The American Church Landscape
For most of the last 36 years of my life I have been on the staff of a local church; so, I like to think that gives me some “depth perception” — I’ve observed the landscape of the church for nearly 4 decades! That said, the health of the church in America has never been more alarming. According to the United States Census Bureau Records, 4000 churches close their doors each year while only 1000 new churches start up. Every year, 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity; or, put another way, people are leaving the church! Since 1992, church attendance has dropped around 13% while population growth as increased by 9%. If we all do the math we’ll all come up with the same conclusion — we’re losing ground! And, it’s snow balling! “Humanly” speaking it’s an irreversible trend!
Thankfully, we serve a God that is neither limited by nor impressed with human trends. He transcends human trends! He loves to step into our world supernaturally & overcome all human logic and wisdom by His eternal power; and, He does it for the glory of His name!
How Should We Respond?
I’m privileged to be part of an Elder team that really cares about the church to whom we minister. We begin each of our meetings in prayer — sometimes lengthy prayer — seeking God’s direction for our meeting and for His church.
One of our Biblical titles is “Overseer” — pretty straight forward, isn’t it? We’re responsible for the “oversight” of our local church ministry. It means we’re “stewards”! We’re not “bosses”; nor, are we “owners” of the church! It belongs to Jesus because He “bought” us; and, we’re not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19,20)! As Elders, we “oversee” the work on His behalf.
We concluded that too much of our ministry effort, in the past, has been the pooling of human wisdom. We had bowed down to the “Idol of Pragmatism” which led us to “add this ministry” or “do it this way” because it worked at Mega Bible Church in Big City, USA. Which begs the question, if it’s Jesus’ church why don’t we ask Him how to run His church? And, so we did!
What Should We Value In Ministry?
What you’re reading, in this series of posts, is the result of months of prayer time & Scripture study in an all-out effort to discover what Jesus would have us “value” in our local church ministry — “Ministry Values”! And let me be clear about something from the start: these are NOT our Ministry Values because we say they are! As an Elder team, we’ve carefully studied God’s Word in an attempt to “confirm” what He wants us to value in ministry!
You may not come to the same conclusions as we have! And, I’m okay with that! Can you be okay with that? Every local church should be an individual expression of our Awesome God’s creative character! My son has his own little saying when we play games together as a family: “You be you,” he says. In other words, play the game the way you play it! You don’t have to play it like everyone else!
Let’s stop trying to be like every other church! You need to uncover who God made you to be through prayer, fasting, and a healthy diet of the God’s Word! Be still; and, know who God made you to be! When you discover “who” that is, it will set you free; and, provide passion & meaning to your local church ministry that trying to copy all the “big dogs” never will!
Right now we find ourselves on an exhilarating journey as a church. It’s a paradigm shift in the way we do church — rather than sitting around a table wringing our hands over “church business” we are learning to pray together and seek God’s help for the work He has given us to oversee!
We’ve Focused On All The Wrong Thing
I submit to you that the reason for decline in the church has been one of FOCUS — for decades we’ve focused on all the wrong things: politics, issues, music & worship styles, church attire, seekers, etc. We’ve made church about our agenda; our personal “hobby horses”! Not only have we been guilty of asking the wrong questions; we’ve asked the wrong person! We’ve sought answers from man instead of the All-Knowing One!
Let’s be gracious; and, assume that the church meant well! Her motives may have been right! But, in reality, too much church ministry has been done in the flesh for the last 50 years — when we work hard & pray little we’re telling the world that we have a weak God! When we pray hard we’re telling the world we need His presence in our ministry or nothing will happen!
If you’re like me, you long to see something happen! I long for a great moving of God’s Holy Spirit — one that brings the saints to their knees in repentant broken humility; and, one that brings the lost to an awareness of their lostness and their need for Jesus, the Savior!
I hunger for the presence of God to be manifested in our local church community of faith; to see the trail of His glory made known through the changed lives of our people. That’s the “Ministry Value” I plan to flesh out in my next post — Living each day in a way that brings God glory!
Thanks for blessing me with your time! Hope you’ll share some encouraging feedback! Like Jesus told Peter: “Feed My Sheep!”