I regularly need fresh lenses.
Today’s church must understand a similar principle. Cultures continue to change at light-speed, and the church throughout the world faces both obstacles and opportunities that make possessing divine sight imperative to kingdom success. To discern the times, we must rely on a “fresh lens” from the Holy Spirit to give us 20/20 vision.
Given that—and the fact that the Spirit speaks through every part of the body of Christ—Charisma decided to ask 20 church leaders from around the world a single vision-oriented question: What will life be like for the church in 2020? We didn’t ask to get a series of cheap “prophetic predictions”; with all the drastic changes, we believe it’s crucial the church knows where we’re headed and what we’ll be facing in the next 10 years. And in light of the remarkably unified, cohesive answers presented in the next few pages, I think you’ll agree.
Five Radical Shifts
Bethany World Prayer Center
I believe the church will experience five radical shifts by the year 2020. First, there will be a renewed emphasis on integrity, purity and example—the three pillars of Paul’s model. Results will no longer substitute for character, and gifts will no longer replace anointing. Secondly, I believe that discipleship will be more prominent than events or attendance. A new generation of American believers will be on the scene emphasizing radical prayer, radical evangelism and radical discipleship. Thirdly, there will be a new missions movement sweeping our nation. Churches that have lost their world vision will be planting thousands of churches at home and abroad. Fourthly, along with harvest will come hostility. The darkened minds of people will see the church as their enemy and focus on eliminating us as their primary threat to their new morality and Christ-less religion. Finally, the power of God will return to the American church. The need for deliverance and healing will spark a hunger for the gifts of the Spirit, the baptism of the Spirit and the testimony of signs and wonders.
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
The church in 2020 will be holier, healthier and more holistic partly due to the ever-increasing presence of the Hispanic Christian community both in the United States and abroad. Recent surveys and research point to a community that stands both prophetically and culturally poised to lead a righteousness and justice movement while simultaneously serving as a firewall against spiritual apathy, moral relativism and cultural decay.
The next decade will expose the glory of God that emanates via a people committed to a cross that is both vertical and horizontal, John 3:16 and Matthew 25, holiness and humility, salvation and transformation, Billy Graham and Mother Teresa, kingdom and society, revival and reformation. For the glory of Christ, Hispanic Christians will bring to the church what high-definition technology brings to televisions: enhanced clarity, enriched color and an empowered experience—in essence, an upgrade.
Persecution & Discipleship
The next 10 years will bring increasing persecution upon believers in the Western world, where it has been mild at its greatest over the last century. The spirit of anti-Christ is increasing its intensity. The heat will not only increase against institutional Christianity, but any believer who lives “out of the closet” of silence or reserve—that is, who stands and speaks for Jesus—will face mocking and suffering with rising regularity. Fires of this persecution will rekindle a purity in the church and will also set aflame the hearts of many who, as with Stephen, will not be able to withstand the wisdom and spirit of those who bear a faithful witness.
Already, those alert to the Holy Spirit’s work in today’s church are beginning to renew our call to “make disciples.” Discipleship has been short-circuited by everything from casual preaching (i.e., easy altar calls that have too long manifested passive expectations of full surrender and decisive commitment to Christ) to convenience-oriented sermonizing that tickles ears (preoccupied with personal fulfillment more than service and prosperity more than sacrifice) to touting a self-centered spirituality that knows little of our call to die to self, take up the cross, follow Jesus and resist the fleshly escapist notions that test the fabric of true faith. But in the face of the deception, I see huge numbers of believers breaking into dimensions of depth in life and witness that will reveal a Philippian-like “shining as lights in the world”—manifesting a compassion and power that will garner an overwhelming harvest, no matter how great the paganized darkness or how deep the waters of opposition.
A Focused Church
In considering the future church, it is always good to remember God’s promise that He will build a church that the gates of hell will not prevail against (see Matt. 16:18). In the midst of His shaking everything that can be shaken, we must believe that the omnipotent owner of the universe really means to do just that—build His church.
The church in 2020 will be a focused church. Just as 20/20 vision gives us the ability to see clearly, the church of the future will become more and more focused on the mandate that we are to “disciple and teach the nations.” This will result in more and more nations coming under His divine mandate. As the prophets hone their ability to hear, we as a body of believers will understand more that 2 Chronicles 20:20 is a major key to clearly seeing God’s design for our nations: “Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.” The prophetic word, when it is accurate, gives us 20/20 vision.
