According to research by the Barna Group presented in the book UnChristian, more than two thirds of people who are not a part of a church say that they are not willing to speak to a Christian about their faith. Notice that they do not want to talk to Christians; this is not the case with other faiths. What makes people put Christians into a category that allows more space on public transportation?
It doesn’t take much time to realize that the church is losing market share in cultural influence. I am not sure that this ever was a “Christian nation” by any working definition out there, but the church has definitely been more of a part of shaping our world than it is now.
It may be startling to know that many people outside the church are less and less receptive to the things that Christians say about faith. I remember a time not too long ago when most people at least knew the basic stories of the Bible, but many today cannot even say with confidence that the believe the Bible to be true.
We have our work cut out for us. It is so important to begin to learn about where people are on their faith journey, both individually and collectively.
UnChristian can begin to help us understand what is happening in our culture and what people are adopting as their perceptions of Christianity and why. With well-researched information from the team and Barna Group, the book brings together perceptions of people outside Christianity and begins to make suggestions about what may be contributing to the image problem of the church.
Take this information to heart and use it to give yourself new understanding and compassion for those who are not part of the church. Within the pages of UnChristian you will read about some of the pain and genuine frustration that many have who have formerly been part of the church but left after being hurt and abandoned.
My only caution is don’t stop with the book. Talk to people and build relationships with people that you know who are not a part. Find out what their stories are and what they are aching from. Discover where they are on their journey of faith by open and honest discussion. Then join them in their journey and be patiently willing to encourage them to take the next step.
Seems that these days many church leaders are talking about what needs to be different in church leadership. Dallas Willard, in his book The Divine Conspiracy commented that the church of today is designed to produce the exact result that we are seeing. And according to the Barna Group that result is a 86% failure rate.
In a recent blog posting by Tim Stevens, the executive pastor at Granger Community Church in Granger, IN, commented about this issue. He shared high points of a conversation with Shannon O’Dell of Brand New Church in rural Arkansas. Here are the points that caught my attention:
- The greatest hurdle in reaching the lost is those already saved.
- A church is not a democracy. It is a theocracy. If your church is set up as a democracy, it is unbiblical.
- When you get to be a church of our size, the only thing that can split your church is staff. That’s why we quickly get rid of dissatisfied or disloyal staff.
- I don’t think the office of pastor is even biblical. The word is only used once in the New Testament and it is a spiritual gift, not a position.
- When people are giving or serving–they are more like God at that moment than any other time in their life. So we encourage people to give and serve. We do people a disservice if we train people theology who aren’t serving.
Tough to swallow, but I can certainly see that these thoughts come from the heart of church leaders who hope to take the church in a direction away from business-as-usual and to a world-changing force!
Perhaps this is not the perfect time to be starting a blog. Many questions running around in my head about direction of life, the church, and such.
I have been looking for a pastorate for several months, and have been discouraged by the conversations that I have had. George Barna says that his research has found that 86% of our churches are in decline! And this is something that has been evident to me after conversations with churches who have no goals, direction, or purpose and who simply want a pastor to keep them comfortable. Sounds like what we tell terminal patients: “all we can do is help keep him comfortable.”
Well, I refuse to be a hospice pastor, that is a pastor whose only task is to oversee the death of a church.
But where does that leave me? Do I hide out and hold back in effort to become a pastor of a dying/declining church so that I can help infuse some vitality? Do I simply launch out and try to build a congregation from scratch in hopes of building a different footprint on which to errect a completely different structure?