First Day of School in Bulgaria

September 15, 2019 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News, Publication

Bulgarian Churches Protest against new Child Protection Policy

September 10, 2019 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News

Several of our students who graduated from our chaplaincy program in Bulgaria about a decade ago, are among the lead organizers of a massive international wave of protests against a new package of child protection laws similar to Norway’s Barnevernet concept. The start is given in Sofia, Capital city of Bulgaria, where people are very unhappy about a new ideological concept of child protection policy which infringes upon the rights of the parents and the integrity of natural family. The protest will be organized through the whole month of September 2019 in many cities of Bulgaria and in other cities throughout the world with many parents turned into grassroots pro-family activists.

The new legal provisions in Bulgaria

Thus, according to the new laws, Bulgarian activists say that:

  • multidisciplinary teams (police, social workers, psychologists) will be able to enter people’s homes without a court order and remove children even based on anonymous calls saying the child is neglected or abused
  • then the child is placed into foster care via administrative procedure until brought to court, which can take months and in some cases years
  • from then onwards, under certain conditions of the law and through non-governmental organizations, the removed child can be adopted by people from all over the world
  • after international adoption, the biological family will never see that child again (personal data such as personal ID number, certificate of birth will be changed).

Our information is that Romanian law also includes some similar provisions, but there is still little institutional capacity to implement them. NGOs are already involved in social services and even adoptions in Romania, only that this is little known to the public.

The new concept and ideology was heavily promoted in Bulgaria through Norwegian grants and that is why in some cities the protests will be held in the front of Norway’s embassies and consulates.

„We are worried that Norways has heavily invested in Bulgaria. Our politicians are ready to sell our country’s children. We are a small country, we shall never be England or Germany, so we shall never have their standards of living. And yet they are already removing Bulgarian children from their families based on the reason of poverty. And the Social Services Law adopted in March 2019 will be in force starting from January 1st, 2020”, state the organizers.

Protests are taking place in September in Bulgaria, Germany, Poland, Italy, Canada, Austria, Ireland, Serbia, New Zeeland, Denmark, Lithuania, USA and even Norway.

It all started with a Child Strategy

In 2018, in Bulgaria, 152 NGOs were non-transparently financed outside the country to propose “The National Strategy for the Child 2019-2030”, under the slogan “All rights for all children”. It was forwarded to policy makers and decisional factors.

The strategy was based on the following presuppositions:

  • all parents are incompetent and incapable and are potential abusers for their children (mentally and physically)
  • only the state and NGOs have the right to decide regarding children and children will appropriately develop and thrive only under their expert care.

The strategy has the following characteristics:

  • comprehensiveness of object (it targets all children at conception, no matter whether they are in a need, abandoned or injured, “the strategy targets the three stages of childhood, as a period of the entire human life cycle” – pregnancy and early childhood; childhood; teenage years).
  • conflicts with the Bulgarian Constitution (Article 47): the “raising and upbringing of children“ is the “right and obligation of their parents,“ and the state’s role in this process is to assist them, not replace them.
  • adopts the child-centered model (from the third protocol of the UN Convention, which has NOT been ratified by Bulgaria) – authorizing the child, regardless of the age and maturity, to make decisions and receive social services and counseling without PARENTAL CONSENT.
  • defines the child as a separate entity, with separate rights, which is contrary to Bulgarian law, ignoring terms such as: minor, juvenile, parent, guardian/custodian, etc.

After a national protest in 30 Bulgarian cities, on May 11, 2019, Bulgaria’s Prime Minister stated: “There will be no Strategy, I will order the Minister of Labor and Social Policy to reiterate in the morning, lunchtime and evening at the briefing that there is no Strategy for the Children”.

Despite his words, the ideas embedded in the supposedly annulled Strategy are being passed as laws and regulations, changes and amendments that are even contrary to the Bulgarian Supreme Law and also contradict AIN principles enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. The ideas in the spirit of the Strategy were pushed into changes in 28 laws (starting with the Child Protection Act) and a passing of a whole new law – the Social Services Act.

