ANYONE GOING DOWN?
The Gallup organization reported In April 2021, that for the first time since they started polling in 1937, fewer than 50% of Americans claim membership is churches, mosques or synagogues. Sociologists have tracked these burgeoning declines for several decades, with attrition that runs from 70% claiming membership in the 1990s, to 50% in 2019, to 47% in 2021 (with no plateau in sight).
In Gallup’s study, these fissures in religious participation seem evident among every American demographic age group, including “traditionalists,” born before 1945, down from 73% to 66%; “Baby Boomers,” dropping from 63% to 58%; Generation X, from 57% to 50%; and “Millennials” from 51% to 35%, as indicated in 2020 studies.
SO, WHAT’S UP?
The Covid-19 outbreak is being blamed for the recent decline in church attendance, but, that is an anomaly. Here is some information from a George Barna study reporting on five standing reasons people give on why they drop out of church (the comments are my own):
1. The church is irrelevant, the leaders are hypocritical and leaders have experienced too much moral failure
Yes, I know. That’s three reasons in one. But the Barna study groups all three reasons together as one reason.
2. God is missing in the church
People go to church looking for God, but are having difficulty finding him.
This one hurts, but in an age where perception is reality, you can’t ignore this criticism. The paucity of personal experience with God is disturbing.
3. Legitimate doubt is prohibited
Honestly, I simply agree with this criticism. It is very difficult to have an honest conversation in many churches today.
4. They’re not finding community
Sometimes expectations are too high; sometimes expectations are unrealistic; sometimes people really don’t want what they say they want; sometimes a church has metastasized into cliques. This is a tough one – but can be true on many levels. At any rate, this is not acceptable for the Body of Christ.
5. They’re not connecting with God
It does not amaze me to hear that people come to church seeking God, and they get some good sermons ABOUT GOD or ABOUT THE BIBLE, then they are discouraged when all they get is a religious pep talk, a religious rock concert or a religious lecture ABOUT GOD or ABOUT THE BIBLE. They aren’t as interested in knowing ABOUT God, as they what they want to KNOW IF GOD CAN DO, IN THEIR LIVES, WHAT PREACHERS SAID HE CAN DO. They don’t come to church to get stories about the Bible, they want to KNOW IF THE BIBLE can direct their lives,
Or perhaps, this is what is referred to the “Great Apostasy” (a falling away from the faith) of the Last Days, as mentioned in scriptures?
In either case, you and I need to be very careful because Jesus has warned, “See to it that no one misleads you. “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.” This can be both individual and institutional deception.
HE SAID WHAT?
So, what was your experience in church this past month? And, what did your pastor or preacher preach on this past Sunday, and how did he preach on it? Now, be very honest; was it something ‘about the bible’ or ‘about Jesus’? Or, was it something the Bible or Jesus said to you and for you to do and, you are doing it?
Just for the ‘fun of it’, let’s compare what you are hearing and seeing in Church versus what Jesus taught and did in ‘churches’ and along His way.
Let’s do a little ‘time travel’ and imagine we can go back in time to when Jesus begins His ministry. Here’s the scene found in:
Matthew 4;12, “Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. Verse 14. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:
Verse 15. “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
Verse 16. “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light,
And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death,
Upon them a Light dawned.”
Verse 17. From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The First Disciples
Verse 18. Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Verse 19. And He *said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Verse 20. Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Verse 21. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Verse 22. Immediately, they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.”
Calling and making and sending disciples is what Jesus does. In fact, that is exactly what He told us to be doing. (see Matthew 28:16-20)
Did your pastor or preacher say something even remotely like Jesus when He said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” or when He said, “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded; and remember, He is with you always, even to the end of the age.”? Or is this something to be left to the ‘professionals’? You know, ’you invite your friends, family and neighbors, and he’ll take it from there’.
But, that is not what the Bible says. It says, YOU GO, and YOU MAKE DISCIPLES, and YOU BAPTIZE THEM. Is your pastor teaching, training and sending you to DO WHAT JESUS SAID?
Put people on mission and let them run with it. Let the pastors pastor, the teachers teach, the evangelist evangelize, etc., and watch what happens.
Ministry in Galilee
Matthew 4:23 “Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.”
Notice that Jesus does not just ‘talk a good game’, He leads by example. In fact, Jesus’ pattern and method of ministry and of making disciples is to ‘Say the Words; Show the Wonders; Send the Worker”, and this is consistent throughout His ministry.
How about your pastor or preacher and ‘church leaders’? What do they do? Are they leading by example, then sending YOU to follow Jesus in like manner? Remember, it’s all about YOU making disciples who, in turn, make disciples.
WHAT ARE THE RESULTS?
Matthew 4:24 “The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Verse 25. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.”
The point is that Jesus did not sugar-coat the Gospel Message nor did He devise slick advertising gimmicks to get people to ‘come to church’. There were no worship teams, no missions budgets, no building programs. Jesus just told it straight, did what He said, and made disciples who did likewise.
The point is that, even under constant and severe persecution, the early church grew exponentially because the Gospel Message was preached and practiced!
The point is that, THIS IS OUR MODEL and God will provide the increase.
Now, stay tuned for “THINK – Part 4 – THE SERMON?”
Your Brother and Friend,
Previous article: “THINK – Part 2 – Repent and Live”
(Here is a website link to THE LAST REFORMATION and video links. These folks started in the Netherlands. Their methods were too unconventional for the state Lutheran Church, so upon appeal to the government, THE LAST REFORMATION was banned in the Netherlands, and they were granted asylum from religious persecution in the United States in 2019. You may not agree with all you hear or see on this site, but, the results are undeniable.)
NOTE: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about JESUS, first, foremost and only. He has secured a salvation for you to save your soul from perishing in the most horrible way. He has prepared a place for you as your eternal home, in His Kingdom. The other things that happen to and through a believer and follower of Jesus, are the blessing and benefits that follow. – Michael Young, Pastor / Teacher, Whitestone Fellowship.