When Churches Lose Members

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The CRC is losing members.

The 2007 CRC Denominational Yearbook reports that the membership stood at 269,856; it was comprised of 75,620 families.

The 2013 Yearbook reports that the membership stood at 248,258, comprised of 73,425 families.

The “loss” over the last six years was 21,598 members, the equivalent of  2,195 families.

Most well-established denominations lose members. We have talked about it. Last summer's synod has talked about it. We have tried to find the causes. We wondered what to do about it.

Church-growth creates its own momentum. Growth creates an atmosphere of growth. Growth creates growth. Is the opposite also true? Perhaps, but that conclusion would probably be too simple. Much more reflection needs to be done.

Is the “loss” of members a sign of spiritual malaise? That, too, is a hard question to answer. In the presence of the Lord we humbly confess our shortcomings. But were the previous generations more devoutly Christian than we are today? We would not be quick to say 'yes' to that.  And those who left, were they disappointed with their local church?  Several probably were, but many others will have left for reasons of personal taste, needs and changed circumstances.

I have been in contact with church-leaders who interviewed many of those who left, trying to determine a possible trends. They found that the reasons varied enormously.

It has also been established that many of our young people, after they leave the home, do not join a Christian Reformed church. Some have joined another church, others remained “churchless.”

This blog post does not presume to suggest solutions. But we can agree on this much: the matter of membership loss is one of the most serious problems our denomination has faced so far in its history. How to address it is worthy of serious study, prayer, repentance, and discussion.

The CRC' Strategic Planning and Adaptive Change Team (SPACT) submitted a report, called: “Discerning God's Mission Together: Join the Conversation.” It contains a lot of helpful observations and suggestions. Several communities around Canada and the US are now discussing that report.

What are your thoughts on the recent losses within the denomination?

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I am intrigued by your comment that you have been in contact with church leaders who interviewed many of those who left.  I found the SPACT report quite unhelpful precisely because I did not see in it any information gathered from those who choose not to go to church, or who opted to leave.  I suspect we would learn more from that than from interviewing church leaders.  Has anyone studied that with any success?

Community Builder

A very good point!

Community Builder

I'm happy to be a part of a church that is moving in a direction contrary to the trend - we increased in membership over the last year, thanks be to God; though we have also recently had years of declining membership as well. In my position as denominational director of Safe Church Ministry over the last 2 years, I have talked directly with probably 100 people or more who have left the CRC, and some who, sadly, have left their faith entirely. Their reasons for leaving have to do with the way they feel that they've been treated by pastors and/or church leaders in the CRC. They felt unable to share their own opinions honestly, especially when they went against the majority opinion; they felt that church leaders did not listen to them and never heard their concerns; they felt coerced, intimidated, manipulated, or abused by those in power in their church.

If we are concerned with declining numbers in our pews, we must look at models for church leadership. Leaders who do not follow Jesus' way of humble, servant leadership are turning people away from our churches. I see and hear about it on an almost daily basis. In this Christmas season we celebrate Jesus, who came down from heaven for our sakes, humbled himself in obedience, even to suffer death on a cross. We are called, as a community, to follow his way. I'm afraid that we have instead become products of our culture, which contrary to the Gospel, uses power for it's own gain. Our leaders must show a different way, the way of Jesus. As we lift up Christ, and follow his way, he will draw people to himself and to our communities.

The task of church leadership and Pastors is #1 Spirit filled worship, worship HIM as our only Lord and saviour, be faithfull..

#2 Preaching the WORD, the spirit will do the rest.

Sadly loosing members is nothing new in a culture of want , instead of need. No special frills will save  JESUS does

“Give me one reason to stay here, and I’ll turn right back around.”  This was the plea of Tracy Chapman in her popular song of 1996.  This is also the plea of people who reluctantly leave the congregations they love.  And I suspect that the all too common response is an awkward, tongue tied silence.  So what do Tracy and many of the below forty crowd need to hear from the ones they love?