Working for the benefit of various non-governmental organizations that promote gender ideology and sexual education, the Law on Social Services was adopted in March 2019 effective January 1, 2020.

„With this law, we have the complete abdication of the state, which openly admits that it is incapable of fulfilling its purpose. The social functions of the state are transferred to private organizations, often international ones (and there is no clear requirement for them to be licensed in Bulgaria). Moreover, every child is their target, not just children in need… The law is working for the benefit of various non-governmental organizations promoting gender ideologies as well as early sexual education.”

Bulgarian activists have now reached over 175,000 concerned citizens, both Bulgarians and foreigners living in Bulgaria. There have been numerous information campaigns and protests in over 30 cities across the nation, which have, unfortunately, been widely ignored by the media and politicians alike.

The Strategy and the new approach to Social and Child Services are based on the Norwegian Model and heavily funded by Norway and its grant mechanism. In the name of “the rights of the child,” politicians, lawmakers and NGOs are busy working to undermine what Bulgarians hold dear: the traditional family and the role of the parents.

 

 

Toward a Pentecostal Strategy for the City

September 5, 2019 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News, Publication, Research

Toward a Pentecostal Strategy for the City

One of the questions that seems to come up in this course discussion is how to change the world around us with a more positive and effective approach toward using the Gospel of Salvation. In this particular module, the difficulty addressed is ethnocentricity. The particularity of our search then arrives at the more detailed question, how can we change the culture (respectively subcultures) of our church congregations? This is a drastic move from a closed circle toward an outreach community that many congregations are unable to accomplish. How do we then empower such congregations to be transformed into cultural reach-outs to a single ethnos or multiple ethnic groups? 

Problem

The problem in the first quarter of the 21st century has been incapability of our church strategy with the times we live in and the mindset they occupy. We’ve been preparing the church for the multicultural battle, all and while we should have been equipping the saints how to rebuild the walls since the battle has been lost.

We’ve been equipping leaders for the ministry while the church ship has been sinking only to end up with well trained captains of a sunken fleet. And in a doomed attempt to reconcile the reality of the ministry with their training, they have turned to wave walkers who briefly surface for breaths of fresh air during Sunday worship only to return to the deep blue walk of their daily ministry never finding their lost piece of eight.

For the battle was lost long ago before the present generation of ministers ever came to existence. They know not the battle. They’ve only seen the ruins that were left within the broken walls of the church. And they have been struggling to reconcile the incomputable of what church eldership has been teaching them to battle against with the Nehemiah calling for restoration, which God has placed upon them. For the answer has never been in building a New Jerusalem for a fresh start, but restoring the old Jerusalem and its former glory to a new state that reclaims our history and heritage.

bulgarian-church

Context 

Recent analysis of migrant churches in the United States reveals that the predominant majority of them are located in cities which have a high influxation and concentration of immigrants. Such localities are called “gateway cities”. Immigrants typically enter the United States through one of these cities and settle there. These areas contain over half of the foreign-born population in the United States as follows:

  1. New York, NY – Foreign born population 18.7%
  2. Los Angeles, CA – Foreign born population 27.1%
  3. Houston, TX – Foreign born population 12.3%
  4. Washington, DC – Foreign born population 8.6%
  5. Miami, FL – Foreign born population 33.6%
  6. Chicago, IL – Foreign born population 11.1%
  7. San Francisco, CA – Foreign born population 20.0%

Strategy

Asking the right questions is important, but the answers cannot be generic for all ethnic groups or cultural settings. There is a strong need to be flexible and observe changes in culture, but not to change the message of the Gospel or compromise our witness. Several common things are noted in any cultural setting where our ministry is involved:

First and foremost, people of all cultures prefer to be personal with a purpose, rather than being project driven. No one longs to be part of someone else’s project. Yet, our very existence demands personal purpose, which could serve as a great cultural catalyst in a church ministry.

