Sunday, August 30, 2009

Thinking back

Today is my birthday! I have celebrated by staying inside and napping off and on all day like I have for the past couple of days. I've been running a low grade fever and have a steady cough and sore throat. I'll call the doctor tomorrow and see what's going on, but this is not the way I planned to celebrate my birthday.

Since I've been pretty much confined to the house for the past few days it has given me time to reflect back over the past 61 years. I've thought back to the days when our family had dairy farms and my summers were spent working in hay fields, corn fields, and tobacco fields. Oh yes, there was also the opportunity to milk cows twice a day every single day of the year. I have thought back to the time when Faye and I first met, in 1965, and began dating. By the end of 1966, at the ripe old age of 18, we were married. I've thought about our children and now our grandchildren, and I took some time to thank God for each of them and for the blessings they have brought into our lives.

This evening while we were eating supper I could hear one of those Time-Life commercials on television. Micky Gilley was selling a collection of old time country classics. I could hear those songs playing on the TV while we ate, and it reminded me of my Navy days. Many an evening I would sit in a restaurant or bar and play those songs. Back then you could play six songs on a jukebox for a quarter. Faye and I spent a lot of months apart in those days as my ship went back and forth to Vietnam, and I dropped a lot of quarters in jukeboxes.

I then began to think of how God had reached down into my life in the late 1970s. A couple of years later He called me to serve Him as a minister, and within a few months I was called to become the pastor of Hebron Baptist Church as their bivocational pastor. For the next 20 years I served that church until He opened up a new ministry opportunity to become an Area Resource Minister. He gave me the opportunity to write books and speak to ministers and church leaders in various parts of the US and Canada.

It's been a fascinating birthday. One moment I could actually see myself sitting in a restaurant in Bremerton, WA drinking coffee and listening to Jeannie C. Riley singing "Harper Valley PTA" on the jukebox and the next moment I saw myself standing behind the pulpit at Hebron. God has brought me a long ways in these 61 years, and I believe He isn't through with me yet. I have more books to write, more sermons to preach, and more life to live. With God's grace I have a lot more hugs to give my children and grandchildren and a lot more walks holding Faye's hand. I have been blessed beyond measure, and I want to give God thanks for everyone of those blessings.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Interesting read

Check out this article at It is an excellent discussion on five types of bivocational churches. If you are in a bivocational church you will probably find your church listed. If not, I would like to know.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Finding pastors for our bivocational churches

Before I address my thoughts on this subject, this is my 200th posting on this blog. I want to thank everyone who reads this blog and those of you who occasionally respond to something I have written. I know I don't always write as often as I probably should, but I try to wait until I actually feel I have something to say. I don't want to be a blogger who feels he has to write something every day and thrills his readers by writing about what he put on his toast that morning. If you are a regular reader, why don't you sign up and join the list you see on the left side? That would certainly encourage me. Also, don't be shy about jumping in and joining in the conversations. This site is intended to created a community of bivocational ministers who can share with one another and assist in one another's growth, and that can only happen when we dialogue about the topics I address. Again, thank each of you for reading this site, and I look forward to another 200 postings.

One of my on-going concerns is finding pastors for bivocational churches. The number of such churches continues to grow throughout nearly every denomination, but it is often very hard to find pastors for these churches. Quite frankly, some of the pastors we do find are not the people we need leading these churches. From discussions I've had with leaders of various denominations, none of us really have a plan to effectively address this shortage of bivocational ministers. In his book, Can Mainline Denominations Make a Comeback?, Tony Campolo wrote something that really addressed this problem.

In the New Testament, the church did not let individuals declare themselves
"called"! Instead, the people of God together determined who in their
midst had the gift of God for preaching. When someone in the church
demonstrated that he or she had the communication skills and the "people
skills" that it took to be an effective pastor, the church was proactive.

