Friday, March 7, 2008

What's Happening in the American Church?

by Bruce Ingram with Doug Nichols

Global Challenge
At a recent mission consultation, TOPIC Director, Paul Landry passionately painted a global perspective of the explosive church growth in the majority world. Consequently there is a crisis of church leadership. Everyday there are 175,000 new Christians. 30,000 are in China alone. 80—95% of today’s pastoral leaders lack basic information and tools to effectively equip their people. Agencies like TOPIC and ACTION equipped 44,014 Master Builders in 2006. Still, in 2005 there were 3.2 million untrained Christian workers, estimated to increase to 4.2 million by the year 2025. However the USA church seems to be in decline.

American Reality
Christianity Today magazine reprinted a story from Outreach magazine last year titled “Special Report: The American Church in Crisis.” New research reveals sobering statistics on church attendance; but which statistics? Gallup and Barna’s report that church attendance grew from 37% in 1996 to 47% in 2006. This is great news if it were true.

But in reality the churches and denominations report a trend of significant decline.

· Between 2000 and 2004 the mainline denominational churches dropped 10%,while Evangelicals experienced an overall 1% drop in worship attendance.

· But during this same time, 2000 – 2004 the population of the U.S. grew by 18.1% -- more than 48 million people. So even though attendance in evangelical churches is nearly the same they are not keeping up with population growth.

· At present trends, by 2050, the percentage of U.S. population attending church will be almost half of what it was in 1990 a drop from 20.4% to 11.7% (an estimate drop to 16.6% by 2010, and 15.4% in 2020).

What We Can Do
The church in America is in decline. The status quo is not acceptable. Several movements are responding to the current situation. But there are many truth and doctrinal issues in these movements. What can the average evangelical church member do? Here are a few simple Biblical directives we can all embrace.

· Pray. When the nation of Israel found themselves in decline the Lord directed them saying, “if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV). When we are faced with problems beyond ourselves can we do anything less than starting with humble prayer and examination of our own hearts before God?

· Guard Your Heart. Consider how our American affluence and materialism gets in the way of seeing our need for God and biblical truth and holiness. Be generous with your life and resources as you seek to trust and pursue God with all your heart and worship Him alone (Luke 12:15-21; Matthew 6:19-24).

· Jump Into Christ’s Mission. With the love of Christ constraining our hearts let each Christian reach one person with the Gospel. Each pastor and elder disciple one person for leadership and ministry multiplication during the year. Each evangelical church send out one missionary every two years. If each of us would do this then one major denomination would go from 16 million to 32 million! Church attendance and ministries would double, and there would be 400,000 missionaries by 2010 instead of the less than 50,000 now sent from the U.S.

Why Not Do Something?
It starts with us. Whatever the cost, let’s and our church move forward in faith and trust God with the gospel and compassionate care for His glory!

Statistics taken from the following:
David T. Olson, The American Church
Craig Branch, VERITAS, Troublesome Movements in the 21st Century

No comments: