2. Today, North America Christians are remarkably fruitless.
We find a much different picture of Christianity today. We have grown accustomed to “church” being… well… a bit staler than the fresh experience of the first Christians. North American Christians today, are for the most part, remarkably fruitless. We are comfortable with our habit of attending church on Sunday morning and we are comfortable with our habit of forgetting about church already by Sunday night and not thinking about our faith for rest of the week. Our faith today is in many ways a suppressed replica of the passion and power and maturity of faith of those in the 1st century movement. Back then, they couldn’t contain Jesus within themselves. Today, we are quite good at containment. Consider these sobering stats:
- From George Barna’s book, Revolution: Those who regularly attend church go twice a month on average. And they admit “that attendance at worship services is… generally the only time they worship God” (p.31).
- Reginald Bibby, in the research for his book, Restless Gods, says, that in Canada, only 10-15% adults under the age of 55 attend church regularly and that most churches are declining in numbers or dying out (p.77).
- From the book, Goodbye Generation: A Conversation About Why Youth and Young Adults Leave the Church, by David Sawler: Only one percent of our church growth in North America is from people not born into the faith. “This means we are reaching almost no one who does not have a church background already” (p.8).
- By the age of 25, approximately 90% of all youth who once considered themselves Christians leave the church and even their faith (p.7).
- From the book, The American Church in Crisis, by David Olson, a book that studied 200,000 congregations in the States: – With the rate of population growth in the States, to maintain the same percentage of Americans who attend church, there needs to be a net gain of 3,200 churches each year. But this decade there has only been an average net gain of 300 churches a year (p.120).
- And it’s not just a lack of growth. It’s about a lack of character. From the book UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity by David Kinnaman: – 16% of young adults do not even know one Christian. Of the rest who do, only 15% of those thought the lifestyles of the Christians they knew were any different than the way most other people they knew lived their lives (p.48). On average, our sinful practices and selfishness and hypocritical behaviors look just like every body else’s or worse. “Currently,” Kinnaman says, “Christianity is known for being unlike Jesus” (p.212).
- • Barna noted personally: “One of the greatest frustrations of my life has been the disconnection between what our research consistently shows about [the beliefs and practices] of churched Christians and what the Bible calls us to be… If the local church is comprised of people who have been transformed by the grace of God through their redemption in Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit, then their lives should be noticeably and compellingly different from the norm.” But they’re not (p.31).
It just seems like our North American churches are not overflowing with Jesus. Today, in Calgary, there could easily be 900,000 people not in church. Church attendance, involvement and community-influence is on the decline. Young people are fleeing the church. Most people don’t even think of church anymore… but if they do it is often in a negative light because they’ve been hurt by a Christian or they don’t see anything special about what Christians have to offer.
Full audio version of this sermon. Download June 21 09 Ken Castor