Today, our congregational president, Jim and I flew to Denver and then drove to Loveland, CO to take in a conference entitled “The Future of the Church” hosted by Group Publishing. Our goal is to gain learning, understanding and awareness of what is happening around the country so we might be better equipped to take the timeless truth of the Gospel to an ever changing world. What I hope to share is information that was shared with us. I will save a level of personal comment to after the sessions are over on Friday.
Session 1: “The Trajectory of Today’s Church”
Some comments that were shared:
• Most church leaders are now agreeing that the church is in decline in America. From whatever matrix you want to measure it (church attendance, new baptisms, etc.) the numbers show a decline. Five years ago there was still a level of skepticism that this was the case. Now it is real, but there is a sense of not sure what to do about it.
• Some statistics:
• 18% less churches doing Sunday schools this year than five years ago.
• 21% fewer churches doing Vacation Bible Schools than five years ago
• Southern Baptist convention has had 10 years of decline. 1 million less Baptists than 10 years ago; Baptisms declined by 5% (lowest in 70 years); Last year alone attendance declined by 7%.
• Those that would say “I am spiritual but not religious” has increased from 19% in 2012 to 27% in 2017
• Nones (no religious affiliation) make up 23% of population
• Dones (Christian, but done with organized church) make up 31% of population (about the same as those who attend church
• Almost Dones (one step away from leaving the church) is another 7 million people.
The group was challenged to consider two questions:
1. What do you notice in your area in regard to the trajectory of the church?
2. Why do you think some would like to deny this decline?
(PLEASE take a moment to answer these questions in the comments below – would love to hear what others think!)
Also during this session we heard from a gal who grew up Catholic, married a protestant, attended a Lutheran church. They ended up starting a church but currently are in “pausa” as she said – not active in a church, but still attend a small group. Here are some of her reasons:
• The emphasis moved from reaching people to emphasis on building programs;
• Volunteers not treated appropriately
• Church was inner focused and “insider driven”
• Bureaucracy and a seeming waste of time
• Get in a routine of doing things vs. out and doing ministry
She recognized that her busy life doesn’t want to spend time in activities that seem to have little impact on people and leading to spiritual formation and transformation. She commented that her desire was for the church to be a place of learning and growing to be better able to witness her faith in the work place and other aspects of life.
She offered to “do church the way Jesus did and Acts did” – Share and tell; serve and support.
This session also talked a bit about the tension and division in our country as an “era of disdain and scorn for each other.” Unfortunately the church is seen by some as part of this issue. As a result they can become a target of harm. One of the presenters shared the growing need and interest in having “security teams” to assist in ensuring a church is a place of security and ensure people feel safe at church. He talked about the skill of “verbal deescalation” to diffuse potentially harmful situations before they get ugly.
This provides a lot to think about and consider. I would be interested in your comments and questions. Not that I can answer them all, but to hear your reaction to this information.
More to come…
Maturity Is Defined by What We Wear
Every morning we make a choice of what clothes to pull out of the closet (or the hamper?) and put on to present ourselves to the world. When you were really young, your mom probably chose what she wanted to present to the world by choosing a cute little dress if you were a little girl or a sports outfit if you were a little boy. But as we grow up we get to make the choice of what we want to wear.
So what have you put on this morning and what does it say about you…especially as a Christian? Briefly, our spiritual maturity can be shown in how we present ourselves with clothing and attire that reflect our Christian heart and values – those choices are important too. There certainly are pieces of clothing or styles of clothing that better reflect Christian values and modesty than others. Use your wisdom in choosing these for your wardrobe.
However, I am talking more about what we wear spiritually every day. Here are four verses of Scripture for you to consider as you decide what to “wear” as a Christian today.
Romans 13:12-14 So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.*
Ephesians 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.*
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.*
Colossians 3:12-14 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.*
Reflect on these questions: What do I need to take OFF each day to better reflect Christ? What, with God’s help can I PUT ON to better reflect Christ to the world?
Perhaps just start with one little change in your “spiritual wardrobe”…what will it be today?
Respond to this email or make a comment on the blog post so we can pray for one another as we seek to “Grow Up!” and put on the Lord Jesus Christ more fully each day!
*Scripture verses are quoted from: The New International Version. (2011). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Grow up! – Maturity is defined by what you eat…
(This series of posts is a follow-up to a sermon preached at Cross and Crown on October 15 by Pastor Mike Geiger. The video to that sermon is found at THIS LINK.)
