Growth - For the Church and You
For those of you that have been following the blog recently, you will have probably noticed a series of Posts involving Personal Evangelism and Ministry. These posts layout the Biblical case for us all to go out and be a force for good, to be servants of others, and to fulfill “The Great Commission”. Today I would like to talk to you about the practical and worldly need for us to be out ministering and evangelizing, and why it is key to personal and church growth.
Across the board, Churches are losing members, almost every “Mainline” Protestant denomination has witnessed a decline in membership over the last several decades, and it’s getting worse. I bet you’ve also noticed that the average age of your congregation is also creeping higher…the Pew research center reports that only 11% of Millennials attend a church service every week, compared to 27% for Generation “X” and 34% of Baby Boomers. Now before you go off muttering stereotypes about Millennials and “kids these days”, consider this:
1) The youth of today face a more complex world than any other Generations before them. They are constantly bombarded with an overwhelming array of information, ideas, and advertising from TV, Phone Apps, Social media, etc. They experience increased and constant pressures from Society to get this, do that, buy this, think that…
2) Every Generation (and more importantly every person) is different. Avoid using stereotypes for any group, which is a quick way to build a wall between you and youth.
3) I bet your parents didn’t understand your generation either.
It’s not just youth that aren’t attending services, did you see those numbers? Only 27% of Generation “X” (1965-1984) and 34% of Baby Boomers regularly attend…and of those folks I bet the numbers who are more than just passive attendees (active in Church governance and missions) is probably under 10%. Overwhelmingly in these times, people of all ages, are struggling to see the relevance of Faith in general and participation in organized religion or a particular Church specifically. Why is that? What can we do about it?
1) We have become a Society of perpetual motion, caught in a rat race of our own creation. Families today are constantly on the move between work, sports, and other activities because our society (and economy) of consumerism tells us that we have to buy this and do that to be a happy American. All this running leaves us weary and short on time for things like attending church services and doing community service and outreach; we’d rather sit on our couch and send money to someone else to do the work.
2) The 24/7 News, social media, and entertainment cycle thrives off of drama and negativity, it plays to and feeds from our most basic human instincts by tapping our most easily triggered emotion – Anger. Scientists, who study anger, say that it releases Dopamine in our brains, this is the hormone that gives us a sense of pleasure…and it’s addictive. Are you addicted to anger? When you see something about Christians in the news or social media, is it more often Happy helping Christians full of Christ’s Love, Grace, and Forgiveness or is it angry Christians goaded into a fight by the media or politicians over something. I can tell you, if you didn’t know anything about Christianity other than what you saw on TV or Facebook, you would think Christians are angry, full of hate, and close-minded. Does that sound like what Christ taught us to be like? Have you fallen into this trap and helped perpetuate this image? This is the perception of outsiders of us, especially the youth; we have got to change that perception. We must have compassion, reason, and patience in order to persuade people why we disagree with something…not anger.
The Good news is there is a solution; the bad news is it isn’t one thing, and it’s not easy. Often times Churches think that if they just switch to contemporary music, install A/V equipment, hold more events at the Church, or build a presence on Social media people will just start showing up in droves. While all of those things are great, and very helpful, they will not fix things by themselves. Some people think that we should water down the Gospel because that’s what the youth wants…dead wrong. Study after Study shows that sticking to Biblical teachings, all of them, are what attracts and keeps people. People are looking for that deep spiritual connection and meaning that the Gospel and good news of Jesus Christ provides! The "enemy" is the negative perception of Hypocrisy and lack of Positive action. The solution is for there to be a conscious and constant effort from every single member of a Church, for every single Christian, to make growth a priority. First you need to concentrate on personal growth, read the Bible, study it, pray constantly and examine your actions and attitude to make sure they glorify God and God alone. You need to get that fire back, that fire from God that inspires you and drives you to become a better person and a better servant every day. Secondly, we must constantly be seeking ways to reach out and serve those around us, and not just the people who look like us. How many of us have reached out to that family down the road living in a dilapidated mobile home, or to the neighbor who is struggling with addiction, or even the new people that moved into a new subdivision up the road? There are dozens of opportunities every day for us to make positive impact on someone else by spreading the word through our words and our actions (or sometimes inactions and not speaking). We, as Christians, have got to get out of the comfort of our churches and homes, we have to get out into the world and get our hands dirty doing Gods’ work. We talk about Love, let’s start showing it! The youth of today (and generations past) want to be a force for change, they want to make the world better, just look at all the “movements” that have popped up in the last few years, on issues such as the economy, race, violence, sexual assault, etc., etc. Imagine if you could harness the energy and imaginations of these young people to do acts of service in the name of God using the existing support network of Churches and Faith groups…WOW! How do we harness that energy? By getting out in our communities and providing positive examples and programs that counter the negative perception people have about us.
SUMMING IT ALL UP:
- Read, study, and meditate on God’s word daily.
- Practice what you preach, strive to be an example of Christ’s Love and Compassion.
- Do everything you can to make yourself and your Church as warm, compassionate, and inviting as possible.
- Think before you speak it, Pray before you post it.
- Avoid stereotypes and generalizations, and judging of people(s) because of those stereotypes.
- Get out of your comfort zone, seek out ways and places to make a difference and spread the word.
- Get involved in your Church, get involved in your community.
- Embrace change and help mold it into positive change. “Be the Change you want to see in this world”
Can we get an Amen?