If we do our job right as the church, the Middle East, Turkey and other surrounding nations will see massive evangelization, while Europe will be re-evangelized with sweeping moves of God.
We, in the year 2010, are teetering on the brink: Either we will see a massive awakening or many nations will loose their greatness. God will build His church either way, but it is my prayer and hope that we will arise and shine and see the glorious worldwide move of the Holy Spirit in this decade, and that He will not wait for another season to move through the harvest of the nations before His return.
Church & Technology
The Potter’s House
With the advent of the Internet, advanced telecommunications and satellite uplinks, technology has changed how we communicate. Most of us never would have imagined these developments would also impact how we worship. However, in recent decades, the church has entered a new era: technology.
Traditionally the church brought the people to the message; now the challenge is taking the message to the people, regardless of geographic location or status. Today technology enables the church to reach multitudes worldwide through various modes: movies, television, podcasts, satellite, streaming and social Web sites such as Facebook.
The church is using these advancements to bridge the generational gap. Although baby boomers are accustomed to human interaction, this new generation isn’t. Progressive churches must use both the personal and the technical contact of the times. This generation will sit at the dinner table and text one another, even though they’re sitting nearby. Because churches are beginning to utilize technology, they are now able to effectively reach younger and older generations globally.
For the church to continue reaching people, we must be willing to change with the times. The Bible says for us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but who would have thought that the assembling could one day include a chat room called the sanctuary?
Church of God in Christ
Church life in 2020 will reflect the refining process that is now taking place. It is becoming more and more clear as to who is genuine in their thirst for God. By 2020, persecution and the secularization of society will have separated the true believers from shallow, lukewarm church members. Because of the spiritual climate, hypocrites and fake Christians will stand out like sore thumbs, and citizenship in the kingdom of God will be more important than membership in a denomination.
It is reported that committed Christians are being persecuted and killed in greater numbers than in all of history. I expect this persecution and violence against believers will get worse. At the same time I expect that God will demonstrate His power to cause “all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28).
Era of Evangelism
Assemblies of God
The next 10 years, if the Lord tarries, will usher in a tremendous era of evangelism. Here in the United States and around the world, we’re seeing a more holistic approach to the presentation of the gospel where compassion ministry is wedded to evangelism, and in fact compassion is done for its own sake while also giving integrity to the evangelistic message. People who are not followers of the Lord may be able to argue with our theology, but they certainly can’t argue with compassion.
We’re also seeing, especially in America, more churches beginning in humble places or in public places, rather than owned buildings, and they’re giving focus to people rather than physical structure. The rest of the world has focused upon training and equipping lay people for ministry; that’s being caught here.
There’s also the aspect of God’s sovereignty in this whole mix. In some countries, it’s still seedtime. It’s not that there aren’t great people working the fields who can’t pull in a harvest; it’s just sowing time. Obviously, America needs a great awakening, a spiritual renewal; I believe when that comes it will list everybody’s boat.
Church & Media
Daystar Television Network
If there is a spiritual cannon that can catapult us, the church, into the year 2020, it is that of spiritual maturity, walked out in the daily lives of its global constituents in integrity and character. It is presenting the gospel in practical, relevant but biblically sound means with the power of the cross and the Holy Spirit.
For the church to emerge as a spiritual compass and guide to the world, the church must form a unified alliance. How? One way is by partnering with the various Christian media outlets God has called alongside the church to reach our planet with the Good News. The local church is the army and Christian television is the air force. To win a war, you need both. Christian television, when done right, should be a complement of and a supplement to the local church.
We live in a multimedia generation, and by 2020 it will be even more so. Christian television is helping to reshape the planet’s spiritual landscape by radically increasing the speed by which we can reach into a person’s home and present hope to the world. Though we face many challenges to become an emerging church of relevancy in the next century, I remain steadfastly confident the church will be triumphant as it embraces and evangelizes the cultural diversities using the gifts and tools at our disposal.
American Church in Crisis
I’ve been told the same word for crisis in Chinese is also the same word for opportunity. That may best describe the period we are entering—both crisis and opportunity.
