As the global pandemic continues to affect our daily lives two years on, what has become evident is that life and by extension, the ways in which we know and recognise church will not be returning to what it once was.
As part of our ongoing series titled “Season of Emergence” where we explore how the church will emerge out of the pandemic, we sat down with Miles Toulmin, Executive Director of Alpha Asia Pacific to have a conversation about what might be some of the emerging trends of the church in the upcoming future. The ten points summarised below are influenced and inspired by Dr. Winfield Bevins, with reference to his podcast on church planting here and here.
In part 2 of this article, we summarise our conversation by exploring 10 possible trends that are emerging and becoming evident in the church around the world. Part 2 highlights trends no. 6-10.
Read Part 1 here.
6. From Steeple to Streets
We are seeing a shift in mindset from “getting people into our church building” to “taking the gospel to the marketplace, to people’s home, to third spaces, and into the community.”
For many Christians, we are familiar with the term “church planting”, yet interestingly, the New Testament does not use the phrase “church planting.” In fact, the first time the term was used was by Irenaeus in the second century. Up until then, historically the focus was not on planting churches, but planting the gospel. The notion was that if you proclaimed, lived out, and planted the gospel, the result was churches began. Churches were always the fruit of the result of planting the gospel in communities.
While back then, planting churches was seen as a way to extend the reach of the universal church, in modern times, the notion of planting churches has been more about the multiplication of local churches rather than extending the reach of the universal church. What that has created in certain segments of the body of Christ is this sense of competitiveness, i.e. who can get more people into the church building.
The current trend that is emerging seems to be a slight swingback into ‘it’s time to get the gospel out of the church building and onto the streets again’. This idea of getting the gospel out of the church building and into the streets will likely see an increase in smaller communities of Christians – microchurches, home groups, workplace fellowships, etc.
7. Professional to bivocational ministry
Somebody who is a full-time paid pastor is increasingly not the norm. Many pastors these days wear multiple hats. Alluding to our earlier mention of microchurches and bringing the gospel out of the church building into the streets, many pastors and leaders of these smaller churches typically are not salaried and hold functions in the marketplace. The idea of being bivocational means that the ways in which the church shares the gospel and engages with its community is changing.
 An article describing the ministry of a bivocational pastor on Faithward illustrates bivocational ministry as such, “Dual calls to marketplace and ministry can enhance each other; for instance, they help pastors build relationships and credibility in the community, and they open doors in the neighborhood.”
For various reasons such as the need for resources, propensity, giftings, and talents of a pastor, we believe that we may see an increase in pastors wearing multiple hats and stepping into the forays of bivocational ministry in the future.
8. Members to disciples
There will be a renewed focus on discipleship. Linked to the earlier point about the changing metrics of success, is an increased awareness that the spiritual formation and growth of people is a key sign of a healthy, thriving church. Numbers in a congregation are not enough to speak about the growth of a church. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commands us to “go and make disciples of all nations”. As Paul wrote in Colossians 1:28, “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.” The goal of the Christian life is maturity in Christ and as the church, discipleship is a factor or area of growth that needs to be considered, observed, and taken into account.
9. Addition to multiplication
The church multiplies when the people in the congregation are actively living a life that is ‘in Christ’. Doing as Christ did, proclaiming what Christ did, walking as Christ did.
Church planting is absolutely key in the multiplication of the universal church.  Tim Keller in his article ‘Why Plant Churches’ wrote that, “The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for (1) the numerical growth of the body of Christ in a city and (2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else—not crusades, outreach programs, parachurch ministries, growing megachurches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes—will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting.”
By necessity, when we church plant, we give more people the opportunity to lead and serve. We help grow the gifts and strengths in the body of Christ, and extend the geographical reach of the church, which gives people more options to encounter Christ and join a church.  In a separate article, Tim Keller writes that new churches attract non-churches people, are the best way to increase the generosity base for all ministries in a city, and are the best way to renew the older existing churches. The planting of a new church generally challenges the status quo, thereby keeping the church awake and on its toes.
10. Gathered to hybrid
This is new arising out of the pandemic and is still to be seen if this is something that will continue in the future. Many churches are exploring different formats and models for running church. The digitalisation of the church accelerated by the pandemic has changed the habits and behaviours of church goers globally. For many churches, they were inadvertently pushed into the digital space, a space they had never known or maybe only explored minimally prior to the pandemic.
In the years to come, many churches will continue to experiment with different models of church – physical gatherings, online gatherings, and hybrid (both physical and online happening simultaneously). The digitalisation of church has opened doors for us to access spaces we previously could not and in time to come, we will likely see an increase in the presence of the church in the digital space.
 In this article and conversation by Barna, Ben Windle says, “If we don’t embrace digital, we will lose the two new generations that we must reach, millennials and Gen Z.”
As the world slowly emerges out of the pandemic, one thing is certain. The ways in which we know, think of, and ‘do’ church have changed. We are in the advent of a new season for the church and how we respond to both the challenges and opportunities that will arise from this season will have an impact on the reach and effectiveness of the church in the years and in the generation to come.
 Keller, T. (2015]. Church Planting is What We Do. (https://timothykeller.com/blog/2015/12/3/church-planting-is-what-we-do)
 Connelly, N. (2021). Bivocational Ministry Is On the Rise, and This Pastor Is Embracing It. (https://www.faithward.org/bivocational-ministry-is-on-the-rise-and-this-pastor-is-embracing-it/)
 Keller, T. (2022). Why Plant Churches? (https://redeemercitytocity.com/articles-stories/why-plant-churches)
 Barna Group. (2021). ChurchPulse Weekly Conversations: Ben Windle & Jay Kim on Digital Community. (https://www.barna.com/research/cpw-windle-kim/)
Here at Alpha, our mission is to equip the church in its mission of evangelisation. Find out more how to run Alpha in your church here.