This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive) that we have put our hope in the living God who is the Savior of all, and especially of those who believe.
1 Timothy 3:9-10
My desire is that North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene will become a house of prayer. We began this journey three years ago. Over the past 30 days our Wednesday night prayer encounter has grown in attendance. Each week we gather at 6:30 and begin with a short thought from the Word of God about prayer. We do not take prayer request, but encourage everyone who wishes to pray to do so and bring their request to the Lord and we will join with them in faith. We invite everyone to feel free to pray.
We then bow before the Lord and usually spend about an hour in prayer. A time of fellowship follows.
I am convinced that “In spiritual warfare, the church is the target, and the pastor is the bull’s eye.” Pastors are vulnerable when they stand alone. But as two pastors with T-shirts with targets, one over the chest and the other over the back illustrated, when they are surrounded by intercessors–laypeople who pray for them–pastors are shielded from satanic attacks to their hearts as well as those sneak attacks that come from behind. The target is not visible. So, stand with your pastor in prayer! The gift of prayer is more important than the salary and benefits he or she receives. Fact is, it’s priceless.
I would love to begin receiving reports of how you are becoming a House of Prayer. Houses of Prayer may become “supernatural churches,” a term I first saw in Francis Chan’s book, Forgotten God. “Talented, charismatic leaders can draw a crowd,” Chan admits, “Just find the right creative team, musicians, and speakers and you can grow any church.” Lamentably, he says, “It doesn't even have to be a Christian church.” You see, “without making a conscious choice to depend on the Holy Spirit, we can do a lot…(but) a growing and energetic church is not necessarily evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work.” We must walk in step with the Spirit rather than depend solely on raw talent and knowledge. This, dear friends, comes in response to our desperate need of Him. This will happen as your church becomes a House of Prayer for all the nations.
Get the book from NavPress. There you will find the nine characteristics of a House of Prayer:
(1) Prayer is visible from the pulpit;
(2) Prayer saturates every aspect of the services;
(3) Church leadership is committed to prayer;
(4) Prayer is an agenda at every meeting;
(5) Prayer is part of Christian education;
(6) The pastor has a strong prayer covering;
(7) Prayer is the first step, not the last resort;
(8) Intercession is an integral part of church life; and
(9) The church has a prayer leader other than the pastor.
You may conclude from this that it is not easy to become “a powerful house of prayer.” We know “Satan will fight every step of the way.” Nonetheless, persevere! Invite the Holy Spirit into your midst, and “see firsthand, the power of God transform you church, community, and world.” Who is building this house of prayer?
I spent a lot of years trying to unstick a church that
I thought it was stuck because it wasn’t getting bigger.
And I’d been told in virtually every church leadership conference and book that
if my church wasn’t growing numerically, we were stuck.
I didn’t want to pastor a stuck church.
I still don’t.
So I went to all the conferences on how to get unstuck. I
read all the books. I applied all the principles. None of them worked.
Pastors of fast-growing churches are always writing
helpful blog posts with lists of all the things churches must be doing wrong if
we’re not experiencing numerical growth. So I read a ton of blog posts listing
10 Ways to Get Your Church Unstuck, then applied those
principles to my
church. They didn’t work either.
So I prayed longer and harder. Nada.
Then I starting reading stories of pastors and churches
that stopped trying to grow but just implemented the principles of church
health. As soon as they did that, without trying to help God grow the
church—boom!—the church started growing like crazy.
So I relaxed and stopped worrying about church growth.
Our church worked on getting healthy instead and …
Nah, that didn’t grow the church either.
Finally, I left the modern church-growth movement behind
and went back to the source. I read, re-read, preached and taught about the
growth of the church in the book of Acts. Still nothing.
Question No One Told Me to Ask
Then I looked at my church again.
And I asked myself a question none of the conferences,
books and blog posts ever suggested.
“If I took numerical growth off the table, would I call
this church a healthy church?”
The answer was surprisingly obvious. Yes.
The church I pastor is one of the healthiest churches I
Which led to a follow-up question.
“If a church is healthy in every way but numerical
growth, is it really stuck?”
It turns out, my church wasn’t stuck at all. It was just
And if that’s the case—if a small church can be a healthy
church—then maybe numerical growth isn’t the be-all, end-all sign of health
we’ve made it out to be.
Maybe a healthy small church is an OK thing to be.
And, as I soon discovered, a healthy church that keeps
working on health gets even healthier.
You Asked That Question?
What about your church?