One of the most remarkable verses in the Bible is Revelation 3:20, where we see the Lord standing outside the doors of His own church, knocking to see if anyone will hear Him and open to Him. During this age He will not enter where He isn’t wanted, even in His own church. For the last few decades America has basically asked the Lord to leave every public place.
America has now fallen to the lowest state of depravity that Isaiah declared, where we call evil good and good evil, where we honor the dishonorable and dishonor the honorable. This is the last state before we are assured judgment will fall. These judgments have been coming in waves for years, each one seeking to wake up His people. The American church has been like Jonah, running from God and sleeping through the storm. The reason for the storm was the sleeping prophet, not the heathen. The heathen actually had to wake up the prophet and tell him to call on his God. Will we wake up?
If the church in America awakens, it will be given the kind of anointing Jonah had in preaching to Nineveh to bring repentance. Our finest hour and America’s greatest times can yet be future—it depends on those called to be salt and light. Will we wake up, repent, call on our God and preach His gospel? Will we hear Him knocking and open to Him?
The Church’s Greatest Opportunity
Christian Broadcasting Network
These days offer the church what is conceivably its greatest opportunity since its founding. People all over the world are desperately looking for answers to life’s problems, and there is a receptivity to the message of Jesus Christ that is unprecedented. Ecclesiastical structures that stood in the way of evangelization are either falling or being more tolerant of the gospel.
Although there is opposition and persecution throughout most of what is called the “Muslim world,” the best estimates available to me indicate that as many as 5 million Muslims a year are embracing the Christian message. This is particularly true in Iran, where the youth are completely disenchanted with the oppressive rule of the so-called mullahs. Church historian Vinson Synan tells me that the charismatic expression of Christianity, which dates back to 1905, now can claim 640 million adherents worldwide, making the charismatic-Pentecostal expression of Christian faith the fastest-growing in the world.
To be sure, the Christian church will be struggling against militant Islam, convinced secularists and a pervasive apathy in Western Europe and some parts of America. Despite that, I say: “Take heart. We are winning the battle.” In the words of Jesus, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
A New Generation
Joyce Meyer Ministries
As we move forward in the next 10 years, we must realize we’re dealing with a new generation, and we should strive to minister in a way that’s relevant to them. The gospel message of Jesus Christ never changes, but the way we package it may need to. Many things and ways that we cling to are merely generational and not important to God (e.g., dress, music styles). Surely we can change these if it makes the gospel more attractive to a needy generation.
Young people today are searching for authenticity and are able to spot phoniness very quickly. No brand of dead, dry religion will captivate their attention. They won’t abide people who tell others what to do yet fail to do it themselves. They want spiritual mothers and fathers who set a good example for them and love them wholeheartedly. It’s important for us to look beyond how people dress and see them the way Jesus does.
The church is praying for revival, but I wonder if we’re really ready for one. Because if we have true revival, the people who come in may not be people like us who we’re typically comfortable with. They may not look like us, dress like us or talk like us. The apostle Paul said he learned to be all things to all people in order to reach them with the gospel message (see 1 Cor. 9:19-23). Are we ready to do the same?
The world desperately needs to see Jesus, and the church is all they have to look at as an example. We must strive to be like Jesus in all our ways.
The Eastern Shift
Dalit Freedom Network
By 2020 the church around the world will be distinctly seen as non-Western. Chinese, Indian, African and Latin American Christian leaders will rise in civil society and be accepted with their Christian identity. The Christian-mission agenda will increasingly be set and financed by the non-Western church, particularly as the Indian and Chinese church become major players in global missions. The Christian mission will be more proactive rather than reactive as the church flourishes in the nations of the south. The church will grow and flourish in the midst of poverty, suffering and persecution.
The church in India will throw off its minority complex and be a key part of the population working for the nation’s good. The Indian church will combine indigenous culture with the gospel’s holistic, transformational nature and a biblical worldview. Dalits and other marginalized sections of society will have significant church presence across the nation, and Indian women in particular will find the Spirit’s liberating power as they turn to dignity and freedom in Christ. The Indian church will also increasingly demonstrate the workings of the Spirit, a commitment to biblical truth and a stand for justice.
