An Elder Reflects…

Posted on April 12, 2010


I am an elder.

I like the age that I am now. I’ve noticed when I go out that there are more people younger than me out and about than there are older than me. I’ve noticed that my observations carry greater weight when I am with men who are old enough to be my sons.

I love the wordplay of elder – I am an elder who is by virtue of my office of ministry an Elder: “Priest” evolved as a variation in English of the church title “Presbuteros”, “Elder”.

This elder who is an Elder has been reflecting on the past and the future.

Take a look at this short news report about the internet, then I’m going to ask you to put on your thinking cap:

“Imagine sitting down to drink your morning cup of coffee, turning on your computer, and using it to read your daily newspaper… It’s not as farfetched as it may seem”.  1981.  Two years after I graduated bible college, three year before Apple introduced the world to Macintosh. That was almost 30 years ago, yet I remember it like yesterday.  How things have changed in 30 years.

The church has gone through massive changes over the past 30 years as well.  I’ve been involved in ministry for almost 20 years soon, half of that time serving in the Church of England and half of that time serving in the Episcopal Church.  Things are definitely different now than when I started.  Some of the changes have been great.  Some not so much.

But what about the next 30 years?

In 30 years my sons will be 53 and 51. My eldest will be the same age I am now. I’m guessing my grandchildren, if there are any, will likely be teenagers.  I will be 83.  What will the church look like then?

In 1981, turning on a computer to read your newspaper seemed “farfetched”.  This morning, I flipped on my iPhone and read The New York Times (or any other newspaper in seconds through Google News). The first newspaper took over 2 hours to download just the text.  And you had to pay for all of your on-line minutes! The Dutchman in me shudders at the memory.

I’m wondering today.  What seems farfetched in our minds about the church, that my grandchildren will think is normal?  What will the church look like in 2040?  Will we even recognize it?

From my perspective as an elder of the church I will predict that we will be the same, only more so…

  • Will I face varying degrees of persecution as a committed Christian in the United States when I’m 83?
  • Will I even go to worship in a building? What will I be singing? Will there still be sermons?
  • Will the Episcopal Church even exist in anything more than in a few isolated outposts that survive more from invested bequests from the dead than from the few living who remain?
  • What version of the Bible will we use in 2040?
  • What will technology be like?
  • Will missionaries from the Global South have brought revival and renewal to North America?
  • Will the most influential church in North America have its roots in China?

I have many questions.  Please give me your answers below.