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Can we make a change?

April 15, 2007

Here are some statistics I heard in a recent sermon:

There are 340,000 churches in America.
Average weekly church attendance is 84 people.
A typical US congregation is 61% female and 39% male (this includes all generations).
On any given Sunday there are 13 million more women attending church.
Each week 25% of church going married women will worship without their husband.
More than 90% of American men say they believe in God, yet only 2 out of every 6 are willing to go to church.
In an average year only 1 person becomes a new believer for every 85 existing believers.

What do you think when you read these statistics? Do they mean anything? Do they make you excited or distressed?

My pastors ask our church a question fairly regularly, “What does it look like to follow Jesus?” According to the information above it looks like something that isn’t a major interest of Americans. It is something women are more interested in than men, and it is something people do on their own but don’t invite others to be a part of. I have come to dislike the question my pastors ask. First because as a church we never talk about how to answer that question, and second we don’t talk about what can be done that might impact the statistics above. I would like to see us ask questions like “What are you going to do to live a life where you follow Jesus?” or “How can you follow Jesus in a way that impacts those around you?”

“Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!’” (Acts 5:29)

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16b-18)

The men who made the statements above were facing life and death decisions. They were willing to live a life where they follow God. They were willing to take a risk. Are we willing or are we too tied up in our own safety and comfort? Do we live a life where we have a need for God? If not, why not? What are you going to do to live a life where you follow Jesus? Can you live a life that makes a change in the statistics above, even if only in your own church? God is waiting for our answer, are we ready to respond?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 4given2 permalink
    April 15, 2007 2:05 pm

    I don’t like to be number oriented when speaking of churches because we can get into the wrong business (make members and not true believers) but for a moment consider:

    The stat you gave: In an average year only 1 person becomes a new believer for every 85 existing believers.

    That’s one new believer per church, which equals 340,000 new members a year. In 3 years that is 1 million new believers.

    Imagine if each church had 3 new believers a year. Think about that in 10 years down the road.

  2. April 16, 2007 1:09 pm

    I had to go really think about this. I agree that I don’t usually like numbers when speaking about churches, in fact I typically don’t speak about churches but rather people because the institution of the church can be a problem in itself.

    On first reading I completely agreed with your point and thought how amazing that would be to see 1 million or more new believers in the next few years. I love seeing people come to know Christ or move forward with a public declaration like baptism. I then stopped to wonder why our churches overall aren’t growing if we are bringing in more people. I think it is because every year people die and because some of them fall away.

    I have served in ministry in various forms for over 20 years. Even though I feel called to discipleship more than evangelism I would like to say there is fruit coming from my service. I have spent a lot of time working with teens. Statistics show that the largest portions of new believers come from those under 18, however even with the thousands of youth I have worked with I can only name one that I believe I directly helped come to know God, and I can name numerous who have not owned their faith enough and had enough support while under my care to not walk away when things got tough.

    For me it isn’t about the numbers as much as it is a wakeup call reminding me that if I am really sold out and passionate about God my life will look different and I will live differently than I am today. It is a dangerous passion which God is using to shape and change my heart right now but I am excited where it is leading because I believe God can and will use the excitement, hope, and desire I have growing inside. I want to be used by God but it starts with me having a willing heart that wants to be ready to respond no matter the call.

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