[I wanted to take a look at the church in 2026, so I had to invent a little history to get us there. Next thing I knew, I had gotten carried away. It's fun to get carried away. :-)
Anyway, after my little future history lesson here, I will follow up with posts about some different types of churches in 2026.]
Jim wants to join a church. It's 2026, and he is a flying car mechanic. He's married, but only has one child so far. He was raised, like so many of his generation, as a consumercrat. His parents voted by the motto, "It's the economy, stupid," and so does he. A mechanic never makes much money and never keeps up with the styles, but he has enough stuff to feel good about himself.
Jim has never known a day that the answer to any question he had a life, the universe, or anything was not available with a quick search on the Internet. Wikipedia was his primary information source, even before it was bought by Microsoft and got so much more accurate. Even as a mechanic, he doesn't go to classes on fixing flying cars. He grabs his Toolbox Pilot (R), puts in his earpiece and let's the onscreen video answer any questions he might have about why the gyro stabilizers keep cutting out, or whatever.
Jim met the Lord in 2025 toward the end of the Walking Movement.
Regarding the Walking Movement, Wikipedia will report:
Massive shame at the moral failures of the American government under the honorable Mrs. Clinton's sole term scandalized the country in 2008. In response, evangelical groups within the Christian church politicized into an ecumenical third party, the Uprights, emphasizing conservative morality and projection of military power.
During the election of 2012, the Uprights smeared Barak Obama as under Muslim influence against their own avowedly Christian candidate. (The loss of the 2008 election, and the subsequent disaffection of the electorate crippled the Republican party's standing as a major player in 2012.) As the campaign descended into a maelstrom of name-calling and fear-mongering, the issue of religious conversion as political tool rose to the top of the national debate.
The Uprights were able to leverage both their decades of experience raising money for religious reasons, and the experience of numerous fund raising experts recently departed from the Republican party, to build a political war chest such as had never been seen before. They blanketed the nation with an integrated advertising campaign targeting multiple strata of society for conversion to the Upright Life.
The highly polarizing campaign of the Uprights, and the mingling of religious conversion with political canvasing brought America to the brink of violence. The Uprights won the Whitehouse, but could not pull together enough grassroots support to make inroads into Congress. The Democrats increased their already significant majority of both houses of Congress, pushing the Republicans even further into the background. The stage was set for political backlash.
This backlash arrived when a Muslim high school student was seriously injured during a protest against an Upright speech during a political assembly at her high school. When the President commended the speech, rather than chastise his own party, Red-state America was galvanized to action. Riding the unexpected wave of popular anger, Congress approved a bill to prohibit all organized forms of religious proselytization. Enough Republicans crossed over to the Democratic/populist position to override the obligatory Presidential veto easily. The Supreme Court ruled, unexpectedly, that the prohibition against an organization soliciting conversion to its religion was not a law against the personal practice of religion, and therefore was constitutionally valid.
The Walking Movement began in 2021, after the full implications of the new laws were finally understood. The churches were still fully supported by law, but no longer allowed to function outside of the legally protected boundaries of their own walls. Evangelism in every form was prohibited by law, and charity work was only sanctioned when there was no observable opportunity to convert to the charitable religion.
Bloggers all over the world initiated a rebellion based on the WWJD craze of the late 1990's. They asked what Jesus would do if He were not allowed to spread the gospel of the kingdom. In answer, they formed loose correspondence networks of people who continued to declare the Son of God come to earth, and His continuing reign on earth through His church, "in loco divinity". It was never determined which post, "started it all," but within weeks thousands of blogs had linked to hundreds of declarations of intent to evangelize like never before.
Walkers even began to find each other IRL (in real life) in their local neighborhoods.
These little "Walker groups" were not properly organizations, so the proselytization laws were not directly applicable to them, and they took full advantage of these loopholes. Simultaneously claiming house to house and on the street corners to be an oppressed group, and working under the full freedom of the law, the Walkers changed everything. They were not able to incorporate their little assemblies into tax-exempt organizations, so they were never able to collect money. Without money, they focused on the people in their immediate neighborhoods. In spite of this hindrance, the Walkers became wildly successful.
The Walker Movement became known as the 3rd Great Awakening by its historians, because of the wide perception that it was accompanied by a "move of the Spirit." Much like the Jesus Movement 50 years earlier, the Walkers were inundated with new converts who had never "done church" before, and were highly uncomfortable in the surroundings most Christians considered correct. The resulting forms of gathering that sprung up were sometimes praised and sometimes dismissed out of hand by the traditional churches all around them.
The Walker Movement waned when the Upright Party wrested control of Congress from the Democrats in 2024, and repealed the proselytization rules. With the churches fully free to evangelize again, they enticed the majority of the Walkers to "return to the fold," essentially ending the experiment for all but a few die-hard extremists.
Jim found the Lord in 2025 when he stumbled onto the last remnants of a little Walker group in his neighborhood. After three months, this group disbanded and his three best friends each returned to their pre-lockdown churches. Having nothing better to do, he tried each of those churches.
Charles took him to an old-fashioned church, with old fashioned doctrines.
Randy took him to a modern church, with all the bells and whistles.
Thom took him to small church, that had just barely survived the anti-proselytizing laws at all.
The next three chapters will tell Jim's in each of these churches.