Churches urged to submit data for directory
The forms, due back by Sept. 30, are part of an ongoing effort to compile the latest information on a cappella churches associated with the Restoration Movement, data compiler Carl Royster said.
The information will be included in the 2009 edition of Churches of Christ in the United States early next year, Royster said.
“This publication is used on a daily basis by literally thousands of Christian brothers and sisters all around the country for a variety of purposes,” Royster said. “I cannot begin to count the number of times I have heard so many people comment on how much they are using this publication.”
Moreover, the data published every three years “reveals the changes that are constantly taking place in our fellowship,” he said. “Churches are planted and churches close their doors. Others relocate, merge, have name changes, experience growth and provide valuable data concerning trends on the regional, state or metropolitan level.”
The last edition, published in 2006, counted 12,963 congregations with 1,265,844 members and 1,639,495
adherents nationwide. The adherent figure includes children of members.
Flavil Yeakley, director of the Harding Center for Church Growth in Searcy, Ark., urges congregations to check their information in the 2006 edition and update it for the next one.
“Some congregations may not want to participate because there is something about their doctrine or practice that sets them apart and limits their fellowship with the majority of congregations,” Yeakley said.
“But providing accurate information for the 2009 directory should not violate the conscience of anyone. This is not an effort to ignore differences. It is just an effort to report things correctly.”
Royster said the “one unifying constant” that defines whether a congregation is included in the directory is the practice of a cappella worship services.
“Other practices as well as other theological positions that may or may not be a characteristic of a congregation do not determine a presence, or lack of presence, in this data,” he said.
In the 2006 edition, about 9,801 congregations were identified as “mainstream.” Nearly 2,000 were listed as “non-institutional.” An additional 550 “one-cup” churches, more than 500 “non-class” churches and almost 125 “mutual edification” churches were included.
Other distinctions include the types of ministries offered — such as campus, prison or military — and whether languages other than English are spoken at a particular congregation. Charts detail statistics such as membership by state and the counties nationwide with the largest and smallest ratios of churches.
“The purpose of this work is to serve the Lord and his servants by providing useful information to assist in the planting of new congregations, as a source of history, as a help to the traveler and as an aide in communications within the brotherhood,” Royster said.
He said data forms were mailed to churches “for whom a supposedly valid mailing address was available.” Churches that do not receive forms may go online to www.21stcc.com/ccusa, call (800) 251-2477 or fax (615) 292-5983.