Friday, April 06, 2007

Trends in the American Church

Recently I read a paper (“Measuring What Matters Most”) by IgniteUS, Inc., with thought provoking statistics. They were introduced as follows: “The following are issues that are endemic in the church in America. We must be humble, diligent, courageous, and wise as we seek to bring corrective theological solutions to this profile. Think carefully and systematically through these facts - - prayer is essential.”

1. Only 3% of the churches in America (386,000) are growing by conversion growth; people being redeemed, baptized, and becoming growing disciples in that local church.

2. Around the globe, Christianity is the fastest growing religion. There are approximately 4,000 churches begun per week around the world.

3. In America we close 70+ churches per week.

4. In any local church, 47% of the people are highly resistant to change. 17% are devoted to peace, don’t make any waves. They always side with those who oppose change. The collective result is we face a 64% opposition force in almost every church in introducing change.

5. Recent studies indicate that at least 19,000 churches are split or scarred by major conflict each year.

6. The average pastoral tenure is about 4.3 years. The most effective ministry occurs between years 5.4 and 14.3 of a pastor’s tenure.

7. Less than 1 in 10 regular attendees of Christian Churches give 10% (3% in 2003) or more of their income to the Lord through the church.

8. People say they believe in truth, yet, 2 out of 3 adults and 4 out of 5 teenagers say that truth is relative, there is no absolute truth.

9. The number of ‘regular attendees’ in local churches that are absent on any given Sunday continues to increase. 10 years ago it was 2 in 10. It is now 3 in 10, soon to be 4 in 10. This means that if you have 500 regular members, on any given Sunday you will have 30-40% of them absent. This is a clear reflection of values when the absence is discretionary, that is, they choose to not attend in deference to another activity.

10. There is a famine of hearing of the Words of the Lord (Amos 8:11) . . . People say that they believe in the Scriptures as the Word of God, but, when their shepherd seeks to make application to daily living and conduct, he is castigated, rebuffed, or worse, fired. Culture, not Scripture, shapes many aspects of the church in America.

Wow! Some of those I can affirm from my own experience. Some are like a knife in my heart, exposing the apathy and indifference of which I am part.

“Lord, teach us to love the faithless as You do. Give hands and feet to Jesus’ love by energizing our bodies by Your Spirit. Break our hearts for those who need to experience Jesus’ mission through us – the redemption of sinners and the relief of suffering. Forgive us for our idolatrous commitment to our own comfort and our sinful resistance to sacrificing our preferences in order to be incarnational to this broken and diverse culture. Amen.”

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