He explained that the church would begin to pray about this person and once there was an agreement that this person had God's calling on his or her life they challenged him or her to become a pastor. Contrast that to what we do today. We typically wait until someone comes to us and says that they feel God may be calling them into the ministry. Our next step is often to encourage them to go off to seminary for the next three years so they can meet our ordination standards or prepare themselves for ministry.

That is what happened to me. One day my pastor and I were driving to a church convention when I began to share with him an idea I had for a sermon. He asked if I had ever considered that God might be calling me into the ministry. He said he believed I had the gifts that were needed. I admitted to him that I had considered it but had never told anyone until that moment. He was proactive in challenging me to prayerfully consider it. A few months later he left our church, and sometime after our new pastor became settled in I approached him with my belief that God was calling me into the ministry. He recommended to the church that they license me to preach which they did. Interestingly enough, he never allowed me to preach in our church, and 30 years later I still have never preached a sermon in that church. I contacted our judicatory minister and told him the church had licensed me to preach and would appreciate the opportunity to fill the pulpit anytime a pastor might be away. I received a letter from him telling me he would be glad to do that once I completed seminary. I had not even attended college which meant I would have to spend 7 years as a full-time student before he would even recommend me to fill in for a vacationing pastor! I began to preach in independent churches and even one time rented our local fairgrounds to hold a mini-crusade. I had to preach even if I had to rent a building to preach in! Eventually I found a church in a different denomination than the one I belonged who invited me to become their pastor, and I spent the next 20 years leading that church.

We cannot possibly find enough pastors for our bivocational churches if we wait for them to come to us. Pastors and church leaders need to approach individuals who appear to have good pastoral and preaching gifts and encourage them to consider that God may have a call on their lives. We cannot call these individuals into ministry; only God can do that. But, we can tell them that we see potential pastoral gifts in them and encourage them to prayerfully seek God's leadership for their lives. We can give these individuals opportunities to preach in our churches occasionally and let the Holy Spirit speak to them through those experiences. One of my deacons often preached for me when I was away on vacation, and now he is a bivocational pastor of a nearby church. He never thought God would ever call him into pastoral ministry, but He did and all indications are that he is doing a very good job.

We also cannot require these leaders to go off to a seminary and sit in an ivory tower for three years racking up huge student loans before we being using them in our churches. Before anyone begins criticizing me for being anti-education I'm not. If I was I would not be working on my DMin at 60 years of age. But, there are many ways today to get a solid ministry education that doesn't require a person to go the traditional seminary route. By the way, I don't think the traditional seminary MDiv prepares a person for bivocational ministry anyway. It does a great job of preparing someone to go on and earn a PhD and become a research theologian, but it really does not prepare someone to do ministry in a family, bivocational church. That is why many seminaries are now offering MA degrees in various religious studies that does a much better job of preparing someone for actual pastoral ministry.

This is a much longer post than normal for me so let me close with a quick summary. We must become proactive in seeking leaders for our bivocational churches. We need to prayerfully look at our lay leadership and see who might have the gifts and passions that might indicate that God might be calling them to a pastoral role, and then we need to personally talk with them about what we see in them. We need to give these persons opportunities to use those gifts in pastoral situations, and then let the Holy Spirit begin to speak to them to reveal His will for their lives. Only if we do this will we begin finding persons to lead our bivocational churches in the future.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ministry challenges

There's no doubt that ministry is tougher now than it was in the early 80's when I began my pastoral ministry. Pastors today face issues that I never had to face, at least not in my small, rural church. We had our issues and challenges but nothing like what ministers must address today. In this posting I want to address just one such issue: what do you do when an admitted pedophile wants to attend your church?

In recent weeks I have become aware of several churches that have faced this issue. A person approaches the pastor asking if he can begin attending the church services and then admits that he is a convicted sex offender. Perhaps he has served time for his offense and is now on probation. His face and personal information are posted on the sex offender web site. What is the pastor and church to do? There's no question that church is where this person needs to be, but there is also the question of how to ensure the church is a safe place for everyone. Like all persons, this individual needs a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but there must also be safeguards in place to protect children and young people from possible harm. There are also legal liability issues to consider.

