BIBLE BELIEVING COUNTER-CULTURAL CHURCHES THRIVING

The most common religious identity among young adults in the U.S. is “none,” and the majority of Americans don’t believe it’s necessary for a person to believe in God to be moral and have good values, a new survey has found. The survey on American Life investigating contemporary religion in the U.S. found that among young adults (age 18 to 29), the most common religious identity today is none. More than one in three (34%) young adults are religiously unaffiliated.  Nearly nine in 10 (87%) Americans report they believe in God, but just over half (53%) report they believe in God without any doubts at all. Overall, 42% of Americans have a close social connection with someone who is religiously unaffiliated — up from 18% in 2004.
Additionally, most Americans say it’s not necessary for a person to believe in God to be moral and have good values. Close to six in 10 (59%) Americans say a belief in God is not a precondition to being moral and having good values, while 41% of the public say a belief in God is essential. These statistics, the authors say, mark a “remarkable shift in recent years. The study also found that Americans are almost equally divided over whether it is better to discuss religious beliefs and ideas with those who do not share the same perspective, and most Americans have never been invited to church. A majority (54%) of Americans say they have not been asked to participate in a religious service in the past 12 months or have never been asked.

The survey corroborates a 2019 Pew Study survey that documented the decline of Christians and rise of religiously unaffiliated. Pew noted that the religiously unaffiliated group rose to 22.8% share of the population in 2014, eclipsing the number of Catholics in America, who fell to 20.8%. Christians as a whole fell from 78.4 to 70% of the population between 2007 to 2014, with every major group experiencing a decline. Similarly, the 2018 General Social Survey found that the number of religious “nones” in the U.S. are now statistically equal to the number of evangelicals. Ryan Burge, a political science researcher at Eastern Illinois University who analyzed data from the survey, told The Christian Post that the religious “‘none’s’ are not slowing down.”

THE GOOD NEWS

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, previously said the “increasing strangeness” of Christianity is actually “good news” for the church. “Christianity isn’t normal anymore. It never should have been. The increasing strangeness of Christianity might be bad news for America, but it’s good news for the church. The major newspapers are telling us today that Christianity is dying, according to this new study, but what is clear from this study is exactly the opposite: while mainline traditions plummet, evangelical churches are remaining remarkably steady,” Moore said.

He added that statistics indicate there are honest atheists in America today, and that they are rejecting what’s called “almost-Christianity,” or traditions that “jettison the historic teachings of the Church as soon as they become unfashionable.” “The churches that are thriving are the vibrant, counter-cultural congregations that aren’t afraid to not be seen as normal to the surrounding culture. This report actually leaves me hopeful. The Bible Belt may fall. So be it,” he continued. “Christianity emerged from a Roman Empire hostile to the core to the idea of a crucified and resurrected Messiah. We’ve been on the wrong side of history since Rome, and it was enough to turn the world upside down.”

GOD’S WORD IS INERRANT

WHY DO WE MAKE DISCIPLES?

Great to see God raising up young people who understand the purpose of the church is to make disciples who complete the Great Commission. Watch this young couple as they explain the 411 Discipleship Training Course. This is just one of the many initiatives God is raising up for His purposes in the “last days”. You will be encouraged as you learn what is being accomplished to build God’s Kingdom here on earth. I hope you embark on Troy’s 411 program with your partner. It asks the following four questions. WHY?, WHO?, WHAT? & WHEN? Go watch the video and find out why.

GOD USES CATASTROPHES FOR HIS PURPOSES

Nickey Gumbel, vicar (pastor) at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, developed the world-famous Alpha Courses and has decades of experience with in-person small groups. Like so many, he never considered online groups as a viable option and only transitioned his church’s small groups to online when forced by the coronavirus pandemic. A few short months later, he is a true believer in online groups and their advantages According to Gumbel, here are nine ways that online groups are actually better than in-person groups:

1. Everyone is more relaxed. Think about it: instead of walking into a strange environment, everyone is sitting in their favorite chair at home, they’ve got their coffee or tea (or whatever) fixed just the way they want, and they’re in their comfortable clothes. All of this puts a person at ease, leading to better discussion.

2. Everyone is in their own home. For most, home is a place of solace, and it’s much more inviting to join a group while at home. Some actually have a reluctance to walk into a church building or someone else’s home, so this can be an incredible advantage.

3. Travel time is cut down. This isn’t as big of an issue in smaller towns where distances are reduced, but in larger urban environments, travel time can be a groups killer. For instance, the average commute time where I live (Northern Virginia) is about an hour each way. Adding another meeting with travel time on top of that can be a huge hindrance. Online groups eliminates the travel time.

