Lots of people are wondering what the future of the church will look like as we live in an increasingly secularized society.
Count me among those.
So, when I met recently with Ken Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in the Tampa suburb of Lutz, I looked around his beautiful campus and then popped the question: What did he think the future of the universal church would look like?
“The church is Jesus’ bride. We know that,” Pastor Ken said. “Jesus didn’t say: I’ll build you a church, Ken Whitten. He didn’t say: Ken Whitten, I want you to build me a church. He said: Ken Whitten, I’ll build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
“It’s his bride. He’s going to take care of it. He’s got a bride. … The church is going to be OK. I think the form of the church can change in this way: We may be the last group of people that start enduring persecution, but I believe America will experience it. And I think when America experiences it, when freedoms are lost, the form will have to change.
“We’re free to meet three times a week and [for] as long as we want. They’re not able to do that in Pakistan; they’re not able to do that in Egypt. The form very well could change. I’m not a prophet. I’m not predicting anything; I’m just saying, when I pick up the Bible and I say: ‘Do we want to be like the book of Acts, like what I Peter is describing?’ I have to accept the reality that the form of the church may change—that the house church could be more predominant than we’ve ever seen it.
“I pray that we have religious freedom. I pray the Gospel will continue to prosper. The Gospel is not going to stop. In fact, the church’s future looks better and brighter; you and I have seen that from the word of God, when the heat is on. Like a bag of tea, strength comes out in hot water.”
A video of our conversation will appear on goFBW.com later this month, and an edited version of our conversation will appear as the “Behind the Pulpit” feature in the February print edition of the Florida Baptist Witness, which will be mailed on Jan. 26th.
Kevin Bumgarner is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness. He can be reached via email at kbumgarner@goFBW.com, and followed on Twitter @FBW_editor