Secondly, cross cultural ministry is not done merely on relationships, but on being real in the relationships. The greatest halt of ministry work is when people realize the relationship with the church has not been a real one, but merely a part of a program or a paradigm.

Finally, our cross cultural model for ministry should not be just salvation oriented, but soul oriented. There is a great difference between writing down the number of saved every Sunday and actually caring for the eternal well-being of the saved souls. In fact, this is so fundamentally determinative that it should be the goal in mind of every new church plant.

REVIVAL MUST GO ON…

September 1, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News

In 2020, we will be celebrating 30 years in ministry. Twenty of them alone were spent in America where we have held some 3,000 services across 25+ different states. In these three decades, I have seen genuine revival with the Glory of God moving in only twice.

The first time was in 1990, right after the fall of the Berlin Wall in Bulgaria, when our youth group of a dozen students grew up to 300 during the spring semester alone. One of those nights, 26 young people literally walked through the door of the small hall we were renting, gave their lives to the Lord and were baptized with the Holy Spirit – all of them on the spot in that one service. I can still remember them all speaking in tongues and none of us knowing what just hit us. As the visible glory of God descended upon us, we were not able to shut down the service till well after midnight. We got written up for breaking curfew, but our names were written in Heaven.

The second time was at the turn of the century when in the summer of 1999 the Lord opened doors to preach over 20 revivals. I started seminary in the fall and travelled back to South Carolina literally every weekend that first semester just to finish all scheduled preaching appointments. Some of the readers of this letter well remember that one or more of those meetings were in your church. And I have been praying for the same move of God since then.

Though we have had similar trends in our ministry in 2014 and then at the start of 2017, it was only this year again that I am seeing the signs of a great revival taking place just like in 1989 and 1999. More and more ministers we contact share the same feel for another great revival and after much prayer, fasting and anticipation I have become convinced that God is on the move in 2019.

For these reasons, we are approaching this season of Revival Harvest Campaign in 2019-2020 with great anticipation. We urge you to pray along with us and seek the will of the Lord – what is it that He wants us to do in this season of upcoming Revival? A move of God of such magnitude and rarity should not be taken lightly!

30 Days of Prayer and Fasting in 2019

August 30, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Publication, Research

Week 1
September 1, 2006 – Restoration of the Backslidden
September 2, 2006 – Church Leadership: Bulgarian Pastors and Ministers

Week 2
September 3, 2006 – National Revival in Bulgaria
September 4, 2006 – Spiritual and Physical Harvests
September 5, 2006 – Restoration of Protestant Evangelical Heritage
September 6, 2006 – Unification of the Bulgarian Nation and the Bulgarian Church (In observance of Unification Day in Bulgaria)
September 7, 2006 – Renewal of Family Ties
September 8, 2006 – Child Protection
September 9, 2006 – Mission Work

Week 3
September 10, 2006 – The Hopeless (In observance of World Suicide Prevention Day)
September 11, 2006 – Against Fear (In observance of Patriot Day in the United States)
September 12, 2006 – Sexual Purity and Biblical Moral Principles in the Bulgarian Society
September 13, 2006 – Sanctification and Prayer for Restoration of Holiness in the Bulgarian Church
September 14, 2006 – Return Toward Evangelical Roots
September 15, 2006 – Students of Bulgaria (In observance of the first day of school in Bulgaria)
September 16, 2006 – National Day of Fasting for the Bulgarian Evangelical Movement

Week 4
September 17, 2006 – The Country of Bulgaria
September 18, 2006 – National Prosperity
September 19, 2006 – Abortion Prevention and Prayer for Mothers Who Have Had an Abortion (In observance of Abortion Prevention Day in Bulgaria)
September 20, 2006 – Deliverance from Addictions (In observance of the National Addiction Counselors’ Day)
September 21, 2006 – World Peace (In observance of the International Day of Peace)
September 22, 2006 – Spiritual Freedom (In observance of Independence Day in Bulgaria)
September 23, 2006 – Spirit of Forgiveness