In the case of a pedophile a part of their probation will normally not allow them contact with children. A church can certainly prevent such people from holding church offices and from working with children and young people, but there is no way to prevent them from having any contact with children in the church. There will be times when children are all over the facility including in the proximity of the offender. How would a church warn their children to avoid this individual without making them frightened of him or other adults? Is such a warning necessary?

Another challenge: is it necessary for the church leadership to let the congregation know they have a sex offender in their services? If so, how can this be done without violating confidentialty? How much of this person's past should be told? Still another issue: what about the person who was charged with a sex offense but allowed to plead down to a lesser offence that resulted in him not being required to register as a sex offender?

Throughout this posting I have used masculine pronouns, but some sex offenders are women. We've all read headlines in recent years about female teachers having relationships with male students. Although most sex offenders are male, there are some female offenders as well. Are they treated the same as male offenders would be?

Although I have not exhausted the subject I'll address just one more area. In some cases, the families of a sex offender have remained with him, and the entire family attends church together. How will the family be received in the church? How will their pain be addressed?

I come to this topic with a lot of questions and few answers. One thing I am certain of is that your church, no matter if it is bivocational or not and regardless of its size, may one day face this issue. It will be much better to have some policies in place before you have to address it than after you are confronted with it. I would like to know if some of our readers have addressed this in their churches and what decisions they made. Your sharing can be a valuable service to all of us.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Background checks

I doubt that many bivocational churches do background checks on volunteers or on pastoral candidates, but such checks are becoming increasingly important. We've all read the headlines in recent years about the number of people who have been victimized by persons in authority in churches. Such stories are tragic for many reasons, and a simple background check may have prevented at least some of these situations.

Last year LifeWay partnered with an agency to offer discounted background checks for churches that wanted such checks for volunteers and potential employees. Since that time about 450 churches have requested more than 5,000 background checks. Eighty of those checks found that the person had committed serious felony offenses, and over 600 people had some type of criminal history that may have prevented them from working in a church. I'm sure some churches make it very clear up front that they do background checks on anyone wanting to work in certain jobs in the church, and this probably prevents some from even applying. Persons wanting to harm other people are not going to stay around in a place that will investigate their past before allowing them access to those people. Unfortunately, they will continue seeking out other churches until they find one that does not do the background checks.

I believe, at a minimum, that every church should do background checks on every person who will work with persons eighteen years old and younger and anyone who will handle any aspect of church finance. The best case scenario is for churches to do such checks on every volunteer and employee of the church. I'm sure some long-term workers in the church will object to being checked, but hopefully they will agree to a background check when it is explained that every person, including the pastor, will undergo the same check and that the purpose of the background check is to ensure the safety of every person in the church.

When churches are seeking a new pastor or staff person a background check should be part of the search process, and any applicant who refuses to give permission for such a check should be eliminated as a candidate. Churches should be committed to provide a safe environment for every person, and background checks are one way to help ensure such an environment. These checks are relatively inexpensive, and if they prevent even one person from being harmed in the church they are well worth the expense.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


On September 9 and 10 I will be presenting "The Healthy Small Church" workshop for the American Baptist Churches of the Great Rivers Region in Illinois. On September 9 I will be at the Lake Springfield Camp near Chatham, IL, and on September 10 I will be at First Baptist Church Mount Vernon, IL. Information and registration forms are available at the Great Rivers Region website. I encourage all bivocational and small church leaders in that Region to plan to attend one of these opportunities.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Your church in five years

Have you given much thought to what your church will look like in five years. In the not so distant past organizations used to talk about doing a twenty year plan, but things are changing too quickly to try to think twenty years ahead. We can think out about five years . What will your church look like five years from today? Approximately how many people will be attending your services? What services will you offer five years from now? What will the immediate community around your church look like in five years? Who will you be reaching? The list of questions could go on and on, but are you asking these kinds of questions?