In the church of my youth the answer was quite compelling: “we need you”.  The church was developing a Christian response to the heart-of-scripture issues of justice and mercy across the world.  In those heady times our kitchen tables and church basements were places of passionate discussion to develop the Christian Farmers Federation, the Christian Labour Association, the Institute for Christian Studies, the Alliance of Christian Schools, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Citizens for Public Justice and some others.  People I looked up to gave every spare moment and most spare dollars to a Kingdom-of-God based revolution, travelling and speaking in the churches across the land.  It was clear that I and my friends were needed in this active, visionary church body where every part was important.

Having now successfully assigned these matters to the well-run organizations that we worked so hard to begin, we wonder how to answer Tracy’s hard but simple challenge.  Meanwhile, the march of evil continues and injustice multiplies itself daily.

I see those who tirelessly work for justice in the organizations I name above.  They are the young, the visionary, the crazy workers inspired by the Kingdom of God.  They line up to staff these organizations, often for lesser salaries, in order to engage God sized causes bigger than themselves and perhaps bigger than their churches.

And so I wonder; have these organizations, in a way, replaced the church?  Have they usurped her vision?  Has the role of the church been relegated to some kind of support club – sending money and training the future workers?  Has the church lost her revolutionary role?

And so, coming back to Tracy’s plea that resonates with Loius’ question that started this conversation, the church needs to give people a reason a reason to stay here.

I have great compassion for pastors who experience conflict and abuse from their church, however that is another issue. I believe that all too many churches suffer declining membership because either the minister leads with a "my way or the highway" style or he has stayed beyond his effectiveness. I have also seen examples of where the Council is in league with the pastor to impliment a new vision for ministry for the.church and telling the membership to either "go along or get out!"

When the church calls a new pastor, the.council and congregation have a responsibility to present the candidate with their vision for ministry. If he cannot buy into it, he should not acceot the.call, if he accepts he obligates himself to lead in carrying it out.

Too often the members feel powerless when they see their congregation dwindle...that is wrong. Their first line of process should be to talk with the elders/Council in a loving way. If that accomplishes nothing they need to seek the assistance of the Classis Church Visitors.

Servant leaders do not set the older members of the congregation as the center of the bullseye on the target...that goes to the younger families of the church, however older members are still on the target. As mature members of the church we need to allow space for change in worshio style, music selection and community penetration. Servant leaders also do not use "top down leadership" as a model. Large churches may use a CEO type of structure, but most of our churches do not fit in this catagory.

We as pastors should be able to recognize the signs of demished effectiveness and be proactive in seeking another "call" where we can be both invorigated/challenged and vital and allow the church to seek someone who can be vital. If the pastor refuses to do this, the council should take whatever action is nessary to affect change.

When the church has an effective pastor leading worship in a dynamic way and preaching the Word, and the Council provides an example for the congregation, and the members contribute to the direction and vision of ministry, growth and vitality and community will result. It takes all three to make that happen, the pastor cannot do it alone...no matter how gifted he is.

I often hear people say that "growth" in numbers is not important or a reflection of a "healthy church". I believe that Jesus addressed this with the Great Commission and also in His parable of the "Talents". The servants who were rewarded by their Master when He returned were the two servants who multiplied what their Master intrusted to them. The servant who did nothing to increase their Master's Kingdon was punished.

I pray for our church to grow because that means that new people are coming into a saving relationship with Jesus. I am saddened to see our denomination shrink because it is an indication that we are not meeting spiritual needs in our individual communities.

This is not just a CRCNA issue, but a North America wide phenomena that is sweeping through ALL churches and has been documented since at least 2005 in research studies.

Looking at the numbers from the perspective of families is problematic when individuals who use to get married in their 20's today get married in their 30's, if at all. Moreover, those families also have fewer children today. My own research indicates that Yearbook membership numbers are out by approximately 25% - 30%, quite apart from the yearly drop in membership numbers.

Though the work of SPACT is helpful, I feel as if we are a community "inside a box" looking out, self referencing our analysis without really coming to grips with the socio-cultural changes occurring around us.

Individuals are disaffiliating from participation in institutional, community, and neighbourhood life. Though they may have personal reasons, there are broader philosophical changes afoot that consciously or unconsciously affect those decisions. Matters of the "common good" have been fractured into privatized relativistic worldviews making consensus in civic life ever more difficult.