Week 5
September 24, 2006 – Restoring of Friendships and Relationships (In observance of National Good Neighbor Day)
September 25, 2006 – Against Stress and Results of Stress
September 26, 2006 – Physical Healing and Deliverance
September 27, 2006 – Peace for Israel
September 28, 2006 – A Fresh Anointing
September 29, 2006 – The Persecuted Believers
September 30, 2006 – Strength and Endurance

The world is my parish

August 25, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News

New Wesley Room at Bristol

Here is a bit more about the building from the Methodist Heritage Organization:

George Whitefield invited John Wesley to preach outdoors for the first time to the miners of Bristol in 1739. Within a few weeks’ work started on building the New Room as a meeting place for two of the religious societies in the city, thus creating the world’s first Methodist building.

The current building dates from 1748 when the New Room was doubled in size. Its lower floor became known as John Wesley’s Chapel. It is still in regular use for worship as well as being used for cultural and educational activities and exhibitions. Upstairs John Wesley created twelve rooms around a beautiful central octagonal window. These provided accommodation for himself and any visiting preachers assigned to the Bristol circuit. They now contain a highly interactive Museum devoted to telling the story of John and Charles Wesley and the relevance of their work today.

Being well placed in the heart of the city, the New Room became a center for the Wesleys’ work in Bristol. It was where John’s strong sense of social justice was first expressed. The New Room became a base for running a school for the poor, for providing food and clothes to the needy, for offering free medical care to the sick, and for helping those in the nearby prison. It was also the first place to use John Wesley’s ‘class’ system, where members were divided into sub-groups for mutual support and development. The New Room has been described as ‘the cradle of Methodism’.

The New Room was one of John Wesley’s three key centers. Many of the annual conferences were held there, including the one that first created Methodist circuits. Bristol’s trading links encouraged the growth of American Methodism. Thomas Webb, Francis Asbury, and others committed themselves to working there and sailed from nearby.

 

Encouraged by the Diary of JOHN WESLEY

O HOLY GOD we, have come to a point where

pastors text and post on facebook during sermon hour while thousands are going to hell in a hand basket while listening to a sermon

teachers be sipping a beer with friends on Saturday night and get up to teach Sunday school on Sunday morning still with alcohol on their breath

seminary professors teaching it is OK to drink in the Bible during the so called Theology on Tap meetings in a local pub

lonely pastors sitting in their cars shooting whiskey in the darkness of the church parking lot after preaching 2-3 services on Sunday

preachers are concerned with every social, political and cultural issues except the salvation of eternal human souls

We read the story in Wesley’s journal:

Sunday, 7.-I preached again at St. Lawrence’s in the morning, and afterward at St. Katherine Cree’s Church. I was enabled to speak strong words at both; and was therefore the less surprised at being informed that I was not to preach any more in either of those churches.

The following weekend – Sunday, 14.–I preached in the morning at St. Ann’s, Aldersgate; and in the afternoon at the Savoy Chapel on free salvation by faith in the blood of Christ.

I was quickly apprised that at St. Ann’s, likewise, I am to preach no more.

I preached at St. John’s, Wapping at 3PM and at St. Bennett’s, Paul’s Wharf, in the evening.

At these churches, likewise, I am to preach no more

THEN HE WRITES:
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I had continual sorrow and heaviness in my heart.

BUT THEN Wednesday, May 24.– about five this morning that I opened my Testament on those words

“There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that ye should be partakers of the divine nature” [II Peter 1:4].

Just as I went out, I opened it again on
those words, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God” [Mark 12:34].

In the afternoon I was asked to go to St. Paul’s. The anthem was, “Out
of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice. Oh,
let Thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint

“I Felt My Heart Strangely Warmed”

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change
which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.

I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial
manner despitefully used me and persecuted me.

I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart

Banned from most churches in the area, he meets with Whitfield who has just returned from America

Whitfield tells him they can minister in the fields like they did in America

Thursday, 29th-I left London as I could scarcely reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which Whitfield set me an example on Sunday;

I had been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order

that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church.

