Mark Driscoll says the church is dying. Ed Stetzer says it’s not dying but rather transitioning. Recent statistics seem to favor both opinions, yet stats never tell a complete story.
According to Steve McSwain, author of The Enoch Factor, “between the years 2010 and 2012, more than half of all churches in America added not one new member. Each year, nearly 3 million more previous churchgoers enter the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated.”
McSwain’s conclusion is that while the church will never fully die, “churches are going through more than a mere transition.”
And he’s right, the Church is experiencing more than a transition and yet it’s nowhere close to dying. At least, not quite yet. But since everybody seems to be offering the Church advice on what ails it or offering ideas to fix it or giving long lists as to why nobody wants to come to church anymore, I thought I’d throw my own thoughts (in no particular order) on how to “save America’s Church” if that’s what you want to do. (And these are just ideas. And may not apply to every church.)
Stop overreacting. Ignore the posts and Tweets that are sensationalized with fear. Having spent the last year studying this country’s Christian history, one thing is certain, the Church in America is never at it’s best when its leaders are in panic mode.
That said, don’t ignore the trends and statistics. And don’t pretend they’re not real or that they don’t apply to your church. Because chances are, they do apply. And if your church isn’t experiencing the lull that’s happening in other parts of the country, it likely means it hasn’t hit you quite yet.
Consider your geography. Your worship community is made up of people who have been shaped, in good and bad ways, by its location. In fact, that’s what makes your church unique. Celebrate that. Become a living breathing part of the community you make up. A church pursuing “community” isn’t about small groups or a Tuesday night gathering, it’s about becoming one with the people who exist around you, whether they tithe to your church or not.
Resist being reactionary. Yes, Church involvement is on the decline. And your church might be feeling its weight. But wisdom is never reactionary. Fear is reactionary. Making changes to how you do church might be necessary–heck, it’s likely necessary–but pursue change with much thought and prayer instead of fear.
Nobody cares about your church’s brand. This may not be 100 percent true. Because indeed there may be some people who go to your church because of its branding. But I think today’s church culture has become far too preoccupied with applying good/brilliant business/marketing practices to the function of church. I think we’ve become so caught up in creating a pleasing or “cool” experience that we’ve lost (or are losing) the beauty that’s found in simplicity, humanity, and what celebrating God feels like when it’s not on a timer. And furthermore, churches that focus much attention on branding forget the importance of spontaneity and how often our beliefs and doubts can be affected by the element of surprise.
It’s about people, remember? We talk a lot about the Church being made up of people. And I think most people believe that to be true. But many churches seem to be forgetting that fundamental Christian ideal and instead treat people like cattle or like inanimate objects or like spectators or like idiots. Don’t underestimate people. Don’t assume their ignorance. Because in the end, it’s not about the building, programming, gimmicks, etc, it’s about people.
Ask the people what’s wrong. Because they likely know. If your church is on the decline and you want to know why, ask the people. If given the chance in an open environment, most will likely tell you. You might not want to hear it. And it might overwhelm you. But rather than reading a book, attending a conference, or copying another church’s ideas, why not ask your community’s people?
Stop treating Jesus like magic. Because he’s not magic. And though I believe miracles happen, faith isn’t about miracles happening, it’s about stories and journeys and experiences affecting other stories, journeys, and experiences. In recent years, many churches have become “all about honesty,” which is great, because honesty is a good thing. But what about reality? We all need some reality mixed in with our honesty and spirituality.
Who’s not welcomed at your church? Ask yourself that question. Because as much as a church is defined by the people who show up, it is also defined by the people who would never show up or even feel welcomed to visit.
Inspire the mystery. Church should be a community of people who inspire each other to engage the mysteries of God. And some worship communities are just that, an environment where to engage God isn’t just about filling in blanks but it’s also about being okay when the answers aren’t clear or are unavailable. That doesn’t mean church shouldn’t celebrate truth. But faith isn’t just about truth. It’s also about doubt and about the questions and about inspiring people to be who they are among a community of people engaging life’s mysteries.
And give yourself some grace. Because we can’t truly help to create a space where grace is extended to all when we can’t even extend it to ourselves. A pastor friend of mine once told me that the church’s problem isn’t that we don’t love our neighbors as ourselves, the problem is that we do…
(And PS: my website is under construction. Forgive the mess.)
Viagra is for the treatment of inability to get or keep an erection and similar states when hard-on is of low quality. When you buy remedies like cialis from canada you should know about cialis online canada. It may have a lot of brands, but only one ATC Code. Erectile malfunction, defined as the persistent impossibility to maintain a satisfactory erection, affects an estimated 15 to 30 millions men in the America alone. Sexual health is an substantial part of a man’s life, no matter his age etc.