The Jewish Influx
Jewish Voice Ministries International
As one devoted to “reaching the Jew first” with the gospel, I see a greater influx of Jewish people coming to faith in the next 10 years. First, Romans 11:25 tells us that the blindness will progressively come off Israel’s eyes as the “fullness of the Gentiles comes in.” The closer we move to the return of the Messiah, the more responsiveness we’ll see from the Jewish people. Second, I now see two promising trends:
1. A growing interest in Israel and the Jewish people. I am finding that far more Christians are showing an interest in understanding their Jewish roots, how Israel and the Jewish people fit into what they believe, and how they can reach out to their Jewish friends more than ever before. As we get further down the road to Jesus’ return, I believe those numbers will continue to grow.
2. Jewish people are searching for truth. As our ministry reaches out to Jewish communities in Ukraine, Ethiopia and India and through our partner ministries in Israel, we’re finding a new openness to the gospel we haven’t seen since the Jesus Movement of the 1970s. I expect this openness to continue to grow in the years ahead as things get more difficult and as Jewish people seek answers.
My greatest concern as we move toward 2020 is the continued rise of anti-Semitism and disdain for Israel. My hope and prayer is that the church will not succumb to this evil force in the world but will grow as a beacon of light, supporting Israel and standing with the Jewish people in what may well become their greatest time of need.
Rebuilding the Family
Hope Christian Church
In 2020 the church will have to rebuild families in an unprecedented manner. We will have to specialize in deeper mentoring, inner healing and deliverance ministries for men who have been captured by the allure of pornography, promiscuity and, in some cases, prostitution. The open struggles of Tiger Woods, John Edwards, Larry Craig and others show us the emerging need of this for the future generation of men.
Just as natural technologies evolve every few years, so our spiritual technologies for ministry must evolve to keep pace with cultural challenges. We must place greater emphasis on Christian courtship and youth discipleship. In 2020 I believe the average age for Christian marriages will actually decline.
Parents, pastors and young people must better understand the wholesome expression of sexuality in the context of marriage. In a nutshell, the church will rebuild broken men and women while launching younger, stronger couples to create a new culture of marriage within the church. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken, but the things of the kingdom will endure forever (see Heb. 12:27).
Reforming China Through the Church
By 2020 the unprecedented 70-year continuous church growth under persecution in China, both qualitatively and quantitatively, will enable the Chinese church to play a major role in reforming the Chinese people’s moral culture. As the hearts of the Chinese people change, the impact will spread internationally, through China’s relationships with the world.
The Chinese church, Lord willing, will enjoy more freedom of worship and evangelizing. As urban, intellectual churches rapidly develop in China, the Christian worldview on love, justice and covenant will become one of the leading voices in China’s pubic square. Through this growth, Christian mores will begin to guide Chinese society and transform the civil system.
Furthermore, the Chinese church’s 70 years of spiritual wealth under persecution will prepare the Chinese church to become a leading missionary base for the world, with Chinese churches sending and receiving missionaries in other restricted countries, especially radical Muslim and Hindu countries. (The “Back to Jerusalem Movement” will be practically implemented on the calendar of the Chinese church). As a result, the Chinese church will begin to return the blessings to the upcoming persecuted or restricted Western churches by providing spiritual counsel with their valuable perspective and experience.
Global Harvest Ministries
We live in what is arguably the most exciting time to serve God in all of history. One of the pervasive characteristics of the season in which we find ourselves is change. In my opinion, the greatest and most encompassing change that has already begun and will probably continue and reach a crescendo by 2020 is changing from a church mindset to a kingdom mindset. Instead of preaching a gospel of salvation or a gospel of the church, we will be preaching the gospel of the kingdom. We will agree that the church is not only a congregation where believers gather once a week, but it is also a ministry embedded in the workplace where believers minister the other six days a week. We will take seriously the dominion mandate of seeing God’s will being done here on earth as it is in heaven. Our goal will be nothing less than the reformation of our society, and we will have sociological verification of significant progress.
City Harvest Church
In the next 10 years, there will be an exponential growth in the number of Christians all around the world. With the advancement in technology, we will see Christianity transcend geographical and language barriers to an even greater extent. Evangelism through mass media, Internet and live webcast will be more prevalent and cover a wider group of people in a shorter time span.
