Smaller Churches, Focus on Evangelism Among Major Church Trends Expected for 2017

Worshippers fill the 7,000-seat Willow Creek Community church during a Sunday service in South Barrington, Illinois.Reuters

The winds of change will bring both good and bad tidings for churches this year, with Christian millennials serving as agents of change.

The expected changes are those projected by Thom S. Rainer, best-selling author and president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources.

Writing on his blog, Rainer has once again come up with a list of 10 major church trends he projects for 2017.

This year, Rainer sees churches putting more focus on evangelism as they explore how they can share the gospel to non-Christians in their areas. "This emphasis on the 'Jerusalem' of Acts 1:8 will result in more intentionality in evangelism and, thus, more people becoming followers of Christ," he said.

The Christian writer and speaker also projects that many worship centres will be downsized this year as more people become attracted to smaller churches. He said this trend is being influenced by the millennials.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, many millennials (young adults born between 1981 and 1996) are much less likely than older Americans to pray or attend church regularly or to consider religion an important part of their lives.

The reason for this is that these millennials have seen the "hypocrisy" of the church while growing up, according to Josh Hester, a millennial Christian and worship leader from Netcast church, The Gospel Herald reported.

"I feel that a lot of millennials who have grown up in church have seen a lot of the hypocrisy of the church, and I don't know if that's scared them or just put a bad taste in their mouth. And I think a lot of them are just fed up with it," Hester told CBN News.

According to Rainer, there will be a shift from the multi-site church movement toward the establishment of neighbourhood churches. Churches will also turn toward setting up or acquiring campuses so they can reach particular neighbourhoods, he added.

Rainer also sees more churches closing down, adding that this trend may continue for years to come.

"While the trend of church closures is not encouraging, it is encouraging that more churches are becoming intentional about saving these churches from total extinction," he said.

Rainer shared other negative projections, including an "increased frequency" of child sex abuses in church. Unfortunately, many churches are ill prepared to handle such issues, he said.

People should also not be surprised if more cases of financial fraud are committed in churches. People with wrong intentions tend to see the church as a "place of opportunity" to steal money, Rainer said. To prevent this, he recommends using outsourced groups to handle the church's bookkeeping and payroll.

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