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Grace-Giver vs Truth-Teller

Scales

Churches are under attack today!  Finger pointing has become an art and the question of who to blame comes up quite often. Some say we have been too hard on the church and others say we have not been hard enough.  Generations begin to pick teams and square off against one another  because some believe we are trying to change too much while others believe we have not even begun to change as much as is needed.  One blogger I recently read said the church looks far more like Fiona the ogre than Carmen Diaz in Shrek.  Another church consultant said people are taking swings at the church like a low hanging piñata on Cinco de Mayo.

The prophets around us tell us that churches are failing and God is pulling candlesticks left and right.  The eternal optimists just hate to say anything negative and will only share encouraging words.  When talking about the state of churches in America there is a natural tension that has developed between the grace-givers and the truth-tellers.  I must admit that I struggle with the balance between the two.  This struggle reminds me of an episode of Andy Griffith when a boy Opie’s age was about to receive a spanking.  Andy asked him if he thought the boy deserved it.  Opie told his Pa that he hated to say because he was one of his own kind.

That is how I feel when I hear some who speak so despairingly about the Lord’s churches.  I know they may deserve it but I believe so strongly in the church.  Tension is created by the challenge of being truthful about the sad spiritual condition of so many churches without appearing judgmental or belittling those who have faithfully followed their Lord for years.  An older pastor was about to speak at a leadership conference when he heard three young men expressing their disdain that all the speakers were old and they were sick of nostalgia.  As this man went to the pulpit he placed his hand on the shoulder of one of the young men and said, “You know the only thing worse than nostalgia is amnesia.”

We must always remember and respect those who have gone before us leaving a legacy because without them there would not be anything to build upon.  The other side of the coin, though, is that if we do not allow the younger men to step up to the plate what was built will crumble and fall into pieces.  Here is the truth: We are losing the younger generation!  Only 31% of those in their twenties attend church in a typical week while 49% of those forty and older attend.  Since 1991 the number of adults who do not attend church regularly has almost doubled.

The truth is that maybe the way we do church is the problem.  Please know that if God is greatly blessing your church then you should praise Him but realize that most churches that are growing are doing so by transfer growth.  Nothing necessarily wrong with that but can we really call it growth when right at 50% of all churches in America did not add one new person through conversion growth last year.  It seems that what so many churches have invested in is not returning results that God is interested in.  Can we really say that God’s mission is the driving force of churches today with such a staggering statistic?

The Baylor Religious survey reports that, “Persons aged 18 to 30 are three times more likely to have no religious affiliation (18.6) than are persons 65 or older (5.4 percent).  While we could just say it is a sign of the times we must also ask ourselves how much of this trend is our fault because of our refusal to do anything about changing ourselves or our approaches to ministry?  It appears that all the activity that has kept our churches busy has done so without giving us any of the results that Jesus emphasized.

“Without blaming church leaders, the church at large, or denominations, we can at least acknowledge that something must change to reverse the trends.  We need to start by doing some things we haven’t been doing, and we must stop doing some things we have been doing,” Hugh Halter and Matt Smay in The Tangible Kingdom.  What are you going to do about the reality of the lack of conversion growth in your church?