God’s call for me is to raise up a generation of people who can take Asia by storm. My challenge in the next 10 years is to raise up those who can both engage the world effectively and grow strong in authentic spiritual disciplines. I see the church of God as the salt and light of this world. Hence, as Christians, we must position ourselves to be relevant and useful to the society we live in, to be bold to engage our culture for Christ.
International House of Prayer
Today’s church leaders are moving in two different directions that will become more solidified by 2010.
Among the first group are those who have set their hearts to live deeply connected to Jesus and who are committed to full obedience in a fasted lifestyle. They will prayerfully devour the Word of God and encounter the Spirit’s power in different ways. They’ll reach out in justice with compassion to bring God’s love to people and to transform society. They’ll call people to love Jesus on God’s terms as they faithfully proclaim the whole counsel of God (including its “unpopular” aspects). As they impart these values to others, they will raise up praying churches that will be small-group based and have varying expressions of meeting and ministry style (both within and outside the church). Such groups will regularly experience God’s presence together with a spirit of prayer and prophecy. As they faithfully speak out in ways true to Scripture but unpopular to the masses, they’ll be ridiculed more and more by mainstream religion and media.
Within the second group are those seeking to grow their ministries by promising people ease, comfort and pleasure. Their present dullness and man-pleasing spirit will escalate into a much bolder distancing from the foundational principles of the Word. These leaders will also be involved in many outreaches and service-oriented works, even as they label the first group as fanatics. Both groups will function under the banner of Christianity and will aggressively reach out to others, yet they will do it with a very different spirit and message.
World at War
Glory of Zion International
A new governmental order will arise before 2020. The restored government of God will be key to establishing this new order, as the church will regain its power to legislate the heavens. Binding and loosing, forbidding and permitting will be transferred to the hands of future apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists. God’s government within the church will cause it to lose the political spirit of Judas, align itself with heaven and represent the order of God.
There also will be war in the natural as governments of the world both realign and come against God’s covenant plan in the earth. This will be recognized as nations harden their hearts toward Israel and agree with the violation of God’s covenant boundaries with His firstborn nation. For a brief period in this new decade there will be a move of God among Muslims. Many will rebel against the violence that robs their freedom and accept the grace of God given through His Son.
As the war over financial control in the earth rages on, China will continue to rise in influence. The trends associated with capitalistic materialism through communist control that have developed in that nation will infiltrate many nations as these countries rearrange their financial structures.
Yet the real war in days ahead will come over how we, the church, gather, fellowship and exercise our kingdom authority. Megachurches will no longer be the only recognized expression of kingdom success. With the information age changing the way we communicate and gather, gatherings will be more functional and focused on causes rather than territorial (local church) issues. Many denominations and spiritual structures will fade and lose their relevance by 2016. Prophetic accuracy will now mature, causing the church to have new prayer power and kingdom strategies.
Overall, a new triumphant reserve or remnant will arise and be willing to love not their lives unto death.
Ministry Paradigm Shift
Faithful Central Bible Church
The church is about to experience a paradigm shift in preparation for life in 2020. I believe the season for larger and larger houses of worship is coming to an end, as is the Field of Dreams ministry strategy that says if we build it, they will come. The idea that bigger is better, especially as it relates to bigger buildings, may be an approach to ministry that is about to transition into history.
Today’s technological advances present options for doing ministry unknown in times past that can revolutionize life in the kingdom here on earth. What most of us in megachurches see on Sunday mornings—thousands of worshippers gathering in one location—is not a New Testament model. As the New Testament church grew, the mass gatherings with the Temple as the focal point of worship were replaced by smaller gatherings like the church in Aquila and Priscilla’s house. Certainly this shift was precipitated by the unique non-Jewish cultures of these young fledgling congregations, but I think there is a more universal principle being implied: In order to impact a city or culture, it may be more effective to shift from the church gathered in one large location to multiple smaller settings scattered throughout the community and connected by the prevailing technology of the day. If we were to corner some of my big-building, megaministry colleagues when the cameras aren’t rolling and the reporters aren’t taking notes, many would admit that if they had it to do again, they would not build as big. I don’t think we were out of the will of God; it may just be that we were par in a season whose time may be coming to an end. We shall see.