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Starting a new church community is not an easy task. We can get so caught up in our methodology that we miss the mission of the church.

January 28, 2015 2 2 comments
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If we see God’s justice as inseparable from his kingdom, then we may be a little more inclined toward living mission instead of just doing mission. Mission is in our backyard.

October 28, 2014 2 2 comments
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Wise friends are God's gift for a healthy life and a healthy ministry. When you lose a wise friend, like King Uzziah did, you just might go crazy.

October 2, 2014 0 0 comments
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I wish there was a great story of the hundreds of thousands of dollars given to us to start this new ministry adventure. There was a promise of $5000 and a pat on the back: "Good luck."

September 25, 2014 1 4 comments
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How many pastors wouldn't love this kind of confirmation of their calling?

September 25, 2014 1 0 comments
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A practical resource for assisting church leaders in identifying, understanding and intentionally engaging the fivefold ministries of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers (APEST) that exist within their congregations.

September 11, 2014 0 0 comments
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What do we mean when we say that "God is Love"?

September 4, 2014 0 3 comments
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What does a non-Bible reader think of the Old Testament?

August 14, 2014 1 0 comments
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Wisdom helps us as we pursue good and godly leadership. Larry Osborne of North Coast Church in California gives timely leadership wisdom for planters and established church pastors.

August 14, 2014 1 2 comments
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How many people know your church exists? What does it take to see a good number at your first worship service as a church planter?

August 7, 2014 0 2 comments
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In 2009, Norman came to a SE Classis meeting in Orlando, Florida and he lead the music aspect of worship that meeting. The Lord was stirring Norman's heart to church planting and we joined him in prayer asking the Lord to direct his footsteps.

August 4, 2014 0 0 comments
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Is your church preaching the gospel or is it only preaching salvation?

July 31, 2014 0 3 comments
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When I talk to Lori, I sense some faith. She’s a spiritual person. However, she doesn’t belong to a local church. We all know such people. And as far as we know, they’ve not received the gospel. So, how are we supposed to reach them?

June 20, 2014 1 1 comments
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A resource for your congregation to learn the gospel story that they can share with others. The gospel story is told as Creation, Fall, Redemption, Recreation.

June 12, 2014 0 0 comments
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How are you teaching the people in your congregation to tell the gospel story? What story are they telling?

June 12, 2014 0 0 comments
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Every church planter has a story and mine started in 2004. God used family relationships to open doors for us in New York and to teach us much about the culture and context from the very beginning.

June 2, 2014 0 0 comments
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Two trends are emerging in North America: the call for people to be self feeders and the move away from the church on the part of "mature" beleivers

May 8, 2014 1 2 comments
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Connecting the Bible and Culture is one of the challenges church planters and all pastors face. One great place to make the connection is music.

April 17, 2014 0 0 comments
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“The ‘As You Are Initiative’ is mobilizing thousands of willing Christ-followers just like you to start, growing and multiplying ‘come as you are’ leaders to lead ‘come as you are' churches. Is the CRC ready to be part of such a movement?

April 10, 2014 1 0 comments
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My sense is that we live in a "no" culture. We find all kinds of ways to either say "no" or to slow a process down so much that it feels like a "no."

April 3, 2014 1 2 comments
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What was it like being a parent who celebrated having a child whose stomach was full?

February 20, 2014 0 1 comments
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This is the blog entry where I turn everything I said in the previous entries upside down.  We’ve looked at growing churches in the CRC - churches whose attendance and membership grew by more than 20% in a recent five year period.  We examined the characteristics of those churches and evaluated their leadership.  We’ve thought about the issues that arise when a church is in a season of growth.

February 11, 2014 0 12 comments
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Any small(ish) church pastor or ministry leader who’s been to a conference at a mega-church knows the feeling: a feeling of guilt that their church hasn’t jumped to over 1000 overnight, and a sense of despair that growth is out of reach.  The conversations with these growing church pastors, however, offer us some reassurance and some challenges for us as a denomination.

February 4, 2014 0 0 comments
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Today’s entry continues with the factors that led to growth in CRC and RCA churches.The church was at a point where it was ready to take risks and to make changes.

