Category Archives: Church Attendance

Where does the money go?

On the FaceBook newsfeed I’ve seen several articles and videos about where the money goes in mega-churches.  It must be part of a capital campaign, or trying to answer questions since Mars Hill in Seattle is having cutbacks take place, and etc.  It is a great question because even though I’m a pastor, I can imagine having the same question if I was a member in the church too.

First I want to applaud some of the mega-churches for giving the statistics about where the money goes.  Openness is paramount in my opinion when dealing with money.  Many of these churches have been secretive in the past, but some are being transparent and that helps when ministry is being performed in a suspicious climate.

I would like to offer another idea about where the money goes from a small church pastor’s perspective.  I have been in ministry for a while now and I’ve seen various moves, or fads, within The Church.  I’ve learned that people are a bit fickle when it comes to commitment to a particular Body of Christ.  In fact, people are very migratory.  In other words, people seem to only commit to 2 to 3 years in one church.  Then, something better comes along and they are gone.

This really isn’t an article about church attendance as much as it is about commitment.  After all, there are consequences when commitments are broken.  While poor church attendance is frustrating, it simply just keeps things from moving quicker.  Therefore, I would like to share some of these consequences to leaving the small local community church.

For starters, when Christians become migratory by leaving their community church because of age on the facility, preferred style of music, because of problems with the people in the church, or because the pastor is not someone they want to follow, there is impact to the church that has been left.  In addition, there is impact on the community that the church is in.  Plus, it is helpful to remember that relationships and problems are easily worked out by those who love Jesus; but that is another article.

Consider that for whatever reason, someone simply leaves a local congregation and attends a church out of town.  When this happens they take their financial resources with them; not to mention their manpower.  Furthermore, they take their influence with them too.  In fact, they join the vision of the pastor who may be in another community that has nothing to do with the community they live in.  This causes the local church, when enough people un-commit, to go into a type of survival mode.  I am aware that many “super leaders” in The Church would say that this is poor leadership.  Yet, it will take time to re-calibrate the vision he had for the community; if he or she had one.  Besides, the people the pastor believed were behind him or her are now no longer available.  It takes time to for a small church to replace them.

This matters because we could assume that God has that church planted in its particular community so that church could be a blessing to the people in that community.  For instance, their ministries cannot be accomplished within the community that God has placed these local churches.  This leaves people to wonder, “Where does the money go?”  After all, the money shortfall stalls the ministry to the community from moving forward.  The answer may be that the money that God gave His people who live in their community to bless and finance ministries that meet needs of people has gone into the large productions of mega-churches that are in other communities.

I should note that often I talk to believers from the community who tell me how they desire to see God do something in the community that they used to attend church.  These people will encourage me and still have the expectation that I have an assignment, but these continue to be non-participants in God’s redemptive purpose for their community.  Yet, they will travel out of town on Sundays.

Recently, a non-denominational ministry that is designed to reach kids before they are 14, ran out of money because the churches within Liberty, my local community, were not able to give enough financially for the ministry to operate.  As of now, it is operating; thank The Lord.  Yet, why is it so hard to finance that ministry?  It seems it could be argued that God’s people refuse to remain committed to the Body of Christ, that likely, The Holy Spirit placed them in.  What is worse, the local Body of Christ that they left is now stumbling and cannot move forward in a way that benefits the community.  The resources were there to meet those needs until many Christians became migratory and went to a comfortable environment that was more pleasing.

Obviously, there are “experts,” or expert debaters out there who  may be able to dispute my observations.  Yet, the fact remains, as a small church pastor, I ask, “Where does the money go?”  Once I begin the process of speculating, as I am now, I can’t help but come to this type of conclusion.  Once I reach this conclusion my next question is, “Why do people blow off the local church for the mega-church setting so readily?”  Guess who is usually contacted to go see the sick and dying.  You guessed it.  The pastors who are left in survival mode.  Many do not realize that one day this service won’t be readily available if the migrations continue; but that is another article too.