In my workshops I often tell the participants that their churches are today what they decided five years ago, ten years ago, and even twenty years ago what they would be. It may not have been an intentional plan that people had for their churches, but they made decisions years ago that continues to impact their churches today. I then tell them that their churches will be five years from now, ten years from now, and even twenty years from now what they decide today that they will be.

Unfortunately, my experience has been that most smaller, bivocational churches have little vision for their future. They are focused on surviving today and most aren't interested in thinking too far ahead into their future. The result of such thinking is that five years from now those churches will look very much like they do today only they will be a little greyer and there will be fewer people. Is that really God's plan for His church?

Of course, having a vision isn't enough. There must be action on the part of the church to make that vision come to pass. There has to be some intentionality on the part of church leaders to set and reach achievable goals. There also has to be widespread agreement from most of the congregation that these are the right goals. Such agreement will make it more likely that a majority of the church will get behind them.

Let me ask again, what will your church look like in five years?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Reflections from a Goldwing

This morning I took a ride on my Goldwing. Sometimes I just need to feel the wind in my face, and this was one of those mornings. I only rode for about an hour, but it was time well spent as I prayed and worshipped God. Things often take on a different perspective on a bike than they do when riding in a car.

I noticed a home sitting back in the woods and couldn't help but think how peaceful a setting they lived in. Then I wondered how peaceful is it inside that home. As a friend once said to me, "We often never know what happens when someone closes the door behind them," and I have found that to be true. I prayed for the family who lived at the end of that lane cutting through the woods and asked God to help them experience peace in their lives.

I passed fields of corn and soybeans and thought of the farmers who would begin harvesting those crops. I prayed they would get a good return for their efforts. I passed some other fields that would obviously produce little if any crop. Both small and large fields had been flooded with all the rain we've had lately. The investment of time and money spent on those fields is lost for this year, and I prayed for those farmers and their families.

I noticed the woods that I passed and thought how in a few weeks the leaves will begin to change color adding beauty to those woods. I then began to thank God for His creation.

I passed a church with a sign that read, "God is good. God is just." I thought how true that is. I began to think of how many times God has reached into my life and worked things out that I wasn't sure could be worked out. I thought about His grace and how much I appreciate receiving that grace every single day. I began to thank and praise Him for who He is and for all He has done in my life and in the lives of my family.

Too soon I was pulling back in my driveway, but it was a great time of worship.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Riding a dead horse

While going through my files recently I came across an interesting note I had copied years ago about what we should do if we find the horse we are riding has died. There are several options a person can choose.
  • We can whip the horse harder.
  • We can study programs that offer to teach us how to ride dead horses more efficiently.
  • We can tell everyone "This is the way we've always ridden dead horses."
  • We can move the horse to a new location.
  • We can buy a new bit and bridle to make the dead horse look better.
  • OR, we can dismount and climb on a live horse that can run.

Which one do you think would be the best option?

Much of what the church is doing today is riding a dead horse. Many of our programs and ministries have not produced good fruit in years, and yet we insist on maintaining those programs and ministries. In fact, we form committees to protect these dead horses to make sure they are not replaced with something living. We ask people to spend valuable time and resources to oversee these dead horses, and then we wonder why they don't have the time to give to new ministry opportunities that might actually be productive.

What ministries in your church is actually producing results and which ones need to be replaced? We read that at least 50 percent of the population in every county in the United States is unchurched. We have a huge mission field that is not being reached by what we are currently doing. Every church needs to ask itself which is more important: protecting the dead horses that we are trying to ride or finding new ministries that will better reach this unchurched population. Jill Hudson asks the question another way in her book When Better Isn't Enough. She asks, "Will the church in the postmodern world become a museum or a movement?" Great question each church will have to answer for itself?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Be encouraged

Yesterday was a rough day. After sitting in meetings for the past two days I came home to a number of phone messages. I listened to stories of difficult issues churches are going through right now and of pastors whose lives are in major upheaval. As one pastor said, "Satan is really at work right now."

