Growing Worshiping Disciples on Mission for Christ

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Sizing Up the Landscape of American Church

Image “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Luke 19:41–44, NIV

During Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, he looked into the near future and foresaw the Temple under siege by outside forces. He prophesied that this institution of Jewish religion would fall to destruction. Just a few years from that day the prophecy was fulfilled.

Today, the institutional church is under siege. Just as in Jesus’ day, church people like you and me are blind to the part we are playing in the process of its downfall. It’s quite possible that you have not paid attention and are still assuming that all is well in our churches. We who have lived most of our lives inside the walls of churches have a tendency to live in our own world, don’t we? But if you are paying attention at all, you have an inkling that things are not like they used to be. Attendance is down, budgets are tight, and friends are being released from staff positions. Statistics point to the church’s diminishing influence in society, and we are being laughed at in the secular media.

1. According to Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, in the U.S. 65 percent of the Builder Generation (born prior to 1946) is Christian, while just 35 percent of the Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) and only 15 percent of the Busters (born 1965 to 1983) claim a relationship with Jesus. The numbers for Generation X and Y (born since 1984) continue this dramatic downward spiral. In Great Britain and Europe, there are places where only one percent of the population is in church on any given Sunday.

2. In a 2011 study, the Barna group discovered that 41 percent of all Americans are unable to identify any individual who they consider to be an influential Christian. Even in the Bible Belt of America, church attendance is losing ground quickly.

 3. Church growth experts say that as many as 30 to 40 percent of our existing churches could close their doors within the next 25 years. This statistic is not limited to traditional churches only. Churches started just 10 to 20 years ago with contemporary worship styles are just as liable to fall into the church club car trap. Would it really matter to your community if your own church closed its doors today? Would your neighbors miss your church if it no longer existed? Those are tough questions, but we must ask.

Click on the “Comment” heading up top on the left and share your feelings about the church’s statistical decline.  Are you surprised? Where do you see decline in your own church? How do you feel about it? Who will dare to share???  MP

(photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/tudedude/3523850114/”>tudedude</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;)


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What’s a Worship Leader to Do?

XmsfstPhotos04 058 What’s a Worship Leader to do about what’s going down over at the church?

In my first post this past Friday, I shared lots of statistics about the decline of the modern American Evangelical Church.  I admitted that it is tough to start off with that much bad news. (See Recent Posts on the top right of this page for last Friday’s blog.)

1. Please understand what I am not saying. The body of Christ is not doomed. The kingdom of God and of his Christ shall reign forever and ever! I am not saying we should be the voice of doom. A sign in a national tool distributor shows these words super-imposed over photos of all varieties of tools: “The Bad News: Our World is Falling Apart. The Good News: Our World is Falling Apart.” To us who have trouble using a hammer, the knowledge that the world is falling apart is bad news. But to those who earn a living by fixing things, a world falling apart means they will never run out of work.

2. Remember this: Our Almighty God has the power to fix this world. He uses our brokeness to heal, help, and move us to his purposes. The Church is his body, and he is the healer of broken bones. Ezekiel experienced firsthand God’s power to put us back together when the body of believers seemed dead and disjointed. So we need to remind ourselves every day that, though institutional churches are in trouble, God’s church for whom Jesus died will endure into eternity. May we never stop praying for revival in our land.

3. But until revival comes, worship leaders must find the courage to look beyond our job security as stewards of the Church Club and see reality. It requires real courage. It also requires faith in God and in the people of God. Most of all, it requires that we know that God will build his church when we follow his blueprint. Jesus said the people of Jerusalem could not know the way to peace because it was hidden from their eyes. Oftentimes, the people who are most involved in an institution are the last ones to see its decline. We are like homeowners on TV renovation shows. When outsiders tour the home and make negative comments about the design and décor of an older home, the homeowners get quite defensive and angry. The longer we live in one place, the less we truly see what is going on around us. We get blinded by our presuppositions, stuck in deceptive mindsets, held captive by our refusal to see objectively. God must take the dry bones of familiarity and breathe in new life. Only then can we become the vast army he is calling us to be.

Can a worship leader have any impact on reversing the decline in their own church? How? (Or is that someone else’s job?) Click on the small letters that say “Comment” on the top left of this article and join the conversation.  MP





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What’s Going Down Over at the Church?

XmsfstPhotos04 058Yeah, what is going down over at the church? 

1. Well, for starters ATTENDANCE is going down!  By the numbers from multiple sources, North America is the only continent in the world in which Christianity is in decline. And on top of that, the New York Times reported this week (Michael Paulson) that, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, we Americans have a tendency to over-exaggerate our worship attendance in polls anyway. Bob Lowman, director of Missions for the Metrolina Baptist Association in Charlotte, told me yesterday that he would not be surprised if as many as 20 percent of their churches will have to consolidate or close their doors within the next 10 years.  Yep, our attendance is definitely going down. I chronicled this downturn extensively in the first two chapters of my book “Going Full Circle: Worship that Moves Us to Discipleship and Missions” (https://wipfandstock.com/store/Going_Full_Circle_Worship_that_Moves_Us_to_Discipleship_and_Missions).

2. BAPTISMS are going down!  According to Lifeway Christian Resources, the Annual Church Profile showed a decline of 5.52% in baptisms across the whole Southern Baptist Convention from 2011 to 2012 continuing a multi-year downward trend. This decline is despite an increase in the number of churches affiliating with the convention recently. So we got more churches but still baptized less people… even with some SBC fast-growth contemporary mega churches registering baptisms in the thousands. Hmm.

3. The number of COMMITTED VOLUNTEERS is going down!  In “Top Trends for 2011” Barna reported (www.barna.org) that in 1991 thirty percent of self-identified Christians volunteered at a church during a typical week but that figure had declined to 22 percent twenty years later in 2011. The number of available volunteers continues to decline, but I don’t need to tell you that. You are probably one of the leaders trying to cover your church’s needs with fewer volunteers, right?

You are probably saying about now, “Hey Powers, why all the bad news? You dare to start your first blog post telling us how bad off we are?” Well, yeah, I do. And here’s why. The missional conversation that I am inviting you to join on this blog must first clearly define our challenges and problems. To do that, I need your input. Let’s be honest with each other. After all, a good leader always defines the problem before they begin to develop solutions.

Express your opinions and feelings in the comment section below.  What do you see going down in your church and the churches around you?  Is the American Evangelistic Church spiraling headlong into a landslide OR is God re-forming His church for a new era?  (He re-formed the church once before about five hundred years ago in Europe and Great Britain, you know… we call it the Reformation!)

Let me hear from you!  MP  (P.S. Share this blog with your friends and get them to join our conversation!)