Have you been spinning in the same never-ending cycle of
frustration I was?
Have you been trying to unstick a church that might not
Is it possible your church isn’t stuck? Just small?
If you’re not sure, I encourage you to learn from my
mistakes and do what I should have done all along. Look at your church and ask
the question I finally got around to asking.
If you took numerical growth off the table, would your
church be considered unhealthy?
If it’s unhealthy, get to work on fixing that, regardless
If it’s healthy, quit beating yourself and your church up
for not getting bigger. That may not be what God is calling you to be.
Yes, you read that right. God may not be calling your
church to grow numerically. Despite what we’ve been told, individual
congregational growth is not a biblical mandate.
If a church is healthy but not getting bigger, then it’s
not stuck. It’s just small.
Is Your Church Healthy?
So, if we take numerical growth off the table, what are
the signs of a healthy church?
Isn’t it strange that we even have to ask that question?
Any church leader should know the signs of a healthy church, no matter what
size it is. But we’ve been so inundated with a grow, grow, grow approach to
church health, it may take a reboot of our heads, hearts and spirits to start
looking at church health through a lens other than numerical growth.
Is your church doing all or most of those non-numerical
signs of health?
Then you have a healthy church.
You’re not stuck. You’re just small.
So what do you think?
Have you ever considered that your
small church might not be stuck, just small?
Karl Vaters is the author
of The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking
That Divides Us. He’s been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and has been
the lead pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley,
California for over 20 years. He’s also the founder of NewSmallChurch.com, a
blog that encourages, connects and equips innovative Small Church pastors
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud
of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so
easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for
us. Hebrews 12:1
Last Week: NOAH -
ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Well, how much more do I need to say? It would take too
long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon and Barak and Samson and
Jephthah and David and Samuel and
all the other prophets. These people all trusted God and as a result won
battles, overthrew kingdoms, ruled their people well, and received what God had
promised them; they were kept from harm in a den of lions and in a fiery
furnace. Some, through their faith, escaped death by the sword. Some were made
strong again after they had been weak or sick. Others were given great power in
battle; they made whole armies turn and run away.
Hebrews 11:32-34 TLB
ACCOUNT OF DAVID’S LIFE:
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Don't judge by his
appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn't see things the
way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the
heart." 1 Samuel 16:7 NLT
key to life with God is keeping a “PUREHEART.”
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the
course of your life. Proverbs 4:23 NLT
to a Pure Heart
1. TRUST .
in the LORD with all your heart,
lean not on your own understanding;
all your ways acknowledge Him,
He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJ
And when He had removed him, He raised up for
them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man
after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ Acts 13:22 NKJ
David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and
with a javelin. But I come to you in the
name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have
defied. This day the Lord will deliver
you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this
day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of
the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that
there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does
not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give
you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:45-47
2. REPENTANT HEART . Psalm 51
Written after Nathan the prophet had come to inform David
of God’s judgment against him because of his adultery with Bathsheba, and his
murder of Uriah, her husband.
loving and kind God, have mercy. Have pity upon me and take away the awful
stain of my transgressions. 2 Oh, wash me, cleanse me from this guilt. Let me
be pure again. 3 For I admit my shameful deed—it haunts me day and night. 4 It
is against you and you alone I sinned and did this terrible thing. You saw it
all, and your sentence against me is just. 5 But I was born a sinner, yes, from
the moment my mother conceived me. 6 You deserve honesty from the heart; yes,
utter sincerity and truthfulness. Oh, give me this wisdom.
Sprinkle me with the cleansing blood and I shall be clean again. Wash me and I
shall be whiter than snow. 8 And after you have punished me, give me back my
joy again. 9 Don’t keep looking at my sins—erase them from your sight. 10
Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right
desires. 11 Don’t toss me aside, banished forever from your presence. Don’t
take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me again the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you. 13 Then I will teach your ways to other
sinners, and they—guilty like me—will repent and return to you. 14-15 Don’t
sentence me to death. O my God, you alone can rescue me. Then I will sing of
your forgiveness, for my lips will be unsealed—oh, how I will praise you.
You don’t want penance; if you did, how gladly I would do it! You aren’t
interested in offerings burned before you on the altar. 17 It is a broken
spirit you want—remorse and penitence. A broken and a contrite heart, O God,
you will not ignore.
And Lord, don’t punish Israel for my sins—help your people and protect
Jerusalem. 19 And when my heart is
right, then you will rejoice in the good that I do and in the bullocks I bring
to sacrifice upon your altar. Psalm
sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
broken and a contrite heart—
O God, You will not despise.
