According to a recent survey from Barna Research Group, 44% of Spokane-area residents meet their 15-point criteria for the definition of “Post Christian”.
1. Do not believe in God
2. Identify as atheist or agnostic
3. Disagree that faith is important in their lives
4. Have not prayed to God (in the last year)
5. Have never made a commitment to Jesus
6. Disagree the Bible is accurate
7. Have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
8. Have not attended a Christian church (in the last year)
9. Agree that Jesus committed sins
10. Do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”
11. Have not read the Bible (in the last week)
12. Have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
13. Have not attended Sunday school (in the last week)
14. Have not attended religious small group (in the last week)
15. Do not participate in a house church (in the last year)
Recently, I have taken to often quote Tim Keller when he said:
“New churches best reach the unchurched–period. Dozens of denominational studies have confirmed that the average new church gains most of its new members (60-80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshipping body, while churches over 10-15 years of age gain 80-90% of new members by transfer from other congregations. This means that the average new congregation will bring 6-8 times more new people into the life of the Body of Christ than an older congregation of the same size. “
Keller doesn’t tell us what evidence he has for why this occurs, so all I have are my own observations. In my opinion, those “new churches” that are growing are doing so – in large part – because the “church plant” model of today is to rent space that is not your own ( a local school building, or another church’s building, or retail storefront), and then reach out to the neighborhood through service.
These small congregations start home-groups, they run the grade school extracurricular activities, they do car-washes, street fairs, feed the poor, and go serve in so many other ministries. They (probably) don’t need to worry about the church building maintenance, a mortgage commitment, fundraising for the new construction project, new carpet, lot line adjustments, permits, etc. They simply move in and begin to focus on serving their local neighbors.
To repeat: “The average new church gains most of its new members (60-80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshipping body.” This means they grow by reaching the “unchurched”. That is what evangelism looks like!
Who did Jesus and the Apostles serve and minister to all through the book of Acts? They ministered to the sick, the hungry, and the hopeless.
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
~ Isaiah 58:10
Oh how I want my light to “rise in the darkness”! God tells us that happens when we pour ourselves out – serving others. Notice what Isaiah says about depression: “your gloom be as the noonday.” If you’re looking for secular-world evidence, an article in Psychology Today cites a study that shows “volunteering is associated with lower depression, increased well-being, and a 22% reduction in the later risk of dying.” We have a prescription right out of the Bible that, according to current studies, reduces depression!
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. ~ James 2:14-17
James flatly tells us if we are not serving others and acting out our faith, it is a dead faith that does not save us.
Real faith, and the works that accompany it, are not made up of only “spiritual” things, but also of a concern for the most basic needs – such as the need for comfort, covering, and food.
~ Pastor David Guzik
Generally speaking, there are plenty of distractions that we could set aside from our lives in order to find time to serve others more.
In this coming New Year, don’t simply write a check or drop a few bucks in the offering and move on with your week. Serve others in real, vibrant, life-changing, letting-your-light-shine ministry. God calls us to do it, and your faith is called “dead” if you don’t. You will be amazed at how God uses you!