Below are some references to articles on why "churches are losing members..." 

Angus Reid 2013-12 Poll – Christmas – Religion

Barna Group 2003-09-24 Twenty somethings Struggle to Find Their Place in Christian Churches

Barna Group 2011-07-26 [Part1] Examines Trends in 14 Religious Factors over 20 Years (1991 to 2011)

Barna Group 2011-07-27 [Part2] Describes Religious Changes Among Busters, Boomers, and Elders Since 1991

Barna Group 2011-09-28 Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church

Barna Group 2011-11-16 Five Myths about Young Adult Church Dropouts

Barna Group 2012-08-12 Christian Women Today – Parts 1 - 4

Barna Group 2013-05-09 Three Spiritual Journeys of Millennials

Barna Group 2013-09-17 Reasons Millennials Stay Connected to Church

Barna Group 2012-01-09 What People Experience in Churches

Beaty, Katelyn 2009-10 Lost In Transition. Christianity Today

Bellah, Robert 1986-02-20 Individualism & Commitment In American Life. Lecture, University of California

Chong, Shiao 2013-01-28 Relationship, Religion Or Both? Christian Courier

Coggins, Jim 2012-09-17 Why Canadian young people are leaving the church. Canadian Christianity

Dyck, Drew 2011-11-19 The Leavers – Young Doubters Exit The Church. Christianity Today

Evens, Rachel Held 2013 Why millennials are leaving the church. CNN Belief Blog

Greusel, David 2013-11-12 Yearning for community - or not. Think Christian

Kim, Steve Hemorrhaging Faith / A Brief Synopsis. Apologetics Canada

Kwon, Lillian 2011-04-22 Survey Reveals Decade – Long 'Erosion' of Traditional US Congregations - Hartford Institute

PEW 2010-02 Religion Among Millennials

PEW 2010-09-28 Religious Knowledge – Full Report

PEW 2011-03-09 For Millennials Parenthood Trumps Marriage

PEW 2011-12-14 Barely Half of U.S. Adults Are Married – A Record Low

PEW 2013-03-18 Decline Of Institutional Religion

PEW 2013-03 Lugo, Luis – The Decline Of Institutional Religion & Implications For American Civil Life

PEW 2013-06-27Canada’s Changing Religious Landscape | Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project

Pimblott, Kerry 2012-11-09 The Election and Why Millennials are Leaving the Church Margins. Blog marginalife

Postma, Gayla 2007-08 Where Did Our Young Adults Go – The Banner

Reimer, Sam Demographic Look At Evangelical Congregations 2010-08. EFC Church & Faith Trends

Roozen, David 2011 Decade Of Change In American Congregations 2000-2010 Faith Communities Today

Roozen, David 2013-12-03 Negative Numbers – The decline Narrative Reaches Evangelicals - The Christian Century

Smith, Christian 2005 Portraits Of Protestant Teens. National Study on Youth & Religion

Smith, Christian 2007-11&12 Getting a Life: The challenge of emerging adulthood. Books & Culture

Smith, Christian 2008 Religion & Spirituality On The Path Through Adolescence. National Study on Youth & Religion

State Of The Canadian Church 2008 Canadian Christianity

Thiessen, Joel 2010-12 Churches Are Not Necessarily The Problem. EFC Church & Faith Trends.pdf

Van Loon, Michelle 2013-08-08 Who Raised These Millennials Anyway? | Her.meneutics / Christianity Today

Not all churches have lost members. "The Christian and Missionary Alliance has experienced steady and significant growth since its inception. In 1925, there were just 25,000 members in 392 churches.[9] Membership reached 50,000 members in 1950 and by 1976 had reached 150,000.[9] In 2006, there were 417,008 members in 2,010 congregations.[9] ….[10] As of January 1, 2011, there was recorded more than 2,000 U.S. churches with a combined membership of more than 430,000 regularly gather to celebrate Jesus in multiple languages, according to the C&MA website." But you are right, elder Lubbert, that most churches have declining membership, and some, like the Rom Cath that seem to have high membership still, have very low attendance and participation rates. In North America and Europe. On the other hand, in Asia and Africa, memberships and participation is generally growing. Complacency, apathy, lack of passion, lukewarmness, lack of trial and testing, lack of real committment, and affluence have all combined to reduce the desire of many for a God who saves and rules. The thorns and thistles of the world are reducing the yield of the Word sown. In many cases, the churches fertilize the weeds as much as the crop.