4. The total meeting time is shortened. Because travel time is eliminated, the total meeting time is shortened, making it easier for people to commit to a group.

5. Childcare becomes so much easier. Unless your small group meets on Sunday morning at church when children’s activities are going on, childcare for young families can be a deal breaker for in-person groups. Gumbel shared about a single mom that was able to join an online group precisely because it was online and she didn’t have to try and arrange childcare for her kids.

6. The conversation flows better because everyone knows each other’s names. Even in groups that have met for awhile, people aren’t confident that they know everyone’s names. This can lead to reduced interaction out of fear of getting someone’s name wrong. When you’re on an online group meeting like Zoom, everyone’s name appears by their screen. As simple as that sounds, this is actually a big deal. Everyone knows everyone’s name!

7. There’s an easier out if you don’t like the group. People like to have an exit strategy before they try something new (like a small group). Think about the hurdles facing someone debating whether or not to try out a small group for the first time: they’re walking into an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. If they don’t like the group, they’re stuck there at least for the rest of the meeting, longer if they feel a social obligation to continue. With online meetings, there’s an easier out: just get off the call. This easier out actually incentivizes people to try something new.

8. People tend to be more open online than in person. Call this the social media effect. Have you ever noticed how people tend to share more openly (even when they shouldn’t) online? It’s as if the screen gives them a sense of transparency where they can share how they really feel. This works for online small groups as well. Gumbel shared in his podcast interview that after leading in-person groups for decades, he was shocked at just how quickly his new online group shared and how quickly they went deep. Also, a good leader can make sure that all participate in the meeting, with the mute button. he can make sure no one person dominates the meeting.

9. Group dropout rates are reduced. A final positive aspect that Gumbel noted was that in his short time leading online groups, the dropout rates seem to have reduced. In any in-person group you start, the number you start with is hardly ever the number you finish with. It’s too easy for people to talk themselves out of getting dressed up, getting back in their car after a long day’s work to go to small group. If you’re not feeling well, if you’re got a lot to do, if childcare falls through (or any number of other things), you miss the group. With an online group, people tend to stick longer, leading to reduced dropout rates.

Likewise, I am a Board Member of International Christian Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) Australia and have been blessed greatly with the use of Zoom not only for meetings with Australian delegates but we now have Zoom meetings for Asia and the World for leaders and potential new members.

WHY ON LINE SMALL GROUPS CHURCH IS A GREAT OPTION

Nickey Gumbel, vicar (pastor) at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, recently recorded a podcast with Canadian Pastor and thought leader Carey Nieuwhof. Gumbel developed the world-famous Alpha Courses and has decades of experience with in-person small groups. Like so many, he never considered online groups as a viable option and only transitioned his church’s small groups to online when forced by the coronavirus pandemic. A few short months later, he is a true believer in online groups and their advantages. You can listen to the whole podcast here. (He starts talking about online groups around 29:55).

According to Gumbel, here are nine ways that online groups are actually better than in-person groups:

Zoom meeting with twelve people

1. Everyone is more relaxed. Think about it: instead of walking into a strange environment, everyone is sitting in their favorite chair at home, they’ve got their coffee or tea (or whatever) fixed just the way they want, and they’re in their comfortable clothes. All of this puts a person at ease, leading to better discussion.

2. Everyone is in their own home. For most, home is a place of solace, and it’s much more inviting to join a group while at home. Some actually have a reluctance to walk into a church building or someone else’s home, so this can be an incredible advantage.

3. Travel time is cut down. This isn’t as big of an issue in smaller towns where distances are reduced, but in larger urban environments, travel time can be a groups killer. For instance, the average commute time where I live (Northern Virginia) is about an hour each way. Adding another meeting with travel time on top of that can be a huge hindrance. Online groups eliminates the travel time.

4. The total meeting time is shortened and cost reduced. Because travel time is eliminated, the total meeting time is shortened, making it easier for people to commit to a group. Cost of Zoom for each group, max $20 a month.

5. Childcare becomes so much easier. Unless your small group meets on Sunday morning at church when children’s activities are going on, childcare for young families can be a deal breaker for in-person groups. Gumbel shared about a single mom that was able to join an online group precisely because it was online and she didn’t have to try and arrange childcare for her kids.

6. The conversation flows better because everyone knows each other’s names. Even in groups that have met for awhile, people aren’t confident that they know everyone’s names. This can lead to reduced interaction out of fear of getting someone’s name wrong. When you’re on an online group meeting like Zoom, everyone’s name appears by their screen. As simple as that sounds, this is actually a big deal. Everyone knows everyone’s name!

