In short, enthusiasm clings to Adam and his descendants from the beginning to the end of the world. It is a poison implanted and inoculated in man by the old dragon, and it is the source, strength, and power of all heresy, including that of the papacy and Mohammedanism. Accordingly, we should and must constantly maintain that God will not deal with us except through his external Word and sacrament. Whatever is attributed to the Spirit apart from such Word and sacrament is of the devil. Smalcald Articles, III, VIII, par 9-10.
(This article was originally published on January 28, 2012. It has been updated and cleaned up a bit)
Earlier this week a church planting team from our LCMS District came to our congregation to talk about entering into a partnership with our congregation in Nashville, Tennessee. Situated smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt, home to the Christian music industry, our congregation is centrally located along what many have termed “church row.” We are one of the smaller churches along this stretch of road in Nashville, but we are growing. Nashville and Davidson County boast a population of approximately 620,000 people, 600,000 12 years earlier. In 2000, there were approximately 591 congregations with 297,312 members. When the statistics are adjusted for children, the figure jumps to just over 400,000 (Source: Association of Religious Data Archives). In 2007, the estimated population was 620,000. The number of churches climbed to 853 and church membership saw a slight increase to 304,238 (Source: Social Explorer using ARDA numbers). You can throw a rock and hit a large, mega, or brand new church in Nashville and its surrounding counties. I may be a little color blind when it comes to distinguishing the colors on the demographic map, but the numbers show pretty close to 50% of the adult population claims membership in a church in Davidson County, the geographic home of the Music City, and more than 60% when children are factored into the equation. So why plant churches when 262 new churches yielded only a slight increase in claimed membership over a 7 year period in Nashville? The answer may surprise you. Read the rest of this entry
HT to Steadfast Lutherans for reposting the post linked below from the Intrepid Lutherans blog. The post takes a look at the work of Chris Rosebrough at Pirate Christian Radio which examines the Church Growth movement, its origins and practices. Chris is the preeminent LCMS layman on the topic of the CGM which has spawned the Emergent Church. The EC is attempting to rewrite the narrative of the Christian faith, and, in the process, reinterpreted Scripture to suit postmodern cultural relativism. This rewriting of the Christian story and reinterpretation has given us terms such as the churched and unchurched instead of sinners and believers, authentic worship experience rather than the liturgy or divine service, or fully devoted Christ followers as opposed to Christians. These “movements” sever the last tie to the church that is a factual reality in history. Having abandoned faith alone solely in and on account of the work ofChrist alone, the revelation of Scripture is discarded for the casting of vision, focus on the personal experience of the person with the divine, and execution of list after endless list of things to do to be an “authentic ” Christ follower. Be sure and check out the links in post as they contain highly instructive and enlightening materials. Click the link below or cut and paste it into your browser ‘s address bar. http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=19847
Gene Veith over at Cranach: The Blog of Veith draws our attention to the recent blog on CNN – Belief Blog identifying the real demographic that makes up the unchurched. It is not our middle to upper class youth, or the hip slickster attracted to the Mega-Church-Emerging Church, Evangelical, Relevant,Hipster, Pastor trying to be like everyman in his congregation and peddling best buddy Jesus and re-writing God’s story of salvation. No, it is not the target audience for the church growth institutions. Rather it is the less educated, lower income, blue collar folks who are not as hip, intellectual and sophisticated as those who we want to grace the doors of our auditoriums for the super, awesome, entertaining mega rock concert with an amazing light and video show with a bit of teaching thrown in. But don’t take my word for it. Read Veith’s blog post below, then click through and check out the comments on the post. They are quite challenging and thought provoking and should challenge us in our outreach efforts.
You want church growth? You want to reach the unchurched? Stop the preoccupation with middle class suburbanites and young urban professionals. The fields that are in the greatest need of harvest are the less educated, the lower income, and the blue collar. THAT’S the group that has stopped going to church:
If you don’t have a college degree, you’re less likely to be up early on Sunday morning, singing church hymns.That’s the upshot of a new study that finds the decline in church attendance since the 1970s among white Americans without college degrees is twice as high as for those with college degrees.“Our study suggests that the less-educated are dropping out of the American religious sector, similarly to the way in which they have dropped out of the American labor market,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, who was lead researcher on the project.The research, presented this week at American Sociological Association’s annual meeting, found that 37% of moderately educated whites – those with high school degrees but lacking degrees from four-year colleges – attend religious services at least monthly, down from 50% in the 1970s.Among college-educated whites, the dropoff was less steep, with 46% regularly attending religious services in the 2000s, compared with 51% in the ’70s.The study focuses on white Americans because church attendance among blacks and Latinos is less divided by education and income.Most religiously affiliated whites identify as Catholics, evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants, Mormons or Jews.Lower church attendance among the less-educated may stem from a disconnect between them and modern church values, the study theorizes.Religious institutions tend to promote traditional middle-class family values like education, marriage and parenthood, but less-educated whites are less likely to get or stay married and may feel ostracized by their religious peers, the researchers said.via Less-educated Americans are losing religion, study finds – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs.
Why do you think these folks, who used to be avid church goers, have become alienated from churches? What in churches today, including their church growth strategies, would turn them off? How might they be brought back into the fold?
UPDATE: Be sure to read the comments for some very insightful and challenging thoughts.
A couple of months ago I posted an article entitled “Do We Miss the Point of Worship? Is it for Seekers and Evangelism?” I have been thinking about that article quite a bit lately in the context of the worship life of the church. Seekers are generally thought to be unchurched persons who have a desire for things spiritual. They know there is something more, they are just trying to find it. They are said to be seeking God, looking for Him. We are told that our services need to be user friendly, non-threatining, not offensive, and accessible so that unchurched visitors — seekers — will not be turned off to our message and will return. Listening to an Internet radio program the other day — Chris Rosebrough on Pirate Christian Radio — the commentator observed that there are no seekers in the church. As the basis for this statement, he referred to Paul’s letter to the Romans, Chapter 3:9-12:
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
Paul quotes Psalms 14 and 53 here, for the proposition that no one seeks for God, that we have all turned aside, becoming worthless, pursuing what pleases us. This recognition that there is no one who seeks after God, therefore, has ancient authority as the Psalmists attest. Paul says elsewhere in Ephesians that we are dead in our trespasses and sins. Read the rest of this entry