Are American churches going the way of Europe’s declining religious institutions? Church attendance across Europe has dropped to single-digit percentages. In that environment, how is the church adapting and finding effectiveness?
We probed these questions at Group’s recent Future of the Church summit. Cliff Allen is an American who moved to the UK 30 years ago to pastor a church near London. He has some unique perspectives.
He urged American leaders at the Future of the Church to be prepared. “What can you do now to engage in a culture that is becoming increasingly secular and hostile to the Christian message?”
The American church’s obsession with filling pews on Sunday has become a dubious memory for Allen. “It’s not about bums in seats,” he said. He explained that his focus has turned from the ubiquitous “barn mentality” of doing church. As a kid growing up on a farm, Allen learned that any good farmer does not spend the bulk of his time in the barn. “If he wants a harvest, he’s going to have to spend a lot of his time in the field–planting seeds and looking after those seeds.”
So, Allen works to make active disciples–deploying them outside the “barn,” into the community. For example, 25 churches in his area work together to dispatch volunteer “street pastors” throughout the city. They practice loving their neighbors by helping people who spill out of the pubs.
The effective churches in Britain are less focused on doing church, and more focused on being the church. Perhaps there’s something we can learn here.
Listen to a fascinating, brief excerpt from Allen’s presentation at the Future of the Church here:
Not sure what parts of the USA that is being monitored, but I’m my area…the South…we are growing and lots of our churches are filled to capacity and overflowing to pint they are still adding on and building. I have only seen a decline in a few smaller country churches and one that was a little larger, but even those are coming back to being full. The little church we go to probably won’t hold 150 people, but on most all Sunday mornings it is almost so full it’s hard to get a seat without being shoulder to shoulder with your neighbors. The we left was a larger church and had dropped to one service on Sunday morning from 3, but it had to do with the preacher and the staff. As soon as the preacher left the church started back growing again. The ones that left there went to other churches…they didn’t STOP going.
“….hostile to the Christian message?”
Many God fearing, Bible loving Christians are exiting today’s church houses because the TRUE message is NOT there. Tradition, logic, psychology, philosophy, speculation and an abundance of rock music dominate. The Sola Scripture is in a corner somewhere.
I think you mean “buns” not bums in seats.
John in England the term is “bums”….you sit on your bum.
It’s also the term used just over the border to the north. Occasionally got a “bum warming” as a kid in Ontario.
“Bums” is the British term and used by many Americans. But I suspect you know that. If you are referring to “bums” as being people who are low on the economic scale, those are exactly the people who should be invited into our churches.
“bums” is the British term for butts.
I think the comment “The American church’s obsession with filling pews ….” is simplistic and judgmental, however. Part of the obsession with filling pews is nostalgia from the ’50s and ’60s, some is deep concern that the oldest church in the city is dying, and some is concern about maintaining a facilty with not enough people to pay for it.
As Nancy points out, one can’t judge all of America–or even a region–by what’s going on elsewhere. Even in my city, in the same denomination, churches that were large in past years have shrunk, while a church that was always small is now bursting at the seams. I attribute that to a pastor who is doing his job of equipping the session to do its job.
Also, few European churches can match the US in demographics. Each worship service at my church, for example, may seem small, but our members worship in three languages at five different services. (We also have two tenant churches.) Add all that up, and it’s not a bad number for most parts of the US. In a large metropolitan area with many newcomers from both inside and outside the US, religious demographics are much more complex, as well. In addition attending language-based churches, newcomers may be Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh, or any one of a hundred other religions and philosophies.
That said, we do need to go OUT, and we are not doing that. They are not being equipped to do so. We do need to have the mentality of a farmer and not a barn rat.
I think you need to look into the why people not just don’t believe in God but can’t believe in God. You can’t believe in what you don’t see or in a god that isn’t doing anything.
As a Christian, you don’t believe in Allah. Why? That’s the same reason people don’t believe in the Christian God. That god in your mind not just doesn’t exist, So he or it cannot exist.
