Tuesday, January 15, 2008

$500 billion of ministry

George Barna recently reported that over the last decade, as apercentage of the population, there was zero gain in the number of Christians in America. This zero growth came despite that $500 BILLION was spent on domestic ministry during that same period! Think about it. For all of our spending on buildings, programs, and outreach... zero! This sobers me, but it also awakens my resolve to find an approach to Christian faith that is NOT an abysmal failure. I truly believe that if advancing the Kingdom of God is that hard, it's because we are making it hard.

Does that $500B for nada qualify as a failure of the prevailing norms of church?


void77 said...

Well, we may not have added anybody to the club, but boy do we sure feel better about ourselves in our $550B luxury! And we can sure put on a good show !!

Seriously, Americanized Christianity is all about what I can get for myself from God... The pursuit of happiness equates to the pursuit of "blessings" and "rest" and a low stress life where everything is okey-dokey because I'm a good American Christian. If something is wrong, well, I'm just not right with God.

So while all of us "blessed" people who are "right with God" conduct our "worship" in our $500B temples, the poor unfortunate souls who are missing out on the "blessings" are well... Wait a minute... They don't care! As far as they're concerned they're not even missing out !!

Aaargh.... Visual Studio calls...This is depressing....


scott said...

Heya Joe - You got a link for where, specifically, you got the info? We here at Java J corporate headquarters like our statistics to be well-documented.

One could argue that zero gain percentage-wise is still a numerical gain, with the large growth of the population and all. Plus, I'm assuming there is a good deal of turnover in who considers themselves Christian, so you've got to gain one for each one you lose!

See, it's all about the glass being half-full. :-)

Macca said...

It´s an excoriating commentary on how the American church has foundered on the rocks of luxury and has become derelict in its duty to make disciples.

Yikes. Sobering stuff.

Joe B said...

The guy as a percentage of population. Of course I was quoting someone who was quoting Barna. (citation below.)

To make it less excoriating, the $500B is not just acquisition cost for new converts, it includes an immense amount of good that the church DOES do.

What concerns me is that the thing the church does NOT do is multiply, we barely even replace. I'm sure people fall away and die off in China and Mozambique and Latin America, too. But the church more than doubled in the same ten year period.

My plagiarism came from www.withreach.com in an article by Michael Johnson called "Why Outreach No Longer Works." I just ripped a paragraph out of the article and nipped off the loose threads.

Macca said...

Context, context! ;)

I have no problem spending 500 gadzillion, so long as it is spent with good stewardship.

It´s the flatlined convert rate that bugs me. It´s a very sobering endictment of my personal daily Christian practice.

Joe B said...

At the Java Jesus Secret Society Skull and Bones Club I launched this article as a discussion piece: Is it possible to reconstitute church as a "missional" body instead of a "devotional" body. And of course we spent 90 minutes discussing whether the traditionalists would revolt. And whether one would have to abandon the institutional wineskin altogether.

Caffecclesiology at its finest!

scott said...

But in that discussion, I said I had different answers depending upon if we meant a vague "church at large" or OUR specific church body. The traditionalists-and-institution discussion was more pertinent to our own church, although one could probably argue that our church body is fairly representative of an average American church.

Can a church become missional? Yes, I have no doubt that it is completely possible for a church to turn 180 degrees in its thinking. Can they do it overnight or without some internal collateral damage? I would say, at least in our case, no.

Macca said...

It´s much easier to turn a speedboat around than an ocean liner. When you´re on the Love Boat, you need space and lots of time to go the opposite direction. Oh, and you definitely need Gopher onboard, acting goofy.

Well, maybe not that last part.

But it takes time and a unified vision from the top down.

scott said...

What if it's not a speedboat or an ocean liner... What if it's an entire fleet of yachts?

I would find it much more difficult when not everyone is in the same boat -- Because they may not have the desire to even BE in the same boat. In one boat, you often have to give up the ability to steer to someone else.

Thanks, now I've officially beaten this analogy to death. Anyone else feel like kicking this poor horse?

Joe B said...

Bingo, Scott. And to whom must we relinquish the helm? To Jesus himself, the head o' da body. By the holy spirit the boat gets steered by all of us, according to the gifts he has given "severally to all." It's all about love.

Down in KY we would bet these bodacious flocks of blackbirds, millions of birds, a half-mile wide. They would take flight and maneuver as though they had one mind, changing direction on a split second. Something kept them in sync, and it wasn't one clever birdie (or 9) who had been elected to rule over the rest.

Macca said...

I don´t disapprove of the mini-yacht thingie, and the holy-spirit-guided thingie, either.

I just think in your case, you have a big ole´ aircraft carrier.