WHAT ARE THE OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES WE FACE IN TODAY’S WORLD?
by Roger Barkley

As we seek to live and to share the Christian life, it is important to understand what our neighbors are thinking about the church and the Christian faith.

THE RELIGIOUS LANDSCAPE OF AMERICA TODAY
Among self-reported religious affiliation in America, the category “none” has significantly grown to 23% of Americans, while other religious categories have declined or remained flat. The “nones’ are represented in all age groups, but its growth is largely fueled by young adults who are suspicious of institutions in general, and the church in particular.

Among those who do attend church at least once a month, nearly half attend congregations of fewer than 100 people, so our church is in good company.

BEHIND THE NUMBERS
Only 20% of Americans under the age 30 believe that attending church is worthwhile. 59% of people under 30 who were raised in a church have dropped out, and about a third believe that church does more harm than good.  This trend may be driven by the perception that Christians are inauthentic and by the regressive social agenda many churches have militantly defended.

Furthermore, while 44% of churchgoers say they want to feel closer to God, about two-thirds say that their recent church experiences did not teach them anything new about God or help them feel closer to God. And, despite a national trend of personal isolation and loneliness, only 10% of people think of church as a place to find community.

THE CHURCH AND NATIONAL polarization
As a society, we’ve become increasingly fragmented and intense – and many churches have fueled that division. In terms of public perception, the church has become its own worst enemy.

THE MISSION FIELD: OUR CALL

Too few people today know the Jesus-message of forgiveness, reconciliation and justice. They are looking for a place of authentic community, trustworthy leaders, spiritual growth, and a way to share in improving lives.

This is our opportunity – to model what it means to be a healthy church that shares Jesus’ teachings of love and justice, and to model personal lives that authentically honor, serve and grow in Christ.

People want a place where they can

  • learn about God, experience the Spirit
  • grow personally and spiritually
  • share in a trustworthy and genuine community
  • participate in making the world more compassionate and just
  • be free from the divisive rancor of our social and political world

HERE ARE SOME RECENT / FUTURE ADS THAT WE ARE RUNNING AS INVITATIONS TO OUR CHURCH:

Jesus doesn’t care if you are a Democrat or a Republican … but he does care if you are generous to the poor.

Jesus doesn’t’ care if you walk in or roll in … but he does care that you worship God with all your heart, soul and mind. (This ad accompanies a picture of someone in a wheelchair next to someone who is standing.)

Jesus doesn’t care if you are gay or straight … but he does care that you love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus doesn’t care if you are black, white, yellow or brown … but he does care that you know that we are all one in God’s love.

Jesus doesn’t care what denomination you called your own … but he does care that you be a peace-maker in your world.