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All Over the World

14 Apr

Paul wrote, “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing” (Colossians 1.6). It seems to be true in all parts of the world other than North America and Europe. Just a few statistics give us cause for concern:

  • Only two countries in the world have more nonbelievers than the USA: India and China, making the USA the third largest mission field in the world.
  • Church attendance in North America continues to drop, going from 60% after World War II to 49% in 1991 to the current 18% (some pollsters have reported that 40% of Americans currently attend church each Sunday, but actual head counts of Sunday morning attendance tell a different story).
  • 81% of US churches are either plateaued or declining.
  • In America, it takes the combined efforts of 85 Christians working over an entire year to produce one convert.
  • Each year, three times a many churches are closing (about 3750) as are opening (about 1350).
  • In just 20 years, two thirds of all Christians will live in Africa, Latin America, or Asia. The center of gravity for church growth has shifted from the Western church to the non-western world.

 Many writers have tried to give their reasons for the condition of the church in America. Personally, I am coming to the conclusion that the problem lies within our understanding of what “church” is. In North America, we have adopted a Reformation view of the church. The church is a place where the gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered. Church is an event we attend and observe. When worship becomes a spectator sport, boredom will eventually set in, so most of our energy is put into trying to put on a better show. But we have neglected the obvious; if church is nothing more than a gathering point to hear the preacher, something is wrong with our concept of church. The church ought to be the living body of Christ, where the Spirit of God flows freely, where every member is a tool of the Spirit to minister to one another, where lives are transformed and community is shared.

For that to happen, I think we need a new model.

(Statistics taken from The Church that Multiplies by Joel Comiskey)

 

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2 Comments

Posted by on April 14, 2008 in Uncategorized

 

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2 responses to “All Over the World

  1. scottbuck

    April 16, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Hey Dr. Pylant,
    The Stem the Tide website is http://www.stemthetideband.com.

    I like what you said about the church needing to be a living Body of Christ. What do you think we could do at our church to help create a place where Christians can first grow in Christ, and second grow in community? I do think that there has been a growth of community at our church of late. Some of the new families told me that Benbrook is the friendliest church they had been to. It was great to hear that.

    -Scott

     
  2. tpylant

    April 16, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Scott,

    Thanks for the link.

    I have been doing alot of reading, thinking, and praying about this issue lately, and I think the answer may be in the cell church concept. A cell group is “a group of three to fifteen people who meet weekly outside the church building for the purpose of evangelism, community, and discipleship with the goal of multiplication.” In this model, the church is a group of believers where everyone is a minister, where the gifts of the Spirit flow freely, and life in Christ is discovered and lived out in community with others. While we are a friendly church, we still have a long way to go to developing genuine community.

    Part of our struggle is the way we are structured. Church is something that we attend on Sunday and basically observe on the stage. Even in our small group Bible studies, we sit around a circle and listen to a teacher. But where is the place where 1 Corinthians 14.26 is practiced? (“When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these things must be done for the strengthening of the church.”) We may never know genuine community in Christ until we develop a structure that encourages every member to participate in the “church” in real ways other than observing and “singing along.”

    Todd

     

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