Home > Uncategorized > When We Will Finally Admit It’s Not Working…

When We Will Finally Admit It’s Not Working…

Last month I came upon three various reports on the life of the church in the USA. The statistics are shocking to say the least.

1. First, I read about the rapid rise in the “immigrant churches” in the Minneapolis and St Paul area and the declining white churches.

“We have the largest concentration of Somali immigrants in the United States. We have the largest concentration of Hmong, Liberians, Oromos [Ethiopian], Anuaks [Sudanese] and Karens [Burmese], and the second-largest concentration of Tibetans. Some of these churches are huge, with over 1,000 members. Without [these churches] the number of churches would be going down, there’s no doubt about it. A lot of white churches are dying. Ethnic churches are where all the growth is.”

(Rev. John Mayer, executive director of City Vision)

2. Next, I read about the alarming trend of church attendance going down steadily since 1990.

According to “The American Church in Crisis” (David T. Olson) church attendance on an average weekend in the USA has fallen from 37% in 1990 to 17.5% in 2005.

Lest you think that this is just playing with statistics to get what you want, consider the following:

“This study is based on the largest-ever research study of American church attendance, yearly data from more than 200,000 individual Christian churches was collected from 1990 – 2006. This unique research base led the author to discover trends and patterns in the American church that were previously unknown.”

3. Finally, I came upon the latest findings of the huge number of non-believing Americans “Tripping over the church” and staying away from Jesus at the same time.

“The negative perception for many people, however, seems to be the church, not Jesus himself, according to the study. People on the outside see the church as candles, pews and flowers, rather than people living out their love for God by loving others,” he added. “Such skepticism can only be overcome by churches and believers who demonstrate the unity and love for which Jesus prayed.”

Had Enough?

If this was only the case in the USA alone that would be enough to make one wonder what is going on with our American Christianity. But even more tragic is the “army of millions of missionaries”, both long and short term, sent out as “ambassadors” FROM these declining churches, who sit today in many different nations reproducing this type of church.

I was so glad to see the following “pingback” from a blog I wrote on this on this subject I wanted to point it in your direction.


…I would like to suggest that Christianity may be one of the worst reproduced “products” on earth!

What I mean by that tantalizing line is that even McDonald’s knows enough to send their “Overseas Franchise Operators” through a rigorous and comprehensive training institute in the USA before ever opening a store in Phnom Pang. Yet, in the church, we often send workers with no other training than living in a western church for 3-5 years or so, plus a 1–5 month crash “discipleship course”, expecting then a near perfect reproduction on the other side of the earth in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan! (from my blog, Jeff Gilbertson)

I totally agree with this quote. And it’s a question I’ve struggled with for years. How do we create, model and coach something into place we’ve never experienced?

The modern approach that is taught is the CPM model or Church Planting Movement. Our organization has spend lots of money, time and energy researching, documenting and teaching this approach to mission work. After several years, we’re seeing very few CPM’s actually happening. Is it the approach? I honestly don’t know. Jesus didn’t use it, He just met people’s needs, taught the Kingdom and trained and equipped others to do the same. So why doesn’t it work like we hoped? Here are a few elements of the CPM movement and why WE fail it.

* Meet in homes. This one’s easy. How many of us attend small groups in the US as our sole and primary form of church? We do Sunday school, have big choirs, massive budgets, impersonal services, shallow interactions, staff to do all of the dirty work and then we come overseas and try to plant small groups that meet in homes. We don’t understand it because we’ve never experienced it. Even when we get overseas most of us have church meetings…on Sunday….at 11 am, with 5 songs, a children’s message and a 3 point sermon…why? Because this is what we know and this is what we value.

* Strong on one-on-one discipleship. Wow, I wish I had this in my life. In a recent team meeting of around 25 people we were asked to describe a time when we were discipled. The room was full of people with vast church experience, seminary degrees and ton of training and yet there were only two responses. Why? Because in the SBC we usually interpret the Great Commission as a call to “go and tell… ” not a call to share life, the good and bad with those around us in order to help others be disciples. In my application to serve here I was asked several times “About the most recent time I shared my faith with someone?” And not once was I asked to describe the last time I discipled someone. We lean on programs and classes to do the work that we were each commissioned to do. If we’re not being discipled by our leaders, then how can we expect to know how to do it with new believers….especially when they’re illiterate. (side question….Can you disciple someone with a cd?)

So what can we do to fix it? Can we fix it? Are we the problem?

(taken from the blog http://camelcrossing.net/?p=345)

Yours for the least in the Kingdom,

Jeff Gilbertson

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. May 8, 2008 at 1:14 AM

    There is another, and slightly more positive, way to look at these statistics. For the past couple of years I have spent time online with a number of fairly militant atheists, on one of their forums, and I think it is fair to say that:

    1. More of them are from the US than anywhere else (probably not that surprising, given language and access to the net).

    2. Their biggest reason for being atheists is not so much their conviction that God doesn’t exist (strong though that is), but their rage against the church and the nastiness that they see in it. Many say they were once christians (I think they were probably more culturally christian, though they say otherwise) and can describe various things they say disgusted and hurt them in their time in the church. And they can point out so many things they see as evil in the church today.

    I would think a lot of all this is exaggerated, but nevertheless, while there are many, many faithful people in the US church, I have also observed from a distance, things that look triumphalist, worldly and ugly. I think it is unfortunately true that whenever christianity becomes the dominant culture (e.g. Holy Roman Empire, USA) it is in danger. It can attract many people for wrong motives, and the position of cultural power can subvert good people’s motives.

    So I think it will be good for the visible public church to lose influence and position, and hopefully become more humble, servant-hearted and prayerful.

    We don’t have the problem to the same degree in Australia, so these are the thoughts of a “foreigner”, so if I am in error or offend anyone, I’m sorry.

    Best wishes.

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