Current state of the Church and Evangelism

Matthew 28:16-20
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ ”

The Great Commission – The last chapter, the final verses of the book of Matthew represents God’s calling to believers to spread His truth, the gospel message to all who will listen.

After more than two thousand years, what direction are we headed as a nation in continuing to focus on that calling with the next generation of Christians?

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is often viewed as a bellwether for the larger evangelical community. Every year they publish an Annual Church Profile, which summarizes the state of the denomination.

The 2017 Annual Report sadly does not have much to celebrate…

The good news: The number of churches grew by 1 percent over the previous year. The number of Southern Baptist churches has increased for the last 18 years.

But the bad news :

  • Lowest # of baptisms since 1946.
  • Lowest total membership since 1990.
  • Lowest # of worship attenders since 1996.
  • Average weekly worship attendance declined 7% over 2016.
  • Baptisms ­dropped to another record low, down 5% over 2016.

In short, our denomination continues to shrink and its baptism rate has slumped to its lowest level since shortly after the end of World War II in 1945. For decades Southern Baptists were the standout among faith groups, reporting strong baptism numbers while Methodists, Presbyterians, and others encountered deterioration at all levels. But now even the SBC is finding it difficult to overcome the same headwinds that has brought others into a retrenchment mindset. In fact, for the past decade Our domination has actually lost members as the US population has seen a new growth spurt.

A few observations on why is this happening?

  1. Many Southern Baptists have lost their passion for reaching the unchurched.
  2. The single fastest-growing religious group of our country are the ‘none’s’, those having no church or denominational affiliation.
  3. The sad reality is that 80 percent of churches in the SBC are plateaued or declining. Struggles associated with that decline have lessened an intentional focus on evangelism.
  4. Over the last 20 years we, as a nation, have moved away from an Acts 2 form of evangelism to an Acts 17 mission field.
    1. Acts 2 – Peter, taught biblical truth to those who already believed in a monotheistic God and knew the prophecies of a coming Messiah.
  1. Acts 2:22-23 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
    1. These people knew about Jesus and the true God. They had seen or heard about Jesus’s miraculous works and were curious about who he was.
    2. Acts 17 – Paul, preaching in Athens, had to start all the way back in Genesis to explain the gospel to a totally unchurched, agnostic or polytheistic audience.
  1. 2. Acts 17:23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
    1. Paul could not assume anything.
    2. Like Acts 17, millennials today are less willing to accept basic concepts such as the authenticity of Scripture, the Trinity, the reality of sin and, most importantly, the need for Salvation as a starting point in spiritual discussions.  This refusal to accept long accepted foundational beliefs intimidates church members and lengthens the time and commitment of building relationships as a necessity for evangelism.
  1. 3. Said another way, it is difficult to share Christ with individuals who have never had a church background and little understanding of who Christ is. The believer has to start from scratch, explaining who God is before having any discussions regarding His plan for a fallen creation.

 

Bottom line – Biblical Christians, as a group, no longer have the same level of passion as they have had in the past, for sharing the gospel with their neighbors. It’s perceived as too hard and too time consuming.

We have become more and more a closed society, communicating through text messages, twitter and snapchat rather than building relationships face-to-face.

Yet the the Bible has not changed. Scripture calls the church to serve the lost with the Great Commission. But if the Church is defined as a local congregation of believers, they (we) are sadly failing God’s calling.

Church-based efforts to evangelize the lost remain focused on traditional visitation in the home, even as members are more and more fearful to share their faith and the lost millennials become more isolated and resistant to narrow minded Christians and their outdated beliefs. Today’s neighbors do not know each other. People have moved from their front porches to their back patios, often unwilling to even answer the door when church members try to engage local communities. This is not to say that conventional visitation should not be conducted. We, as believers, need to take every opportunity to share what has been shared with us. But it does open the question of whether there is a better, more effective way to spread the Good News.

Where do we spend nearly 40% of our waking hours every week interacting with people? Where can we efficiently invest the time to build deep relationships with people and engage them at whatever place they are in their spiritual walk? Where can we share the gospel message with many who will rarely attend a church service and who have no relationship with a local Pastor?

The Workplace

Luke 10:27 was Christ’s response to the greatest commandment – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

The greatest expression of love we can show to others we work with every day is to tell them about Jesus Christ.

Jeff Hilles

Advertisements

Despair Gives Birth to a Christmas Carol

The beard barely covered the scars on the 57-year-old face, but the heart was still raw.  It was just two years prior when Henry woke up to see his wife aflame and tried to extinguish his wife with a rug and then his own body.  His efforts were futile as his wife died the next day and his face was burnt from the effort.  Now Henry was sitting in a room in Washington D.C. to attend to his son who was recently injured in the war.  The initial news of potential paralysis was grim, but hope would grow.   The son who was so eager to join up with the army was paying the price and the dad shared the cost. The son never asked him until he had left and the recruiter notified him to seek the approval of a father.  Henry gave approval, but how could he approve of this cost?  It seemed the world around him was going to hell, but it was Christmas day.  People were exclaiming to one another “Peace on Earth” and the bells were ringing for Christmas morning.  He believed the message of Christmas, but it sure didn’t feel like anywhere close to peace and justice this morning.  As he stroked his scarred and bearded face, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gave expression to his dissonance and hope with a poem, you have sung called, “I heard the bells on Christmas Day”.

Pastor Jarrod

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime,

A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound

The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn

The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Listen to a version of this song:

Share the Hope of Christmas

I love this time of year…. there’s just something about this season that seems to change us in ways that we don’t see quite as much the other 11 months of the year.  Maybe it’s Hope…… Now don’t get me wrong, Hope is certainly around all year and let’s face it, we all use the word numerous times daily.  We hope for good weather, we hope for a good day, we hope for good health for ourselves and others, we hope for success, we hope dinner is good, you name it, we can “Hope it” and we’re not afraid to share it.
So, how then, could Hope be the catalyst that changes things at Christmas?  It’s simple, Christ became Hope that first Christmas and we still aren’t over it.  From Creation, God promised a Savior and for hundreds of years His children waited, yearning and Hoping for the arrival of this Savior and King.   And when God’s timing was right and He put His plan in motion for the birth of his only begotten Son, Hope started taking on a new look.  Born of a virgin in a barn in Bethlehem wasn’t the look most were expecting for this King, but God’s plans were happening just as he said they would.  And as they were unfolding the Hope GOD had promised for hundreds of years was finally here and the Good News is ~ it hasn’t changed.  So while we hope for nice gifts, good meals, good fellowship etc, I think the HOPE found in our Savior and the promise of spending eternity with him as He planned is what makes these next few weeks different.   So Go and Tell it from your Mountain and see what the True Hope of CHRISTmas can do in the lives of those who are seeking Hope.
Chris Best