January 28, 2014 0 4 comments
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As we all know, this five year span has not been easy in North America, with the downturn of the economy directly affecting our churches and their members.  And yet, in the midst of this crisis, there were 42 CRC churches and over 30 RCA churches (exact number not available) who showed significant growth.

January 21, 2014 0 8 comments

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Amy, I'm not saying those stats aren't important, just that the Yearbook is not a research document and can't possibly record all the numbers that you suggest. Growing churches maintain records of all the categories you suggest and probably more, but they don't do it to post on the denominational wall for others to see. As far as evaluating the performance of the pastor, each council needs to develop their own criteria. As far as growth is concerned, it is a function of not only the pastor, but church leadership and congregation. Other church's statistics don't motivate other churches.

As to your question, "what will encourage a congregation to seek out new and creative...", the "A" answer should be because they desire to be obedient to the mission Christ gave the church..."go make disciples! ", but regrettably it is usually self preservation when they realize that their membership is in a down turn and their only hope is to turn their attention toward the communit.

posted in: What Counts?

Thanks for engaging the issue, James. 

Since you speak of recognizing the 'facts fo each organization,' I wonder why we count certain facts and not others?  We currently count how many people are members, and how many people attend Sunday worship.  I think these are important numbers and the reflect important things about a church body.  I also think there are other facts that should count: the number of persons who attend a small group but not Sunday worship, the persons who have committed to a missional community but are uncomfortable with signing their name to a membership statement (which is pretty common with people who've had bad experiences with church in the past.)  I wonder if we could count these facts too?

One reason I think these facts also count is that they reflect the work of the church and of the pastor.  If these numbers don't count, how does that influence a council's evaluation of whether the pastor is doing his or her job?  If these numbers aren't valued in the larger denomination, what would encourage a congregation to seek out new and creative ways to develop meaningful dispcipling relationships with unchurched persons?
 

Mostly I'm wondering how we can accuratly reflect the work of the church in today's changing culture and the ways the church is connecting to that culture. 

posted in: What Counts?

Aaron,

I would email Jerry Hollemans (Home Missions Regional Leader)- he was the one who gave us the presentation about this church with multiple missional communities.  He'd love to connect you, I'm sure!

 

posted in: What Counts?

Good point, Martin.

One article I was reading by a church growth specialist lately said that the average regular church attender in the USA today only attends church twice a month.  He suggested that we count attendance by the month instead of by the Sunday in order to reflect this change in what attending 'regularly' means.  Good food for thought (and somewhat encouraging when churches like ours have a low attendance weekend for no particular reason).

posted in: What Counts?

Good food for thought. The numbers of building the kingdom don't always translate into "members." Moreover, it seems that there are plenty of professing members who never darken the door of their church, while plenty of non members are there every Sunday and participate in church activities.
I would be interested in this CRC in Texas and how they went about starting this network of "missional communities." Could you share about that?

posted in: What Counts?

Thank you, Amy.  You are right on target here.  I appreciate your comment about "various stages of discipleship". Ultimately, disciples is the only thing that counts, because making disciples is the only task that Jesus authorized us to do.   On a related issue, we record how many people have come into the church through evangelism.  We should also ask a question like this - How many people who came into your church through evangelism three years ago are now demonstrating that are truly committed to following Jesus?   Thanks, Amy

posted in: What Counts?

The usual metrics are bums in the pew and pennies in the plate. I found that a helpful measurement tool is to count how many people are intentionally being discipled. We count the number of people that are participating in a small group, in a discipleship group or  taking a class of some sort.   We live in a culture where Sunday morning attendance is much more sporadic than it used to be, so I don't think it's an accurate way to count or assess growth.

posted in: What Counts?

With all due respect, I think you are just playing games with numbers! We count members because they make profession of faith and seek to become "members" of the local congregation. I married many couples from the community. I required that they have a minimum of three counciling sessions and always invited them to worship. Many did and I also hears from several when they had other life problems. We also had "casual" attenders who would come randomly. All of the above considered me as THEIR pastor and our's as THEIR church. Should they be included in any "counts"? OF COURSE NOT! The local church works with many people to help/assist them...to develop relationships...often leading to becoming believers in Jesus, or who choose to make our church THEIR church (by way of profession of faith).

Regarding "spin-off" ministries, those stand on their own as "unorganized" status. Statistics are not for recognition or standing. ..they are intended to reflect the facts for each congregation.

