The Religious Landscape Looks Different
Dear Woodview friends and family,
The religious and spiritual landscape of America is very different today! I'm not that old (at least, I don't consider myself very old), but I remember when popular thought and the accepted method of reaching people was that most people were just waiting for an invitation to church, that everyone was thinking about where they would spend eternity, and that if the church was just able to get its message out people were eager and willing to come to Christ. And maybe that's how things were...at least, they were a lot closer to that a few decades ago than they are now.
Recently, a director of church growth and church planting, a director of church leadership, and a director of research for the largest protestant denomination in the United States did a study. Let me share with you some of the most revealing quotes from their research.
They researched several thousand unchurched Americans and here are some things they discovered:
"Of those who said they are a Christian, a third said they aren't devout, and a third said they aren't currently practicing."
"A quarter of unchurched people think they are Christians with a strong faith."
"For the majority of the unchurched, the church has had a chance to present who Jesus Christ is and what we are about and for whatever reasons they have said, 'that is not for me.'"
"Just 35% of people say they would be likely to attend if somebody they knew invited them to a worship service."
"Two-thirds of unchurched people do not see themselves regularly attending church in the future."
"Forty-three percent of the unchurched never think about the afterlife."
Now, those can be pretty discouraging quotes. And I have no reason to doubt them; in fact, from my own experiences in talking to people and inviting people to church, I would say those quotes are confirmed! But the news isn't all bad -- all it means is that the religious and spiritual landscape is different today and so we must change and adapt. The church must change strategies and practices (never changing the message of the gospel or commitment to Scripture) to effectively share with and reach out to the people of our communities.
Here are some more quotes from their research that can help us learn or at least attempt to connect people to Jesus:
"Only a quarter of the unchurched have never attended a church regularly in their life." Now, that means that they left the church for some reason that we need to overcome, but at least they are not completely unfamiliar with what we are talking about or what we mean.
"Forty-seven percent said they would discuss it freely if someone wanted to discuss their religious beliefs." The word "discuss" is the key -- they aren't looking for us to lecture them or "tell them how it is." What they are willing to do is discuss these things -- and we've got to step out to do that even if it feels scary and uncomfortable to us at first.
"When we asked the unchurched if a Christian had shared with them about the benefits of becoming a Christian, only 35% said yes." That lets us know that we're the problem! The reason the kingdom isn't growing is because we aren't doing our job well enough.
"I've got to start looking at more situations in my life when I can bring Him into the conversation." The best opportunities for us to build spiritual bridges to people and enter into spiritual conversations is when we see people in situations and we can talk to them and pray with/for them.
So, yes, the landscape is different...but the command to the church hasn't changed. It is still people who are in Christ (the church) reaching out to people who need to connect and reconnect with Jesus and working at that in loving, sensitive, wise ways.
This Sunday is going to be a great day at Woodview. I love the words of David, "I rejoiced with those who said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the LORD.'" -- Psalm 122:1.
Jon B. Stradtner