Last Saturday Priscilla and I enjoyed the opportunity to fellowship with our young/er/est adult Sunday School class. Jason and Mary Luker's home was filled with conversation on a wide variety of topics. the aroma of some outstanding chowder and gumbo, and the sounds (and activity) of small children. The social was planned for the adults but it was the children that caught my attention.
They were still on my mind I as walked past the crowded rooms of our preschool area the next morning. It was tempting to think, "this is the future of the church." That would be right to a point- but the reality is that these children, and their families, are the church today. There is no waiting for tomorrow!
But their church will be different, different even than the church of their parents. The future church will be more diverse than the churches most of us have experienced. Our church is blessed with members from Kenya, China, Puerto Rico Jamaica, Haiti, and Eritrea. Several of our families have spent significant portions of their lives living overseas. The tapestry of the church will be woven from threads of many different origins.
The church of the future will be more transient. One of the biggest challenges I faced in the early days of my ministry here was the fact that careers brought people to Atlanta... and careers could also take them away! None of these young families (except Billy Ray and Delores) were here when we first arrived 16 years ago. Could we pray that these children will be our future missionaries, scattered like the early church to spread the Good news?
I don't know if the "melting-pot" metaphor holds any more but the church of the future will not be as homogenized as its predecessors. Our community is getting older (senior adult living complexes) and younger (student housing for Kennesaw State University) even as neighborhoods designed for single-family residences are surrounded by multi-family apartment complexes with a growing population of single adults. A church should reflect its community if it has hopes to reach its community.
Yes, the church of the future will look different. Some of us may not even recognize it! The future is bright if these children grow-up knowing that church is a set of relationships where a common commitment to follow Christ trumps all of our differences.