Sunday, March 25, 2012

Decline in Churches of Christ: Good News and Bad News

Did you read the front page article in the March 2012 issue of the Christian Chronicle?

The article starts with this summation:
 21st Century Christian identifies 12,629 a cappella Churches of Christ with 1,578,281 adherents nationwide.  The number of men, women and children in the pews has dipped to the lowest level since a comprehensive effort to count members began in 1980, according to the 2009 edition of Churches of Christ in the United States. This is a drop of over 12,000 people and 708 churches since 2009. 

There's both good news and bad news here. Let's start with the good news first.

Heritage Strength
There is a movement of new churches that are reaching new people with the gospel and they have found strength in our restoration heritage. Kairos is working with fantastic younger men and women who are exploring our heritage anew and finding in it vitality for the future. This is what our heritage is built to do: to use the Word of God to create anew in the world of God. These church planters are engaging both sides of this equation. They are using the tools of our heritage's approach to scripture and digging into it deeply. They are also engaging the world as missionaries. The result, they are learning how to engage God's lost people in Gospel conversations.

There is reason to hope and to persevere into the future.
But there is also bad news:

The Decline Will Continue
I came to the "decline" conclusion the Chronicle is reporting over ten years ago as I saw what was happening in Churches of Christ on the west coast and the Northwest. As our Kairos leadership team looks at California, Oregon and Washington we see a decline that will continue--and will continue at an ever faster rate over the next years. This is the cold, hard fact.

What Do We Do?
There are always choices and other certainties. Let me list a few:
1.  God's kingdom will always endure. There's no doubt here. The resurrection of Jesus is God's victory act in the world. He rules.
2.  We can choose to live faithfully and engage God's mission. There are more churches making this choice. Someone asked me a few weeks ago if I am seeing a geographic change in Churches of Christ. No, I don't. What I do see is that churches that have preachers who have a good kingdom theology and a love for our fellowship are taking their churches into healthy, dynamic places.
3.  We can join together to plant a new generation of churches across America whose leaders and people know how to successfully navigate culture and reach new people. This is happening, albeit slowly to this point. 
4.  We can ignore the need and let our fears or our own small, local concerns overwhelm us and turn our eyes away from what God can do.
    I pray you will choose to be a difference maker. Call me. Let know: 360-609-6700.  

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