Yes, he is, but then again he is always at work against God's people. His sole purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy, and he is very good at his work.

I just want to encourage my readers this morning. While it's true that Satan is at work, so is God, and our primary focus needs to be on Him. He has already won our victory at Calvary, and while the devil can be a difficult foe, he is already defeated. If the work you are doing wasn't so important, the devil wouldn't spend so much time trying to sidetrack you. I know how easy it is to get sidetracked when everything seems to be falling apart all around you. In fact, I'm going through a very difficult time personally myself. I'm certainly not saying we need to ignore the personal challenges in our lives and pretend they aren't there. That's not realistic. I am saying that we need to keep our focus on Jesus Christ and trust Him to bring us through whatever challenges we may be facing right now.

God loves you very much. I truly do not believe we have the capacity to fully understand just how much He does love us. Even when we cannot see it happening He is constantly working behind the scenes in our lives. He has not abandoned you nor has He turned His back on you. If you are going through a rough time right now please say to yourself, "God loves me more than I can possibly realize." Keep reminding yourself of this great truth throughout the day. I know I intend to.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Church guests

I was recently asked by the pastor of a church I had visited to give him an assessment of the church. He was especially interested in the friendliness of the congregation towards people who did not normally attend the church. It was a great question that demonstrated he understood the importance of hospitality. From my experience of visiting well over a hundred churches in the past nine years I believe that hospitality is one of the areas in which many smaller churches need to improve. Many people visiting a church for the first time will decide within the first seven minutes whether or not they will return. This decision is often made well before the service even begins. What are some of the ways your church can make a positive first impression on your guests? I recently heard Nelson Searcy speak on this issue at a workshop, and I'll share with you from the notes I took.

Hospitality begins by your congregation seeing every guest in your church as a gift from God. They did not have to attend church that morning, and they certainly did not have to attend your church. It is likely they passed other churches closer to their home to attend yours, so it's important to believe their presence in your service is a gift from God to your church. The question then is, how will your church treat that gift?

There are four things that will make a positive first impression on these guests. The first is how they are greeted. The first thing that greets your guests is your property. Drive around your church property and look at it from the perspective of someone who has never been there before. Is the grass neatly cut? Is the door clean and painted? Is the parking lot clean of debris? It is no accident that McDonald's has someone pick up the trash from their parking lot every morning. What about the persons assigned to greet people as they enter the building? Are they friendly? Have they been trained in how to greet people? Do you have your most personable members serving as greeters?

The second thing Searcy mentioned was how guests are directed. Do signs clearly point the way to the nursery, to the bathroom, and to the sanctuary? If someone asks for direction to some location in the building are they pointed in the way they need to go or does someone take them? The correct answer is they should be escorted to their destination.

The third quality is how they are treated. Have you ever gone into a restaurant bathroom and found really nice paper towels neatly folded on a clean countertop, mouthwash or mints, and nice soap containers filled with soft disinfecting soap? Have you gone into a bathroom and found water and towels all over the floor and countertop, soap dispensers half-hanging on the wall and often nearly empty, and those stupid air machines that couldn't dry your hands if you stayed in there for a half-hour? Which bathroom made you feel better about the place where you were eating, and which one would cause you to want to return to this restaurant? Now, what should your bathrooms look like? How are your guests treated?

The fourth and final one for this posting is how they are seated. After a room becomes 60% filled it becomes harder to find a seat. Most guests won't be comfortable sitting on the front pew or row of seats. Our members are not comfortable sitting there so why should we think guests would want to sit there. The seats next to the aisle are usually filled which forces late arrivers, including guests, to have to interrupt people to get to an inside seat. This often causes guests to feel very uncomfortable. Once the sanctuary begins to fill up it becomes important for the ushers to seat their guests. The usher can ask people sitting on the aisle seats to allow these individuals to get to their seats taking the embarrassment from the guests.

