10 Projections for the Church in 2018

With one week left in this year, here are some trends to consider for 2018:

  1. Even more seminary training will be local-church based. Because accreditors and seminaries have made this approach credible, more churches have been moving in this direction. This trend is likely here to stay.
  2. More young pastors will tackle church revitalizations. Church planting will still be popular, but the interest in church revitalizations will grow. Many of these ministries will be in the South.
  3. Denominations will still matter, but networks and affinity groups will be primary sources of encouragement and strengthening for pastors. Some of these groups will likely even be internet-based, but they’ll meet specific needs for church leaders.
  4. Discipleship strategies will increase, but with little corresponding growth in evangelism. The interest in discipleship is a needed reaction against poor discipleship in the past, but it will still not address our poor evangelism.
  5. Fewer seminarians will have a priority interest in the pastorate. This trend reflects a general fear of leading a church without significant experience, in addition to a genuine desire to work alongside a team.
  6. Bad preaching will lead to church departures. My seminary professor told us, “A church will put up with bad preaching as long as you love them.” I’m not sure that’s the case anymore (if it ever were). It’s easy to find really good preaching elsewhere, including on the internet.
  7. Life-on-life, genuine community will ground people in a church. In my 40+ years as a  Christian, I’ve never seen the interest in local church community, especially among young leaders. We’re even beginning to see seminary graduates who stay in the seminary city rather than start ministry because they love the church of which they’ve been a part.
  8. More churches will share their building with ethnic congregations. Some of this trend will come from a millennial desire to have diverse congregations, and some of it will come from recognizing the difficulty of thoroughly blending diverse cultural and language groups.
  9. Evangelical churches will give the Lord’s Supper more regular prominence. That trend has been happening among younger congregations, but it’s now spreading to more established churches as well.
  10. Prayer ministries will slowly grow. I’m beginning to see growing interest in prayer that undergirds our work, particularly as culture increasingly fights the church. The growth of prayer, though, will be slow. 

What are your thoughts? 


  • Stewart says:

    Dear Dr. Lawless,
    Thank you for your faithfulness and good work, words, and encouragement.
    I would challenge number 4 in this way. Bad discipleship leads to no increase in evangelism. True discipleship in obeying all things Christ commanded will lead to an increase in discipleship. Evangelism rarely leads to edification but edification should always lead to evangelism.
    The problem then would be in the one who disciples. If he or she are not evangelistic, how will they disciple others to be so?
    Love you and your daily encouragement. Maybe you could do one on good discipleship?
    Your servant for Christ’ sake,
    Stewart McCarter

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      That’s a fair point, Stewart. I think discipleship strategies will increase, but they’re not effective ones if they don’t result in evangelism. Thanks for helping me clarify. 

  • Bill Pitcher says:

    I found #10 to be encouraging. My church has a very small, but very faithful group attending prayer meeting. We pray that more will recognize it. Glad to see that some growth is showing up in some places.

  • Foster Payne says:

    On your point #7, could you clarify it a bit? Are you meaning you see the local church community becoming an area of greater focus for the local church, or that it will continue to be neglected by the local church?

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Great question, Foster. By “community” in this context, I’m talking about the church becoming genuine family for members– not so much the actual, phyisical community. Sorry for the confusion. 

  • Andrew Kulp says:

    I’m proud to be a part of the pioneers on #1…

    I think #2 & #8 are also be tied to the expense of facilities and being good stewards by sharing and increasing usefulness, especially in urban areas. I currently attend a church sharing a building with a total of 3 congregations.

    #3 & #7 are related, meaningful relationships are huge. But I am convinced that churches are terrible at helping people build relationships if they aren’t good at it already. Countless people come to churches, try to get involved, have a hard time, see others seemingly come and jump right in, so they give up, and move on. After a few tries at a few churches, they give up. They find it easier to build relationships in thier secular communities than in local churches. I personally wish I had an easy solution, but I don’t.

    #10 is encouraging and I hope true!

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