“Like newborn babies crave pure spiritual milk…now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
What do you crave? I have to say that it is much easier to crave the food that is not so good for me. At our pastors’ conference earlier this week the snack table was filled with chips, candy bars, rice crispy bars, and coolers of soda as well as water. There was a bowl of grapes and a cooler of water. Inside I wanted to load up on the things that weren’t so good for me. I will admit in the afternoon I broke down and ate a Baby Ruth candy bar…it was good and I haven’t had one in a long time! But I wanted another…
Don’t you wish when you ate a handful of carrots you would crave more of that? Don’t you wish when you had a green salad, you’d want another one later in the day? Craving things that are good for you is part of growing up. I hate to admit it, but I still struggle to crave the food that is good for me.
Spiritual maturity is very similar. The world around us has so many other things we “crave.” We love to watch hours of TV, Netflix or YouTube videos. We can spend hours cruising through Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. We dream about the weekend to head to the ranch, the ball diamond, or to the backyard BBQ. At face value these things aren’t inherently bad…it’s just not feeding our faith.
Spiritual maturity comes when we crave “pure spiritual milk.” This “milk” is the basic truth that Jesus loves you by living for you, dying for you and rising again. It is perhaps the clear teachings of Jesus found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is realizing the mercy of God that reaches out to us to ensure us we are forgiven, loved, and secure in God’s love.
But spiritual maturity doesn’t stay with the basic truths of God’s love, but digs in deeper so that we can help to teach others the truths of Jesus. “…become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). 11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)
So here’s a suggestion. Consider how often you are “eating” something from the Word of God and working to put it into practice. Perhaps a start is to get the “Verse of the Day” from biblegateway.com. Perhaps getting a daily devotion from “whataboutjesus.com.” Begin to “taste and see that the Lord is good” once again and realize that healthy spiritual food, like healthy physical food, brings greater energy, healthier emotions, clearer perspective, and much more.
Return regularly to the “pure spiritual milk.” Eat solid food so “by constant use” you are being trained to “distinguish good from evil.”
What do you think? What have you found helpful to grow spiritually a little every day?
What benefits do you have when you are growing in the love of Jesus and his Word?
Thank you to the many for the MANY donations to help those in need.
Donations were given from those in the church, the surrounding community and even mailed in from others outside the area.
Since the Hurricane we have had several waves of supplies that have come in. We wanted to let you know the donations have been given.
As we heard of needs, we were able to respond with the supplies that you all brought.
First, while we anticipated being able to gather and take them to our sister churches in Houston to assist them in offering support to their communities / neighborhoods, the call came to partner with the Georgetown airport who was flying in supplies to numerous shelters in Beaumont, TX. The need there was significant as many of the homes there were 100% flooded and many were in shelters days after the storm. We took several loads of cleaning supplies, food, diapers, hygiene items, blankets and more to the airport to be flown in. We also with a wonderful variety of support were able to take about 1000 PBJ sandwiches over with lunch sides that were able to be taken directly to the shelters. We pray they were helpful and found homes with people who were blessed by them.
Second, as additional items continued to come in …. while we thought we would take those to Houston, we heard again of planes going to Puerto Rico to help the devastation that has occurred there. So we have taken the remainder of the supplies to a drop off site in Austin and they will be flown there this week. Rudy and Humberto from the Puerto Rico Community Center in Austin, were very grateful for supplies.
Thank you all for your time, donations, prayers and support to reach out and care for those in need.
Prayers to share – September 2017
Please pray for our synod’s ministry work… (www.wels.net)
Hurricane Harvey –
Ministerial Education – Lord Jesus, you have called us to send workers into the harvest field of the earth to make disciples of all nations, and we know you go with us. Thank you for blessing our ministerial education schools – two preparatory high schools, a college of ministry, and a seminary – so that our church body has the pastors, teachers, staff ministers, and missionaries needed to serve us and others. Amen.
Atlanta, Ga., Mission – Lord God, as Christians gather to start a new congregation in the city of Atlanta, we pray that you would use this church to welcome the community to the wonders of your gospel. We ask that you would unite the members in Atlanta for the work you have given them and embolden them to proclaim the truth of your salvation, that there may be a resurgence of believers there. Amen.
India – Almighty Father, you have graciously entrusted us with your Holy Word and commanded us to go out into all the world to make disciples of all nations. Bless our efforts as we proclaim the gospel in India and address the needs of the people there. Let this also be an opportunity for us outside of India to reflect on the things we take for granted and to be reminded that you are truly the “one thing needful.” Amen.
Chattanooga, Tenn., Mission – Lord Jesus, in recent years you have worked to grow a community of believers in Chattanooga. Please bless the work of this body as they prepare to incorporate as a congregation, and watch over them in the years to come as they proclaim the gospel to their neighborhoods. If it is your will, let this congregation grow and prosper, that it may serve as an anchor point for many more congregations in the years to come. Amen.