In discussing that, Detterick — who’s executive director of the General Assembly Council — on April 3 laid out what he calls four key challenges for the Presbyterian church from now until the end of this decade. Here they are:
1. Church growth — The PC(USA) continues to hemorrhage members – and year after year, the biggest category in that loss is the “other” category. That’s the category typically used for people who transfer from the active rolls to the inactive — “it’s people who slip out the back door,” Detterick said. In many congregations, the number of baptisms either isn’t increasing or is actually declining — and “baptism is an indicator of our passion for the gospel” Detterick said. New churches are being started, but more are closing their doors. And “we continue,” he said, “to be a very white church in a nation that day by day is becoming more diverse.”
2. Leadership — “The Presbyterian Church today is in a time of pastoral crisis,” particularly in small churches, Detterick said. And what’s needed is both lay leadership and strong ministers. In Alaska, he talked to an elder who was told that because there was no pastor, he would have to preach in his congregation. “He talked about the agony and the fear and the praying he went through for two months” — and how he finally did it and felt good Detterick said. But he also spoke to a gray-haired lady from Cincinnati presbytery who told him that she didn’t want to hear every Sunday from the same friends and neighbors she hears all the time, that sometimes, “I really need to hear a pastor.”
3. Linking evangelism and justice — “If Christ repeated anything enough to make sure we heard, it is that evangelism and justice are two sides of the same coin,” Detterick said. “For too long, we have acted as if evangelism and justice were competing programs.”
4. Spiritual formation — Vital, growing congregations offer a variety of worship services, meet the needs of different generations and cultures while maintaining a strong sense of community, have educational programs that encourage biblical literacy and theological study.