Below is an interesting article about people who come to church twice a year. I find the thoughts about Barna Research interesting, fewer people are coming to church and fewer Christians are inviting people to church. One of the things we struggle with in the emerging post-church culture is how to engage people with the Gospel. The number of people who go to, and support church, are dwendling. Those who are life long church goers are getting older and dying, while many people simply do not find church to be relevant to their lives. Whatever the cause, church attendance across all denominations and non-denominations is dwendling. The old order of things is passing away, a new order will emerge. We are living in a time of historic shift, a time not unlike the Reformation. Society and church are in upheaval, change is rapid and it can be scary. We have hope.r. The church belongs to Jesus, he is leading us in these times of rapid change and fear. Let us keep our eyes on him, follow him where he goes and not be afraid of the future; our future or the future of the church! He is Risen!
Chreasters, By Craig Cable
"Church leaders and volunteers all over the country are once again scurrying to prepare for the big day-Easter-the single most celebrated day by Christians all around the world. In a matter of days, church attendance will swell by 40 to 50 percent as people make their token appearance at church. This phenomenon will be repeated at the end of the year as those same people emerge from their homes to grace the doorways of churches all across the country to celebrate Christmas. I like to call these seasonally influenced Christians "Chreasters."
However, churches may be seeing less of an influx than in years past. Barna Research recently published a study that stated, "Less than one-third of born-again Christians are planning to invite anyone to join them at a church event this Easter season."
Regardless of who shows, we in the church roll out the red carpet and welcome these guests in the sincere hope they'll return and join us every week. Unfortunately, most won't be back regularly.
Some may contend that America is losing its faith or that most Americans just aren't interested in a growing relationship with Jesus. According to another Barna study, however, 64 percent of the population is completely open to pursuing their faith in an environment or structure that differs from that of a typical church. And 75 percent of the population believes that God is motivating them to connect with him through different means and experiences than were common in the past. Given that, I'd like to suggest four ways you can capture the Chreaster crowd.
Go to them. You've heard it before: location, location, location. Retail-user studies show that, on average, people will drive three miles or less to get to a grocery store. Why? Because anything outside of three miles is inconvenient. Rather than expecting people to drive to your church, why not create ministry intersection opportunities on their turf?
Offer times that fit people's schedules. Weekends are busy. Between soccer games, grocery shopping, laundry, and house cleaning, there isn't much time for anything else. Rather than forcing people to fit their schedules around your service times, why not offer times that don't compete? Who knows? Maybe lunch time would be the ticket.
Recognize that there's such a thing as too big and too small. A common complaint I hear from Chreasters is that they feel invisible at church. They feel they're nameless, faceless people in the crowd and no one really knows them, their struggles, or their needs. On the flip side, they're not exactly beating down the doors to be in small groups where they can build more interpersonal connections. It's time to explore formats that offer a welcoming environment, small enough to allow people to be known without seeming exclusive or "clubby."
Practice listening more than speaking. Regardless of where people are on their faith journeys, they're going to have questions. Even Jesus' disciples had significant questions, and Jesus took the time to listen and respond to them. Why have we created environments that require people to listen passively and keep their questions to themselves? What's more, only a third of our people are auditory learners, which means that two-thirds of our audience may not be listening at all. Let's create opportunities for people to respond and be a part of the conversation. It will help us build relationships with them, and it will help them grow in their faith."
I just got off the phone with a friend whose life has been totally wrecked, some of it his fault, much of it not. He has been struggling to put his life back together after a terrible divorce, loss of his career job, financial, spiritual and emotional ruin. After talking with him, I meagerly offered to keep him in my prayers. Big deal, I'll pray to an invisible God who I am not always sure listens anyway. But I can't do anything else. I can't fix his problems, I don't have a magic wand. All I have is the promise to pray. So I prayed. I went outside and began to walk and talk to God. My first question was, "Where are you?" My friend is a child of God, sure he has his problems, but he doesn't deserve to be in this two years, so far, of constant downward spiral and destruction.
I know all the almost trite quotations of Scripture, but quotes do little in the midst of real despair and struggle. My friend wants to die. I know that Christ says he will never leave my friend or forsake him. I know that God has plans for my friend, plans for a future and a hope. In fact I preached on God's plans this past Sunday. But faced with a friend who has endured two years of despair and destruction (actually a life of despair and destruction starting as an abused child and continuing on through addiction and incarceration) my Sunday sermon seems somehow without power. So I ask, "Where is God?"
The answer is simple yet totally convoluted and almost untenable. God is here. During the dark ages, writers called this life a "veil of tears". Life was so hard, so devastating that the only hope the masses had was the hope of the final resurrection where those who belong to Jesus would live forever in the new heaven and new earth, with immortal bodies void of sorrow and pain. In the Revelation chapter 21, John gives us a picture of that new life when he says, "I saw a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and earth had disappeared, and the sea was gone. Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, dressed like a bride ready for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “God lives with humans! God will make his home with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There won’t be any more death. There won’t be any grief, crying, or pain, because the first things have disappeared.”
There is our hope. Our hope in Christ is not just for this life, which is fleeting, but for eternal life. Not a life lived on clouds, playing harps, but a life lived forever in a resurrected unsoiled body. A life lived forever with our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A life lived forever with each other. No more tears, no more sorrow, no more hurt or abuse or struggle. God will wipe away every tear we've shed in this life. Where is God? He is in every struggle, every hurt, holding our hand, lifting us up, working his life into ours. God is active through his Son, Jesus, to work his eternal life into our temporary, crappy, earthly one. While I hurt, and I hurt for my friends, I have this un-shakable faith that God is at work and the reward of a new life is worth all the hell we endure now. I don't know why God doesn't just fix all our problems, I sure wish he would. But I do know, without a doubt, that God is at work even, or probably especially, in our most horrible circumstances to bring about good in our lives now and forever.
We have to be real and recognize the hurts, the struggle, the crappyness that life often throws at us. At the same time, we have to keep faith that our struggles are temporary and that God will, in the end, overcome all our stuff and give us the life he intended us to have from the beginning. Where is God? I don't have all the answers, but I do know he is most definitely here in the middle of all the junk, doing the work only he can do.
Sometimes people ask, usually church people, why we don't we have a building, why worship in a school auditorium?
Here's one reason why. I was talking to the pastor of a congregation that is trying to get a mortgage for a building. The mortgage would cost them $12,000 per month. I suggested they rent an auditorium like we do, or if they have to have a building they move into a storefront warehouse for $3k/mo and use the extra $9k/mo ear marked for the building to invest in their community and reach out with God's love instead. Can you imagine how many leaders we could train, how many people we could invest in through serving them with God's love, how many people we could feed, how many Saturday mini-vbs's we could do, how many at risk kids we could reach, how many broken familes we could help restore, how many struggling single moms we could bless, how many people with hurts, hang-ups and habits we help in recovery, how many people we could share the hope we have in Christ with, etc. if we had an extra $9k/mo to invest in the community? And church folk want to put their money into a building? It just hurts my head how some can be so blessed and yet so short-sighted and unwise. In this new post-church world we have to rethink how we use, how we steward, the gifts God has given us. Rethinking the use of our resources will challenge and stretch us in way we haven't imagined. If your church is going to reach your community for Christ, you will be stretched and challenged to use your resources differently
I look forward to your comments!