One stat I always find interesting is total members in relationship to average Sunday attendance. Non growing churches tend to see fewer on Sunday than the number of members while growing churches tend to see MORE people attending on Sunday than they have on their membership roles.

posted in: What Counts?

Hmm...that would be a great follow up question.  Maybe the new Worship Collaborative Work Group should follow up on this? 

The conversations I had mostly pointed to the fact that they did not try something flashy or  thematic (think: the TOP 5 WAYS TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS or WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THE SUPER BOWL)- their worship services were biblically based, excegetical, and from a Reformed perspective.

If there was a "like" button here, I would use it. :)

Harry,

I can see your point about the tenderness with which we have to address the role of the pastor in a growing or a declining church situation.  This research was done not in the spirit of finding someone to blame, but rather to look for the various factors that resulted in growth.  These were visionary leaders who were willing to make couragous decisions, even when that was hard to do.  It is not the only factor in the church's growth, but it was one of the common factors I found. And, if that is true, what can we do as a denomination to strengthen the leadership capacity of our pastors?  Just a generation ago our pastors were not also expected to be visionary leaders-they were expected to fill pastoral roles only.  So how should our denominational resourcing and education help prepare pastors to fill these new expectations?

Of course, every situation is different.  These are common themes that emerged from these interviews.  Not every church owned every factor, and so we must learn from it what we can but not over-adopt it for every situation.

posted in: Growing Churches

Harry,

The full report did include this information, but there wasn't room on the blog to include it all (or maybe I just didn't think people would read past it to the other information :).

Here is a quick summary of the strategy and scope of the research:

these churches grew by more than 20% between 2007 and 2012 in either attendance or membership; these churches were more than 10 years old (thereby excluding church plants); these were English-speaking churches.

There were 42 CRC churches that fit these characteristics.  Of these, 25 were available for phone interviews (a few declined to be interviewed; some pastors were on sabbatical or otherwise unavailable at this time; all others were attempted at least 4 times).  This sample did reach a saturation point, when no new or relevant information was being presented.

The churches interviewed were diverse.  From Port. St. Lucie, FL to British Columbia, they were located all over the United States and Canada in cities, suburbs, and rural communities. These churches were also diverse in their theological standing, from conservative (for example, avoiding the women in office issue) to liberal (churches wrestling with how to handle homosexual marriages, for example).  The churches also varied in size from 50 to almost 500 members.

 

I promised the pastors I interviewed that I would not quote them directly, so they remain anonymous throughout the report. 

I hope this helps!

posted in: Growing Churches

Good question about the "not near" other CRC churches factor.  These were churches that found themselves in a geographical location where there were not other Reformed churches available.  So, if someone was looking for a church with Reformed theology, they were the only ones in town and therefore saw that growth.

However, in the church planting world (where I do much of my work), I know that one principle of church growth is to plant churches like Starbucks builds coffee shops. Namely, within a mile or so of the nearest CRC church.  With Starbucks it builds brand recognition and easy-access for its customers.  What does proximity do for new churches?  It allows for cooperation and collaboration of resources and community connections.  In the recent work CMI has done with Kingdom Enterprise Zones, we have seen the mission-focused energy that can result when churches build collaboration. 

I wonder if these two models allow for different types of growth?  Does one tend to attract more churched people, while the other one reaches unchurched people more effectively?  This study did not consider the types of people who were growing the church.  That would be another great study.

posted in: Growing Churches

Thanks for this list! I'm curious about the item titled, "The church values solid, Reformed, biblical teaching."

I would love to read more about how these growing churches utilize our confessions in the classroom and the pulpit.

I appreciate the factors you mention and compare them with Nehemiah, who consciously carried out God's work as his mission, bathed with prayer, working through God's people to accomplish the task. It is never about the earthly leader, always about God, yet as with Nehemiah, until he showed up, no one did anything.

Amy, the five points above do have relevance. You have to careful with the one on "strong leadership". When a new Pastor has to blame a previous Pastor for a decline or stagnating church, that makes it difficult to use the name of that church as an example for others.  Leadership of the local church does not rest with just the Pastor.

