Bobby Ross Jr. recently posted a very informative and alarming article on the Christian Chronicle website concerning the non-growth of Churches of Christ in America. He reports- based on data from the 2009 edition of Churches of Christ in the United States– that our total current membership is at its lowest level since 1980 (the first year efforts were made on a large scale to document total membership).
The article explored several contributing factors to our membership loss, but the discussion about losing our children really caught my attention. The loss in our numbers reflects the “graying of the pew” the article pointed out.
But my question is- is anyone alarmed yet? Or are we going to remain content to sit by idly and watch our younger people continue to slip away?
I think this article and the research it is based upon is a major wake-up call. Leaders in our churches should take this information to heart and urgently respond to it.
To me this means:
- An honest self-evaluation of the vision and direction of our church. What are our goals? Just what are we doing to engage, encourage and equip the faith of our younger generations? Do we actively seek to involve them in all phases of church life? Are we even relevant to them anymore?
- Dumping whatever is not working. Do I have to remind you of the definition of insanity?
- Stop fussing and fighting. For a movement born of unity we have set horrible examples to our younger generations. Many have grown up witnessing church splits and ungodly behavior among church leaders mainly over disputable matters and/or personailty conflicts. Little wonder we are having trouble keeping them. We need to put this childish pattern behind us and grow up in the grace of Christ and learn how to love and accept each other- differences and all.
- Work together. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. We need to stop already with the suspicion and contempt toward each other. Again what message are we sending our younger people when sister churches in the same community ignore or worse, belittle each other?
- Rediscover a passion for evangelism. We need no special courses. No church-wide program. No Bible degree. Just go and tell what the Lord has done for you. This brings light into darkness to expose, challenge and defeat it. We must learn to be bold again (think Acts here) in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
- Trust God. If we plant and water he will give the increase! Too often I fear, we micro-manage God right out of the way. If we are to reverse our erosion then it has to be a movement born of him- not clever church growth or marketing campaigns.
We certainly cannot afford another generation growing up not knowing God (Judges 2:10).