In the circles in which I move there has been a resurgence of a softer, gentler kind of "reformed" theology that is tied to the popularity of several American mega-church pastors. I just hope it is not the another example of people jumping on the latest bandwagon in the hopes that if they imitate their ecclesiastical heroes they will be as famous as they are. I have lived long enough to see this happen on numerous occasions. It reveals a subconscious trust in technique to guarantee "success!" One of the lessons of church history is that God works in and through all sorts of different people and groups to accomplish his purposes. Most, if not all, of the American mega-churches would never work outside of the context in which they are found. Especially in a place like Canada, there are numerous examples of large American groups trying to plant churches using all the same techniques that have worked for them south of the border but with dramatically different results in this much more secular country.
Buoyed by their success in the United States, some mega-churches are establishing their own seminaries or training institutes to further extend their reach and establish their brand, or particular way of doing things. I have heard that one such group tells prospective church planters that "they are not just planting a church, but a _______ church!" Or that as a result of their training they want "their DNA to get into the students' blood." While this may be nothing more than grandiose overstatement, I fear that it indicates a franchise approach to doing church. Packaging one man's vision or way of doing things is short-sighted and can so easily involve an ironic denial of the major theological assumptions that these same individuals espouse and preach.
Much more helpful and healthy in the long run are co-operative efforts where many different churches within a particular theological perspective come together to train and strategize. There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors and there are different ways to do the same thing that are equally acceptable to God because they fall within the boundaries of his revelation. We must guard against a one-size-fits-all mentality when it comes to churches and groups of churches. We have have lots to learn from different people and ultimately we have to be faithful to what God calls us to do given our own unique circumstances and skill sets.
My own predication is that people will eventually reject the super organized, slickly run, very professional way of "doing church" for one in which there is genuine community, a sense of reverent awe, tradition and mystery that is so often lacking today. In fact I think many people already have rejected that model and that is why "church growth" is a misnomer in spite of everything that is being done. Today "church growth" is more accurately "consolidation" or about increased "market share" in a steadily declining market! The worship experience should be different than going to a Raptors basketball game minus the cheerleaders! Joy, solemnity, thoughtfulness, beauty, grandeur, intelligence, peace, conviction, resolve and many more things need to be cultivated and encouraged. May this new year see the Christian church as a whole make meaningful strides in this direction and may all of us in leadership keep our egos in check so we can see the greater glory.