One final thought Searcy shared with us...women will often decide whether or not to return to your church based primarily on two things: the cleanliness of the facility and the security of the childcare. Again, take a walk through your church and look at it through the eyes of a first-time guest. What are they seeing when they see it for the first time? Is it clean? What are the security features of your childcare? The answers to these two questions may determine how many of your first-time guests return.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Growing leaders grow churches

Although there are many factors that enable a church to grow, one common factor you will find in nearly every growing church is that it is being led by a growing leader. Leaders who become satisfied with where they are in their personal lives are unlikely to ever grow a church because they have stopped growing themselves. These non-growing pastors are easy to identify. Their sermons become stale and they show no passion for ministry. They merely go through the motions doing the minimum required to keep their job. Such leaders lose their vision for the church and are willing to settle for a maintenance mindset. If you want to lead a growing church you must first be committed to personal growth and pursue that growth each and every day. How can you do that?

Like anything else you want to achieve in life, personal growth requires a plan. It isn't going to just happen; you have to prepare for it and create a plan that will allow growth to occur in your life. Do you have such a plan? What are you doing intentionally that will result in your personal and professional growth in 2009?

What books are you reading this year? Do you have a list of books that you will read between now and the end of the year? Is there a reason you selected those books? For my devotional reading right now I am reading books on prayer in order to deepen my prayer life and my personal devotion time. As a result of my reading I have changed some things in my prayer life that I believe have improved it. This year I have also read a number of good books on leadership as a way to improve as a leader. Perhaps I am prejudiced because of my love for reading, but I believe a person who doesn't read good books cannot grow.

What workshops have you attended or plan to attend this year? Every minister receives countless invitations to workshops and seminars every year, and many of these are excellent opportunities to learn new skills and knowledge. In addition to leading several workshops this year, I have also attended several. At a recent gathering I led a workshop on the first day of the conference and attended workshops led by other presenters on the other two days. When I walked in one workshop someone who had attended mine the day before said, "Well look, he also goes to workshops!" You owe it to yourself and to others to attend at least one quality workshop each year. Even as a bivocational pastor I could find time to attend one or two, and each workshop I attended contributed to my growth.

Who have you invited alongside to help you grow? Mentors and coaches are essential at various times in our lives. Every minister has found times when he or she just felt stuck. Nothing seems to be happening in their lives or ministry and they have run out of ideas to try to reverse that. It is during such times that we need to invite a coach or mentor to walk with us through those dry valleys to help reach the other side much quicker. More than once I have gone to an experienced pastor when I just couldn't find the answer to my problems myself. More recently I have turned to a personal coach. It is amazing how much clarity a good coach can bring to a person in only a few sessions. Some people think having a coach is an expense they probably can't afford, but it is really an investment in your life and ministry. To put it in business terms, a good coach will provide you with an excellent return on investment.

There are more factors leading to personal growth than these three, but they are a good place to start. Let me ask the questions again. How have you planned to grow this year? What books are you reading this year? What workshops have you attended or plan to attend in 2009? Who have you invited to walk alongside you to help you grow as an individual and as a minister?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sermons outlines now available

Bivocational ministers are some of the busiest people in the world. Some weeks it can be very difficult to find the time to develop a sermon, and if you serve in a church where you have to preach two or three times every week it can be really rough. To help you with that I have added a new resource to my website. Every week or two I will put a new sermon outline on the web site that is free for you to use.

I encourage you to take the outline and make it your sermon. Use your own stories and illustrations. Use different texts that will better fit your congregation. You will likely find that my outline will trigger some thoughts leading to other sermons that will be much better than what I've provided. I found in 20 years of preaching to the same congregation every Sunday that sermon ideas can be found in some of the most unlikely places. One sentence in a book has led me to develop a whole series of sermons. Reading a sermon someone else wrote or listening to an audio of a sermon has help me develop a different sermon.

