Monday, April 28, 2008

Change or perish

Anyone who cares about the future of the church in America should read this article: click here. It's the result of a survey from Lifeway. It shouldn't surprise many of us that the "attractional" model of outreach (ie, build a good building and offer great programs, and non-Christian people will come flocking in) doesn't work anymore, if it ever did. That is especially important for us to note, since we at WBC have been blessed with a great building and--in my opinion at least--some awfully talented people leading outstanding programs. Those things are definitely assets, but won't enable us to reach the lost. Instead, we need to think of outreach as "incarnational."

That means that my job as a pastor isn't to lead great programs, it's equipping our members to demonstrate Christ's love, compassion and holiness to people who do not know Him. That means each one of us has to go out of our way to establish loving, genuine relationships with people who don't believe in Jesus (according to this study, only about 1 in 4 of us are doing so now). That means we have to get into our community and meet people's needs in the name of Jesus, which I hope will start happening on a wide scale at WBC when we adopt a school in fall of this year. It means we must become a more externally focused church.

My headline for this post (Change or perish) is admittedly a little sensationalistic...WBC is doing well and is not in danger of fading away anytime soon. But in the grand scheme of things, the church in America is very much at a crisis point. We've coasted along on an attractional model of doing outreach for decades now (which is actually a dressed-up way of saying we have done ministry to benefit ourselves, hoping that lost people will decide they want to get in on it, too). Either we will change radically--and I see signs of that kind of radical change in mindset among younger Christians--or we will continue to have less and less of an impact on our culture.

I am interested in reading your thoughts on this article.


Anonymous said...

Jeff--This is a tough question! The results of the study are not surprising, though. It really does require us to be prayerfully creative. As I think of possibilities...maybe meeting with some of the established community organizations that work with the homeless and developing outreach to sw Houston. As the economy declines, more and more families are going to be struggling (probably some in our own church). I volunteered at BraesInterfaith for awhile a couple of years ago and I was amazed at the number of families with small children needing help. Certainly the Adopt a School program fits into this category and I am so proud of our great website but it is clear that more still needs to be done. It's a lot to think about.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I loved the statement at the end of the article "the wheat is not harvesting itself"! As one who has relationships with many "unchurched" people, I do agree that those relationships foster the opportunity to talk about Jesus and my beliefs. I want to be the conduit, and let the Holy Spirit work through me. Thanks for the article, and btw-the video is great Jeff. (A star is born....) Martha

Jeff Berger said...


Yes, we certainly have a lot of work to do. But we serve a big God, so I trust He'll take our "little bit" and make it great!


Thank you. I'm posting the commercial here on another thread.