Hi John...

You are right about trends globally in the North and South, though I wonder if it is not more helpful to stand outside the church box if we are called to evangelize and disciple people to the Lord?

Does the observation "Complacency, apathy, lack of passion, lukewarmness, lack of trial and testing, lack of real committment, and affluence have all combined to reduce the desire of many for a God who saves and rules. The thorns and thistles of the world are reducing the yield of the Word sown" really capture the socio-cultural worldview we find ourselves living along side. Also, do the people living within this worldview really understand us when we talk this way?

David Roozen in his research article below might take issue with the MCA numbers, though he does indicate the Pentecostal/Holiness churches are holding their own.

Roozen, David 2013-12-03 "Negative Numbers – The decline Narrative Reaches Evangelicals" The Christian Century 

Elder Lubbert, the statement I made was not made to capture the attitude of the socio-cultural worldview we live beside.   It was meant to speak to christians who would like to understand their own place in the evangelizing, discipling.  I would not speak to non-christians this way;  they are not the problem.  It is christians who are the problem.  The words I used are easy enough to understand, unless christians have already stopped attending church.  In that case, those would not be reading this.  

The socio-cultural worldview beside us is much the same as always, outside of Christ.  I mean that it focusses on pleasure, money, self, education, nature, security, sex, sport, pensions, entertainment, as alternatives to God.  And when those things become too important to Christians then it chokes the word of God in their lives as well.  

Participant

I am probably more quick to see other gospel-believing congregations as brothers and sisters because I “married into” the CRC instead of being born here. But because of this, I have observed an ecclesiastical myopia in the CRC - a “if you ain't Dutch, you ain't much” sort of exclusivism that replaces “Dutch” with “CRC.” Yes, members leave CRC congregations, often not for the best reasons or with proper dialogue with their consistory (maybe that’s for another post...). But, is that a loss for The Church (Universal), or a loss for our CRC Yearbook numbers? - and which do we see as worse?

It’s true - the pain is real when one member says to another, “I can’t - and won’t - worship with you anymore.” Obviously, someone messed up somewhere in the love department (maybe even the person leaving). There’s a real sense of loss when our children get older and start attending So-and-So Nondenominational Church down the road. But, perhaps that’s a move that will result in a deeper spiritual maturity for the person who leaves “us” for “them” - because in Christ we are all “us” - just in different places. Does this truth clarify the problem in the CRC, or give us more questions to ask of ourselves?

While the crc has lost professing members since 2007, the noticeable decline in total membership has been steady since 1992, which was the high point for both total members and professing members.   That is a 20% decline since then, but when compared to national population increase in the last 21 years, the decline is larger on a relative basis.   I think the decline is because we don't put Christ first.   I will elaborate on that later, in the next couple of days. 

Our subject is really, "Church GROWTH" and if you look through the Yearbook you can find individual congregations which show consistent growth. These churches are blessed but they are also COMMITTED to reaching out to their communities and enveloping new people into their fellowship. These churches are both "inviting" and "promoting" the community to come and experience Jesus with them. That invitation is to those who are single, married, with children and without, and they are "accepting" to those who are like them and who are different. If you talked with either the leaders or the members of these churches you would hear a common theme..."we will do whatever it takes to effectively reach out to our community with the good news of Jesus Christ!"

Our history works against this kind of CRC congregation. Our forefathers settled in colonies in this country (US). They were a homogenous group and the church they built was for them. "Outreach" consisted of consisted of letting other like-minded new commers in but "other" people who believed or acted differently soon got the message. Fastforward to today and you will find that many of our established churches still have a stronger focus on present member's wants and wishes than on reaching out to those who are different. The problem comes when the younger generation either leaves the area or attends another church and there is relatively little outreach...the church declines. As this happens, families with children see the hand writing on the wall and attend another church where are more choices for them and their children. As this shift continues it leaves the church with fewer and fewer members to handle the internal ministry requirements and they become exhausted or burned out.

