The first big step is the Sunday morning prayer time beginning in his office at 8:15 which has been going on now for several weeks. His heart is to see that group expand to another room outside his office and finally to fill our sanctuary. So, our first step is not to talk or teach about prayer, but really pray together.
How much are we willing to change to impact our community for the Kingdom of God?
If you read just what is below, I think you will agree we in our local church need to change.
While at the Converge NW meetings recently in Beaverton, Oregon, Steve Welling, the executive director, pictured to the right, began to stir my thinking. Or, I hope this ongoing stirring it is the powerful work of the Holy Spirit as I consider our local church and my ongoing ministry with Prisoners for Christ.
I picked up The American Church in Crisis by David T. Olson based on several strong recommendations from church planters who said that I simply must read it in order to understand the need for modern day church planting.
The American Church in Crisis is a book detailing the results of The American Church Research Project. While I normally could care less about statistics, Gallup polls, and all of the Barna research in the world this particular study did grab my attention because rather than cold calling people, this was a study of actual church attendance between 1990 – 2006.
The book is full of significant information about churches, church attendance, etc. (i.e. on any given Sunday 17.5% of the population actually attends an orthodox worship service and that number includes Catholics), but the main thrust of the book is that the church in the United States is falling significantly behind in attendance when you factor in the large population growth that the US is experiencing.
The population of the United States has grown by 52 million people from 1990-2006…Among those new arrivals are 68,510,978 newborn babies and 22,873,578 immigrants – a total of 91 million additional people. Accounting for 39,611,000 who died in that time period produces the net population growth of 52 million people…While this robust growth in the number of Americans has taken place, no growth in church attendance has occurred! In 1990, 52 million people attended worship each week – in 2006 the number remain unchanged.
The big idea behind The American Church in Crisis is that churches grow in two primary ways 1) Having babies by evangelism and especially by birthing new congregations and 2) Having babies and raising those babies in the church. While this observation alone does not seal the deal on the priority of churches to plant other churches, it is a tremendously significant insight that certainly begs the church to ask the question, “Why aren’t we planting churches when there are so many more people living here today than just 16 years ago?”
The book is full of other useful and interesting pieces of information. One of the most convicting was a look at the demographics of current evangelical churches.
The American church is growing the fastest in zip codes that are more affluent…A similar study on educational attainment produced [virtually identical results]. Evangelical churches, in particular are growing in suburbs that are home to affluent, educated residents.
If there is a bias in Scripture, Jesus’ inaugural sermon in Luke 4:18-19 reveals the predisposition. His heart was drawn toward the poor, the captive, the brokenhearted, and the oppressed…If the church is indeed becoming the home of affluent, educated, and suburban Americans, we had better let the countercultural power of the message of Jesus reshape our lives. That gospel is for all classes and types of people. That was part of the appeal of the church from the beginning.
In addition to statistical data and analysis, Olson offers advice on what the church ought to be doing today to correct these trends. The advice and suggestions were something of smorgasbord as far as their helpfulness. Some items were extremely helpful, while others would have been better left unsaid.
In the end, this was a very good book and very helpful and forming my thoughts on the need for church planting.