Psalm 51:17 NKJ
3. HUMILITY .
David knew that two things could overcome his heart if he
didn’t protect it: Prevent PRIDE
Personal ADORATION of people
Power of MONEY
things David did to keep his heart pure:
Developed a heart of HUMILITY
the men who were carrying it had gone six paces, they stopped and waited so
that he could sacrifice an ox and a fat lamb. And David danced before the Lord with all his
might and was wearing priests’ clothing. So Israel brought home the Ark of the
Lord with much shouting and blowing of trumpets.(But as the procession came
into the city, Michal, Saul’s daughter, watched from a window and saw King
David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she was filled with contempt for
Ark was placed inside the tent that David had prepared for it; and he
sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. Then he blessed the
people in the name of the Lord of heaven and gave a present to everyone—men and
women alike—of a loaf of bread, some wine, and a cake of raisins. When it was
all over, and everyone had gone home, David returned to bless his family.
Michal came out to meet him and exclaimed in disgust, “How glorious the king of
Israel looked today! He exposed himself to the girls along the street like a
retorted, “I was dancing before the Lord who chose me above your father and his
family and who appointed me as leader of Israel, the people of the Lord! So I
am willing to act like a fool in order to show my joy in the Lord. Yes, and I
am willing to look even more foolish than this, but I will be respected by the
girls of whom you spoke!”
2 Samuel 6:13-22 TLB
King David danced with all his heart before the LORD! Is it any wonder that he was a man after God's own heart? Are you willing to let God's glory and power into your life or are you too ashamed of the King of Glory?
Developed a heart of GENEROSITY
because my heart is in this, in addition to and beyond what I have gathered,
I’m turning over my personal fortune of gold and silver for making this place
of worship for my God: 3,000 talents (about 113 tons) of gold—all from Ophir,
the best—and 7,000 talents (214 tons) of silver for covering the walls of the
buildings, and for the gold and silver work by craftsmen and artisans. 1
Chronicles 29:5-6 Msg.
our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name, but who am I and who are
my people that we should be permitted to give anything to you? Everything we
have has come from you, and we only give you what is yours already! For we are
here for but a moment, strangers in the land as our fathers were before us; our
days on earth are like a shadow, gone so soon, without a trace. O Lord our God,
all of this material that we have gathered to build a temple for your holy name
comes from you! It all belongs to you! I
know, my God, that you test men to see if they are good; for you enjoy good
men. I have done all this with good motives, and I have watched your people
offer their gifts willingly and joyously.
Lord, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Israel! Make your people always
want to obey you, and see to it that their love for you never changes. Give my
son Solomon a good heart toward God, so that he will want to obey you in the
smallest detail and will look forward eagerly to finishing the building of your
Temple, for which I have made all of these preparations.” 1 Chronicles 29:13-19
Tomorrow at North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene is going to be an awesome day to be in church! Already I sense the presence of the Lord and the infilling of the Holy Spirit upon my message and the worship at church for tomorrow. Below is the order of worship we are preparing - but God always has the final word!
We begin with a welcome from Pastor Jordan and then enter the presence of the Lord with music and expressions of praise from our spirits....
We take a few moments to welcome one another with words of greeting. The Bible says that a person that has friends, must show themselves friendly." Let's make some new friends today!
As we turn to the Lord in prayer - it is an awesome day as Pastor Jordan and Alana bring their precious daughter Kyra to be dedicated to the Lord!
As we prepare to continue in worship, let us demonstrate extreme generosity, returning to the Lord just a portion of that which He has supplied to us! We will sing as we present our financial gifts to the Lord!
Running with the Giants
Part 2 DAVID
all the unlikely heroes of scripture, David may have been the least likely of
When God told Samuel to anoint him king, David was a boy tending sheep. When Goliath challenged Israel to send a champion for him to fight, David was
delivering lunch to his older brothers. But David became the hero that Saul was
never able to be, because he was a man after God’s own heart.
What makes the difference between someone who grows in
preaching versus someone who doesn't?
I often have to answer the strangest question anyone
could ask a preaching professor: “Do you think preaching can be taught?” I
always want to respond, “No, I’m just going through the motions for the money.”
Of course I never do, not only because it’s best not to say the smart aleck
things I sometimes think, but because I know what they mean when they ask. It’s
not really an unfair question.