As members or leaders, when we say things like, "this is my church and I don't like_______", what we are really saying is that we want church for ME! If we who already know the Lord and know that heaven will be our eternal home are not willing to do whaterer it takes to make it possible for new people to know Jesus as we do, then we are missing our calling.

Growing. Churches are open to change...not for change sake...not for ego sake but for Jesus sake, striving to open the church doors wider and wider. Churches in decline resist change and even in the face of closure take pride in believing they are doing things right.

Causes for Decline in CRC membership.

 

Questions:   We have membership numbers; do we also have attendance numbers?  What if we have a bunch of members who are not Christians or do not attend, or Christians who attend, but are not members? 

There are churches which are growing.  Most of them have many more attenders than members. 

In north America the crc has grown in the past on large families and immigration.   Church has often been our social and cultural gathering.  But it never should have been that primarily.   It should have been the body of Christ first.

We should realize that sometimes the reasons people give for leaving the church, are not actually the real reasons they leave.  Often the immediate reason at the time of leaving, is only the final straw, and the real underlying reasons almost become forgotten.  However, here is a list of causes of decline as I see it, mostly put under the general category of not putting Christ first.   

 

Potential Causes of decline:

  1. Traditionalism.
  2. Lack of spiritual purity.
  3. Lack of personal prayer.
  4. Lack of commitment to God, too much commitment to the organization.
  5. Lack of sacrificial attitude.
  6. Increasing worldliness of members.   Cultural relativity.  Worldly conformity.
  7. Idol worship.   (sports, TV, work, money, prestige, worldly approval, nation)
  8. Becoming wimpy;  being lovey dovey without speaking the entire God’s truth.
  9. Limiting the Kuyperian vision of “every square inch belongs to God”, to only institutions, instead of to our daily life… who we date or who our children date and marry, what kind of entertainment we tolerate, how we celebrate Sabbath days, how we spend our money, not tithing first fruits, what type of work we do, how we speak to one another, and what we spend our spare time doing.
  10. Lack of daily devotional reading and prayer. 
  11. Lack of communal prayer.
  12. Lack of difference in living between so-called Christians and the world. 
  13. Using “being all things to all men” as the apostle Paul said, as an excuse for not putting on the robe of righteousness that is given by Christ at the banquet of life. 
  14. Lack of encouragement to witness.
  15. Using “being good” as an excuse for not wearing Christ on our sleeve. 
  16. Lack of courage in sermons and bible studies. 
  17. Lack of bible studies.  Lack of knowledge of scripture.  
  18. Forgiveness translated as “tolerance”. 
  19. Not understanding or remembering how God punished Annanias and Sapphira in the new testament church for not speaking truth. 
  20. Not understanding that our desire to protect Christ and to protect Christians might be only giving in to temptation just like Peter did when he said that He would not allow Christ to be hurt or killed, and Jesus said to him, “Get behind me Satan.”
  21. Not taking Christ seriously when He said that we would suffer for His sake.
  22. Rewriting many scripture passages to suit us:   Eg.  The parable of the wedding feast.  Matthew 22.   The re-write:  “The king invites a big bunch of people to come to the wedding feast which he prepared.  They give excuses, and the king understands and commiserates with them, and asks for suggestions for a better date.  He changes the date, but they still can’t come because it is too far, they have business, and birthdays, and the king understands, and sends them gifts and flowers.  Then he invites others to come, who have nothing else to do.  They come and enjoy the food and wine and new clothes he provides, except for one who prefers his old rags.  The king says to him, “I understand that your old clothes are more comfortable, and I wouldn’t want to offend you by suggesting you put on these new more pretentious new wedding clothes.  So don’t worry about it, just enjoy yourself, eat drink and celebrate with us, just however you want.”  For many are called and all are chosen.” 
  23. Asking less of ourselves and others in service to Christ. 
  24. Putting family ahead of Christ, instead of Christ at the head of the family. 
  25. Substituting worldly cares such as environmentalism and altruism for celebration and worship and pure unadulterated adoration.
  26. Advocating for belief without obedience. 
  27. Advocating for faith without works.
  28. Advocating for works without faith. 
  29. Conforming to the world. 
  30. Not providing true spiritual leadership.  Superficiality. 
  31. Condemning without judging, and judging without discernment. 
  32. Misinterpreting I John 4:18 and II Timothy 1:7. 
  33. Using the phrase, “We are all sinners.” as an excuse for disobedience.
  34. Letting Satan work in our lives through half-truths. 
  35. Religiousity at the expense of true obedience.   There are many who will say, “Did we not cast out demons, and heal the sick and preach in your name?” to whom Jesus will say, “I never knew you.”
  36. I John 5:2…” by this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments…. And his commandments are not burdensome.” 