Pleas keep working with the info you have and keep in mind the tremendous diversity ( on every level ) in the CRCNA/RCA . To find generic ideas that will fit this diversity will be a challenge.

posted in: Growing Churches

Thank you Amy for doing this. It would be helpful if you could quote the source of your data; yearbook, direct contact etc.  As we are a bi-national church it would also be helpful if you would give some info on geography of the churches that grew by the percentages you mentioned.

posted in: Growing Churches

I look forward to the next five, Amy. One comment on location: David Snapper, in his research done some years ago, using that venerable resource, the CRCNA Yearbook, concluded that growth is likely when you are not too far from other CRC churches. He found that churches that had thriving neighbor congregations were more likely to grow. So "not near" has to be qualified. Do you mean within five miles, two city blocks, or something else? For CRC churches whose neighboring classis members were far off, he suggested pastors create classis-like relations with nearby congregations.

As for new buildings, they work when more space is created. Congregations hit a natural ceiling when they fill 80% of the seats in their pews. New education space, etc., adds some vitality and programming, but new members come when they feel this church needs them, and if there are few seats, they are less likely to return.

posted in: Growing Churches

Good stuff! Thanks.

posted in: Growing Churches

I look forward to reading the rest of the list. Here's hoping there is some mention of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and the good preaching of the Gospel.

posted in: Growing Churches

Great list Larry!

Larry and all,

Very exciting conversation, and germane to many issues and questions now percolating in the CRC....  shaping and training urban leaders, diversity, interagency strategies, World Missions/ Home Missions conversations, how to encourage and equip existing suburban and rural congregations while shifting strategy to urban, what should our structure look like....  and lots more besides.   I hope Home Missions will be one of the lead agencies to convene the big conversations we need to get going!  This challenge has been around since the sixties, and we've dabbled at it.  It's high time to be "all in"!   

Thanks to all the comments.  Just so there is clarity, the map of Alpha cities that is being referred to is the one used by the North American Mission Board of the SBC. It is not the defininitive map, just theirs.  I gave it as an example of what one denomination is focusing on.  Redeemer's City-to-City in their work with Alpha cities focuses on cities both in and outside North America. The question of our work in Alpha cities is not first of all where they are, but whether the CRC should begin to engage these cities in a more systematic and focused way i.e. is this a time for us to come together (churches, classes, and other partners) to design a strategy to reach into Alpha cities?

The Alpha model must be a US invention!  The map ignores Mexico (does not even show it) and considers 'Canada' as a whole.  The classifications (North East etc) is US only.  To us 'west' is Alberta, BC,  Mid West is Sask, Man, Central is Ontario and Quebec, with the rest of the provinces 'East'.  Anything called North is the Yukon, North West Territories and Nunavit.

Church Plants used to be chosen by places where Reformed Christians were living or moving to.  World Shaking mandates were also given to Christian Organizations in education, politics and labour. 

Now that we have come of age and wish to plant churches where any US and Canadian person is moving to (that is growing cities) we need to work together with any church planting initiatives of any denomination, not to overlap, and not be too quick to discount small beginnings, or are we to assume that the alpha cities are big enough, and that we can do our own thing without regard to anyone else?

Great article Larry. And thanks for the comments about Texas cities Mark. As a planter and cluster leader in Houston, the fourth largest metro area in the US, yet with only three established CRCs, the challenge often feels massive and overwhelming. Yet, God is good and we're building momentum with three new plants with a fourth on the way. We're also praying for Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin as well. Will others come and help? Will you respond to God's call to help transform some of the country's most influential cities with more and more people moving here each day? There is a saying in Texas that I've grown to love... "I wasn't born here but got here as quick as I could!" Mark and I and the rest of the Texas crew would welcome any help or partnerships from our CRC family. Show Texas the love folks :--)

We are launching the Chicagoland KEZ in our region.  We have a training program that Tim Hoekstra and Pedro Avilles lead to develop church planters for the city of Chicago.  We also have a cluster in NW Indiana that is working towards a multi-ethnic, urban church plant in the greater Gary Region.  We're all in!

Mark, I too am surprised Columbus, OH made it and not one Texas city. :-)

I do certainly agree with the "Alpha Cities" approach.  I've been struggling in the rural setting for the past number of years seeing that they are by in large disconected from the more populated communities. It's true that cities set the culture.  That's probably why rural and even suburban communities can be years behind the cultural trends oblivious to how the majority of the nation is viewing the world and changing it.