No one denies that a preaching class and some coaching
can help anyone become better. What we question is the possibility that
someone with no natural giftedness and ability can be taught well enough that
he can become really good.
For the last 16 years I’ve sat in a seminary
classroom, listening to student sermons on an almost daily basis, and I’ve
heard every kind of sermon and every level of preacher.
I’ve seen guys so nervous that they had to stop and vomit
during the sermon, and I’ve been so moved by a student’s sermon that I felt I
had been ushered into the presence of the risen Christ. I’ve seen guys who were
no better the fifth time they preached for me than they were the first time,
but I’ve seen guys whose initial sermon was depressingly awful turn it around
so radically by the end of the semester that I almost couldn't recognize them
as the same preacher.
On the first day of the semester, or the first time I
hear a student preach, I have no way of knowing if he has what it takes or is
willing to do what he must to be the preacher he needs to be, but I can usually
tell by the second sermon if he does, because that is when he has to act on
what I told him after his first sermon.
makes the difference?
The most frustrated preacher is the one who has a sense
of duty, but not a burning calling.
Preaching is not just another helping profession, a
Christian version of politics or the Peace Corps. The call to preach is a
definite demand issued by the Holy Spirit that ignites a fire in one’s bones
that cannot be extinguished by the hard-hearted, stiff-necked or dull of
A preacher who has been called must preach what God has
spoken simply because God has spoken it. The success of one’s ministry will
depend on the strength of his calling. His willingness to work at his preaching
will be proportional to his conviction that God has called him to preach and to
be as fit a vessel for God’s use as he can be.
The Holy Spirit must undergird everything else from preparation
to delivery, and that will not happen apart from that calling.
Being a preaching professor is like getting paid to tell
a mother that her baby is ugly. It might be the truth, but it’s not a truth
anyone wants to hear.
Most guys I have taught dread my comments and cringe when
I tell them they missed the point of the text or seemed unprepared. They tire
of hearing me tell them they lacked energy or failed to establish a connection
with the audience.
Every now and then, however, someone smiles gratefully as
I offer corrections and suggestions.
Someone may even say, “I want you to be really tough on
me. Tell me everything I’m doing wrong, because I really want to do this well.”
That guy is going to be fine, because his spirit is teachable and he’s willing
to pay the cost of personal discomfort in order to be effective. He understands
that he is a vessel in service of the text, and his feelings are not the point.
Almost all my students are passionate about Christ, about
reaching the lost and about the Word of God. The problem is not that they
don’t feel passionate, but rather that they do
not show passion. What I feel is never the point, whether good or
bad, but rather how I act.
If my delivery of the Word does not convey that passion,
then my audience will not be moved to be passionate about it either. The
prophets were all passionate. The apostles were passionate. Jesus was
passionate. Why else would farmers, fishermen and housewives come and stand in
the Galilean sun for hours just to hear Him?
I once heard a missionary preach at the Southern Baptist
Pastors Conference. He was dynamite, preaching a great expository sermon with
incredible energy and moving the entire audience by his treatment of the Word
and his testimony of baptizing tens of thousands of Africans. Astonished by his
great preaching, I approached him and held out my hand to introduce myself.
“Hershael,” he said, shocking me that he knew my name,
“we went to seminary together.” Embarrassed, I admitted that I did not remember
him. “You had no reason to,” he explained. “I was very quiet, never spoke in
class and never went out of my way to meet anyone.” I asked him to explain what
“When I got on the mission field, no one would listen to
my preaching of the gospel. I was putting them to sleep. When I came stateside
and preached in churches, they were bored to tears. Finally, I realized that
the only way to be effective was to preach the Word in the way it deserved to
be preached, so I became willing to go beyond my natural personality and
comfort zone and allow God to make me effective. I prayed for the Word to so
grip me in the pulpit that I would never be boring again.”
His teachability led him to show a passion that was not
natural to his introverted personality. It was supernatural.
4. Reckless Abandon
The generation of students I now teach have grown up with
the written word—on screens, smart phones, blogs, Kindles and now iPads.
Through video games they have raced cars, built civilizations, won wars, destroyed
zombies and killed hundreds.
They communicate orally far less than any previous
generation, and when they do so, they typically do it with less passion. Yet
God still uses the preaching of His Word—an oral event—to edify the church,
encourage the saints and engage the lost.
So to preach the Word, a young man has to be willing to
get completely out of the comfortable cocoon he’s built in his personality and
habits, and recklessly abandon himself to risk being a fool for Christ.