One of the elements of human nature is we wan’t to automatically just believe what we are told. It is so easy to pull the wool over people’s eyes. You really have to train yourself to NOT just take everything your told or read at face value as though it is all true.
For a Christian, the reason people believe in Allah is because it is easy to build a case through a person imagination “it” is real and you can’t really disprove Allah does not exist. You can’t test that which does not exist to physically show it does not exist. It only takes a little evidence to prove that which does not exist, does exist. ((( I.E. I prayed to my god for rain and the next day it rained. I prayed to my god for a job at Buzz World and after submitting a resume, I got a job. My god answered my prayer. My god loves me. You can believe in my god too and he will help you too.))) Disprove that god.
You can create god out of thin air and with a little evidence like I made up above get people to believe in this god. When after a while, you don’t see gods doing anything, you lose faith and you stop believing. You leave church and you don’t go back because it’s a waste of time.
Until people god’s start showing up and actually do something substantial, more and more people are going to reject any and every form religion out there.
No body can truly see from another’s perspective unless they have walked in their shoes and in some cases, there are lines once crossed that you can never return thereto. Once you have seen, it can’t be unseen. When a person who doesn’t believe in God, suddenly does believe in God, they now can “see” from the Christian perspective. They now have their veil of blindness for God removed. This works both ways. A person raised in Christianity who believed in God their whole life can also have the veil of blindness taken to be able to see from the atheists perspective at how God does not exist. The irony in all this is nobody is trying to purposely con other people to either believe in God or not to. Another thing about human nature is that it drives us nuts when people can’t see things the way we do.
Hi Ryan, You make some very good points, but I don’t want this disbelief to continue to blindside you! You are missing out on something far greater than your mind can begin to imagine! A Love as Divine as God’s Love for us is something you must feel! This happens when you develop a relationship with Him. By this I mean, a relationship with Jesus Christ! No one can come to the Father but by the way of asking Jesus to come into your life! We can’t see the air we breathe but we know that it’s there; without it, we could not live! Go to the scriptures and read 1 Peter 1, and John 3:16. The Bible is the word of God, the Truth! Before you can say that God doesn’t exist, you must examine yourself! If you can prove that you don’t exist, then I will believe that God doesn’t, but since He made you and commanded the stars to hang in the sky, and there are more stars in the sky than there are grains of sand in the ocean! Read the Bible through! It will be amazing to see what you will find! Rejoice knowing you are loved so dearly!
You are fearfully and wonderfully made! Feel His Blessings
In That Day Unbound
By Robert Winkler Burke 775-690-78293
Book #6 of In That Day Teachings
Copyright 2/3/10 http://www.inthatdayteachings.com
I see a day coming,
When American Christians are free,
Coming days of La Mancha,
Without rapture-prosper-slouch, we see!
Instead of zombie eyes and zombie lies,
People bring out God in each other!
Instead of zombie leer and zombie fear,
People honor God in Christ’s brother!
I see a day coming,
When the children of our children laugh,
At their grand folk’s blindness,
And the expense of a century’s blind bath!
Christians generally blind,
To hidden progressive socialism for a century,
Because at church behind,
In fear, greed and slouch from Satan’s doxie tree.
Some rock and roll more pure,
More true in spirit than wispy praise,
That mesmerized millions,
Hypnotized in dark-art, one-chord craze.
I see dust-and-ego-fed sheep,
Discovering high alpine green pastures!
Some sheep even sprout feathers,
Flying high: screaming eagle go-getters!
This, in relative penury and obscurity,
Damn me or bless me for seeing this freedom,
I weep! I wail! I howl!
For blind wolves eating sheep unawares,
I see! I see! I see!
I refuse to believe: Nobody cares.
Then freed up, I see children playing,
I hear women laughing out loud,
Then freed up, I see men folk singing,
Their spirit and truth makes me proud!
In the movie, Guys and Dolls,
Frank Sinatra works on Marlon Brando a conning trick,
Crediting his father, Brando,
Sees through the wile, forgiving, that nothing stick!
