Pastors’ panel anticipates church 15 years in future
Dec 5, 2012
By JONI B. HANNIGAN
Managing Editor

ORLANDO (FBW)—The way people dress, how they connect, and what language they speak might change the appearance of the church 15 years from now—but truth is eternal one pastor said in a panel discussion at the Florida Baptist State Convention annual meeting Nov. 13 in Orlando.

“Truth will never go out of style,” Jeremy Gates, pastor of Westside Baptist Church in Titusville said in response to a question by panel host David Uth, FBSC president and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando. “People see authenticity. Truth is truth and Jesus will honor the truth. He said, ‘If you raise me up, I will be exalted.’”

Uth convened a panel of Florida Baptist pastors “from the north and from the south” to answer questions about challenges their churches are facing and what they expect the church will look like in 15 years. 

Members of the panel included Gates; Jimmy Scroggins, First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach; William Rice, Calvary Baptist Church, Clearwater; Dean Inserra, City Church, Tallahassee; and Otto Fernandez, Riverside Baptist Church, Miami.

PANEL David Uth, president of the Florida Baptist State Convention (right) convened a panel of pastors at the annual meeting (l-r) Otto Fernandez, Riverside Baptist Church, Miami; Dean Inserra, City Church, Tallahassee; William Rice, Calvary Baptist Church, Clearwater; Jeremy Gates, Westside Baptist Church, Titusville; and Jimmy Scroggins, First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach. FBC photo by Ken Touchton
“At the end of the day, people see through all of the programming, through all of the fluff, they just want to see that you are speaking truthfully to them,” Gates said about the importance of addressing current issues—such as homosexuality, fornication and adultery—with biblical truth. 

Truth, along with intentionally building relationships—like Jesus did in His ministry—are two things that will insure the church’s survival because they “never go out of style,” Gates said.

Rice agreed relationships are important in church life. He noted a “paradigm shift” indicating a move away from an “institutional structure” towards relationships. 

There’s not much about the church that will change in 15 years, however, he said.

“I still think worship will be huge as a front door to the church for people to hear and view the Gospel for themselves,” Rice said. 

Citing Florida’s large Spanish-speaking population, Scroggins said one of the major changes will depend on the church’s willingness to reach its community.

“We’re all gonna speak a lot of Spanish,” he predicted. “We are in a world culture that is changing and we can either be … the white flight denomination that goes and finds pockets in our county where there’s a lot of upper and middle class white people, or we can be a church of the Great Commission that goes and becomes a church intentionally for all people.”

Fernandez anticipated the church will gain strength in today’s climate since  “Paganism is the culture of the day” and “we are going to have to learn how to thrive and be witnesses in the midst of a pagan culture.”

Inserra said at 31 years of age he sees realities, and not trends. He believes there is will be a “sharper distinction between mainline and evangelical denominations” and a “new type of reality where we are viewed as absolutely nuts because of what we believe.”

At the same time, Inserra said he believes the church will engage the mission field in a new way “without selling out the Gospel” that doesn’t distinguish between Zimbabwe or Tallahassee, but sees all fields as legitimate places of service.

TOP CHALLENGES FACING THE CHURCH

In naming three top challenges each of their churches face, most of the pastors mentioned the economy, cultural engagement, and leadership training. 

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