 

In addition to the above potential causes, several things that might help, is to take the role of elder much more seriously.  Elders should be spiritual, not administrative leaders, because if they are not, then how can one ever expect spiritually mature members?   And if there are not spiritually mature members, how can they witness to their children or to others?   Elders should practice their witness during worship, and model it to others.  They should be spiritually strong before being chosen, and should be trained to be stronger after they are ordained.  Weak elders make for a weak church. 

 

The separation of a profession of faith from membership should be considered, so that a faith witness can take place without the stringent conditions required for a membership profession.  The actual individual profession of faith, not just saying yes or no to some questions, is absolutely necessary for growing in faith and mutual accountability.  

 

While a membership profession needs to agree to standards and confessions and scripture, mere agreement is not the essential revealing characteristic of faith.  Faith transcends mere written statements, and goes directly to acknowledging a sincere relationship with God, with Jesus who died and rose, and with the spirit who lives in your heart.   A simple “yes” to a written statement should not be asked for nor permitted (except maybe in exceptional circumstances).  In my opinion, this is religiousity at the expense of faith, protocol at the expense of spiritual maturity.  

 

Extreme caution should be exercised in having the church becoming “established”.   Churches grow best when they are not too established, when they are not too cosy with government or with societal norms.  Established churches, whether mainline or evangelical, seem to tend to decline or not grow when their missional focus becomes subject to societal standards or norms.  For example, could we document in our church the number of hours and articles and paper we dedicate to making “safe churches” for children and handicapped or elderly, which is highly lauded by society, compared to the hours and articles dedicated to keeping our youth pure and protecting them from one another’s sexual advances.  (which is not necessarily so highly praised by society, and yet sexual impurity is a greater cause of decline of faith and church, and eventually leads to unsafe churches as well).   

 

Always ask, are we with scripture transforming the world, or are we being transformed by the world?  The more we are transformed by the world, the less and less need or purpose there will be for the church.   Christ is the head of the church; put Him first!   And He will bless it!!

How does this move us forward as the body of Christ in understanding those who we were to disciple and now are strangers to the flock, and the alien who resides among us for whom Christ called us to the great commission?

It moves us forward in this way: Those we are to disciple will see that there is passion and devotion and sacrifice which signifies how real God is to us. Those who are strangers may see that something new has happened and that God is real. Those who are aliens and spectators, who are somewhat attracted by hype or friendliness, will begin to see the passion behind the friendliness. People are people, and they need other people, passion and cause and purpose. Entertainment will also attract them, but it will not bring commitment. The love of God as reflected in us.... such is obedience and such also is the glue that binds hearts to Christ.

Thank you all for the lively discussion about the loss of membership in the c.r.c.In my origional comment  #1 spirit filled  worship, and #2 biblical preaching. I need to add, that unfortunately the c.r.c. denominationa is partly following the path of some of the old ,tired mainline churches in canada. my concern is that you are, focussing on the social issues of the day, #1 the c.r.c. participatng in a helicopter trip to check out the effect of the oilsands in alberta, #2synod committtee studying climate change, #3 world renew sending delegation to kenya  regarding effect of climate change ,#4 continually pressing to adopt the belhar, a document confessing sin to people rather than confessing to HIM who died that we may live, as in our age old adopted confessions. When we as HIS children are immersed in HIS grace, then the caring for HIS creation and our fellow men will flow out of HIS love, with out a synod micromanaging its members..

for the love of JESUS  Hans Visser

 

Thanks Hans.  I quite agree!  There's one other major reason for the decline that (like the elephant in the room) no one is talking about.  It's the issue of women in office.  Those of us who are opposed to women serving in the offices of the church have very little recognition or voice in the present CRC denomination.  As a result, many have left for other fellowships.

