What's Next: Local Church

We asked 114 leaders from 11 ministry spheres about evangelical priorities for the next 50 years. First up: Fresh basics for the local church.

There's no central switchboard for North American evangelicals. Despite the old joke, there is no evangelical Vatican in Wheaton, Illinois. If you want to know what evangelicals think (or should think) about an issue, you need to talk to a lot of people and try to discern an emerging consensus.

In good Tocquevillian fashion, evangelicals have organized themselves through voluntary associations and agencies. We hope such organizations can give us greater impact, efficiency, expertise, and scope.

Some of our evangelical organizations have grown large enough to have global reach. Some have become brain trusts in their specialized fields. Still others have become a source of encouragement and counsel for fledgling ministries. These ministry networks are a treasury of wisdom and experience. It's natural we should engage people in these networks in order to get oriented for the next 50 years.

Our question: In a variety of ministry spheres, what challenges will we face and what should our priorities be?

Fresh Basics

This highly unscientific survey finds pastors eager to think 50 years into the future, with consensus on only the broadest issues.

"As in every age," says John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, "the greatest challenge … will be to treasure above all goods and kindred and this mortal life that Jesus revealed with infallibility, perspicuity, and sufficiency in the propositions of the written Word of God, the Bible." Few evangelicals would quibble with that.

Will Willimon, United Methodist bishop of North Alabama, sees a similar timeless need: "The greatest challenge facing the local church in the next 50 years is the same one that we've never quite met in our last 50 (or 2,000) years: To enable our ...

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