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7 Predictions for the Church in 2021


It’s New Year’s Day, and Pam and I wish you a most happy New Year! With this change in the calendar, here are some of my predictions for the church in this new year:

  1. Simply moving into a new year won’t change the issues we’re facing. Still, COVID protocols are in place. Still, we have members who choose not to attend due to COVID. Still, we have people to evangelize, believers to disciple, and nations to reach—in many cases, with a smaller core of leaders than we had 10+ months ago.
  2. We will need to stop talking about attendance and giving in terms of “pre-COVID” and “post-COVID” days. No longer can we cling to, “This is the way it used to be.” The way it used to be may have been only ten+ months ago, but we must start operating faithfully and hopefully within a new, still-changing landscape.
  3. Some pastors who’ve been waiting out COVID before leaving their church will grow impatient with the wait—and move on. It made sense several months ago for a pastor to say, “I can’t leave now—not in the middle of a pandemic.” At the same time, though, few thought the situation would last as long as it has. No longer do these pastors feel the same responsibility to stay.
  4. Pastors will continue to find their egos challenged by lower attendance and less giving. Many of us can speak of churches who’ve remained faithful through 2020, yet some estimates say that both attendance and giving will be down 20% from pre-pandemic numbers. How we pastors respond to those realities could reveal where our hearts really are.
  5. Churches will have to consider again what “church membership” means. It’s one thing for a “fringe” member to choose not to attend worship services due to COVID; it’s another matter, though, when that member simply stops participating in anything the church does. Determining when to consider restorative church discipline while COVID hangs in the air will not be easy.
  6. Local congregations will be pushed to decide how committed they are to ministering to the poor and disenfranchised. The fallout of COVID has provided opportunities for churches to minister to sick, hurting, lonely, financially challenged folks in our communities. Once COVID is no longer considered a threat, however, we’ll find out whether this kind of ministry is now in the church’s DNA.
  7. Bivocational ministry (and co-vocational ministry, according to Thom Rainer) will be more accepted. In the past, many church leaders viewed bivocational ministry as only the last recourse when the church wasn’t willing to pay their pastor a livable wage; now, as churches must re-envision who they are, more will welcome pastors who feel called to bivocational work even if the church could afford a full-time leader. That’s a good thing, in my  opinion.

What would you add to this list?

This article originally appeared here.

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Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on Twitter @Clawlessjr and on at facebook.com/CLawless.