You probably already know the perceived condition of America in 2021, as well as the state of the world. Some are saying we are in a state of political and social chaos. New diseases, wars, political intrigue and poverty, to name a few things that are holding our attention and draining our treasury.
Despite the fact that the Pew Research Center, which tracks “trust in the media“, shows that less than half of Americans trust the news, and 72% of U.S. adults say news organizations do an insufficient job revealing their funding sources, many people are still turning to News Media outlets, (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, etc.) for information and to find direction. Approximagtely 31 million people watched one of the three national network evening news broadcasts between March 16, 2021 and April 7 , 2021. That’s a 42% increase from a year ago.
Many more people, however, are turning to religion, God or the Church for answers. Approximately 52 million “attend church” in one of the 300,000 plus churches in America, at least once a week each month.
If you are normal, you have the potential of remembering 10% of what you hear, and that is only the potential. However, when people were asked the lead story in the news or the topic of the “sermon” they heard, after 24 hours, only about 10 percent could tell you. When asked to cite the most urgent news item or the important lesson they received, most just shrugged. Pastor and Bible teacher, Rick Warren, says we forget 95% of what we hear after 72 hours.
Studies show that most people don’t remember sermons, lectures, addresses or speeches—they don’t even remember paragraphs. What people remember are simple statements, slogans, and phrases. I don’t remember any speech John F. Kennedy gave, but most of us of a certain age remember his statements,
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” and, “I am a Berliner!”
I don’t remember any sermon preached by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but I do remember his famous phrase,
“I have a dream!”
- 10% of what they read.
- 20% of what they only hear.
- 30% of what they only see.
- 50% of what they see and hear.
- 70% of what they say and write down.
- 90% of what they DO
It seems, however, the News Media Moguls and experts have discovered how to make “their news” stay on the minds of those who watch through repetition. They repeat the sames new story, several times each day and days on end, They use the same graphics, audio and videos, over and over and over – until it sticks! And, it is working. Most people who get their information from the News Media, when asked about a certain social or political topic, tend to answer in ‘media sound bites’. They repeat the short sound bites almost verbatim. The old, ‘monkey see, monkey do’ syndrome.
A conservative estimate, for just the top seven news media outlets to produce a days worth of ‘news’ is approimatley $9,780,000 per week.
Actually, it is next-to-impossible to get an accurate estimate because the numbers are just too overwhelming. But, here are three indexes from an article in the digital USA Today to help organize this mess: (#1), A US Mainstream Media Ownership Index that lists about 175 companies, (#2), an Emerging Digital Nonprofit Index with their donors, and (#3), the Seven Big Owners of Dailies by state. The mainstream media index includes both parent companies (like Gannett, the parent of USA TODAY; Sinclair; NPR; PBS) and standalone titles (like The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, Commentary and The U.S. Spectator). Once you tally them all, we have over 3,000 outlets that call themselves newsrooms in America. That’s before we add bloggers, podcasts, talk radio and the deluge of user-generated content.
Churches, on the other hand, have not adapted so well. The tendency in most Evangelical Churches is to preach a differnent topical sermon once a week. Some Churches will preach through a book of the Bible, one a week, chapter by chapter, rarely repeating themselves. Some use visual graphics, audio effects and outline sheets for the listeners to take notes, but, rarely repeat the message in any given year.
It’s a shame Churches aren’t catching on, because, unlike the News Media, Churches have a semi-captive audience, but, are not having the same impact as the News Media.
An estimated 1.2 million hours each week, (#1), are spent in sermon preparations; it takes about another 300,000 hours in delivery of these sermons, (#2), at a staggering potential cost of over $750 millions dollars nationally, each week. (#3,. Yet, only 5% of those hearing these sermons, remember anything about them after 72 hours.
So, what are we getting for our $750,000,000 in offerings? And, if you are a preacher or a pastor, what are you giving? Are you preaching, sermonizing, teaching, discipling, lecturing, giving a religious address or discourse which improve peoples’ lives or that they can even remember?
Review these methods used by churches, and determine which of these your are getting on Sunday mornings – and decide if it is worth the time and money:
Christian Discipleship training
People will more frequently remember simple repeated statements, slogans, and phrases. So, when we are told to “Go and preach or tell the Good News (the Gospel) of Jesus”, most of us just can’t remember what to say, short of “God lovesyou, and so do I”.
Jesus ministry is a good model:
- Jesus personally and actively set the example for making, teaching and sending disciples. (I can find no example that Jesus wrote anything.)
- Jesus personally spoke and taught and showed His disciples by His own example (50% retention rate).
- Jesus taught His disciples to repeat His Words as He went with them to do His Works (90% retention rate).
So, Christian brother or sister, how about you? How effective is your ministry?
- Are you primarily using reading materials (i.e., tracts) to disciple? (10% retention)
- Are you primarily using words to disciple? (20% retention)
- Are you referencing videos, audios and written materials for reminders?
- When was the last time your pastor went out with you and told others, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ (And, as it says in Matthew 10:8-15), attempted to), “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with leprosy, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. Verse 9. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, 10 or a bag for your journey, or even two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is deserving of his support. Verse . And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. Verse 12. As you enter the house, give it your greeting. Verse 13. If the house is worthy, see that your blessing of peace comes upon it. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. Verse 14. And whoever does not receive you nor listen to your words, as you leave that house or city, shake the dust off your feet. Verse 15. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment, than for that city. ” (This produces an amazing and most desirable 90% retention rate.)
And, Preacher / Pastor, how about you? How effective is your ministry?
- Do you have a blog? (It produces just a 10% retention rate.)
- Do you give a weekly sermon or lecture? (It produces just a 20% retention rate.)
- Do you use overheads projectors, videos or bulletin outlines? ( This produces as much as a 50% retention rate.)
- Do you take others and go and make disciples? “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with leprosy, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is deserving of his support. And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. As you enter the house, give it your greeting. If the house is worthy, see that your blessing of peace comes upon it. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. And whoever does not receive you nor listen to your words, as you leave that house or city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment, than for that city. (This produces an amazing and morst desirable 90% retention rate.)
The current way of “doing church” seems to be changing monthly. This has been going on for the last 40 years and it is causing the church to falter in influence and to lose its “savor”, as the Bible puts it. The church, it seems, is becoming little more than a religious institution delivering “drive-in” or “drive-up fast food style” preaching, sermons, religious lectures, addresses, discourses and entertainment in competition with NFL Sunday, Youtube TV, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Now I have said it and you have read it, will it make any difference to the 164,000,000 Evangelical and Protestant Christians in America? Will you just shrug your shoulders and trundle back to “doing your church thing” this Sunday? Or will you, do like Peter, Andrew, James, Zebedee and John, who dropped everything about the current ways they were living, and followed Jesus, step by step?
The Answer? Follow the pattern and method established by Jesus. Nothing more, nothing less. In fact, why not try starting with something simple but profound: “Matthew 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”
Say it often. Say it with both, passion and compassion. (I can hear some people and pastors saying, “But, all the things we are already doing are the necessary parts of our ministry.” And I say, “Yes? But, Jesus did not say to do it your way and He did not do it your way. Everything else you might say about Jesus, and those things which flow from Him, may be “Necessary, but they are Secondary”. Jesus, alone, is the MAIN THING!
Your Brother and Friend,