If we always disagree with each other and the typical "protestant" response is schismatic, i.e. to leave, who will be left to have a conversation with let alone engage in commual worship? When we will come to grips with building bridges between differences, assuming we all belong to the body of Christ." 1 Corinthians 12: 12 – 27 

Is it possible to still bridge differences on stewardship and gender, etc. or have we as Christ bearers unconsciously imbided too deeply at well of post-modern individualism that we have walled ourselves into gated communities.

How we engage with those who are troubled by their experience of church, as reported by Barna and Christianity Today:

Isolationism. One-fourth of 18- to 29-year-olds say church demonizes everything outside church, including the music, movies, culture, and technology that define their generation.

Shallowness. One-third call church boring, about one-fourth say faith is irrelevant and Bible teaching is unclear. One-fifth say God is absent from their church experience.

Anti-science. Up to one-third say the church is out of step on scientific developments and debate.

Sex. The church is perceived as simplistic and judgmental. For a fifth or more, a "just say no" philosophy is insufficient in a techno-porno world. Young Christian singles are as sexually active as their non-churched friends, and many say they feel judged.

Exclusivity. Three in 10 young people feel the church is too exclusive in this pluralistic and multi-cultural age. And the same number feel forced to choose between their faith and their friends.

Doubters. The church is not a safe place to express doubts say over one-third of young people, and one-fourth have serious doubts they'd like to discuss.

What have we missed in both discipleship and the great commission?

It is not always those who leave who are schismatic. 

Lambert, I think you closed your post with the right question, "where have we missed...in the great commission? " Something I tried to teach my children was that when we don't do the right thing, we find ourselves doing the wrong things. I don't mean to be too simplistic, because several issues have been raised in this discussion, however, as I read the gospels, I believe that THE mission of the church is to share the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ to those who don't yet know Him as their Savior and Lord. IF our forefathers had come to this country for this purpose we wouldn't be having this discussion, but they didn't! They came to have religious freedom and to have their own separate colony and their own church. Having said that, the present CRC church typically doesn't have "saving the lost" as their purpose and mission (what they should do) but gets all hung up with other issues (not really wrong but distracting it from what it should be doing). Examine the "growing" congregations within the denomination and you will find unity, harmony, acceptance of members and attendees "as they ARE". You will find members who almost unanimously LOVE their pastor and you will find a pastor who faithfully preaches the whole council of God. Yku will find celebration and the use of member gifts AND because of the abundance of energy in these churches you will find that the members are engaged in various para-church ministry activity outside of the walls of the church. Unless the members of established congregations are willing to CHANGE and commit to refocusing on "doing whatever it takes" to reaching the lost, they will continue to use their resources on the "wrong" things (these may actually be beneficial and worthy causes) and over time lose even more members. Let me use just one example: if a congregation will not make the decision to change it's name from First Christian Reformed Church, a name that was proudly held by former generations, but now meaningless to today's generation, I guarantee they will not make other necessary decisions to become an "outreach" local church. I'll end here...blessings!

Lubbert, you maje good.points and your.concluding question is the right one. I'll be brief: until we as andrnomination and individual church make the decision that our PURPOSE and MISSION is to share the good news if the gospel message of Jesus Christ with those who don't yet know Him in a salvation way, we will continue to decline. Having a singular focus unifies a congregation but with outreach growth, naturally provides opportunity for a variety of ministry activities for members to share in. Look at those congregations that are growing g this way and you will also find members loving each other, pastors who are loved and clearly preaching the whole council of God and all feeling purposeful. New church development cannot save the denomination...we see that year after year that we have more co gradations with declining membership. The CHANGE has to come from established congregations and while I appreciate the difficulty of trying to change the core values of a local church, either it happens or we will suffer the obvious consequences.