I think what is amazing is that Christians have not stopped to ask, once they are part of their new churches, a couple of questions: “Where does the money I give go?”  And, “How does my giving at this new church help my community 15-30 miles away?”  It’s amazing how much vision a local community pastor can have.  It’s also amazing how little is accomplished in the community because the manpower and finances have left the community.

In my community it is not just my small church that experiences the consequences of migration from one church to another.  It actually is close to the same from church to church.  If my opinion is close to right.  then, what type of answer will many of these Christians have to the question Jesus will likely as about faithfulness with what He gave to so that they could bless their community?  Or, does it really matter?

This was not a scientific approach and very well may be mere opinion.  Yet, in the local church that desires to serve the community, one has to ask, “What is the motive for the exodus from small churches to mega-churches outside of the community?”  Somehow it seems Christians have an agenda and God has one too.  They don’t seem the same.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Attendance, Church Health, Giving, Leadership, Megachurch, Pastor, Small Church, tithing, Vision

Why I am hardcore about listing salvtions

For years I’ve struggled with churches who list salvations and “celebrate,” their victories.  As a pastor, I know that I already seem awful for writing this sentence.  Yet, it really isn’t my intention to take away joy.  My purpose is to question whether or not we, as pastors, are capturing the truth of the Bible.

Consider repentance.  Most agree that repentance is a requirement for salvation.  There are two different types of repentance in the Bible.  One type of repentance is worldly.  This repentance is illustrated by someone who is sorrowful about his or her situation.  This is much like Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ.  He was sorry because he had betrayed an innocent man.  So to escape his situation he was sorry enough to hang himself.  We may assume that he likely did not receive salvation since he did not adequately repent; and since Jesus said it was going to be bad for the person who betrayed him.

In the Bible, the repentance that leads to eternal life is known by many to be Godly repentance.  This repentance occurs when someone is sorry for his or her sin.  In fact, they are sorry enough to change his or her life from living a life of disobedience to a life of obedience.  This is foundational for salvation.  Paul, also known as Saul before his conversion, is a great example of this type of repentance since his life was completely changed on the Damascus Road.

Many pastors and theologians are now questioning “The Sinner’s Prayer.”  The concern is that many are simply hanging their hats on simply believing in Jesus and that phrase itself as if there is nothing left to do.  While I continue to use this phrase, since it helps me to explain to someone what salvation looks like, I also realize that many pray this prayer and do not really commit to the Lord.  Herein lies the problem for listing, or counting, salvations for everyone to see.  If these people never bear fruit and have nothing more to do with church, then they cannot be counted.  They are still in their old lives and not new life in Christ.

Let’s look at confession now.  Yes, I said confession.  It is biblical and not solely Catholic (Roman), but it is catholic (universal).  In fact, in the Bible we are told to confess our sins to each other (James 5:16).  But, in today’s modern church, we simply ask people to raise their hands if they want to receive Christ as their Savior.  I see reports on Facebook sometimes where members of a church talk about people receiving Christ in services and use numbers anywhere from 10-3000!  This is great news!  Yet, when you investigate what this might have looked like, these salvations were seen by a show of hands.  What about confession?

Consider John the Baptist for a moment.  When he called on Israel to repent, he did not ask for a show of hands.  He asked them to come forward to be baptized.  What of confession?  Who did those who “received” Christ confess their sins too?  I guess we could say to Jesus, but what of “to each other?”  Who will hold them accountable so that it can be measurable, really, whether or not they were actually saved?

Consider the idea of believing.  Belief is a multi-use word in our society.  For example, I believe The Statue of Liberty exists; though I have not experienced it.  I have not shaped my life after it; but I do give it patriotic praise during wartime.  Again, I believe in air which has impacted my life because I can’t stay underwater long if I should choose and I know that I am sustained by it.  Yet, while on dry land I think nothing of it.  However, believing in Jesus goes beyond that of the demons since He does have my respect.  I now use the term believe to reveal that I have staked my entire being on Him and His ability to save me physically and spiritually.  When I use that term in that way it dwarfs when I use the word believe in the context of The Statue of Liberty.  Same word, but two different intentions and outcomes.

