Monday, February 25, 2008

Large survey shows Christians churches are losing more than they are gaining.

Once again, more proof than even though some churches are "growing" its largely not from new conversions. It is unfortunately, largely due to "transfer growth." Not good news but definitely fits my common experience and interactions with non-Christians.

A couple of notes, in this article "unaffiliated" does not mean non-denominational but no religion at all.

Also, nearly 25% of Americans have LEFT the faith of their childhood. The unaffiliated is outgrowing the rest by 3 to 1.

Brothers and sisters, the fastest growing religion in the U.S. is not Mormonism, Islam, Jehovah's Witnesses, or anything else you have heard. The fastest growing religion in the U.S. is in fact secularism. I think Driscoll was right when he said in the appendix to "Radical Reformission" that as these trends continue we will see a culture look more and more like the pagan ones in the Old and New Testaments. The parallels are getting closer by the day (makes preaching and teaching easier).

At the same time it should be said, this is a tremendous opportunity to see God move. In my opinion this also says that traditional means of church growth are dead. (By traditional, I mean denomitionally accepted methods that worked in previous generations, not the principles taught in scripture that apply to all people.) We must learn to be missionaries and rediscover the eternal relevance of the gospel.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Forbes: Denver is America's most Lustful City

Forbes magazine attempted to identify the most sinful cities in America by seeking statistics that would indicate prevalence of the traditional "seven deadly sins". Denver won the "lust" category by virtue of its 189% above-average contraception sales.


(HT: Al Mohler)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Ch. 4 - The Missional Church Shift

In this chapter, the authors describe the shift that occurred in their own approaches to church planting as they found that the canned methods that they had been using with success were no longer as effective as they had been. They explain the shortcomings of both the "Church Growth Movement" and the "Church Health Movement". The Church Growth Movement's weakness is an overemphasis on technique, while the Church Health Movement (Purpose-Driven, for example) tends to fall into imitation of successful churches without appropriate regard for the context of the community. Then comes the missional shift.

The missional shift is described as
  • from programs to processes
  • from demographics to discernment
  • from models to missions
  • from attractional to incarnational
  • from uniformity to diversity
  • from professional to passionate
  • from seating to sending
  • from decisions to disciples
  • from additional to exponential
  • from monuments to movements

The missional church (according to the book) is more than just version 3.0 of these movements; it is "a full expression of who the church is and what it is called to be and do" (p. 49).

The following table contrasts the three understandings of the church focused on in this chapter (p. 49):

Church GrowthChurch HealthMissional Church
Members as InvitersMembers as MinistersMembers as Missionaries
Conversion/BaptismDiscipleshipMissional Living
Strategic PlanningDevelopment ProgramsPeople Empowerment
Staff-ledTeam LeadershipPersonal Mission
Reaching ProspectsReaching CommunityTransforming Community
AdditionInternal Group MultiplicationChurch Planting Multiplication
Great CommissionGreat CommandmentMissio Dei

The authors develop a "missional matrix" and apply it to the Church Growth Movement, the Church Health Movement, and Barna's Revolutionaries. The missional matrix is "the intersection of who Jesus is and what he has sent us to do (Christology); the forms and strategies we use to effectively expand the kingdom where we are sent (Missiology); and the expression of a New Testament church that is most appropriate in this context (Ecclesiology)." (p. 53) These three, understood together, provide the Scriptural/theological foundation from which to develop applications that are both Biblically and contextually appropriate, put into practice through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

After explaining the missional matrix, the authors go on to critique some recent church models based on these categories. For example, the Church Growth Movement lacked sufficient Scriptural/theological foundation, focusing instead on methods. Their underdeveloped missiology and deficient understanding of how Christ defines the church led to a man-centered methodology. The Church Health Movement and Barna's Revolutionaries are likewise critiqued along these lines.

Throughout the chapter (and throughout the book so far), there is a repeated call to love people more than preferences. At every step, we must set aside our preferences in order to take the gospel into the context in which we are called. As the book states bluntly, "You can't be missional and pick what you like at the same time." (p. 50)

Discussion questions
  1. Review the chart on page 49 (above). Circle one area on each row that best describes your church.
  2. Based on your evaluation, where does your church fall? How would your church fit on the Missional Matrix?
  3. What are some steps you can take to become more missional?