Monday, 2.--At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a ground adjoining to the city where gathered 3,000 people

Sunday, 8.--At seven in the morning I preached to about a thousand  persons at Bristol, and afterward to about fifteen hundred on the top of the Mount in Kingswood.

Tuesday, 17.–At 5 in the afternoon I was at a little society in the Back Lane. The room in which we were was propped beneath, but the weight of people made the floor give way; so in the very beginning of PREACHING the post which propped it fell down with a great noise.

NEVERTHELESS the floor sank no farther; so that, after a little surprise at first, they quietly attended to the words that were spoken.”

The ORIGINAL Barney Creek Stones of Spurling

August 20, 2019 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News

Even though not intending to form a new church or denomination, their rejection of Landmarkist values placed them in conflict with traditional churches in that area. Within a short period of time it became clear that they would not be allowed to remain as members of their churches. On August 19, 1886, after being barred from his local Baptist church, he and eight others organized the Christian Union at the Barney Creek Meeting House in Monroe County, Tennessee. They agreed to free themselves from man-made creeds and unite upon the principles of the New Testament. Between 1889 and 1895, Spurling organized three other congregations, all with the name Christian Union and functioning independently under Baptist polity. While this group would later disband and its members return to their original churches, the Church of God traces its origins to this 1886 meeting.

THE COMMITMENT to follow a biblical pattern of Church government has shaped the Church of God from our founding in 1886. R.G. Spurling called for Christian Union members to “take the New Testament, or law of Christ, as your only rule of faith and practice.” His invitation was to give “each other equal rights and privilege to read and interpret for yourselves as your conscience may dictate” and to sit “together as the Church of God to transact business [as] the same…” (Tomlinson, Last Great Conflict, pp. 185-86).

37 Church Stats to Know in 2019

August 15, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News

It’s that time of year again – when we take a deeper look inside the current state of the church.

In 2017 and 2018 these were our most read and shared posts of the year, and we hope this installment is just as helpful.

By going over some of the most important church statistics, you’ll be better prepared to grow your church throughout 2019. From attendance to social media, you’ll find statistics for most every area of the church.

Don’t be discouraged by any unfavorable statistics. That just means there’s room for improvement. Without further ado, here’s the church statistics you need to know for 2019.

1. 23% Of Pastors Deal With Mental Illness

It’s common to think of pastors as perfect, but they’re human too. This statistic is important because it shows that mental illness is an area churches need to address. Not only do pastors deal with mental illness, but almost 75% of pastors knew someone (member, relative, and/or friend) dealing with a mental illness.

Recognizing the signs and being open about it within the church helps prevent tragedies like the one that one pastor and his family dealt with.

2. 35% Of Americans Believe Bible Study Cures Mental Illness

To follow up on the previous statistics, over a third of Americans believe faith can help people overcome mental illness. Having open conversations about mental illness inchurch could encourage those dealing with it to seek help and counseling along with faith-based healing.

3. Regular Attendance Is Less

How churches define regular attendance has changed in the last few decades. An active member used to be defined as one who attended at least three times a week. Now, that number is three times a month or less. This doesn’t mean they’re out of reach though.

4. Why Americans Attend Church

This is probably one of the church statistics you didn’t even realize you wanted to know.Two-thirds of people in a Pew Research survey say they attend church for four main reasons:

  • To become a better person (68%)
  • To introduce faith to their kids (69%)
  • To find personal comfort (66%)
  • Grow closer to God (81%)

5. No Connection To Faith

On the other hand, the same study from above shows that 20% of adults attending services monthly or more say they don’t feel any real connection to God during church. A surprising 40% don’t feel a connection to their faith.

6. Believers Without A Home

Sometimes it’s easy to feel discouraged about low attendance numbers, but that doesn’t mean people don’t still believe. Many believers who don’t attend regularly or at all have valid reasons, such as:

  • Can’t find the right church (23%)
  • Poor health (9%)
  • Sermons aren’t engaging (18%)

7. Believers Practice Outside Of Church

Some Christians who may not have a church they like nearby or had a bad experience at a previous church haven’t given up on their faith. Instead, the Pew Research study found that 37% of Americans who rarely or never attend church, practice their faith in other ways. This shows that having a presence online could be beneficial to reaching those Christians.