Wolf-shepherds now provide,
An endless river of conning tricks,
To imbibe the great lies,
Of fear-greed-slouch chow, a maddening mix!
Behold, God can’t come quickly,
And live in such sheep inside!
Not when blind wolves in the ditch,
Take the unbeknownst for ride!
Yet given truth and right spirit,
The good ship Christianity can turn around,
Imbued quickly at once at last,
God lives in man, man lives in God unbound!
Why are people leaving milk churches?
On Trial: The Mined and Blind
By Robert Winkler Burke 775-690-7293
Book #6 of In That Day Teachings
Copyright 1/03/10 http://www.inthatdayteachings.com
I’m judge of Broadcast County,
Let’s make it quick,
Who is on the next docket?
Let’s make it stick!
I’m a hanging judge,
But this has me fraught!
Millions of accused?
They’re accused of what?
The sheep rebelled,
Your Honor: Judge Rightwrong,
Against their shepherds,
And they rebelled dang strong!
All right then, the Mined and Blind,
Trial is set,
We’ll hear arguments and be,
Lawyer for defense of the accused,
And prosecuting attorney,
Deiter Darkbark. Proceed!
Thank you, your Honor,
Prosecution calls Justin Amenfaith to bench,
His quite sad story,
Will make the bravest brave-heart blanch!
Tell us: What is your job?
I preach faith only,
Amen? Yessiree, Bob!
I preach, amen? I preach faith, amen?
Only faith, amen? amen? amen? See,
Can I have a witness? Those bad sheep!
Well, amen? They ran out, amen? On me!
No further questions,
Lightark, your turn.
What did you learn?
I learned, amen? You can, amen? fool, amen? some,
Of the people, amen? some, amen? of the, amen? time!
But, amen? not, amen? all of the Amen People!
All of the time! No further questions. Fine.
Judge, the prosecution calls Fradee Cat,
Proprietor of Our Fear’s Here Inn,
Fradee Cat, and his Missus preach the rapture,
Fradee Cat, your story: begin.
The Missus and I were preaching end-times,
With free-flowing spirits of fear!
When our own Mined and Blind Sheep just got up,
And told us: We’re out of here!
It was devastating for business,
Since then: a blight!
Me and the Missus have been crying,
In fright: each night!
No further questions.
Lightark, ask away next,
No questions, your Honor,
Our defense remains blessed!
The prosecution calls Skindeep Halfhealer,
To the witness stand,
Tell us of the Mined and Blind’s misbehavior,
Oh sir, if you can.
In back of my medicine wagon,
I was shilling my half-healing potion,
Which will cure any ailment: skin deep,
It’s my Heart-to-Head-to-Toe Lotion!
Normally, our Mined and Blind Sheep,
Are automatic: ecstatic and buying,
But this time they up’n left me!
With unsold, worthless lotion! No lying!
So I drank a case,
It made me sick!
Where’s the outhouse, judge?
I leave now quick!
Will the people stop laughing,
I need order in this room!
As judge I say we continue,
To verdict! And soon!
Your Honor, I call to the stand,
Reverend Besmirch Lincoln,
From the other side of town,
He’ll get us all thinkin’!
Huh! There I wuz preaching, Heh now!
Enslavin’, entrancin’, bewitchin’,
Huh! Huh! Huh! The B’Jezus out’a dem sheep,
Dem gibin’ to me, me all keepin’!
Y’all gimme’ dat witness!
Glorah, glorah, glorah how dem Mined and Blind,
Jess’ got up an’ leff’ me,
And mah enslavin’, witchen-craft: Bah-hind!
Next witness! Dr. Jabber Which,
You are a prophetic doctor, am I correct?
Yes, and I’ve examined the sheep,
And I don’t know what’s wrong with them yet.
Normally, the Mined and Blind Sheep,
Are docile and easily conned,
And sheared by us: just-slightly-more-smart!
Now I don’t know what’s going on.
Next witness! I’m Fastess Broke Weakhand,
I preach weak worship and weak doxie,
Though frail myself, I’m Samson to weak,
Mined and Blind Sheep under my moxie!