7. There’s an easier out if you don’t like the group. People like to have an exit strategy before they try something new (like a small group). Think about the hurdles facing someone debating whether or not to try out a small group for the first time: they’re walking into an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. If they don’t like the group, they’re stuck there at least for the rest of the meeting, longer if they feel a social obligation to continue. With online meetings, there’s an easier out: just get off the call. This easier out actually incentivizes people to try something new.

8. People tend to be more open online than in person. Call this the social media effect. Have you ever noticed how people tend to share more openly (even when they shouldn’t) online? It’s as if the screen gives them a sense of transparency where they can share how they really feel. This works for online small groups as well. Gumbel shared in his podcast interview that after leading in-person groups for decades, he was shocked at just how quickly his new online group shared and how quickly they went deep.

9. Group dropout rates are reduced. A final positive aspect that Gumbel noted was that in his short time leading online groups, the dropout rates seem to have reduced. In any in-person group you start, the number you start with is hardly ever the number you finish with. It’s too easy for people to talk themselves out of getting dressed up, getting back in their car after a long day’s work to go to small group. If you’re not feeling well, if you’re got a lot to do, if childcare falls through (or any number of other things), you miss the group. With an online group, people tend to stick longer, leading to reduced dropout rates.

Article by Josh Daffern in Patheos (www.patheos.com) 9 Reasons Why Online Groups May Actually Be Better than In-Person Small Groups.

God is in control of all events in His world. Covid 19 did not take Him by surprise so we need to ask what is God doing and how can we get in step with Him. We are meant to be overcomers and game changers. We know that in the last days, church will be as it was in the Book of Acts, all believers involved in the Great Commission. As Nickey Gumbel has found Zoom Home Group meetings work so let us learn from his experience.

HELPFUL ADVICE FOR A VIBRANT CHURCH

It is interesting to read the comments of a pastor from  the Grace Capital City, which meets at the Church of the Pilgrims in Washington, D.C. It is a growing congregation, with Lead Pastor Chris Moerman estimating that about 80 percent of its membership is millennial. Whilst I believe church growth can be a problem and the ideal church is the one described in the Book of Acts which is home groups, Chris Moerman makes some useful comments on how to reach millennial’s.

“I would attribute this growth to a combination of genuine and authentic relationships, a vibrant spirituality expressed through worship, teaching and community, and a passion to give people a vision for God’s work in their lives that impacts not just their Sunday’s at church, but their everyday existence,” Moerman added.

“At The Table Church, we’re passionate about Jesus, we create ministry around peoples’ gifts and empower them to put those gifts into action. We also have fun, do our best to love people well and we’re obsessed with helping people experience community. All of these things resonate with millennial’s, but I think everyone is hungry for the same thing.” We’ve discovered that millennial’s are looking for the many things other age demographics are. They’re looking for a church where the mission is clear and the path to getting engaged in community is simple and easy,”

Lum told CP that “keeping a clear mission” and helping people “use their gifts in the context of community” have enabled his church to stay vibrant.

“Congregations should look like the cities where God has planted them. If you’re in a city exploding with young people, then your church should definitely be reaching young people,” said Lum.

“Pastoring millennials requires a different approach to giving, but I think it’s a healthy and much needed transition. Millennials don’t give out of guilt or obligation, but instead they want to know that their generosity is making an impact.” Lum added that a key feature of giving in his church was “transparency,” adding that “everything is an open book.” “We provide quarterly financial updates that highlight the impact of our congregants’ investment in our church and our community,” he said.

While some majority-millennial churches are thriving, others have become a source of concern for what some believe is too great a focus on reaching out to one generation.

Jessica Lair with New Season church, a multi generational, multi ethnic congregation in Sacramento, California, told CP about a time when she worked with a millennial-centred church in Los Angeles.

Lair argues that millennial-centred churches deprive themselves of good spiritual wisdom from other age groups. “We as a generation need to quit with the attitude of ‘we can do it better,’ because sometimes, we can’t do it better,” wrote Lair, herself a millennial. “We as millennial’s NEED the generation before us. I have learned more life lessons at a multi-generational church in seven months than I did at a millennial church in two years.”

MEGA CHURCHES ARE NOT GOD’S IDEA

Darrin Patrick, a megachurch pastor, author and speaker, has died. He died of what appears to be a “self-inflicted gunshot wound,” according to a statement from the church. No official cause of death has been released.

Sadly this is not the first, I know of four in the past two years. Jarrid Wilson at 30 years of age was probably the most tragic. One has to ask what is the reason for this large number of suicides. Read what Darrin Patrick had to say about celebrity pastors -” It was recipe for disaster“.