Do those who are counted as salvations really understand what it means to believe, and how it impacts your whole life with a simple hand-raise?  We haven’t talked about Vacation Bible School yet.

What about receiving?  Reception seems to look like transformation as the result of receiving.  I am amazed on a regular basis that fruit never seems to be measurable from those who raise their hands to be saved; except in attendance at church on Sundays.  Transformation often does not take place in such a way that fruit can be measured outside of a church setting.  I likely sound judgmental.  Yet, Paul and Jesus seemed to believe that we could see the results of someone’s salvation easily.

I write this so that we can get a discussion going about what real salvation looks like.  In fact, if my concerns are valid, then people need to reexamine whether or not they received Christ.  Further, this could mean that The Church in America is worse off than we realize since numbers may be skewed.  Again, I will say that if everyone, who we like to claim is really saved is really saved, then the impact of The Church in America would not have to resort to politics to change the country, but the country would be changed by transformed lives.

I feel more comfortable to say that my church had a certain amount of salvations when people are conquering evil in their lives.  I feel comfortable when these people are active in church, and out of church.  Often churches will record many salvations, yet their attendance numbers do not change.  My fear is that we are creating manipulative excitement in order to make our churches look wonderful.  And that we are competing church with church through these possibly skewed numbers.  This is why I’m hardcore about salvations listing.

1 Comment

Filed under Church Attendance, Church Health, Discipleship, Salvation, Small Church

A reminder to pastors (attendees)

The end of the conference year is coming in The Wesleyan Church.  This is when we audit our books and post the results of our church’s ministry for the year.  For a few, this will be a time of joy because they have experienced much fruit as a result of their church ministries. 

For others, this will be a time of doubt, dread, frustration, and mourning, because they will not have the fruit to show as a result of their ministries.  For many of these ministers they will be challenged to continue on in ministry.  Some will feel a sense of jealousy and their pride will be wounded deeply.  After all, no matter what denomination that you are in, when you see other churches doing well it is easy to feel discouraged.   

Some examples of discouragement are things that are felt indirectly.  There seems to be an undercurrent that is heard, felt, or imagined that they have not performed their duties well enough.  Yet, maybe they have performed their duties as they should. 

The good news that should encourage ministers, from all denominations and church sizes, is that Dr. Joe Dongell reminded us once that we (ministers) are not the Lord of Harvest.  Our duty is to plant and water the seeds.  When God and the people are ready, He will be the One who harvests them.   

Here is more good news from the book of John.  I’ve been spending some time in this book lately and found something that seemed to be a good reminder to all pastors who are not seeing the results they desire.  So I want to share some Scriptures that might remind us that we are taking too much upon ourselves as ministers of the gospel.  Let’s be for real.  Sometimes ministers fight the battle of taking things personal because the church’s ministry success has been tied to them, either by their choice or others’, instead of to Jesus Christ. 

In John 3:22-30, Jesus has become greater than John the Baptist.  This means that if you John the Baptist that you realize that you really are becoming less in your community.  John knew what his mission was; point people to the One who came after him though He is before him.  Also, Jesus’ disciples are baptizing more people than John.  For ministers, this means that the people of your congregation are leaving to go to another church because it is new or there is more action. 

First striking reaction from Pastor John the Baptist when he is alerted to the growth of Jesus’ ministry was that he has joy over it.  Yes, I said that the John felt joy over it.  Now, this is in contrast to the long introduction that I just gave.  Why?  Verse 29a, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom.”  Kind of what Dongell said.  The Church (the people of Christ) belongs to Christ.  This means that if ministers feel discouraged it is time to check our motives for success.  Is about us or Him?  The people in the congregation are not yours.  They have been Ransomed by Someone else.

Second, verse 29b, “The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.”  Ministers are attendees of the Church.  We are friends that Christ has placed trust in to care for His Church (the Bride).  The mark of a true friend is the demonstration of the joy felt when the Jesus does with His people as He sees fit. 

