Being An Evangelist For The Right Reasons

I've been thinking a lot lately about the state of the Church in the U.S., which is what you do when you're a pastor. I've read many books and articles about the decline of the Church in the U.S., which probably isn't good for my mental health. 

Honestly, it keeps me up at night sometimes to think about it.  The news could definitely be better. 

I recently attended a governing body meeting that I serve on as a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister. There was much discussion about the future of the Church and declining attendance, membership, and engagement. 

The vast majority of the church leaders gathered there that day lead churches with less than 100 members and less than 50 people in worship each Sunday. I discovered that one pastor in a discussion group with me had maybe two members left in her church. 

A few years ago, a study revealed that over 4,000 churches close their doors yearly. That number is about to go up.  

Even the so-called mega-churches are feeling the pinch. They bolster their flagging numbers by poaching members from smaller congregations, but that well will eventually run dry. 

The problem that no one within the Church wants to admit is that millions of people have become disillusioned with the Church in the U.S., and millions more have such bad feelings about the Church they aren't willing to even try it. 

Emerging generations are rejecting the Church at a rate higher than previous generations.  They cite as their reasons that the Church is too exclusive, misogynist, homophobic, and not all that interested in making the world a better place.  

They also find a massive disconnect between what they read about Jesus and what they see in many churches they attend.  

Fr. Richard Rohr wrote about this recently and gets right to the point of why the Church seems to have lost its way: 

At this point in history, when most people can read Jesus’ (and the Bible’s) clear and consistent bias toward the poor, the foreigner and the marginalized it can only be ignored with a culpable blindness and ignorance. Most Christians have been cafeteria Christians when it comes to this.  Usually, they will markedly emphasize something else (often a sexual issue) to divert attention from what Jesus did not divert attention. 

At this point, you might wonder: "Where's the good news, Leon? This Devo is a real downer!" 

Here's the good news: This bad news provides a massive opportunity for churches and faith communities that want to live out the Good News, the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

When a faith community leans into Jesus' teachings and example, choosing to follow the Great Commandment to love God and everybody, it can become a beacon for people hungry for something more. 

Recently, I conversed with a young woman in her mid-twenties who joined my church. She told me she had been drawn in by our message of inclusivity and how we put our faith into practice.  

She shared that it was important to her to be able to ask questions about faith, the Bible, and what it meant to be a Christian without fear of judgment.  

"I never knew there was a church like this." She said.  

Those words both encouraged me and haunted me.  On the one hand, I was elated that she felt the way she did and wanted to be a part of our faith family.  

On the other hand, I was grieved because thousands of churches seek to be the same kind of community the young woman described, but far too many people can't imagine they exist.  

If you are part of a faith community that is seeking to truly follow Jesus, you need to share that with as many people as you can.  Find ways to connect with people who may have given up on church because they can't imagine a church like yours is possible. 

Be an "evangelist" in the best sense of the word, and don't be afraid to share the Good News that God is still speaking, working, and using faith communities to heal the world. 

May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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