Community Builder

One pastor contacted me and suggested that the reason for member-loss is basically two-folf:

l. CRC members are not vigorous witnesses of the gospel; the CRC faces a spiritual malaise, and 2. the religious landscape in the US and Canada is such that established churches have lost their appeal because of deeper sociological reasons. The populations of these two nations diverge into two camps: those for whom religion has lost its appeal, and those who find a spiritual home in evangelical churches more expressive of the faith.

Perhaps some of the readers of NETWORK willwant to comment.

 

Community Builder

Neil  Koning wrote a splendid article on Funeral Services. He makes several good points. Pondering on all this now, I remember how we at pastors' gettogether would discuss the difficult aspects of this pastoral task. Nell gives good advice. What I personally often struggled with was: to what extend do we use the pulpit at such services to preach the gospel? Neil stresses that the community can expected to be present. To some extend community  members can are, to some extend,  a captive audience.  Also, where do we place the emphasis ... commemorating the life and person of the deceased, or on the worship service itself? The Church Order says: "Funerals are not ecclesiastical but family affairs.." Then adds: " ... and they should be conducted accordingly."  So, what does that mean, exactly? Synods before and after added little light or guidance.

So, what think ye?

Always bring the gospel. The emphasis should not be on the worship service itself, but on Christ.

Lubbert, I will try to respond to your question about Barna survey and how we relate or respond.  It would be interesting to combine the six categories you mention, or see how they interrelate.  For example, one fourth say faith is irrelevant.  Are they the same that say that church demonizes everything?  Are they the same that say church is too exclusive, or too judgemental?  Or are they all different groups?  Does one dissatisfaction lead to another?

Isn't it interesting that bible teaching is unclear and God is absent from church for about 20% of the people of 18-29 years old. 

One fifth say that abstinence is insufficient.... or they don't want to abbstain (in clearer language), and they feel judged for being sexually active outside of marriage.   Hmmnn.   They feel judged, rather than being re-born and forgiven.  Why is that?

So what have we missed?   I think we have not presented the gospel to our children.  We have not witnessed.  We have not put christian living into the context of Christ's redeeming love.  We have performed all the heresies that the reformers so vigorously fought against.  So we have some people emphasizing works righteousness.  We have other people sinning so that grace may abound.  We have as Jude says, turned the grace of God into a license for immorality.  We have substituted environment or social "goodness" for the Christ.   And many other things.  The youth are people and human like everyone else.   They are not some pariah from another planet.  They should be engaged as people, and not estranged as aliens.  They have the ability and heart to be soldiers of Christ. 

How is it even possible that God is absent from their church experience?   Any elder, preacher, deacon, evangelist should be crying tears at hearing such a sad thing.  And ashamed that they say that Bible teaching is unclear (making faith irrelevant).

The youth say that "just say no" is insufficient in a techno-porn world.   That's their judgement.  They are willing to judge, but not to be judged.   It is their own actions that judge themselves.  If we as Christians apologize for saying that, then it is no wonder that they feel that faith is irrelevant.

Make Christ first in your life, and your children will be blessed.

 

John

 

Isolationism. One-fourth of 18- to 29-year-olds say church demonizes everything outside church, including the music, movies, culture, and technology that define their generation.

Shallowness. One-third call church boring, about one-fourth say faith is irrelevant and Bible teaching is unclear. One-fifth say God is absent from their church experience.

Anti-science. Up to one-third say the church is out of step on scientific developments and debate.

Sex. The church is perceived as simplistic and judgmental. For a fifth or more, a "just say no" philosophy is insufficient in a techno-porno world. Young Christian singles are as sexually active as their non-churched friends, and many say they feel judged.

Exclusivity. Three in 10 young people feel the church is too exclusive in this pluralistic and multi-cultural age. And the same number feel forced to choose between their faith and their friends.

Doubters. The church is not a safe place to express doubts say over one-third of young people, and one-fourth have serious doubts they'd like to discuss.

What have we missed in both discipleship and the great commission?