I don't know what to do about the rural church situation though.  The communities and churches are shrinking because kids are moving away, farms are being taken over by larger corporate operations, and there are fewer career opportunities for people.  It's an inevitable slow death from what I can see.

While we shouldn't send these churches out to pasture, I fully agree that we need to be planting churches where they will make the greatest impact.

Thanks for starting the conversation, Mark. I agree that there is a strange lack of southern plants in the NAMB site.  I wonder if it because the SBC has so many churches in those areas.

Great thoughts on reaching the "Alpha Cities" in North America. I agree whole-heartedly. Population in North America is increasingly urban, so that's the place to focus our resources, IMHO.

 

However, when you visit the NAMB website (http://www.namb.net/cities/), the source of the Alpha Cities focus, one other MAJOR trend is seemingly ignored, the Latinization of North America. As a Texan, I noted some really strange Texan cities missing from NAMB's map that are in the top 20 population centers in America (Houston-#3, San Antonio-#7, Dallas-#9, Austin-#11, Forth Worth-#16, El Paso-#19), as well as Mexico City, which is the biggest city in North America. What do all these cities have in common? Loads of Latinos and loads of Spanish-speakers. Are we scared or ill-equipped to reach this demographic?

I think, in addition to focusing on cities, we need a couple other focii:

-Regearing & reloading to reach post-Catholic and post-Christian Latino populations, which doesn't fit with many of our financial-sustainability or education-laden church planting models

-Breaking down the walls between international church planting & domestic church planting. For instance, Mexico has 9 of the top 25 most-populated cities in North America and there are lots of English-speakers there, as well as Spanish-speakers. That's true of urban centers all over the world, which is why many American mega-churches now have satellite campuses in foreign countries. We've got impressive networks all over the world we could be leveraging in this direction and co-learning with them.

Thanks for this perspective on "the church in the city"!  It sure is helpful for thinking about the mission to which God is calling us today.  Puts us in the position of addressing directly some of the most painful social patterns that result in loneliness, injustice, despair....   opportunity for missional ministry.   and a roadmap for being the church in the metropolis.   May Home Missions lead us as a denomination to a new vision for being the church of Jesus Christ in our society.

posted in: Only the Lonely

"...we don’t find a community of people who will take a journey with us to elevate our desires into something that is truly life, who will help us live a life less ordinary."  This line really resonates with me.  The community, the Body, needs to be a safe place to have the talk, AND a safe place to take the risks.   Of course individuals can think and act on their own,  and sometimes they must; but it seems to me that the Body of Christ is exactly the arena designed to foster this kind of disciplined, discipled thinking and obedience.  Thanks, Larry, for this pointed call to radical discipleship - and to think through together what it looks like in our society.

I really applaud what I think I hear in your all-too-brief description of the "bubble church" model. It does not seem to be the same as a multisite arrangement where the second church is a campus--a fad I'm decisively not a fan of, as a permanent arrangement!--but rather a needy daughter-church arrangement in which the daughter can grow up and be on her own eventually. This seems like a great use of resources for kingdom of God church planting. 

posted in: Bubble Churches

Yes, but it would be even more fun to see 100 churches where all races feel welcome.  If the church cannot embody that kind of interracial unity, then who can?

Agreed, there is no one size fits all for 'African American' churches. If anyone takes the time to Google African American or Black Churches the broad spectrum of denominations, belief systems, socio-economic strata becomes obvious to the reader. Starting (or planting) a church in any community requires awareness of and planting strategies to attract believers and non-believers from the neighborhood / region the church will serve.

The great 'key' to success if an open-door "whosoever will let him/her come," willingness to embrace all who enter the church. We are one body in Christ.

 

Agree with James VanderSlik. Christians give "insider" non-standard meanings to words. When I am on the road I occasionally listen to Catholic Radio. Their preachers use standard English and standard dictionary meanings.

