Here is the church, here is the steeple, open it up... where are all the people?
“The number of churchless adults in the US has grown by nearly one-third in the past decade.” The Barna Group, 2014
Barna Group President David Kinnaman shares, "The gap between the churched and the churchless is growing, and it appears that Christian communities of faith will struggle more than ever to engage church outsiders in their neighborhood, town or city."
The stats speak for themselves in Barna’s recent release “Churchless: Understanding Today's Unchurched and How to Connect with Them.” Churchelessness In America:
- 1990’s 30%
- 2000’s 33%
- 2014 43%
Sensationalism aside, the trend is disturbing at the very least, especially considering we are only half way through the 2010’s. While the research does not point to an exact cause of the growing divide between churches and their communities, Kinnaman asserts "monumental cultural changes" have made Christians seem "increasingly alien and difficult to understand." (Christian Post, Oct 2014)
Why this matters to pastors and what you can do about it:
That being said, one of the fundamental problems of the Church in North America are the antiquated ways we continue to show up in culture and society, if we show up at all. Rather than adopting the posture of missionaries that are sent to learn and love our surrounding culture, we continue to perpetuate a “come to us” ministry model that simply holds little value to those outside our congregations.
Compounding the problem, our methods of “outreach” and “evangelism” often come across as impersonal and self-serving. They extend little relational value to the people in our cities and, in the end, expect those we serve to “come join us” if they like what they have experienced.
Little surprise, the Barna Group concludes, “loving, genuine relationships are the only remaining currency readily exchanged between the churched and the churchless.”
Here are a couple questions for every local church to ask themselves:
“What are the ways in which God is inviting you to redemptively engage your community toward genuine, loving, and lasting relationship?”
“What are the measures you have in place to know if you are actually doing that?”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor, theologian and Nazi resister, stated “The church is the church only when it exists for others...” That must be central to our worldview if we want to see the “churchless” experience the transformation Christ intends.
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