Patrick had been a rising star among Reformed evangelical circles and was serving as vice president of the Acts 29 church planting network. He was fired from Journey for what church elders called misconduct including “inappropriate meetings, conversations, and phone calls with two women” and an abuse of power.

Darrin Patrick

Patrick talked about losing his church in a podcast interview that was published this week. He talked about being part of a group of young pastors who became celebrities with book deals, speaking gigs, fame and money but little spiritual maturity.

It was a recipe for disaster,” he said.

Patrick said his early success led to an obsession with keeping up his image rather than his soul. “I was spending a lot of energy creating and sustaining my image,” he told podcast host Charles Smith. “It’s so subtle; I am trying to influence people for the gospel—you have to have a social media presence, you have to speak at conferences.”

Patrick said he eventually became isolated from many of his friends when he was pastoring Journey Church. “I stopped pursuing friendships,” he said. “Another way to say that, I stopped being known. And that was the beginning of the end.”

IS THE CHURCH NO LONGER RELEVANT?

What are the cultural realities that are crippling the church?

1. Not Holy Spirit led. It is rare to see anything like what you read about in the book of Acts happen in churches today. When’s the last time the Holy Spirit has moved among the people of your church? If you can’t point to something, that may be a sign of a powerless (Acts 1:8) church.

2. Not serving their community. Simply protesting against sin in the world without proactively working for good causes in the community creates a negative impression in the minds of those who drive past your church on Sundays. Also, consumerism has most definitely infected the church and it is reflected in how praise and worship is conducted. When you have Christians (no matter their age) content to sit and attend services (no matter the type) while refusing to stand up and serve others, you have an irrelevant church.

3. Bible knowledge alone equals spiritual maturity. Bible knowledge is foundational to spiritual maturity, but it does not in and of itself equal spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity comes with obedience and love towards others. Paul warned about this in 1 Corinthians 8:1 when he said, “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.

4. No John 17 unity. Jesus himself prayed (John 17:23) that his followers would be one, so that the world may know that we are his disciples. The early church brought men and women, Greeks and Jews, slaves and free, all together under the name of Jesus. Do we see that same unity today, or is the church divided along racial, political, theological and socio-economic lines?

Image result for pictures of empty churches
Anglican church in the UK

Regardless, God is still on His throne. Jesus is still building his church. The Holy Spirit continues to do his work. My prayer is that the church will start being part of the solution.

Live a Prayer-Care-Share Lifestyle

In Mark 9, Jesus modeled this for us:

  • Prayer = Jesus said His disciples couldn’t heal the boy because it required prayer
  • Care = Had compassion on the boy and his dad
  • Share = Jesus asked the boy’s dad to proclaim faith in Him before healing his son

Powerful Christians live accordingly, not content simply to invite people to church or stop at “telling their story”.  They understand that bringing people to Christ involves taking personal responsibility for all 3 – praying, caring and sharing.  

ARE YOU PURSUING GOD OR HIS GIFTS?

WE ARE THE CHURCH – ARE WE USING THE HOLY SPIRIT GIFTS ? – DO YOU LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS JESUS LOVES US ? – DO WE LOVE GOD’S WORD ? IS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD DEEPENING ? DO WE HAVE THE JOY OF KNOWING WE ARE IN HIS WILL ?

Another great message from Francis Chan. You will be challenged and blessed if you get it.

CHIEF AIM OF MAN IS TO GLORIFY GOD AND ENJOY HIM FOREVER

CHALLENGE TO THE CHURCH

Francis Chan challenges the traditional church. Is it working? Of course, we know it is not.

You need to watch this video, and then ask yourself, am I in a church that is impacting my community?

If you don’t think we are living in the “last days” you must be on a different planet to the one I am on. In my recent post, END TIMES SIGNIFICANCE OF THE HANUKKAH, Jonathan Cahn reveals what we can learn from the Hanukkah, on how to face the Antichrist in our day. What did the Maccabees do to overcome the impossible odds in their day?

  1. Decided there could be no compromise with the world regardless of the impossible odds against them. Must trust God.
  2. Must obey His Word and stand on His Word. Even fight with the Word of God.
  3. Separate from the world, don’t try and fit in and bend the Word of God. Become radical and be the salt and light.
  4. Learn how to be warriors, putting on the full armour daily – Belt of TRUTH first, breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS, GOSPEL OF PEACE on our feet, take up the shield of FAITH, helmet of SALVATION to shield our mind and the SWORD OF THE SPIRIT which is the Word of God. The Maccabees were called the “hammers of God’
  5. The Maccabees carried on the war joyfully knowing God was with them giving them victory over impossible odds.