Categories
Kingdom Life

Scary statistics

I’ve been compiling some statistics re the state of the church in this country for a book I’m helping to write.  I know you can make numbers prove anything, but is there a general trend? The question I’m trying to answer is this: Is the church in the West in crisis?

Here are some I found:

  • Of the self-identified Christians in the United States,  64% say they have confessed their sins to God and asked for his forgiveness, but only 3% say they have surrendered control of their life to God, submitted themselves to his will, and devoted themselves to loving and serving God and other people.
  • Less than one-half of one percent of adults aged 18 to 23 has a biblical worldview, compared to about 9% older adults. These figures can be doubled amongst “born-again” Christians. (A Biblical worldview is defined by believing in absolute moral truth, the accuracy of Biblical principles, the reality of Satan, God as creator and salvation through faith in Jesus.)
  • In the average year, half of all churches do not add one member per year through conversion growth.

While many churches are thriving, many more are struggling.

So what do you think?  Are we in crisis?

9 replies on “Scary statistics”

I can only look from afar, so what would I know? But from this distance it seems like the US church is in crisis because it has departed so far from God’s plan for the church. We are supposed to be servants who humbly participate in the mission of God and serve others. It doesn’t like that is always the case for the church, though it undoubtedly is for some individual christians. I think God is doing a new thing (though at bottom it is still the same ageless thing of the kingdom of God), and I think many churches are somewhere else doing something else (mostly preservation of the institution and of the senior pastor).

But I have problems with some of the definitions in those statistics. Is “absolute moral truth” a Biblical view, or at least a New Testament view? Paul says in several places that we serve no longer in the old way of a written (i.e. fixed or absolute) code, but in the new way of the Spirit, and says anything not done in faith is sin. We don’t have rules so much now as the guidance of the Spirit.

Perhaps I misunderstand the definition, but if I were asked if I believe in absolute moral truth, I would be unsure of how I would answer it. I think “Love God and love your neighbour” are absolute moral truths, but not what passes for morality with most people.

UnkleE,
I agree with what you say here.

As regards the definition of Biblical worldview, I condensed what was said for the sake of the blog. Here’s the full definition: 

“For the purposes of the survey, a “biblical worldview” was defined as believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today. In the research, anyone who held all of those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview.”I don’t know if the full definition makes any difference. I interpret “absolute moral truth” to mean that there is such a thing as right and wrong (as opposed to everything being relative.) What do you think?

I wouldn’t say crisis necessarily. I think it is obvious that churches in the U.S. are now quite ineffective or at least very inefficient in achieving what would generally be their stated goals (evangelism, discipleship, ministering to people’s spiritual needs, etc). Pastors and other church leaders have begun to recognize that something is wrong and keeping to the status quo isn’t going to be effective. Now leaders have come up with many different things they believe are the problem/solution. My impression is that many want to rearrange the furniture but not to actually move. In other words, they want to fix things by changing the worship service or adding a new program, but they aren’t really prepared to make the deep changes which are actually necessary. So many people want to keep things the way they’ve been. Because of this many churches have died and many more will do so. I don’t personally have a problem with this. At the same time I think God is moving in people to do something new, which is why I wouldn’t call it a crisis.

As one who does not hold any degrees or
titles recognized in the institutional church (except having been a
deacon for several years), it has been my observation after 32 years
as a believer, that something is amiss/off in the church.

One of those observations from the
churches that I have been a part of has been the way they too often
try to copy what another church has been successful doing. This, I
feel, has been a detriment. It honestly makes me question whether
those leading the assembly have really sought God as to where they
need to go or whether they are being told by others, who are supposed
to be experts in church growth, how things have to be done. They see
a successful church that has publicized their method and feel they
need to do the same things. One local church that followed another
churches method eventually rejected that churches decision that their
error of thinking that “plugging people into ministry” was
how people would grow and were re-evaluating how they were doing
things. That same local church pastor later asked me how could he get
the people to grow. That question has dogged me to this day. It is
what eventually has led me to look into the organic church area.

Another aspect is that the local church
is not to be about one person/pastor and their calling and
convictions. Every church that I have been a part of has always been
about the pastor. Everything that is done revolves around what the
weekly sermon is about and that the scripted questions are answered
in community group and sometimes in the Sunday school. Christ is not
allowed to freely work through each believer. The people are told,
“this is how you need to work out your salvation and how you are to
raise your families.” We tried all of that with our first two
children. They have rejected the faith, at least as it has been
presented by the, so called, leadership. We decided with our third
child to just let God do what he desires. That child has not rejected
the faith “once and for all delivered to the saints.”

I am convinced that people will grow
when they are able to be active participants in the weekly
gatherings, able to express the indwelling Christ. It would likely
take a while to teach many about the reality of “Christ in you”,
since that is rarely taught, but I believe they would discover so
much more than what is offered as standard fare in most local
churches.

All of this is not to say that God does
not work among His people in the local churches. It is to say that
God cannot be confined to what one person feels others should be
doing.

Pardon me if this seems to ramble. I am
in process of working this all out, seeking Jesus, trying to “learn
from Him”.

My wife and I are discovering many more
who have similar concerns, though not stated in the same way. Once
the terminology is clarified, which will keep me from getting that
“dog turning its head” look, I think I will discover we are not
alone in these concerns.
 

Frank,
I totally agree with your comments. The idea that the Holy Spirit will lead each person and each body of believers into a journey of following Jesus is missing in most churches. The problem is that we have defined success in terms of numbers rather than obedience. When a church “succeeds” then others copy rather than following the Lord. That can apply within the house/organic/simple church world too. Many churches are changing their home groups to “house churches” without the essential change in DNA. 

One of the differences within the organic church movement is that the role of leadership is to equip people to minister into whatever area the Lord is leading them, rather than asking everyone to buy into their own (the pastor’s) vision.

I love the sound of the journey the Lord has you on and think you will find many others traveling a similar path.

“One of the differences within the organic church movement is that the
role of leadership is to equip people to minister into whatever area the
Lord is leading them, rather than asking everyone to buy into their own
(the pastor’s) vision.”

Yes, this is probably the greatest hindrance.

“One of the differences within the organic church movement is that the
role of leadership is to equip people to minister into whatever area the
Lord is leading them, rather than asking everyone to buy into their own
(the pastor’s) vision.”

Yes, this is probably the greatest hindrance.

“One of the differences within the organic church movement is that the
role of leadership is to equip people to minister into whatever area the
Lord is leading them, rather than asking everyone to buy into their own
(the pastor’s) vision.”

Yes, this is probably the greatest hindrance.

Leave a Reply to Frank Prescott Cancel reply