8. Millennials Have No Affiliation

When it comes to faith, millennials are choosing not to label themselves as one type of faith over another. Nearly 40% of Americans between 18-29 have no particular religious affiliation. That doesn’t mean they don’t believe in God, but they don’t follow a set denomination.

9. Small Portion Of Tithers

Despite growing your church’s membership, you might find tithing doesn’t automatically increase. In fact, only 10% to 25% of church members tithe regularly.

10. Online Tithing Boosts Tithing

What church doesn’t want to increase tithing? The same Nonprofit Source study as above shows that offering online tithing increases tithing by 32%. This means it’s well worth investing in online giving solutions.

11. Accept Cards To Increase Tithing

Many people don’t carry cash anymore, even to church. Allowing members to tithe via credit or debit card boosts tithing. In fact, Nonprofit Source found that 49% of all donations are made via a card.

12. Less Giving Than The Great Depression

Okay, so this is going to be a bit of a depressing church statistics. During the Great Depression, Americans gave 3.3% of their income to their church. Today, it’s only 2.5% of their income.

13. Over A Third Don’t Tithe

It just seems to keep going downhill, doesn’t it? The Nonprofit Source study found that 37% of attendees don’t tithe at all. That means over a third of your members probably aren’t tithing. If they do, it’s only on rare or special occasions.

14. Some Tithers Give Far More

While the suggested tithing amount is 10% of a member’s income, those who do tithe help make up for those who don’t. The majority (77%) give anywhere from 11% to just over 20% of their income regularly.

15. Most Giving Happens Monday – Saturday

Sunday seems like it would be the biggest giving day, right? Tithe.ly found that while it’s the biggest single day, 67% of church donations happen throughout the rest of the week. This is to fit tithing into their budget better. Another surprising giving statistic is over 30% of donations come in between 9 PM and 6 AM. What does this mean for your church? Online giving is a must.

16. Mobile Giving Rules

When it comes to non-traditional tithing, mobile rules. Apps are the clear winner with 57% of people preferring a mobile option. Tithe.ly also found that web giving accounts for 24% of online donations, while text giving came in at 14%.

17. A Few Give A Lot

If you’re worried about the small percentage of tithers, don’t. In fact, Tithe.ly discovered that 15% of consistent tithers give 51% of total donations. This at least offers your church some consistency for your budget.

18. Regular Attendance Has Dropped

Attendance is one of the most sought after church statistics. Sadly, it’s also a number that’s dropped. Gallup’s most recent yearly summary is from 2017, but it shows a drop from 42% in 2008 to 37% in 2017 for regular attendees.

You shouldn’t panic too much as this number hasn’t dropped drastically at all. In fact, in the 1950s, the number was only around 50%.

19. Small Churches Are Popular

When it comes to attendance, 46% of people attend small churches with 100 or fewer members. Typically, this is due to the fact that smaller churches are more prevalent and easy to get to. They’re also often more community oriented for those who want to build relationships with the majority of other members.

20. Half Of Churches Are Small

To prove how prevalent small churches are, the same study as above found that 50% of churches have 100 members or fewer. Small to medium churches make up another 40% of churches and have 100-350 members. Sometimes it’s not about having the most members, but retaining and engaging the members you do have.

21. Mega Churches Aren’t Preferred

While mega churches seem to have it all, only 8% of all church goers attend one. Part of the reason is they’re just too big. However, they do have the benefit of having a budget that allows them to reach more people online than most smaller churches.

22. Attendance Continues To Fall

Pro Church Tools also uncovered a sobering statistic – attendance in 2050 could be as much as half of what it was in 1990. That sounds horrible, but consider the move towards digital. You could easily see a rise in online attendance.