Blessings Larry from an old retired guy! You are spot on! Every sermon I ever wrote was addressed to ths unsaved persons and children in the room and shat I found was that the life long CRC persons often came up to me and said that they learned things about the text they had never known befode. I learned in iteractive adult Bible study that so much of what we have heard since we were children in church needs to explained cleadly in lay language. I always stressed in BS, "if you have ANY question, please ask. I was stunned (yet I wasn't) when a fell asked, "I've often heard pdeachers say that we have to be born again...what exactly does that mean? It is hard for us to realize how much we say that goes over the heads of many. Once a woman came to me after a service and said, "you are the simplest preacher I've ever heard!"...I think she meant it in a good way :-)!

Thank you for your good work!

Maybe it is because I am not a pastor that the big words don't give any trouble but the two letter words and the pronouns do. For example, 

1 John 4:4

New International Version (NIV)

 

4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Exactly what does "in" mean? 

 

 

Yeah, an author claiming that "redemption" has little meaning in pop culture hasn't looked at pop culture much. In the first 20 hits on Google, one can find Redemption High-Rye Bourbon (92 proof), Redemption Belgian Pale Ale, and Redemption, a movie about people who make their living in New York redeeming cans and bottles. More meaningfully, one finds "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," and a plenty of other books and movies claiming that they are stories of redemption. These latter examples come a lot closer to the biblical ideal, though most illustrate a redemption that takes place through human effort, canny skill, or luck. Still one could do much worse to learn what "redemption" is than watch the Shawshank Redemption. It's all about hope fulfilled, and isn't that at the heart of the Bible's idea of redemption too?

This is a good article.   It is very important to use language that people understand.   Last night I watched a movie called "Flywheel", produced by the same group as for "Courageous"and "Fireproof".   In this movie the used car salesman heard a story from a customer who could no longer make payments on her car, and would have to give the car back, because of loss of work, medical bills, etc.   The car salesman asked how much she still owed on the car, and she replied about $1200.   He wrote her out a bill of sale and title to the car, and told her he believed her and that she no longer owed anything.  Done.  Car payments forgiven and eliminated.   Maybe not a perfect example, but a modern example  or analogy of God's grace.  This example touched me because I could understand it, and maybe because of how it was presented. 

Good food for thought. Never saw that in this text. It makes sense and for me puts this kind of fishing in the broader context of the spiritual battle we are in. At Westend CRC in GR where I am just finishing up as an STM, I did a series in the evening worship on the Holy Spirit. During the first message on John 3 re spiritual birth into the kingdom. I asked the congregation to put names of those they knew who they thought needed to be spiritually born again and we got about 130 names just from the Sunday pm group! It seems to me there is a whole lot of catching to be done. Thank God for prayer, the Holy Spirit and the One they focus on, Jesus. Thanks for the article and for your work in the CRC!  

Blessings, Dan Gritter

I think rather than counting members, we ought to be counting attendance.   The RomC church often has only 10% of its membership attending church.   On the other hand, some Alliance churches have twice as many people attending as they have members.   National statistics indicate that half to two-thirds of members of churches are "inactive".   Attendance is a much better indicator of church health than mere membership, it seems to me.   Members who attend every week are more likely to be lively than those who attend twice a year.   Attenders who are not members are sometimes more active and lively than some members. 

Re: Jon's question about number of churches and members:  the stats show that the highest number of crc members was 316,000 in 1992(and declining steadily since to 251,000), while the highest number of churches was 1099 in 2012.  Highest number of families was in 1991, although that is more stable factor.   The higher number of evangelism growth was somewhat steady since 1996, while the highest reversion year was 2009.  Highest transfers out was in 1995. 

Dear Randy:

I am sorry to hear that my comments riled you. But, frankly, your comments sound threatening and chastising, which is probably because you wrote them in anger... not a good mood for this forum.

Nevertheless, Jon's question to my comment is still unanswered: is it true that we have more churches and less people?

You also drew some conclusions and conjectures from my very brief comment, which I believe are unfair for you to have written. I started my comment by carefully writing "Perhaps." For me, this is an exploratory "perhaps" with the honest desire to hear what other have to say on this topic. 

Dear Alejandro,

I don't want to seem non-gracious, pugnacious or contemtuous or any other rhming "ous" ending, but really?

I work for the CRC in CRHM after coming from a pentecostal then Presbyterian background with Young Life in between.  I am all about not being ashamed of the Gospel, about Following Jesus, being blown by the wind of the Holy Spirit and trying to Apostolic (in function, not in office eph 4:12ff).

