Futurists study the past and present and tell us what the future might possibly be. They analyze trends and predict future changes, for good or bad. Wise businessmen consider such projections when investing for the future of their companies. I am no prophet, but I invite you to take an imaginary trip to a large American city in the year 2050. Our purpose will be to visit a Church of Christ and worship with them. Given current trends and projections at work among our brethren here are some things you might possibly find.
You may find a woman teaching the adult Bible class, preaching or even serving as an elder. Already professors are telling us that we have misunderstood the verses that seem to forbid such. They tell us we have too long denied our Christian ladies the privilege to use their talents to the glory of God. A few trend-setter congregations already have their women teachers and preachers.
The minister or ministeress may well be adorned in a lovely clerical robe. Our objections to such practices will likely have been determined by change agents to be based only on our rural, frontier heritage and our narrow, unscholarly approach to interpreting the Bible. The preacher may well be identified as pastor of the church and have "Rev." affixed to his or her name. They would argue that such matters are too trivial to dispute over and our refusal to use them was just our tradition.
There might even be a guest speaker from the Catholic, Baptist or Pentecostal church. They will no longer think of the church as an exclusive body. To them all denominations are equally pleasing to God.
You may well find the service to be unfamiliar in tone and content. There could be a dramatic presentation, and possibly even an "interpretive spiritual dance." The service would likely be demonstrative with bodily gyrations, shouting and applause. The music likely will be contemporary and may well include instrumental accompaniment from a piano or organ and possibly a rock band. Rather than join in congregational singing, you will be expected to sit quietly and listen as the soloist or praise group present their performance. The choir will then sing their selection and finally the congregation will be invited to join in a hymn or two. Such features are already being discussed and rationalized and some are already implementing some or all of them.
The lesson of the hour may well consist of a brief story or parable related by a clergyman or woman. Little emphasis will be placed on the Bible, as "proof-texting" will have long ago been rejected. Nothing will be presented as absolutely right or wrong. Postmodern thinking will not allow such utterances. Doctrine will have no place in the lesson. Promoters of change concluded that doctrine doesn't matter and that it is doctrine that makes people disagree and divide. The story will come to a close with a call for those who want a relationship with Jesus to come and be saved by grace through faith. They will be led to pray the sinner's prayer and receive the blessing. Baptism will no longer be considered as essential to salvation since they have concluded that obedience plays no part in salvation. It may however possibly be retained for church membership.
Communion might be observed following dismissal. It will be offered in the fellowship hall, during the pot luck meal. It will be a joyful and festive celebration of the good life they have in Christ. This is already being advocated by some. There may also be a Saturday evening service with Communion for those who do not wish to assemble on the Lord's Day. The leading lights of our change movement have rejected the idea of a Biblical pattern that must be followed. They have concluded that Communion can be observed on other occasions than the first day of the week. The prevailing thinking in that element of the church is that we must give the people what they want if we expect to get them into our churches. Since other religious bodies are doing this with success, we would be foolish not to follow their suit.
Bible classes will offer alternatives for every taste. There well may be a class devoted to reviewing contemporary books, or perhaps classic literature with relevant themes. Others may offer health tips for Christians, or the challenges of aging. There could be an armchair travelers class which views travel logs. A class could study classic movies and television shows. There could be arts and crafts. A course in social activism might cover such topics as ecology, AIDS ministry, the challenges of leisure time, money management and other timely subjects. It will truly be a "felt needs" program. For those who are elderly and traditional in their thinking they will still have a few classes that study the Bible.
If you are currently 50 or older, and a faithful Christian, very likely you would be totally revulsed at such an incredible situation. Your blood pressure would rise and your stomach would churn. You probably would get up and walk out. I would! Such a group would be a church of Christ in name only, even if they were directly descended from a faithful church of today. If you searched hard enough you likely could find a congregation that would still worship and serve in the way you are familiar with. It probably would be small in size and likely on the outskirts of town or in a rural setting.
You may be wagging your head and saying "You are crazy! Such is so farfetched as to be insane." But my dear friend, the things I am seeing as future possibilities are already being done here and there by those who are clamoring for change. The section on the Bible classes is straight from the bulletins of local denominational churches. Our change agents are following these churches in all other areas and it is only reasonable to think they will embrace such programs as well. Remember, "Some shall fall away from the faith" (I Tim. 4:1).
As in all futuristic projects factors may arise that will nullify the prediction. For example if our brethren should wake up and realize just how wrong and destructive the change movement is; if they should show the promoters of change the door; if they should repent and turn back to God with humble and obedient hearts; we might well see Christ's church, as we have known her, surviving and flourishing in that distant day. May God grant that this be the case.