I never thought I would live,
To see: In That Day,
Sheep weakened: by my hand,
Walked so strong! Away!
Next witness! Stopshort Of Intellect,
Is my name,
Lording over sheep with my half-smarts,
Is my game.
I hypnotize them,
With dry bones intelligencia crap,
But en mass, they left,
Without saying a word. Just like that!
The prosecution now calls,
My Ning Mine,
The richest businessman,
You can find.
State your business,
My Ning Mine,
I sell you one t’ing,
I preach prosperity,
But it’s rea’ree and ar’ways: greed!
I mine give-to-get-now,
Sheep r’oose, but I get what I need!
It work’ee grand,
Unt’eer it stop working,
I am now sad pig,
No r’onger on sheep: porking!
Next witness! My name is Duegood Butseenot Mywiles,
I’m smiley, happy, grinning all the time!
I tell others they’ll get the goods by doing good!
But I get goods via wiles the sheep can’t find!
God help me if Mined and Blind Sheep,
Ever saw through my hypocrite’s ruse,
Come to think of it, when they left,
They said they saw how: them I abused!
Get the goods by doing good,
Get the best! I had told them,
Don’t beware the conman’s flare,
Like the rest: I had sold them!
Next witness! I’m Dapper Dan,
I’m a chameleon,
Dress up, dress down, or no clothes!
Anything for con!
But I’ve tried all ploys,
All colors of rainbow,
The sheep just walked out,
Who’d ‘a’ thunk: they know?
Next witness! I’m Who’s Foolin’ Who,
A shepherd’s consultant,
My ploys are so good sheep don’t,
Know where their money went!
But now my highest, greatest, radical,
Most evil, hidden schemes,
Don’t work on those smart aleck sheep!
They dare to crash: our dreams!
Concludes prosecuting this special case,
The sheep are guilty!
Failure to support their master race!
For the Mined and Blind Sheep,
Must support their slightly-smarter betters,
Who best to enslave them,
In unseen hucksterism fetters?
For even now the,
Mined and Blind Sheepherders Association,
For wool, blades for lamb chops: their proration!
If God Himself,
Wanted any other ways,
His book would have,
Called it out. I rest my case!
The defense calls Maryboy Colt,
To the stand,
Half-breed Indian warrior,
Raise right hand.
You will tell the truth?
If I don’t,
Me, you can shoot.
We don’t shoot liars,
But tell us what you got,
You spoke to the sheep,
What you told them was: hot?
Hotter than sun,
Hotter than a million sun-fires!
Preachers, I said,
In Broadcast County are liars!
Full of tricks,
Full of lies, full of slavery: they,
Sheep need food!
Like Good Book says: In That Day!
Don’t hang me!
Don’t hang the sheep!
Weep, wail, howl,
No tricks repeat.
I declare as judge,
Sheep, go free! And,
Preachers: don’t budge!
Learn from Maryboy,
And learn from In That Day,
Feed your starving sheep,
Or the hell you’ll pay!
As judge, I’ll haul,
You shepherds in court!
Hear me: last time,
All wile-craft abort!
Thus, this was the trial,
Of the Mined and Blind,
It makes great drama,
But do preachers mind?
Do preachers In That Day,
Of great awakening,
Want to rise up higher,
Or keep on taking?
Intelligence will rise,
In That Day,
Will broadcast preachers,
They don’t believe,
In: In That Day,
They hearken not,
What Truth does say.
Which, of course, just is not smart!
Instead: they pay four-hundred,
False prophets to out-shout Truth,
And do what Jezebel said.
God chastises and rebukes,
Those whom God loves and gives,
Preachers won’t bow to truth now,
Choosing their god: Hubris!
And that just ain’t too smart!
‘Tis a sad, strange, haunting story,
On Trial: The Mined and Blind,
And preachers’ hands: blood-gory.
Who are Mined and Blind?
Are they the sheep today?
Or the broadcast shepherds,
Stuck in pride’s sightless way.