It is the popular thing to do, it seems, to list things as one year draws to a close and another year begins; top ten stories of 2005; top ten most intriguing people; top ten movies; and so on. I’ve decided to make a list of my own – the top ten significant happenings in the life of the church in 2005. These are things that I think will have lasting impact on the church as we move forward. Click comments and share your thoughts. Here they are in no particular order:
1) The Christmas Service Controversy. So rarely does Christmas fall on a Sunday, most people will think that this was a once-in-a-blue-moon debate. I think that the underlying philosophical questions concerning Sunday morning worship services, the church and why she assembles, and consideration of the Sabbath and other spiritual formation issues are all topics that will continue to be affected by the thinking that went into either canceling or holding services on Christmas Day.
2) The Emergent Controversy. Although it did not dawn in 2005, the ‘emergent movement’ seemed to have caught fire in debate over the last 12 months. I believe that the term ‘emergent’ is so liquid that 10 different proponents would define it 10 different ways. However, the conversations being stirred up concerning the church in the emerging generations are going to be vitally meaningful and ministry changing.
3) Hollywood Appeals to the Religious Right. After 2004’s “Passion of the Christ”, Hollywood seemed to take note of the box office punch a bunch of religious and family minded consumers can bring. In 2005 the roster of ‘family friendly’ titles showed a marked increase over previous years. 2005 ended with an adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” and 2006 is set to begin with a movie entitled “End of the Spear” which revisits the mission to the Auca Indians and the deaths of five missionaries in the 1960’s. It may well be time to go back to the movies – now if they’d just lower the prices!
4) Joel Osteen. Though I’m not personally a fan, Joel Osteen’s rock-star popularity has him in millions of households worldwide. It is reported that his television show is on somewhere in the world 24 hours a day. His books are also instant bestsellers. As I have not read his books or seen his television broadcast, I cannot speak to the orthodoxy of his theology. I hear it’s a feel good type – Robert Schuller with red hair. I can speak to the visibility of his church and ministry worldwide, and that has to be a good thing. Speaking of Schuller, I hear that he announced his retirement last Sunday, handing the pulpit ministry of Crystal Cathedral over to his son.
5) Blogging. As evidenced by all the terrific stuff that you’ll find right here on my blog, the wave of blogging has come home to the church, with many great Christian aggregate sites and news blogs available. Not too many pastors have climbed on board yet, but my thinking is that this new avenue of communication will only grow in its appeal to ministers and ministries as a means of connecting with people.
6) The death of Pope John Paul II. Recognizing that the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church and not the Protestant Church, I’d still venture that his death in 2005 will have a lasting impact on the church as we go forward. The beginnings of Pope John Paul’s reformations in the church, particularly here in America in the wake of the last decade or so of scandal, and the Pope’s clarity in proclaiming the gospel will continue to bear fruit. All of this is being carried forward by Pope Benedict, so far, as well.
7) Hurricane Katrina. Actually, just prior to 2005, the terrible Tsunami in Asia afforded the church around the world with a catalyst to engage. Here in the U.S., this year’s hurricane season, particularly Hurricane Katrina, afforded the church a great opportunity to become involved in the lives of others. The effects are not limited to opportunities to physically help, but also to emotionally connect and to conversationally engage with others over real meaningful matters. All of this is good stuff.
8) Missions. With the release of the upcoming film “End of the Spear” 2006 will begin with a renewed consideration of missions. In 2005 the dialogue (in print, online, in conferences and in conversations) on what it means to be ‘missional’ is redefining church. I think this will be most significant in the life of the church in the coming years.
9) The Multi-Site Movement. In 2005 a great number of larger churches have decided to multi-site, or develop their ministry on a number of ‘campuses’. This movement often spells peril for small church congregations in rural neighborhoods who cannot compete with the tremendous resources of a mega-church moving in next door.
10) Homosexual Marriage Debate. The fervor picked up in 2005 as a number of states across the U.S. considered constitutional amendments concerning the definition of marriage. This issue will afford the church much opportunity to speak truth in love, or to injure and offend. Which will it be?