23. Online Bibles Are Becoming More Popular

While you might not want smartphones and tablets in your church, consider that Barna research found that 55% of church goers use the Internet to read Bible content. Surprisingly, only 53% prefer to use their smartphone to search the Internet for Bible study. However, 43% use a Bible app on their smartphone.

24. Most People Own A Bible

One of the most surprising church statistics is just how many people own a Bible. Barna found that a shocking 87% of homes have at least one Bible. Even 67% of those who consider themselves skeptic, own a Bible.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that seniors (93%) and Baby Boomers (90%) are more likely to own a Bible than millennials (82%).

25. High Bible Engagement

Another comforting statistic is that half of Americans consider themselves Bible users. According to Barna, this includes people who engage with the Bible on their own at least 3-4 times a year.

On the other hand, only 32% never engage with a Bible. Overall, this shows that more people are interested in exploring their faith than not.

26. Desire For More Bible Study

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that while people do want to spend more time studying the Bible, most have a hard time finding any extra time. Of course, some don’t study more simply because they need someone to help guide them. Barna found that 58% of Americans wish they could study more often and that includes 22% of skeptics.

27. Churches Need Videos

Think uploading your sermons online isn’t important? Want to stick with text-based blogs only? Think again! Pro Church Tools found that 72% of people online prefer to learn by video over text. So, go ahead and upload videos to help guide members and visitors online.

28. Short Videos Are Preferrable

Outside of sermons, which people expect to be longer, almost 66% of people prefer videos that are one minute or less. Try uploading quick Bible study videos to engage visitors on your website and social media platforms.

29. Add Subtitles

Yes, people prefer videos, but they can’t always listen with the sound on. In fact, 85% of people watch Facebook videos with the sound turned off. Add subtitles or captions to ensure your message still gets across.

30. Facebook Is Still King Among Social Networks

If your church is deciding on which social network to use, Facebook is still number one. In fact, Pew Research Center found that 68% of adults are Facebook users. The only other network that came close was YouTube at 40%. However, using both doesn’t hurt, especially if your church focuses on video content.

31. Don’t Count Out Instagram

Many church statistics focus mainly on Facebook for social media, but it’s important to not count out Instagram. Not only do 35% of adults use Instagram, but Pew also found that 71% of 18-24 year-olds use Instagram. If you’re trying to reach out to a younger audience, it’s worth expanding your social media strategy to include Instagram.

32. YouTube Works Well For Younger Members

Want to better engage your younger members or expand your reach to 18-24 year-olds? Pew found that 94% of people in that target demographic use YouTube regularly. Of course, 75% of adults overall use YouTube. So, it’s beneficial no matter what age you’re trying to reach.

Consider YouTube for sermons, showing community outreach programs in action, Bible study sessions and even fun skits to show a humorous side to your church.

33. Videos Get More Shares

If you want your church’s social media posts to be shared, opt for more videos. They get around 1200% more shares than images and text. Videos also lead to more web traffic, with increases of up to 41%.

34. Why Do Church Goers Stay?

What is it that makes some church goers stay, but not others? Most often, they stay because the church’s theology aligns with their own beliefs. LifeWay Research found that 52% feel their beliefs completely align with the church, while 42% say their beliefs are mostly aligned.

35. Why Do Church Members Leave?

On the other hand, what makes them leave? Believe it or not, it’s not politics or music. The majority of devoted church members (48%) only leave if they have to move to a new home. However, 19% leave when the preaching style changes, so it’s important to take changes slowly to avoid pushing your members away.

Other reasons church members leave, according to LifeWay, include:

  • Pastor leaves (12%)
  • Politics (9%)
  • Music changes (5%)
  • Conflicts (4%)

36. Church Goers Are Loyal

Despite how it may seem, most church goers are actually quite loyal to their church. In fact, 35% of regular church goers have been at the same church for 10-24 years. Another 27% have attended the same church for over 25 years. The most loyal denominations are Lutherans, Methodists and Baptists, according to LifeWay.

