All around the world the church is exploding as people are turning to Jesus, but in the west attendance at church declining. Over sixty percent of the population in the US and western world would not even think of attending a church service. In the US over 5,000 churches are closing every year. Most of the rest are either plateaued or declining. Maybe they were not brought up in the church and have no understanding of the gospel or they see the church as irrelevant or they are outright hostile to the church, seeing it as corrupt or archaic, restricting the progress of society. The culture around the church has drastically changed. Yet, by-in-large most churches continue to function as though it is still the 1950’s, which was the heyday of the institutional church.
The culture is speaking loud and clear, but most churches are not really hearing what the culture is saying and they continue to do what they have always done, waiting for people to walk through their doors. This is seen most clearly when you drive around New England and see church signs that read “All Are Welcome”. Such churches are waiting for people to visit them. But the largest percentage of people will never walk through the church doors. So churches are basically preaching to the choir and ignoring the vast majority of people in our country.
So what has to happen? Christians need to hear what the culture is saying and understand things have changed. Churches no longer have a favored place in society that the majority of people listen to what they have to say. They no longer have an influential voice that can impact people’s lives with the truth of the Gospel. In fact, the cultural elite in our land are more often outright hostile to the church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So the culture is telling the church that things have changed. Do we hear that message?
What does the Bible have to say about that? The Bible is incredibly relevant to us today if we would hear and understand how the early church functioned in a hostile culture. Instead of waiting for people to come to us, we have to figure out how to go to the people wherever they live and work. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel. . .” It implies that we have to move out of our buildings waiting for people to come to us. It means listening to the Holy Spirit in new and fresh ways about how to connect with people in meaningful ways. It is a completely new challenge and also a wonderful opportunity that lies before us as followers of Jesus. How will we respond?
I would encourage you to listen to the message shared at Journey Church on January 27, 2019. It talks about the culture around us and what the Bible would say to us about how we can reach people. The message “Figuring Out the Church in the 21st Century” can be found in the Sermon Series “Stand Alone Messages”. Take the time to listen to it. This is only the beginning for us at Journey Church on the Common. Faith is a journey and God is leading us on a new journey to become the church that reaches people in the 21st century.