I tell my students, “That little voice inside your head
saying ‘That’s just not who I am’ is not your friend. Sanctification is the
process by which the Holy Spirit overcomes ‘who I am’ and shapes me into who He
wants me to be. So if I need to preach with a reckless abandon that is foreign
to my natural way, I will beg the Holy Spirit to help me do it for Christ.”
Pay the Price
Frankly, very few students I teach fail to get the
meaning of the text. They often demonstrate an exegetical and hermeneutical
sophistication that astounds me. They are serious about the Word.
But they make the mistake of thinking that if they
just feel that way, and if they just say the words, the preaching
will take care of itself. And if they keep thinking that, if they insist on
“data dump” sermons that just concentrate on the content and not also on the
delivery, there’s not much I can do for them. They will be the kind of
preachers they want to be.
But if someone has a burning calling, a teachable spirit,
a passionate heart and a reckless abandon to pay the price to preach well, then
not even the limitation of their own background, personality or natural talents
will keep them from preaching the Word of God with power.
Hershael W. York is the
Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Preaching and Associate Dean in the
School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville,
KY. He also serves as Senior Pastor of the Buck Run Baptist Church in
Frankfort, KY, and co-wrotePreaching with Bold Assurance(Broadman and Holman, 2003) with communications
expert Bert Decker, chairman and founder of Decker Communications.
popular children’s book, Winnie the Pooh watches Kanga bound away. I wish
I could jump like that, he thinks. Some can and some can’t. That’s how it is.
see younger or more able men and women doing extraordinary things that we
cannot do. They can; we can’t. That’s how it is. It’s easy to feel useless when
we can’t do the things we were once capable of doing.
true that we may not be able to “jump” like we once did, but we can love and we
can pray. These are the works that time and experience have prepared us to do
is the very best gift we have to give to God and to others. It is no small
matter, for love is the means by which we fulfill our whole duty to God and our
neighbor. Our love for one person may seem to be a small action, but love is
the greatest gift of all (1 Cor. 13:13).
we can pray. Paul encouraged the Colossians to “continue earnestly in prayer,
being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2). Our prayers are a powerful
force in the universe!
and prayer are mighty works indeed, the mightiest works for any of us. Why?
Because our God, who wants to use us, is an all-loving and all-powerful God.
Begin the day with God;
Kneel down to Him in prayer;
Lift up thy heart to His abode,
And seek His love to share. —Dann
God pours His love into our hearts
that it might flow out to others.
David H. Roper was a
pastor for more than 30 years and now directs Idaho Mountain Ministries, a
retreat dedicated to the encouragement of pastoral couples. He enjoys fishing,
hiking, and being streamside with his wife, Carolyn. His favorite fictional
character is Reepicheep, the tough little mouse that is the soul of courage in
C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. His favorite biblical character is
Caleb—that rugged old saint who never retired, but who “died climbing.”
Over the past 100 years this little church in rural
Virginia has diminished and closed its doors several times. But now the church
is hopping. And the banjos are only part of the story.
For years pastor Edwin Lacy admired the vacant old
building from afar. And then he had the opportunity to imagine a wild new
future. He dreamed of a new kind of church that would reach the unchurched–with
a distinctly Appalachian flair.
Lacy chose the name Wild Goose Christian Community. He said
the wild goose, in Celtic traditions, is a symbol for the Holy Spirit. “A wild
goose will also sneak up behind you and bite you in the seat of your britches —
an apt metaphor for how the Holy Spirit often works in our lives,” he said.
To help make the old building a welcoming place for the
locals, he removed the pulpit furniture and installed a fireplace, and replaced
the pews with a circle of rocking chairs. It’s a decidedly relational
atmosphere. It fits the worship style that features banjos and fiddles. Lacy
himself helps lead the lively singing with his claw-hammer banjo.
The setting works well for Lacy’s conversational
messages. He recently told an NPR reporter, “I’ve tried to get away from the
performance and audience relationship that I had seen in so many traditional
church worship services. And so we have discussions. We read some scripture and
everybody participates. I learned early on that just ’cause I had a seminary
education did not mean that I knew as much about scripture or theology as a lot
of the people sitting in the pews.”
None of this takes place on Sunday morning. That’s
because Lacy and the congregation see no need to compete with the area
Sunday-morning churches. Instead they meet on Tuesday evenings. Beginning at
6:30 p.m. the faithful arrive and and share a potluck supper before the worship
time, which is called Wild Goose Uprising.
When Lacy started he hoped for 15 regular participants.