Finally, in verse 29c John said, “That joy is mine, and it is now complete.”  Then He ends with verse 30, “He must become greater; I must become less.”  To be a true friend, we must become faithful.  Yet, not just faithful out of duty, but because we want to be faithful; a faithful friend to Christ.  This means that we are supposed to be attached to success of Jesus connecting with people instead of attached to the success of us connecting to people and receiving accolades for it. 

Discouragement, frustration, and etc, are felt when we ministers do not understand who is responsible for church growth/fruit.  When we feel this way, we need to consider that John the Baptist was just before prison and in the midst of his decline in ministry, but still felt joy and complete at the success of another. 

You might be a small church pastor who needs to verbally say out loud that your joy is complete because another minister is doing well.  After all, we are just attendees who point the bride to the groom.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Church Attendance, Church Health, Church planting, Discouragement, Holiness, Leadership, Mental Health, Small Church, The Wesleyan Church

4 Gravitational Pulls All Churches Experience

I took these notes from Andy Stanley at the Newspring Leadership Conference in September. 

Text: Acts 15:1-21

One of his comments about the Scripture was that a controversy arose about the need for surgery to be saved. 

He also said that every church has a “they.”

1) Churches always gravitate toward insiders and away from outsiders.  Jesus liked people who were nothing like Him.  The people liked Jesus who were nothing like Him.  Resist this pull in the way you preach, build, and etc.  We must keep our churches externally focused. Red flag prayer requests. Sin, sorrow, and death are what makes our message more important!  Lost people are what matters!

My take: Prayer requests must be centered on people finding Christ.

2) Churches gravitate toward law instead of grace.  People think categorically instead of relational.  Love must always overcome rules.  Acceptance paves the way to influence.  Use grace to sort things out.  We will have to accept people who sin; not the sin.  Homosexuality, abortion, fornication. 

My take: Those who live this way must not be influenced away from the church. The Holy Spirit can still work with them and that is His job. 

3) Churches gravitate toward complexity instead of simplicity.  Clarity.  Partner don’t pioneer; fund and volunteer for other organizations that are already doing it.  Don’t lose your uniqueness in your community.

My take: We are all unique and have a purpose in God’s plan.  Sometimes we need to simply cut the fluff away and focus on the one thing we do.  Discipleship should be a clear process too. 

4) Churches gravitate toward preserving and not advancing.  The Jews were trying to preserve the Law of Moses.  The same Law that God gave him.  Do not move into a protection mode instead of moving into the community.  We cannot protect assets before fulfilling the mission.  Think like a church plant. How did we think when we did not have money? 

My take: Protect mode really brings everything to a stop.  The assets that we protect are Gods; we must watch burying our one talent.  

4 Commitments

1-Be more concerned about who we are reaching instead of who we are keeping.

2-Let’s error on the side of grace.

3-Remain focused on our unique calling.

4-Remain open-handed.  We started with nothing we may end with nothing; and that is okay.   

This is great advice.  I think this advice is great for a small church pastor.  There is a lot to chew on and ponder on here.  Everything in these notes I took are applicable even my small church situation.  I recently shared this with my board.  My goal was to help us focus on what is important.

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Attendance, Church Health, compassion, Faith, God, Homosexuality, Leadership, Missional Resources, Newspring Leadership Conference, Small Church, Vision

God bless America

This year the Fourth of July landed on Sunday.  This is fitting since we say God bless America. 

I asked a few people how God blesses America.  I had some interesting feedback.  As I suspected, the view was that God blesses us because He has chosen us and because we support Israel. 

I think as Christians there are some things we should consider.  One thing that should be thought about is that God blesses the world and not just America.  I know that I am sounding less than patriotic.  I love America!  John 3:16-17 tells me that God blesses more than America. 

Yes, America is chosen, but God has chosen the world to be His too.  So what makes America special?  It is the way that God blesses America.  He uses His Church.  That’s right.  As unpopular the Christian Church is right now, in the West, God uses His people to bless others wherever they may be geographically. 

