I recently read some disturbing statistics about churches here in America. We all know that churches are closing their doors all across the country. This is pretty upsetting but not what I would call disturbing. This specific statistic states that only 15% of churches are growing and only 2.2% are from conversion. This means a lot of things when you follow the logic through. Now I’m not the best at math any more, I just don’t use it that much, so please forgive me if I mess up on any of these percentages.
If 15% of churches are growing this means that 85% are holding steady or losing members. We know that a very large number are losing members, so what is happening to them? Well that is the next part of the statistic. only 2.2% of churches are growing via new converts. This means that 12.8% of churches are growing because someone has left one of the 85% and started attending the 12.8%. Another way of saying this is 85% of church growth in America is church cannibalism.
I come to that figure because 12.8% of 15% equals 85%. If I did my math right this is a down right shocking figure. Of course it gets much worse when you build out from there. In our community most churches are losing members. A couple of churches are growing but much of that growth is from members leaving one church and going to another church. This fits with the national statistics. The problem is, the disgruntled Christians that are either leaving or forcing others to leave have caused a secondary issue. There are a significant number of people who leave the Church. That is they leave whatever church they are attending and don’t start attending any other church.
This is something that I find particularly disgusting. We are so focused on getting out church to grow that we focus on getting people to come in from other churches. It is easier than building relationships with the lost and disciplining them. Lets say it take 40 hours of “encouragement” to get someone to attend your church instead of another church. This is a pretty serious investment, but nothing compared to the time it takes for a new Christian. It might take 40 hours to get them to come into the church and another 80 hours to bring them to the Cross. Next you have to disciple them and that investment might be another 160 hours. Now it may seem like I’m just making up numbers here, but I’m actually using some conservative estimates. If you invest in a person an hour a week for a year that is 52 hours. If you do that it is quite possible that they will be willing to accept an invitation to church at that time. Now they may start attending church for another year with your investment leading to 104 hours in addition to the initial 52 hour investment. Since we are focusing on relationships instead of numbers this is very reasonable. Now the person is a Christian and needs disciplining. Based on what Jesus and Paul did I don’t think a 3 year discipleship program is out of the question. At even one hour a week you have 156 hours, plus the time you are investing in them and church time, that could add 50-100% to the figure so 234-312 hours.
Obviously it is easier to fill your church with people that don’t need to be saved or discipled.
The problem is this, if you invest in moving Christians from one church to another you will lose people along the way. You will get Christians that are always looking for the next big thing. “Come to my church we have a better worship experience” and then someone finds a church with an even more dynamic worship and people will leave. We create Christians that seek the sensational and avoid anything that requires effort. Does this sound familiar? It sure does to me. So we are making Christians that are more easily picked off by satan and then cull a few off ourselves for good measure. We teach that we don’t need to reach the lost and set the Church up for failure.
The question is, how do we start impacting lives and change the growth patterns in the Church so that 85% of churches are growing through evangelism?
What are your thoughts on what can be done? Have I missed it completely? Can the Church be fixed?