It’s going to take all types

The church in America isn’t growing

In every community around the United States only about 5-10% of people attend a church on any given weekend. (Easter & Christmas, let’s bump that to 15%.) If you believe that Jesus intended His church as the primary instrument of the Gospel spreading and prevailing in a community… this is a problem we need to deal with.

First, some people question my math. My encouragement, do the math for yourself. In the next hour call every church in your zip code and ask them for last Sunday’s actual attendance. Then divide that by the number the census bureau says lives in that zip code. You’ll see I’m being very generous by saying 5-10%. It is likely 4% or less. Even less when you consider that each church you called probably rounded their numbers up and there are a good number of people who are actually actively involved in 2 or more churches.

We don’t have anything to be proud about

I cringe when I see church leaders bash one another. Gluttony, arrogance, and pride are the sins of pop culture Christianity today. Everyone has something smart to say. Everyone thinks their theology or practice or church or worship is somehow morally superior to everyone else’s. When people comment on blogs they say, “I agree with you ___, but I disagree with you ____.” David summed it up well, “In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.” (Psalm 36:2)

None of us have it 100% right. All of us are equal in our failure to reach more of our community. Save your swagger for going out dancing with your “smoking hot wife” on Friday night. Name the biggest church in the country and then do the math. You’re rocking 25,000 in a metro area of 2 million? (1.25%) You have nothing over a church of 250 in a town of 14,000. (1.78%)

We are all just doing the best we can to figure out how to reach our communities. We should encourage one another– instead of wasting our time lining up to bash people.

Your theology isn’t any better or more perfect than the church across the street. (Within the confines of orthodoxy, of course.) And no one is impressed with your ability to make yourself look intellectually superior. If those theological legs aren’t walking next door to love your neighbors… well,  perhaps you’ve made Jesus your hobby and not your Lord?

It takes all kinds of churches

It’s easy to look at the style of church you like and say, “The world needs more of that.” But the reality is that each community needs all kinds of new churches. We should celebrate rich diversity in the body of Christ as opposed to espousing that one way is ideal and the rest are second best.

We need big megachurch-copying-rip-off-artist churches. We need Jim-and-Tammy-Faye-money-grabbing churches. We need earthy organic churches. We need old-skool-indie-fundy churches. We need go-to-church-to-watch-a-dude-on-TV churches. We need stiff-necked-hymn-loving-Presby churches. We need clothing-sharing-community-development-loving-missional churches. We need almost-disneyland-just-built-a-slide churches. We need honky-tonk-country-music-loving churches. We need hip-hop-driven-urban-family churches. We need big-hat-potluck-loving churches. We need all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people with the love of Christ.

There’s no room to say what kind of church is right and what kind of church is wrong when you are only reaching 5-10% of the population. We just need churches and we just need to reach people!

What’s worthy of celebration?

Churches working together. Churches loving one another. Church leaders choosing to unite. Churches choosing to reconcile age-old problems. Churches sharing resources. Churches sharing staff. Churches coming together for the greater good of the community. Churches flinging the doors open to newfound ethnicities in their community. Churches feeding the poor and caring for widows, orphans, and otherwise needy people. Churches tearing down the walls of their fifedoms for the sake of the spread of God’s Kingdom on earth.

Let’s celebrate and talk about that. Tearing one another apart? I’ve got no time for such worries.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.

9 comments

  1. We do more kinds of churches… more just like mine. And maybe if more churches could be like mine that 4% would be more like 40%. JK

    Well said Adam. I really wish that more ministry coaching, teaching, and training for youth workers would encourage them and free them to be who they are. There is a freedom when people are allowed to be who God has made them. Also, there needs to be more churches who embrace who they are. Sure, don’t be satisfied with certain aspects of your church, but don’t despise your identity.

  2. Another solid post Adam, very true. (although I did cringe a little on the Jim and Tammy Faye line – ouch brother, but I totally get your point).

    The math of it is saddening and I think of this all the time. As one who appreciates a lot about plurality, I agree that we do need different types of churches. I think one of the issues that we need to confront is not to be in competition with each other. I think it would actually add to the richness of our traditions.

    Alan Hirsch talks about how majority of churches are chasing after 10-20% of the population because theoretically, they are more likely to attend, participate, and give. But not enough churches are going after the 80-90% demographic and that’s of course an embarrassing realization to come to grips with.

  3. You’re onto something Tim. I could go to just about any suburbs in America on a June weekend and find that youth soccer and little league baseball are more popular than Jesus.

    Rather than lament about that or shame the 20% into shunning that… why aren’t we studying why those things appeal so much? Why aren’t we there connecting with the other 80% of the population?

    I think when we drill into those things, not just the extremes of the poor among us, we will find that the transferable message of a hope found in Jesus Christ spreading is not so unattainable.

    I’ve got some pretty difficult stuff left to write on this topic. It’s coming…

  4. “If those theological legs aren’t walking next door to love your neighbors… well, perhaps you’ve made Jesus your hobby and not your Lord?”

    Ouch. Guilty as charged.

  5. Preach.

    I love it. I love churches working/serving together. I love ministers and youth ministers from different churches and denominations praying and serving together. I love the idea of sharing staff and resources. I love that maybe we could work and serve together for Jesus and our neighbors and not in the interest of our own churches and programs and doctrines and that might just be what grows the Church.

  6. I love the way that you can look at these types of things abstractly. I often struggle with that, I am learning to slow down and do more self evaluation with the guidance of the Spirit. All that to say, very nice post…well said, well thought.

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