Don’t ignore what is happening around world and its impact on the church!
In this Session the two presenters, a Christian professor of sociology from Canada and an individual from London offered these observations.
Since the early 1980s when Canada adopted a charter of rights and privileges, there has been a precipitous decline of the influence of Christianity in Canada. Prior to that they would have been called a “Christian” country do to their English roots and the influence of the Anglocan Church in Canada. Secularization began to occur both in the public dialogue as well as in academia. As a result even in the mainline churches in Canada, they began to shift their focus from a bold confession of Christ to focusing on social justice issues.
As a result in Canada, these statistics were offered: Do most people in Canada believe in God? No
- 27% of Millennials identify as Christians
- 29% of Millennials identify as atheists and agnostics
As a Christian sociologists, David Haskell, suggested that while churches have focused much on “eternal life” preaching (What I understood as our focus is helping people see the value and importance of Christ is the way to eternal life.), it is perhaps time to take an approach that shows the empirical value of the Christian life in the present. Not that eternal life is not important, but create an argument that Christianity presents a better position/way to live. Show the good Christianity has done, and does do. Present how statistics show that Christians are the most psychologically well adjusted, the happiest in the world. Then show them the God of the Bible that allows this to be true. (My understanding of this was to help people see the value for Christ and his ways opposed to other systems of thinking and living)
Haskel also offered insights into what he found in studying declining and growing churches in Canada. Here’s the key findings:
- Conservative Theology – significantly predicts growth in the church
- Clear mission and purpose aligned with Christ’s mission and purpose. You only have clear mission and purpose when you are guided by the one who gave the mission and purpose – it is caused by adherence to doctrine. 100% of growing churches indicated that they should be working to convert people to Christianity. 50% of declining churches said the same.
These two were the strongest findings, but in addition compared to declining churches, growing church also did the following:
- Focus on youth and connecting them to Jesus
- Having a contemporary worship experience that makes use of media, informal liturgy, etc.
Another observation is that the leaders of these churches were leading the way in strong conservative biblical doctrine and leading the congregation to understand their mission and purpose. Declining churches, the members actually had a stronger conviction than the pastors and leaders in these two areas. (My observation: Everything rises and falls on leadership!)
The second presenter James Haskell, made these observations about the church in England:
A drastic change is the number of youth in the Anglocan Church. In 2017 there were an average of 3 per church. The average age of congregations is rapidly increasing.
He noted we are operating in three realities:
- 1. Post modern: There is a reaction that church is part of a bygone era. Whether liturgies, cathedrals – feels “old fashioned” or the contemporary church feels like a 1970s rock concert. This is forcing the church to ask, “What do I have to change to reach today’s culture.”
- 2. Post-Christendom era (Christianity associated with state and empire – is over) This thinking equates that because Christianity is the religion of the state – either officially or unofficially, people will come to church. This is challenging the paradigm that people come to church because we are a Christian culture. They aren’t.
- 3. Post-Christian Culture – We now live in a pluralist culture – People don’t just expect the Christian voice in the public arena, but expect a range of voices and viewpoints and religions in the school and public space.
A reminder was given that God’s people many times have been in exile and marginalized and the Church has continued.
The presenters left with a few focal comments:
- Stay faithful to the Gospel message – if you don’t have that you are in decline
- “The point of the church is to transform the world” Get on the ground and work it. Show a concern for the hurts and concerns of the world. Show up as a Christian in that.
The following sessions spent much time on the opportunities to serve people around the world and at home. Especially pointing out the unique opportunities presenting with immigrants, refugees and religious persecution around the world.
Of note was that many of the refugees that are seeking to come to the US are persecuted Christians from the countries banned to enter. Not all of them, but a good percentage.
Session 2: How Generation Z Will Shape the Future
This was our second session this afternoon and had a focus on understanding Generation Z which are those under 20. This can also be called the digital generation. Taking time to understand them is important. Here are some key thoughts from this session.
What are some things that make this generation unique?
• They are the I-Generation (iphone, ipod, ipad, etc.)
• They are used to communicating digitally and are VERY good at it.
• They are used to two-way communication; interactive and participating back and forth
• Very in tune to being “sold-to”
• Access to infinite information via google, siri, or Alexa
• Shooting and editing videos is common – they are good at it.
• They more than other generations can “start” things and impact the world (young entrepreneurs – they see on Shark Tank, America’s Got Talent, etc.)
• They are globally aware – both with the good and the bad.
• They younger children can carry stress about world evils and tragedies – hard to differentiate what is a threat at home vs what happens in the world around them
• Interested in individuality – they can have a platform on a world audience and look to stand out in that crowd.
What are some things to work well with this generation?
• Take time to listen and learn from them. Don’t just “deal” with them.
• Take time to teach them to use the tool of the smart phone to their benefit and also point out real cautions.
• Don’t replace people interaction with screens – engage them and get to know them.
• This generation will help us connect globally as a church. They are used to interacting with the global community.
• Don’t over parent or over protect your child. Allow them opportunity to wrestle through and work through life challenges.
• Be careful not to communicate “be safe” to create fear of living in a youth. Rather encourage them to “Be bold!” Encourage them to be strong in the Lord.
The big take away from this was a focus on “Relational Relevance” vs “Cultural Relevance” My understanding of this point was to focus on developing meaningful relationships with this generation and helping them to do the same. To try to keep up with culture is tough as it is changing so fast, but what this generation (like others) desires is meaningful, caring relationships where they are respected not as the future, but as the present; not as by standers, but contributors. Many are lacking relationships with people who genuinely care – the other generations can be part of providing and mentoring this.
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?