Out of Print

ImageThe irony of Newsweek going out of print is that you would think a news agency would see it coming.  With the realities of a 1991 sales peak, declining revenue, and all cultural signs pointing towards the digital media replacing print, you’d think that…I don’t know…someone who was used to reporting on current trends would catch on.  I guess no one got assigned to that story.  Instead, the editor is tearfully promising layoffs and the staff are nervously giving anonymous interviews.

In churchland, we’re doing the same thing.  The realities are plain to the naked eye: declining attendance for 45 years in Protestant denominations, worship styles that no longer appeal to the modern ear, theological conversations that address questions no one is asking, congregations from which young adults have evacuated.  So what kind of reporter do we have to assign to this to get us to see it?

I wonder if the staff of Newsweek didn’t sit contentedly at the breakfast table flipping through paper journals while their kids sat at the same table tapping screens with their thumbs.  Kind of like heading off to church and failing to notice that you left the kids at home, which is in fact what is statistically happening to church attendance in America.

So I have a four steps that might help Christians attend to present realities rather than waiting for it all to come crashing down.  This is how to be your own reporter at church.

1.  If you haven’t invited anyone to church in a year, stop going to church.  Jesus put you in the world on a mission, and you’re not doing it.  You’ve become a consumer of religious goods and services.  If you miss church enough, it might actually motivate you to do what he’s told you to do.

2.  When you come back, walk to church very, very slowly.  Starting from the time you can see the church down the street, take time to note everything you see, hear, and feel.  Think about what those sights, sounds and feelings would do to someone who was nervously coming to church for the first time.  If you have the sense that it would be like waking up on an episode of Survivor, it might be time to rebuild your entrance way with better hospitality, clearer signs, and intentional welcome.

3.  Take note of everything in your church that is counter-cultural, and then decide why it’s counter-cultural.  If it’s counter-cultural because the gospel is counter-cultural, keep it.  If it’s counter-cultural because fifty years ago the culture changed and you didn’t, pitch it.

4.  Stop making excuses.

The bottom line is the value of one lost sheep over and against ninety-nine safe ones.  Of course, this is not the path of least resistance.  This one involves change, misunderstanding, and rejection.  But then it’s better than having to tearfully explain failure to your people for something that you could have seen coming.

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Posted on October 23, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Thanks for telling it straight. We need it.

  2. Pastor Jim,

    I would like to cordially invite you to Glenkirk this coming Sunday (10/28/12). This invitation allows me to keep coming, right?

  3. “A river is crooked because it follows the path of least resistance.” Abraham Lincoln

  4. Good words. This is something perhaps church leadership should begin to address in terms of strategy and tactics…

  5. Nice article. Very perceptive. Now back to my Time Magazine.

    Thanks, Dan Zipped from iPhone. Sorry about typos.

    On Oct 23, 2012, at 2:27 AM, Jameswmiller’s Blog wrote:

    WordPress.com Pastor James Miller posted: “The irony of Newsweek going out of print is that you would think a news agency would see it coming. With the realities of a 1991 sales peak, declining revenue, and all cultural signs pointing towards the digital media replacing print, youd think that”

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