I pastored several evangelical churches in the fundamental, evangelical world from 1980 until my “repurposing” in 2013 (no golf course retirement in sight for this senior). I have great respect for the saints and leaders I worked with over the decades, for their sacrifice and commitment to the Great Commission Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18-20.
But Houston, we have a problem.
For me personally, part of the reason I retired or repurposed myself was the lack of dynamic and fruitful ministry that was part of my vision from my early 20’s, but it seemed to escape my experience over the decades. At age 56, I was not interested or motivated to preach sermons and collect a paycheck while just sustaining the status quo. It just didn’t do it for me anymore. Plus, in my family we had medical and financial struggles with no relief or end in sight.
For the evangelical church at large in America, it looks like we have pockets of effective churches/pastors, but in total the landscape of evangelicalism in our country is on the downslide. In the preface of their book, Better Together – Making Church Mergers Work, authors Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird assert that “80% of the 300,000 Protestant churches in the U.S. have plateaued or are declining.” That’s 240,000 flat-lined churches!
Hence, a book on guidance for church mergers fits since so many of our Protestant churches are struggling. Better to merge and revitalize than just die out or struggle with minimal kingdom impact. Even my own church where I was the founding pastor since 1977, and where I still attend to this day, after my “retirement” we merged with another church to compliment and bolster one another towards greater effectiveness as one new congregation.
While positive about the merger between our churches, as pastor emeritus, my question to the merging pastors and the congregations was this: what’s going to prevent this new church from ending up right back where both churches were before the merger, struggling to grow and have meaningful gospel impact on our community?
Do we “understand the times” and the dynamics of the evangelical decline at this time in the U.S? Without that understanding, I believe mergers, if they make it through the honeymoon stage, will have a tough time sustaining their new excitement and growth.
In sighting these statistics and in pointing out the elephant in the living room, I’m not a Monday morning quarterback, critical of pastors and the church from my perch as a “failed but enlightened” pastor myself, now having all the answers. Not at all. I love the church and believe the body of Christ is the light and hope of the world. But if we honestly look at the data, something is seriously wrong.
So, in this opening blog for G5training, let me say what I think and then in follow up blogs I’ll begin to flesh this statement out. It appears to me many evangelicals are bored and uncomfortable with their spiritual life – hence the huge population of church hoppers and the burgeoning “I don’t go anywhere crowd.” Where once upon a time you could put out your new church shingle and “they would come” – today that doesn’t seem to work anymore.
It appears to me we are good and faithful people in a general, evangelical, religious sense (godly, devoted and really good salt of the earth people), but we are relatively purposeless and powerless when it comes to crucial topics that most believers and unbelievers face, specifically the topics of serious health issues and a broad financial worry that dogs a majority of us in and out of the church.
Through G5training and this blog in particular, I will primarily discuss the financial struggles I see intensifying for the most American families and how that’s affecting our faith journeys.
Welcome to the conversation!