Going After Those That Have Left

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This past Sunday I preached a sermon on the importance of the Church (Click here to listen). I talked about how many people are leaving the Church in America, and how Christians need to respond.

In Luke 15:1-7 Jesus was talking with tax collectors and 'sinners', and the Pharisees were upset that He was associating with them. Knowing their thoughts, Jesus tells the Pharisees a story about a shepherd.

"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the 99 in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent" (Luke 15:4-7).

lost sheep

In their book Churchless, George Barna & David Kinnaman give us alarming statistics about the church.

  • 33% of people are 'de-churched' - They were once active in church but are no longer
  • 10% of people are unchurched -- They have never attended a church
  • 8% are minimally churched -- Attend church infrequently and unpredictably
  • 49% are actively churched -- Attend church at least once a month

What stood out to me from these survey results was that 33% grew up in or used to attend Church but no longer do. That's a little different than the one lost sheep Jesus talks about. We now have 33 to go after as opposed to one. We also need to go after the 10% who have never attended Church. The Church has its hands full.

empty church

As a Pastor I've noticed church attendance dwindling. Barna & Kinnaman explain how the rise of churchless in America has increased 10% since the 2000s. That's only been in 5 years. The reasons people give as to why they stop going to church are the following (taken from an Omni Poll in 2013 by the Barna Group)...

  • "I'm not interested; It's too boring."
  • "I'm not sure."
  • "I'm too busy; have other obligations."
  • "I'm not a Christian or don't belive in Jesus."
  • "Christians are hypocrites."
  • "I can worship at home."
  • "All churches want is my money."
  • "I haven't found one I like."

There are many lost sheep out there, and we need to understand why they don't want to be in church. We don't need to accommodate culture too much, but we also don't need to withdraw from culture either. As Christians, we all are called to thoughtfully engage culture (see my blog post "3 Ways Christians Respond to Culture"). We are called to go after the lost sheep, and when they return we celebrate!

I believe the biggest issue of all is that people have forgotten what makes the church so special. The Church provides family to help you with life's struggles and truth to help you with life's questions. If you're going through a tough time in life, where do you turn? If you have questions about the purpose and meaning of life, where do you go to find answers? In the Church you're not alone. In the Church you've got answers.

The Church is the only place where you will find authentic community. The Church is the only place where you will find the ultimate truth. There's nothing like the Church. 

loving community 1

We've had a lot of bad news from the media lately. It's about time for some good news, and the Church provides that good news! That good news is found in Jesus Christ, and devoted followers of Jesus understand that this world is not about them. Instead, this world we are living is about Jesus Himself and is about loving and serving others.

If people saw and understood the value of the Church, they would be much more likely to want to be part of it. The world at its worst needs the Church at its best. If you're a Christian reading this, let's be the Church at its best by providing a family to help others through the struggles in life and by providing truth to help others through the questions in life.

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1 Comment

Your key sentence is the first one in the last paragraph. Understanding the value of the church requires a study of scripture. When you begin to understand the Bible all things start to fit together, the Church is one of them. We continue to dumb down our people, what a dreadful mistake. Anyhow, good article Seth.....as they are are.

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