Friday, November 29, 2013

Responding to the Church-Going Exodus

Todd Hunter recently posted these statistics on Facebook:

- Only 20% of Americans go to church. The lowest it's ever been measured in the history of America.
- 8 to 10 thousand churches will shut their doors in next 12 months, never to reopen.
- America is now the most religiously diverse nation in the world.
- America is now the 3rd largest mission field in the world.
-150,000 people per week are leaving the church
(Source: Hartford Institute)

These are staggering statistics.  

One of the goals of Resurrection Church is to help shift the church away from just trying to attract people to come to a Sunday morning service.  It's important to acknowledge this is difficult.  Yet I believe if churches continue to hold onto an understanding of church that is focused on attraction, these statistics will only get worse.

We want to connect people in small, organic spiritual families that love and care for one another and do good in the world, popularly known as "Missional Communities".  The idea of missional communities is still new and mostly foreign to people.  But the history of the church has been filled with people and movements that have gone back to a simple way of life like Jesus and the disciples practiced and the early church carried forward in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our dream of seeing a movement of missional communities rise up is exciting, but also intimidating.  The temptation is to scale back our dreams and settle for less.  This is a side affect of consumerism and how we've been influenced by culture.  If a ministry doesn't rapidly look successful, or we face setbacks, we are apt to label it a failure and close it down. 

Luke 4:14-30 tells the story of Jesus returning to his hometown right at the beginning of his ministry. 
It's important to realize that at this point, Jesus was alone.  He had been traveling around the simple, rural towns in Galilee preaching, healing, and casting out demons.  He was drawing crowds, but he didn't try to coax any of these people to become followers or disciples.  He was just announcing and demonstrating the presence of the Kingdom.

In Nazareth, Jesus stood up in the middle of the people who watched him grow up and said, "I'm God's son.  I'm announcing the Kingdom and since this is my hometown, you won't accept me."  That, of course, didn't go over too well.  The story ends with the townspeople literally trying to push him over a cliff.

It would have been very easy for Jesus to become discouraged at this point.  This was his hometown.  He reads his "vision statement" right out of the scriptures his family, friends, and neighbors had been reading their whole life.  And they reject him…even to the point of wanting to kill him!  But this was no surprise and didn't slow him down.  Jesus just continued on with his work among those who had "ears to hear and eyes to see."

We should not be afraid to announce the Kingdom dream God has given us.  If the church culture - our "hometown" - won't accept us, then we need to go into the "other villages" right around us.  There is a huge population of unchurched Christians and others who need family.  God will show us the "disciples" to call to follow Jesus along the way.

So we're not going to stop…we are going to pray, we are going to preach, we are going to heal, cast out demons, and not get discouraged.  There is just too much at stake.