Each of the sermons I'll include have been preached by me to good reviews. Most will have been preached several times to different congregations. Go to the website and check out this week's message on discipleship, and please let me know if this is helpful to you.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Are you ready for a coach?

In the past few weeks I have talked to a number of bivocational ministers who are feeling extra stressed these days. They feel frustrated that their churches are not growing. Some are dealing with family issues, and in some cases the ministry is making those issues worse. A number are dealing with financial problems. They feel stuck as a person and as a minister.

I know how they feel because I have been there more than once. It's not a fun place to be, and it can be very difficult to feel there will ever be better days ahead. The last time I was dealing with some of those issues I was fortunate that I had a good coach to help me work through some of the challenges I was facing. Because of the benefit that I received from coaching I became interest in helping others as a coach. Since then I have had the opportunity to coach a number of fully-funded and bivocational ministers. The success of these coaching relationships led me to decide to do my DMin project on coaching bivocational ministers for greater ministry effectiveness. I am about half-way through that project and more convinced than ever that coaching is a great tool to help someone be able to again be moving forward in his or her life and ministry.

Right now I am able to coach two more persons who are tired of feeling stuck and are ready to move forward once again. Because I see coaching as part of my ministry to bivocational ministers my fees are much lower than most coaches charge. If you are feeling frustrated with your life or ministry right now I would encourage you to see those fees as an investment you are making in yourself.

If you are ready to again move forward with your life and ministry and believe having a coach might help you do that, please contact me for further information about the coaching relationship. You don't have to settle for being stuck.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

We are not keeping up

I just finished reading a challenging book by Stephen Gray and Franklin Dumond called Legacy Churches. The book was challenging for several reasons, but one of the most troubling things I found in this book was how quickly the church is losing ground in its efforts to reach the world for Jesus Christ.

The authors reported that it is widely accepted that 40% of Americans attend church on a regular basis. However, they quote another researcher, David Olson, who found that the average church attendance in actually around 17.5 percent! They go on to tell us

"In 2007 the American population climbed to over 300 million. However, the attendance averages within most American churches has remained unchanged for well over a decade. In 1990, approximately 52 million American attended worship each week. Fifteen years later, in 2005, the number remained relatively unchanged. While the United States population continued to explode from 1990 to 2005, the average worship attendance, as a percentage of the population, declined almost 3 percent...According to Olson's research, if the trend continues, by 2020 the percentage of Americans attending worship could drop from 17.5 percent to 14.7 percent."

The church already has lost much of its influence on society, and if these numbers are correct we are in danger of having even less impact in another ten years. The question I keep asking myself is what will the church do about this? Are we going to continue on doing the same things we have been doing which have already proven to be not very effective, or are we going to honestly assess everything we are doing as churches and denominations and prayerfully seek new visions from God for the future?

Our churches are growing older every year because we are not reaching younger people. Our values continue to be pushed out of the public arena because we have become so weakened that a large majority of the world no longer takes our values and beliefs seriously. We are failing to fulfill the Great Commission to the point that we will soon see 80% of our nation's population unchurched. We are being replaced by Eastern religions, cults, and a mixture of beliefs people combine to create their own religious system.

We have two choices. We can wring our hands, talk about how bad things are getting, and hunker down and hope to survive until the Rapture, or we can decide to become the church God has intended all along. At some point in history, a group of people shared a common vision to establish your church in order to reach your community for the Kingdom of God. It is time to recapture that vision. If the church is going down, let's go down fighting the enemy for every soul we can capture for the Kingdom of God. I bet your church sings "Rescue the Perishing" several times a year. Let's start doing that instead of just singing about it.

Two choices. Which one will your church make? Let me know.