Your comment riles me.

Yes, congregations need to step up to localize and global missional engagement, to church planting to the "renewal or all things" per our forefather Abraham Kuyper.  But, this isn't an EITHER/OR the way you make it sound. This is a BOTH/AND that can be beautiful, godly, eifying and missional all at once.  But, your comments vandalize this notion by particularizing.

Now, if you want to hear a great quote about church planting, church renewal in new forms and church-turnarounds, I direct you to the Fuller Seminary Winter Seminar in which the greatest management consultant of all time, Peter Drucker, suffering from age and phlebitis, at atop a serving table with his legs extended and said somehting like this: "today i wish to speak to you about planned obsolensence.  Without planned obsolesence, industry, business and even the church wil fail.  When i speak of planned obsolesence I am reminded that my friends in the medical profession tell me that 'nothing is more costly or futile than trying to keep dead bodies from stinking".

Dead bodies.  Jesus said kernels or corn must go into the ground and die to make new life.  Jesus also warned that he who seeks to save his life will lose it.  Denominations and associations solely focused on struggling local churches without planting new ones are dying or are nearly dead. I came from a Presbyterian USA denomination that has lost 70% of its members in a dazzling 48 years.  The CRCNA would be a very small group without church planting as would the RCA, Evangelical Covenant and others.

So, my brother, be careful of that which you advocate and wish for.  The psalmist said, "And God gave them desres of the heart and brought leanness to their souls."  I believe there is a glitch in your argument that might block what is good and bring great leanness to the soul of one of the truly wonderful Reformed/Evangelical denominations in the world.

Please, reconsider your stance and go for and "AND" instead of an "OR" and let's make our shared obsession the everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ and his kingdom that is and is coming.

Submitted with both respect and honest pushback

 

Randy L. Rowland

Seattle, Washington USA

 

Hi Jon:

You may download the latest CRCNA statistics and see these two elements. The link is here: http://www.crcna.org/welcome/membership-statistics

Thanks for the post, Larry. I also would add my strong amen to Keller's observations. I agree that unless the crc becomes seized with the vision and passion to plant missional, community-reaching churches in NA,  it's deline will continue unabated.  My experience has been that, although the church I planted continues to grow at a rapid rate, my sense is that its growth, as Keller puts it, is not "pound for pound" as concentrated on reaching non-Christians as it was in the early years. (Fast growing, large churches also end up growing by also attracting Christians who are looking to be part of a growing, missional church.)

One of the benefits of CRHM leadership in striving for a church planting movement in the denomination is that there is a vacuum of any dynamic, ongoing church planting ethos in congregations and classes. I agree with Jon that its still necessary to have a central voice from Home Missions to propel and catalyze a church planting movement throughout the continent. 

 

Somewhere in the conversation i think we also have to address one of the major factors in low enthusiasm for church planting- ie, church planting "failures." Classes and churches get "gun shy" about financially supporting new churches when previous "failures" are still present in peoples' memory. I think we need both more honesty up front about the potential for unsuccessful plants as well as more intentionality on mentoring church plants that "survive" to continued stages of growth and size.

Last thought- some of the most enduring and effective churches were planted in the 80's nad 90's by the old HM model. Just sayin. :) 

Thank you, Alejandro. Can you or can anyone else speak to the accuracy of the statement, "we now have more churches than ever"? Is that true?

Alexjandro does make a very good point. We must work on having healthy, discipling, evangelistic congregations, and plant new churches.

The irony of this topic is that in the CRC we have now more churches than ever, but our membership continues to decline. Could we draw some correlation between these two elements?

Perhaps, on the one hand we have an agency-driven obsession to "plant churches." And on the other hand, we have congregations that need to boost their commitment to reach the "outside" world, and take command of their God-given duty (and Church Order duty) to evangelize.

Yes, we should plant more churches!  But our denomination is not the only one who should be planting new churches. Our classis should be planting churches. Churches should be planting churches. Even a group of laypeople, under the authority of their local church, can begin a church plant. I have seen it done. Church planting is a mind-set. We were called to reproduce and the lack of money should not stand in the way. Our God has all the resources both in heaven and on earth. Jesus said, "I will build my Church!"

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