Thursday, November 2, 2023

Can a Church Win Even in Death?

Last week, I posted about my newest read, The Great Dechurching. If you haven't read the book yet, I hope you pick it up or listen to it on Audible like me. It's not only about the church's vitality in our modern age—it's about the availability of a formalized spiritual lifeline for our children.

I am still chewing on a comment the authors made: "A church can win even in death." 

Yes, churches are dying. Did you know? 70% of people who go to church today attend 10% of the churches. The majority of churches today have 100 or less people attending each week. As people continue to leave the church, that means these smaller churches will continue to close their doors due to a lack of attendance and financial solvency. 

This is a sad fact. We have all seen churches, whose buildings might be paid off, cling to their dwindling resources in an attempt to hang on. It is a slow, painful death for those who remain.

What can the church do?

First, the church needs to prepare its future leaders wisely. Pastors are basically walking into a church equivalent of an ER. One can imagine that it's exhausting work, especially without the proper training. Seminaries need to train pastors how to intelligently handle dire financial situations, effectively market what they can provide using modern tools like social media, and foster adequate pastoral care avenues to support pastors so they don't burnout.

Second, I'd like to challenge us as pastors and congregants—better yet, as people who love Jesus—to consider new ways of growing his body. How can a church win in death? The authors propose that a dwindling church can gift their paid-off building to a new ministry that might be growing. This allows a dwindling church a new opportunity through a shift in perspective—they can still bless and minister by planting a mighty seed.

As a Protestant pastor, I am proud of my heritage. I am proud of a tradition that looked to put a Bible in every hand. But Christianity's many denominations and non-denominational church options have splintered our ability to see our solidarity. Quite simply, the world needs Jesus. We are all on the same team. And for Christ's body to have a viable way forward, we need to act like it.

The world today is growing increasingly polarized—politically, socially, and religiously. If the church can't model humility and conversation with the other, who can? Especially when the future of Christ's very body is at stake, each of us is an essential member. My prayer is that God opens our eyes to the unique gift we have in one another. 

This week I invite you to consider along with me:

When is the last time I've spoken about Jesus with a Christian from a different tradition?

How do I frame the many different church options to my children when they ask?

Is it possible to find a local service opportunity for my children that brings different churches together?


Please continue to pray with me for the Middle East. Our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters need our prayer. Every drop of blood does not fall lightly.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Alert! The Church Is in Serious Decline

Did you know? More adults don’t attend church versus the ones who do for the first time in United States history. I recently read the book “The Great Dechurching,” and I can’t recommend it enough. I am appropriately concerned by its accessible and applicable statistical study about the church’s dire straits, and also, its hope.

I read the book because I was aware of the number of people leaving churches coupled with the number of churches closing their doors. Around the week that I learned of this book, a church from a former call reached out to me to consider serving there again. I was honored. Over ten years ago when I had been their associate pastor, the church had two other full-time pastors plus a Christian Ed Director. Now, the church is looking for a solo pastor position. I was saddened to hear of its loss of staff and congregant numbers. 

While I was aware of the decline in churches, especially since COVID, I had no idea that it was as bad as it was. Did you know? 40 million people have stopped going to church, largely in the last 25 years. People are walking away from almost every branch of Christianity. This mass migration out of the church is the largest Christian movement in United States history. Of further note is that the other three sizable Christian movements were awakenings, which added numbers to the church.


As a pastor, I care about this loss. But as a mother, I do too. 


This mass exodus from the church is producing the first generation of largely unchurched youth in United States history. And this unchurched generation is growing up at precisely the time when the world feels more lonely, anxious, and depressed.


My sense is that the two are in fact causal rather than unrelated. Studies document the health benefits of regular worship—it has the capability to decrease depression, loneliness, and even heart issues. The Great Dechurching mentions these findings as well. I have seen the health benefits of persons igniting faith connections in real time while serving for two years as a hospital chaplain. At the hospital, spirituality and pastoral care were regarded as integral to the healing process, especially when other modalities simply could not produce the desired outcomes in the patient. 


Our children are not only lacking the health benefits of regular worship, but they’re lacking the formal formation of a spiritual rudder in a world with more options and pressures due in part to the mass accessibility of the Internet. You and I might take any rudder we have for granted. After all, we were likely raised in the church and are at least aware of what we are walking away from. This is not the case for our children. 


It’s time for well-meaning Christians to care. Jesus didn’t live and die only to live on in our hearts. It’s not enough. Simply scanning the news shows me that the world needs the light of Christ and people who take this transmission seriously (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Along those lines, I want to leave you this week with three questions to consider with me:


What will be your part in transmitting the faith to this unchurched generation?

What are you doing to support regular worship for your family?

Does your child feel spiritual supported and connected?


For great ideas to support faith at home, please review my site for great faith book suggestions! I just received a new one courtesy of the publisher Zonderkidz called Managing Your Emojis: 100 Devotions for Navigating Your Feelings. It's for children ages 8-12. Such a cute title by two authors I respect and have had on my show!

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Israeli-Palestinian Crisis Prayer

It's been a while since I've posted, though you have been on my mind. Watch for changes to the blog/website to follow. For now, I wanted to ask you to pray with me. This is my small attempt to be the kind of change I want to see in the world. Prayer not only invites God's power, it unites us. In humility, we come before the One who created us all. 

Dear Lord, I pray to you feeling like we may be on the brink of a Third World war. Maybe it is already occurring; it’s just in a different form.

Just as our country feels divided, the world does too, Lord. People are hurting and driven by fear. And some are using that fear to manipulate people.


Lord, my heart breaks for the slaughtering of the Israelis. You know I could barely sleep. So many dear Jewish friends felt like this brutal attack was waged at them, even though they were miles away. There is hurt, fear, and anger. Hamas demonstrated cowardice going after innocent, unarmed people, not strength. 


As the violence rages, it’s clear that Hamas is willing to hurt even its own people in an attempt to control the narrative and recruit people to their cause. Don’t let them, Lord. 


I fear Israel’s attempt to protect itself will in fact make them less safe by inciting a new wave of terrorists as innocent Palestinians suffer. I fear this will impact the world my children will know as new fuel to the cycle of violence has been added. The pain and the devastation is fresh, and it’s hard to heal.


Lord, this is your holy land. Lord, these are your people. On behalf of the grieving Israelis and innocent Palestinians, bring your peace. Arise and bring your truth and justice as only you can do…


Where there is pain, bring healing. Where there is mistrust, show us stories of bridge-building. Where there is hopelessness and devastation, bring us a path forward paved with your peace. We ask for wise diplomacy in this delicate situation that can shine like a beacon to a world who wonders if hard solutions from two sides are even possible anymore. 


Lord, you are our Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end (Isaiah 44:6, Revelation 1:8). You value every life. You also not only care about our pain right now, but also the kind of world we’re building. You lead with strength and humility—we look to you.


I pray that leaders will arise with strength that’s not their own to do the work that only you can do. Help them to make a difference, right here, right now, and for years to come. You showed us through your own example that the world is worth saving and one life can stem the tide. No situation is too far gone.


Come, Lord Jesus.



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