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3 Ways to Try to Kill the Church In America

Old Salem Church and Cemetery

So the big news among religious leaders right now are the latest results from new research conducted by the Pew Research Center. The data reflects what I and plenty of other leaders have been anecdotally observing for a while – Christianity is losing ground while other religions are growing along with the number of unaffiliated people.

One of the most interesting statistics for me personally is this little detail:

The new survey indicates that churches in the evangelical Protestant tradition – including the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, Churches of Christ, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Presbyterian Church in America, 0ther evangelical denominations and many nondenominational congregations – now have a total of about 62 million adult adherents. That is an increase of roughly 2 million since 2007, though once the margins of error are taken into account, it is possible that the number of evangelicals may have risen by as many as 5 million or remained essentially unchanged.

That means two things. First, evangelicalism has more adherents than a decade ago. And second, that growth hasn’t kept up with the actual total population growth in the U.S. In other words, we’ve reached more Americans, but we’re reaching less of America as it outgrows us.

The Washington Post shared the news with a simplistic headline of Christianity faces sharp decline as Americans are becoming even less affiliated with religion. Most of those commenting on the article give evidence of not having read the article. The consensus would be something along the lines of “Christianity in America is shrinking because it’s too conservative theologically.” This seems logical, but there’s a problem. It isn’t true. As I commented there,

So, evangelicalism, generally referring to those who believe in a supernatural God, a risen Jesus, and a trustworthy Bible, are doing alright, while denominations that have given up on biblical theology in an attempt to be more agreeable with the surrounding culture are shrinking. Interesting.

This is a point most people seem to miss. After pouring over Pew’s report and reflecting on some of my own observations about evangelicalism in America, I’ve come to some conclusions about what is really going on. I’ll summarize them this way – there are three ways we’re killing the church in America. They are…

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Reaching the Nones, Nominals, and Nomads

NomadsAt Grace Hills, we often talk about our passion for reaching the least, the last, and the lost. Another church planting friend of mine talks about reaching the bent, the bound, and the broken.

Thom Rainer, who has a knack for making research interesting, has put forth some real data about these unreached peoples, and he has three new terms too: the nones, the nominals, and the nomads. Rainer writes,

The nones represent those American adults that self-identify as having no church affiliation. A recent Pew Research study garnered much attention when it noted that the number of American nones had grown from 15 percent of the population to 20 percent of the population in the past five years…

Most research and strategies for churches to reach the unchurched have dealt with reaching the nones. There are, however, two other groups that are largely neglected…

About 80 percent of the American adult population has some religious affiliation. But over half of that group states they attend church monthly, yearly, seldom, or never. I call that group the nominals

Though church leaders intuitively know there are large numbers of these persons to reach, few develop strategies for doing so.

From my perspective, the nomads are one of the most neglected groups by church leaders. The reason we neglect them is simple: we see them often so we don’t think of them as unchurched… It is my thesis that much of the attendance drop in churches today can be explained by the commitment and attendance behavior of church members.

via Churches That Reach the Nones, Nominals, and Nomads – ThomRainer.com.

Church attendance isn’t the normative behavior of people in our current culture, so it cannot be assumed that everyone will feel the need to check out church. What we do know is that everyone needs to be loved, so reach out to the nones, the nominals, and the nomads. Go love’em. Go reach’em!

Seven Ways Twitter Will Improve Your Preaching and Teaching

John Calvin published 22 volumes of commentaries on the Bible and Martin Lloyd-Jones published 9 volumes on Romans alone. What if you could remove all of the non-essential language, antiquated stories, and strip all of that knowledge down to some bite-sized, transportable truths? There is certainly room for argument against such condensation of historic works, but we have to realize that we live in a society inundated with more information in a day than Calvin consumed in a year.

In other words, the ability to be succinct and concise is worth gold when communicating truth in today’s culture. And Twitter helps. The ability to write volumes of words is impressive, but possibly not as impressive as the ability to take a deep and complex theological truth or spiritual application and package it in 140 characters or less.

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