From the Pastor´s Desk February 2008

 


I am a pastor, not a statistician.  But I like statistics.  I study them all the time and have used them throughout my ministry.  I want to share two statistics with you. 

85%.  That is the percentage of churches in the US that are declining or dying.
10.  That is the number of churches that are closing their doors forever every day.

I don’t want LLBC to be a one of these statistics.  That is the reason why I invited a small group of you to take a survey and to meet last Saturday/Sunday with David Zimmerman, a church consultant, who helped us to analyze the results of that survey. According to that survey, LLBC is among the 85% of declining or dying churches. 

Some of you may be wondering how did we get to the place we are now? Part of the answer is that the world we are trying to reach for Christ has changed. The world is asking different questions and we are still trying to answer the questions of the 60’s and 70’s.  The majority of teens through 49 year olds feel that the church is irrelevant.  Just inviting someone to church doesn’t work anymore.

We need to make sure that our ministry holds desperately to the Word of God AND is culturally relevant to those that we are trying to reach. LLBC is at a crossroads.  Will we continue to decline and be among the 10 churches that die each day and close their doors forever or will we re-dream the dream that those in our past have had.  LLBC has had an effective ministry and made a difference in the past. Will we again?  To reach our community we need to make some changes – changes in us and the way we do ministry.  But we don’t like change.  Change is uncomfortable.  Change can cost us.  So how do we proceed?

I believe we begin by asking what we want our church to be like.  As I reflected on this question I imagined an Acts 2 church in which all the ‘ingredients’ of Acts 2 are found: worship, teaching, sharing Christ with others, genuine love for one another and meeting people’s needs.  (Read Acts 2:37-47) I believe that if LLBC is this kind of church we should experience the same kind of results that they did in Acts 2: people inside and outside the church will take notice that something is going on, there will be ‘gladness and sincerity of heart’ of the members, and lost people will be added to the kingdom.  An Acts 2 church should make such a difference in their community that if it were to close, those outside the church would notice.  Does Acts 2 reflect LLBC?  We can say that we have all of the ingredients, which we should celebrate, but we don’t necessarily see the same kind of results. And who in our community, besides those of us who attend, would be affected if LLBC were to cease to exist? 

The next question we need to ask is ‘how do we get to be one of those churches that are growing and making a difference in their community?’  Can we get there just by trying harder?  One person has defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  So, no, just trying harder will not make a difference.  What about more knowledge?  If more knowledge were the answer then Southern Baptists would not have a crisis in their churches.  We have the finest seminaries and the best Bible teaching organization in the US (our Sunday School) and still the majority of Southern Baptist churches are declining.  So what do we need to do?

One option is to continue as we are.  We will continue to see signs of life for a time, but eventually, as our numbers continue to diminish through attrition and neglect we may have to close the doors.  I don’t like that, do you? I don’t believe that the Lord is through with us yet!

The other option is to do something different, to have someone from the outside help us look critically at our church with an objective eye and help us to see the things that we need to do.  (Tiger Woods is undisputedly the best golfer in the world.  Yet even Tiger uses a coach to call attention to problems in his game and to help him develop good habits that will make him a better golfer.)  A coach will not come to us with all of the answers, because he doesn’t have them.  But he can help us to ask the questions so that we can discover the answers.  It will cost us, but anything worth doing has a price.  (If we needed a new roof, we would spend the money.  If we had a family member with a fatal but curable disease, we would spend all we had to make sure that they got well.) 

The goal of the process is to discover how the King of the universe wants to rule afresh as Lord of our church.  It is a matter of surrender to the rule and reign of Christ.  Without personal renewal and revival there will be no change in our church and no relevancy to the world we are called to reach.

I ask your prayers as we seek to be the church God desires.

Bro. Keith

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