Every year, the president of the United States of America delivers the State of the Union address to explain where the nation is and where it’s going. In similar fashion Tuesday in the Hall of Philosophy, Sam Chand delivered his address, “Emerging Church,” on the state of the church.
Interpretations of church membership dwindling and religion dying off are misguided — the church is simply changing, Chand said. He found that all churches are following a common path toward becoming more EPIC, or more Experiential, Participatory, Icon-driven and Connective.
“I’m not a sociologist, I have no degree in what I do,” Chand said. “I’m a surgeon who doesn’t have a license. But I know who I am and who I’m not, and in the midst of all of that, I get to be in some of the largest churches in the world and I get to see their inside workings. That’s what I’m going to be talking about. I’m going to describe what is happening. I won’t be an apologist for them.”
According to Chand, there are two types of leaders in churches today: natives and immigrants. Natives are conservative, sensitive to change and rely on formal education, he said. Conversely, immigrants are more aloof, progressive, informal, visual learners and prefer hands-on practice.
These two schools of thought are currently reacting to produce the changes — 11 of which he then shared — seen in contemporary churches, Chand said.
“The first thing that will stand out to you about the emerging church is its changing delivery systems,” Chand said. “The message remains the same, but the delivery systems change around it.”
Following from this point, the second change Chand mentioned is the tendency toward multisite preaching. In 1990, only 10 churches received preaching feeds from other locations, he said. Today, more than 6,000 churches engage in the practice.
The third change Chand mentioned is the emphasis on social media and other forms of instant communication while preaching.
“We are living in an age where every social piece is being networked,” Chand said, using his podcast, “Tuesdays With Sam Chand,” as an example. Churches are using technology as an attempt to stay engaged with their younger members, he said.
He said “megachurches” are growing more popular, but smaller subgroups start to form within them. Chand likened the phenomenon to an accordion, which is both large and small at different times.
Many churches are averaging out around 5,000 members, he said.
“Megachurches, I call them the Walmart of the church,” Chand said. “You can be grocery shopping on one end and get your oil changed in the other. It’s a one-stop shop.”
Alongside their growth in size, churches are hosting more generations simultaneously than ever before, Chand said. This is leading to new issues from the banal (what music to play and how loud to play it) to the more interesting (what kind of knowledge or literacy to assume from the churchgoers).
“Most churches are serving five generations at the same time,” Chand said.
Chand’s seventh and eighth points were both focused on modern churchgoers’ practice of not having one “home church,” but several nomad churches where they are “non-member regular attendees.”
As Chand describes them, these non-member regular attendees come (more often than regular members), they worship, they donate and they leave. He said this is what churches must brace themselves for to stay relevant and keep their jobs filled.”
Churches that depend on members — that pool is shrinking, and it will continue to shrink,” he said.
Following this changing demographic is a dynamic church governing system and an outdated, lifelong commitment system to church responsibilities. Both of these systems must be updated to realign with the new tendencies of church members, Chand said.
Lastly, Chand said, churches are facing better preaching competition due to the new ubiquity of preaching from satellite locations.
Chand ended on a positive note, pointing out the church’s embracing all ends of the spectrum, using an example of how some churches require formal dress while others do not.
“Is one right and one wrong? No. It’s on both ends, it’s not either-or,” Chand said. “The emerging church is doing a great job of embracing both ends.”