Now, one year later, 30 to 40 people gather weekly for a meal and the Uprising.
Keep in mind this church is located somewhere in the middle of the Blue Ridge
Mountains. There is no town–just a post office that’s open two hours a day.
Some Wild Goose people drive over an hour to attend. Every week the rocking
chairs get occupied with a diverse bunch of men and women, from teenagers to
Lacy said, “Forty rockers is about the limit.” A couple
of times they've squeezed in more, but that meant they needed to form a second
row around the circle. “The group dynamics completely changed when we had to
have a second row.” So now he’s thinking about eventually adding a second night
to the Uprising weekly schedule.
Lacy, a second-career pastor, hopes this Wild Goose will
inspire others to experiment and break the trends of church decline. “I hope it
helps other small churches think differently before they lock their doors,” he
to learn from the Goose
This church exhibits some examples of the “4 Acts of
Love” that we describe in our book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore.
Radical Hospitality. Replacing the pews with comfortable, movable
seating encourages a relational environment. And beginning the evening with a
shared meal extends hospitality in a sensory way. And meeting on Tuesday is
friendlier than Sunday.
Fearless Conversation. The messages here aren’t lecture-based.
The pastor shares his thoughts and encourages meaningful conversation within
Genuine Humility. Pastor Lacy acknowledges that others in the
room may know more than he does. “There’s leadership, but we’re all in this
together,” he said. And the idea of a small church is fine with him. This
church isn't looking to be the biggest Sunday morning show.
Divine Anticipation. The people of the Wild Goose invite and expect
the Holy Spirit to act in unexpected ways. “God is in this place,” the pastor
This church brings a whole new meaning to the wild goose
Is the American church fading away? Will the losses in
membership and attendance lead to a marginalized church presence such as that
in present-day Europe? What will the American church look like in ten years?
Church leaders, denominational executives, and religion
researchers gathered in Colorado recently to examine the church’s health and
prognosis. The Future of the Church Summit was sponsored by Group Publishing.
After evaluating current trends, Summit members predicted
a number of likely scenarios for the American church in the next ten years:
1.Emphasis on relationships. Whereas
the church and congregational worship today are largely spectator-oriented, the
new coming trend will prioritize spiritual growth through personal
2.Return to Jesus. The
current church is preoccupied with the “ABCs”—attendance, buildings and cash. A
Summit pastor said, “We need to deal with the idols of the church.” The coming
church will highly focus its mission, goals, measurements and message on Jesus.
3.Community focus. The
church of tomorrow will be much more engaged in addressing the needs in the
community. The church will be known more for its members’ relational acts of
compassion outside of church walls, taking ministry out rather than waiting for
outsiders to come in and sit.
4.Conversationally oriented. The
current church relies primarily on one-way messaging—from the preacher/teacher
at the microphone. The new church will rely more on person-to-person
conversation, sharing messages of God’s love with one another. Churches will
begin to trade pews for conversation tables.
5.Rise of the laity. Shrinking
resources will trigger fewer paid ministry positions—and more reliance on
unpaid ministry work. The concept of “the priesthood of all believers” will
Scott Thumma from the Hartford Institute for Religion
Research shared data showing waning church attendance, the aging of
congregational membership and the exodus of young people. The churches that are
bucking the downward trends tend to be either small (fewer than 200 members),
or very large (more than 2,000 members).
Thumma also cited that congregations’ financial health
has declined significantly over the past decade. In 2000 31 percent of
congregations exhibited excellent financial health. By 2010 only 14 percent
showed excellent financial health.
Congregations with high spiritual vitality dropped from
about 43 percent in 2005 to 28 percent in 2010, according to Thumma.
To transition to the future, Thumma suggested
congregations take a number of actions: create a listening team; get rid of the
concept of church committees; learn how to be the church outside of Sunday
Howe, author of “Millennials Rising” and “The Fourth Turning,” told Summit
attendees that aging Boomers are shaping churches in a direction that young
adults in the Millennial generation reject. He said Millennials are looking for
environments that emphasize a sense of authentic community, variety of
experiences, doing good deeds together, and student-centered learning (not
Summit participants heard author Reggie
McNeal predict that no one model of ministry will characterize the
church of tomorrow. Rather, several different models will emerge to connect
with the diverse American culture.
And British church leader and consultant Mike Breen doubted that the American church would go
the way of Europe, where the church has withered. He indicated that America’s
entrepreneurial spirit will provide the drive and the flexibility for the
church to survive and thrive in the future.