Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Number One Reason for Decline in Church Attendance

In this post Thom Rainer hits the nail on the head in regard to the growing category of the semi-churched in our faith communities. As a pastor and planter of a church with a large percentage of 25-35 year olds, I think the semi-churched mindset is even more pronounced. Sited reasons for inconsistent attendance includes the desire to travel, strong ties to extended family, and the demands of young family life. But are these really valid interruptions to the priority of Christian community? Maybe, but these challenges aren't new, after all the distractions of youth and young family have always been an issue. What does appear to be a new and growing mindset among believers, is a decreased sense of need and value for Biblical community.

Here's some additional reflections on the issue from Kevin DeYoung. Some good insights are included regarding how we can begin to address the problem in our churches. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Arrogant and Impatient Church Planters

Some good thoughts here from Bruce Wesley for both those who oversee church planting and for church planters in general. Sometimes people justify arrogance as confident leadership and impatience as a strong work ethic. But we need to call a spade a spade. At the heart of these problems is a root of pride that will ultimately betray the hopes of a planter and pastor by making you a leader who is unapproachable and ultimately ineffective. A good argument for a good assessment, coaching, and accountability plan for all planters and pastors.

Cultivating a Healthy Group Identity

In this post Brandon Cox identifies some characteristics of a healthy group life in your church. He also provides some metrics that clarify the measure of success for each of these categories. As they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day. If we have any hopes of creating healthy community in our churches and church plants, we need to do more than just celebrate the few things we do well. Embracing a clear and comprehensive vision for success helps to provide alignment and accountability as we work toward a healthy communal identity.

1. There is a consistency in meeting and a desire to meet.
2. There is genuine authenticity and transparent sharing.
3. People are growing in knowledge, but they are also growing in grace.
4. Real community and friendship is increasing.
5. There is an intentionality about serving together and developing as leaders.
6. There is a culture of inclusion and inviting.
7. New hosts are stepping forward.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Religious Make-up In The United States

The Business Insider magazine recently put out this map representing the largest participating religious groups in our nation. You can argue the influence of the mega-church all you want, but nothing matches the cultural and spiritual impact of a blanket of churches covering entire regions. Why, because mega churches grow and shrink based on the leadership gifts of one person, but churches tend to maintain viability for generations.

Soapbox warning...

Because the nation is blanketed in churches does that mean the work is finished? No, because...

  1. Population is growing faster than churches
  2. If the pursuit is Gospel-centered word-centered churches then there is still a great need in many regions
  3. There are still churches dying every year so we need to keep up and surpass the loss of those churches
The U.S. is reached so we should just focus on global initiatives. No, because...
  1. Our approach should be both/and because the US movement of churches will fund our global movement. In this regard we need a healthy movement of church expansion.
  2. The previously mentioned statistics regarding population growth suggests the Christian Gospel is actually losing ground.
  3. New churches reach new generations. New generations are the workforce behind the global movement of the Gospel so, rather than not plant churches, let's plant a bunch of churches with a strong vision for global mission. 
We should focus on organic (less institutional) models of church planting because that's how we'll reach future generations of unbelievers. No, because....
  1. The biblical model of church planting shows us that mission expansion looks something like this.... discipleship leads to conversion, conversion leads to church membership, membership leads to governance. Purely organic missional models aren't doing this. 
  2. Our focus should be to incorporate missionally progressive models of discipleship into Biblical church planting movements. In other words how we do mission better should be part of our model for church multiplication, not a replacement for church multiplication.
  3. Similar to the mega-churches lack of influence for generations, the organic church movement won't last because it does't have the necessary governance structures in place to sustain generations of influence.
What's my point? We need to get busy planting churches!