Churches across America are in a dilemma.
The dilemma includes accepting or rejecting alarming data about the future of the church in America.
Some churches are thriving, but most are only surviving. Some data indicates three out of five churches will close in the next five years.
George Barna has published a report called The Future of Missions. It is very helpful to understand what is going on in the world of missions today. Dr. Paul Chitwood, President of IMB, wrote the preface.
He begins by clearly stating some grim facts.
- Church attendance and the number of people who identify themselves as Christians are in sharp decline.
- Younger Christians are not as involved in church as their parents were.
- The command to go and make disciples is ignored by nearly half of young adults, and young people are feeling increasingly uneasy about witnessing.
Christianity is being marginalized, while consumerism and self-fulfillment are today’s top goals.
This data has the church on its heels. Twelve months ago the church guru’s focused on improving live stream as the key to maintaining committed members.
But the most recent data shows that COVID-19 brought in a shift of lifestyle and a new perspective about how people view the American church.
Pastor Mark Clark says, “We have to recognize that attitudes toward the church have changed. These days, the church is viewed as anti-gay, judgmental, too political, racist, and hypocritical. Those are probably the top things that the outside, post-Christian world says about the church (and many within the church too who are choosing to leave).
How can the church recover from such a bad reputation? A large percentage of society once viewed the church as a source of hope.
That is no longer true.
Early in 2021 live stream was the saving solution to a dying church. Live Stream was tagged as the new church foyer. Once the churches reopened the church experts were advised churches to up their game with digital content.
Live stream was the life jacket for the 2020 church. Many pastors drank the live stream Kool-aid. But live stream services were not the entire solution.
The foyer moved again.
Eat the blue pill
Now, the blue pill is random acts of kindness and reaching out to the community. I love it and agree. Serving others is a great idea.
Can serving others save the reputation of the local church? Not sure, but it’s a great place to start.
I love to say, “some can only be reached by being served.”
Who does not like being served? Who says “no” to random acts of kindness? Very few.
I came across this story a few months ago.
A rector repairs bikes
Robbie Pruitt is an assistant rector at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Leesburg, Virginia. He is also the subject of a unique profile in the Washington Post. Someone stole his mountain bike off the rack of his Honda Odyssey last September. He realized that the thief might have stolen the bike because they’re in short supply during the pandemic.
So Pruitt, who has been riding and repairing bikes since he was a child, announced that he would fix anyone’s bicycle for free. He also said he was accepting unwanted bikes, which he would improve and donate to people in need. By the end of the year, he had repaired more than 140 bicycles, donating 60 percent of them and returning the rest to their owners. He primarily focuses on supporting children and families who are struggling.
Pruitt says, “You’re certainly providing a service, but it’s not the bikes. It’s the relationships in the community. It’s the impact you can make with people.”
Whose “bike” will you repair today?
Churches step up
Churches in many cities are stepping up their serving strategy.
In 2020, Elevation Church in North Carolina logged 110,000 volunteer hours with their city outreaches.
LifeBridge Christian Center in Longview, Texas recently reached out to their community with multiple programs to serve others. They branded their outreach, “My City, My Responsibility.”
LifeBridge cooked for first responders, delivered food, cleaned city parks, visited skate parks, supplied food for kids at parks, cleaned flower beds at local schools, and purchased items for foster kids.
Nothing short of remarkable.
Churches all across America are diving headfirst into the pool of community service.
Is community outreach the answer for the struggling church? Maybe or maybe not.
One thing is for sure — where people serve, no one loses.
Thanks for reading this post. You can also have similar articles delivered to your email. Sign up here.
Please leave a comment. We would love to hear from you.
Like us on Facebook here.
This post first appeared here.