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!)