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Readers respond to ‘Are We Growing?’ series

As The Christian Chronicle wraps up the yearlong “Are We Growing?” series, we offer a sampling of the many responses from readers. Most have been edited for length with every attempt to preserve the overall meaning.
To answer the question “Are we evangelistic?” have the members of the church ask themselves, “How many non-Christians have I personally brought to church or studied with in the past year?” Or, “How many have I even seriously invited to a personal Bible study?”
The church I attend does about five baptisms a month minimum. And most of these come from strangers we meet in the street. We have personal Bible studies either in our homes or at the church building. It is amazing how congregations will send their money to faraway countries, yet all your neighbors are lost! But what are we doing about it? Do we hope that somewhere along the way they will get saved?
If we’re going to restore New Testament Christianity, we have to restore the most basic element of it and start teaching Jesus first instead of doctine. Does that minimize doctrine? Of course not. Otherwise, the doctrine wouldn’t be in the Bible. But Jesus talked about faith, mercy and things like that, and then he talked about the doctrinal practices.
There’s good news and bad news. The good news is Jesus loves us, and his love is perfect. But I don’t think Churches of Christ overall are sharing that good news with the same passion as we did 20 or 30 years ago. We’ve fallen hard for the nationwide campaign to be politically correct.
Not only do we want to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings, but we’ve also been snookered into thinking that most people won’t really go to hell. If we truly understood that some people are going to hell, even people we know and love, wouldn’t we try to do something about it?
It is true that we are declining as a percentage of the U.S. population, but so is practically every U.S. church with a membership larger than 1 million. A big reason for this is that the U.S. as a whole is becoming less Christian.
The reason I think this is important is because many of those who are pointing to our lack of growth, or even claiming incorrectly that we are declining, are using this as a reason for us to change in some important areas.
However, many of the changes they suggest we make, such as adding instrumental music to our assemblies, are simply suggestions to implement the practices of other groups that are also either in decline or at least are not growing.
We as Christians have a burning desire for this life rather than the eternal kingdom. How do I know? I listen to Christian conversations at church and at Care Groups. We mainly talk about comforts, luxuries, good deals, clothes, football games, great investments, sports stars, cars, movies, TV shows, retirement, health issues and things for this world.
I hear very little kingdom talk even among Christians. We talk about what we are passionate about. Therefore, I say that we are not passionate about what the Lord died for — lost people being saved.
We need to repent and ask the Lord to forgive us for this indifference and lack of regard for his passion and his kingdom!
Things haven’t really changed in 2,000 years. People are still the same. They respond favorably to those who show them love and kindness, and who meet their needs in times of difficulty. That’s enough to open the door.
You don’t have to know every verse in the Bible to do that. If you can just get them through the door, then your preachers and teachers can hopefully share the gospel in more detail in a humble and sincere way. The truth, coupled with love, will hopefully keep them there.
Thanks for your series on church growth. I hope you cover one very important point, the age of our churches. The average age of the members of the Church of Christ is now in the 50s and getting older fast.
My daughter, fourth generation Church of Christ, now goes to Fellowship Bible Church. They have elders, baptism, communion, Bible school and, yes, instrumental music. I have seen the church of the future. This church has very few members in their 50s. The elders are in their 40s. They are focused on helping the people that are hurting. In most Churches of Christ, you have to be in your 60s to be considered for leadership. It is not only important for us to grow, but we must also keep our children.
The lack of church growth is a problem I have thought about a lot. Perhaps the problem lies in the idea that we do not believe in lostness and blessedness. We do not truly believe people need Jesus, and we do not believe that we are blessed by knowing Jesus. Because of these beliefs, we make church so hard to break into for those who have no knowledge of how church works. We have simply got to get out of the thought of “I am only interested in saving me and mine” and move to the discovery of the people in John 4 that “Jesus in the Savior of the world.”
Look at the churches experiencing rapid growth. Regardless of the name on their doors, they seem to have some interesting things in common. They preach the good news of salvation through God’s son. They serve their members and community around them in varied ministries. They continually strive to grow their membership spiritually.
Our population is more savvy than many realize. As a respected minister of mine has stated numerous times, “There are issues of salvation and issues not of salvation.” Anytime we feel that we have all the answers and the world need only come to us, we are on dangerous ground.  
The world is crying out for a savior, not petty bickering. The incredible power of unity among believers is a sadly untapped resource.

  • Feedback
    The internal and external image we have allowed to propagate is that we are more interested in PROVING we are The church rather than an image of BEING the church to our neighbors and members. While there are numerous studies on styles of worship and programs in demand, a consistent theme has been that people are attracted to congregations that live the Christian life. In living the Christian life, we do not major in church, but rather in care, ministry, and love. We cannot vehemently denounce others one minute, and then claim to be Christ followers the next. Much to our chagrin, our young people have figured out that Jesus probably wouldn’t care nearly as much about pianos as we do, and would probably care much more for ministering to the single mom than we do – even if she never came to church. Our attitudes and world view are not consistent with either Scripture or our claims to be Christ followers. And oddly enough, people and our children, can tell the difference.
    February, 27 2009

    All I hear in our church is that we have to study the Bible more. My question to our elders was, “How much longer are we to keep meeting to study more and more..” I don’t understand why some people that have been studying God’s and digging deeper in the Bible for 20,30,40 years not want and are able to teach all that they have studied during all those years. Yet they are the ones against doing anything new to each out to the community.
    October, 25 2008

    I do not believe that the church of Christ is doing a very good job of reaching out to the lost. We tend to only focus our communications toward those who are in agreement with us and little is said or done to help reach out to those who are poor, lonely, hurting, confused…the very people who need God’s grace the most. We need to refocus our hearts on saving the lost, and less on convincing others that the church of Christ has all of the answers.
    January, 19 2008

Filed under: Letters To The Editor Staff Reports

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