Another issue that should be understood in a better light, and I realize that there are other theological views, is that God doesn’t bless America because we protect Israel.  We should be allies with Israel, but God doesn’t need us for this.  We need Him to protect us.  We haven’t brokered a deal with God as we tend to think sometimes. 

Here is what we Christians need to ponder.  Do we continue to serve God through our patriotism?  Or, do we serve Him through humility?  In the OT, I am as always taken back when I consider that Israel combined patriotism to their country with Temple worship as a way that made them distinct from other nations.  Yet, in Nehemiah and Ezra, they were challenged to observe the Law to become distinct from other nations.  After all, they did not have borders during this time.   

Amazingly, churches likely preached sermons about how bad our nation has gotten all over this last Sunday.  I can hear it now, “God will no longer bless our country because of homosexuality and the fact that prayer has been taken out of school.  God is also mad that other gods are being worshipped and tolerated.  He is mad because we have publishers printing of the a different Bible version than the KJV.  Therefore, He is going to punish America.”

Now, I am being a little harsh and I know it.  Nevertheless, is God not concerned with the state that the American Church has gotten to? How many church attendees all over are focusing material things that they can get their hands on instead of making disciples?  How many even attend their churches on a regular basis?  How many give to God others who have need?  How many are practicing sexual immorality?  How many are judging others on a regular basis? How many church attendees are striving to overcome sin?

So the threats that God is going to judge America if our political leaders don’t enact laws and mottos that say we support God may not need to be focused on.  It would appear that God might have a beef with Christians because they are no longer willing to live for Him so that our country can be blessed. 

These are some of the thoughts that I had this last week of the Fourth.  Church signs everywhere talking about our God-given freedom and the threat that God may judge America because those who have not known Jesus are sinning.  Maybe it is time the Church stood up and accepted her responsibility that God has given her.  This is what makes us (Christians) distinct from those who lost in the world.

3 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Church Attendance, Church Health, Holiness, Living it, Missional Resources, Politics, Worship

Expectations of Christians on Sundays

As a small church pastor, I have wrestled with church attendance for years.  As a matter of fact, I may have been guilty of focusing on church attendance too much.  Yet, in my defense, church attendance is really one of the quickest indicators that we, pastors, are able to see how well God is using us as shepherds of his flock.  I would like to say life-change could be another indicator, and maybe it can, but that indicator is what The Holy Spirit uses.  After all, He is the One who is able to change people’s lives. 

To explain myself better, I would like to assure you that these thoughts are not those of a depressed pastor who is struggling to make sense of lack of attendance.  Or are they?  You decide.  Yet, I have been in ministry for 12 years now.  I have gone from expecting those who follow Christ to be at church every night of the week to one morning a week.  As you can see, I have either lowered my expectations for attendance at worship as well as participation once a week in spiritual education and edification.  Nevertheless, Brady and I have had a discussion about what I, as a pastor, should realistically expect from church members, not just Covenant but all who attend, as an A+ effort.  Does God expect His followers to worship often on the Day that Christ arose from the dead? Is that still significant?  I think so, but I would like your thoughts.   

So I would like to know your opinions.  Should a Christian commit his or herself to attending Sunday morning worship at least 48 times a year?  Another question.  Is it important which day of the week a Christian worships?  Another question.  Is worship service important for the Christian?  Or, is small group discipleship enough? 

I would like inputs from both clergy and laymen on this topic.

11 Comments

Filed under Church Attendance, Leadership, Small Church, Worship

Sunday Recap

  • 59 in attendance this morning.
  • Several more came to our dinner after church.
  • One thing that everyone comments about our church is that our ladies know how to cook. 
  • It looked good seeing our sanctuary full today.  It is a reminder that we are going to have to move forward by faith to grow larger.  We really do not have enough parking or seating to seat people comfortably. 
  • Our District Superintendent delivered our morning message.  Buddy Rampey taught on the Jesus’ parable of The Mustard Seed.  It was a good reminder that God can grow something large out of something small.  Matthew 13. 
  • We cancelled our PM service since we had a long afternoon eating and a board meeting. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Attendance, Church news