Before you worry that your members are going to leave, remember that 57% of church goers say they’re committed to staying with their church. So, unless you make major changes suddenly, over half of your members are likely to stick with you.

37. Your Website Does Matter

Even if you’re fully engaging your members in church, you still need a church website. Why? According to Grey Matter Research, 17 million Americans who don’t regularly attend church visited a church website. While most are searching for church hours or programs, 26% are streaming video and another 26% are streaming audio. So yes, a website is vital for reaching more people and increasing your members.

WOMEN in MINISTRY

August 10, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Discipleship Dilemma in URBAN CHURCH PLANTING

August 5, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News

A recent study put forth by Barna research discussed the current “State of Discipleship.”[1]

I’m a big discipleship advocate—constantly preaching and teaching about the Great Commission, mission, and disciple-making. Not only do I preach and teach it—I disciple and invest into others. I love relational community.

But, the Western church is hemorrhaging. I believe the number one reason is a lack of disciple-making. Barna reveals, “only 20 percent of Christian adults are involved in some sort of discipleship activity.”

In the research, Christians were asked which term or phrase best described a spiritual growth process. Ironically, but very illuminating, “discipleship” ranked fourth on the list—being selected by fewer than one in five Christians (18%).[2] That’s disturbing. Only one in five Christians equated the term discipleship with spiritual growth. It seems that something is amiss within the contemporary church.

Spiritual Growth is Great?

Barna’s numbers seem contradictory. Only 25 percent of the polled respondents stated discipleship was very relevant. The research indicated “The implication is that while spiritual growth is very important to tens of millions, the language and terminology surrounding discipleship seems to be undergoing a change, with other phrases coming to be used more frequently than the term ‘discipleship’ itself.” So, the dilemma within discipleship is the fact that a majority of Christians do not equate themselves with disciples.

I found it ironic that 52 percent who attended church in the past six months, asserted that their church “definitely does a good job helping people grow spiritually,” while 73 percent believed their church places “a lot” of emphasis on spiritual growth. How can that many believers think their church is doing a good job at growing spiritually, and yet the church is not making disciples?

The problem is the perceived definition of spiritual growth and its relationship to disciple-making. It seems that a majority of Christians view spiritual growth as an individual construct—as if discipleship can be divorced from Christianity—it’s in a vacuum. Nearlytwo out of five of all Christian adults consider their spiritual growth to be “entirely private.”

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The Real News

Disciple-making is about reproducing—making other disciples. If 73% of the polled believers stated that their church places a major emphasis on spiritual growth—why is the church not making disciples?

Why is the church severely declining—with 80 to 85 percent of all Western churches in decline or stagnating?

I believe it has to do with perception. In the article, Barna stated that only 1% of church leaders believed their churches were discipling very well. That’s only 1%—one—uno—eine—en—no matter what language— just 1% believe their church is discipling very well. Opposite of doing well—60 percent (60%) of pastors state the church is not discipling well, at all!

Why would that be? Don’t three out of four Christians believe their church places a major emphasis on spiritual growth? Why the disparity?

As a pastor, I believe it’s because we (pastors) correlate discipleship with relational communion—life together. Barna’s poll revealed that 91% of pastors considered “a comprehensive discipleship curriculum” as the least-important element of effective discipleship. Yet, when polling Christians, a perception of discipleship, or spiritual growth is related to curriculum, class, and study—not relational connectivity and with-ness.

Barna notes “Only 17 percent say they meet with a spiritual mentor as part of their discipleship efforts.” That’s it! This is why the church is not growing and this is why the church is failing at making disciples. The majority of Christians do not see relational communion with others as important. And discipleship pertains to personalized spiritual disciplines.

How Did This Happen?

There’s a logical explanation—but not a quick one.

Perhaps due to infant baptism, from the fifth-century, and continuing into the Reformation period, discipleship progressed toward individual spiritual discipline more than communal interactive relationships concerning the daily rhythms of Christian life.

While catechesis still existed for new converts, the continued practice of infant baptism shifted discipleship away from the convert catechumenate (waiting three years prior to baptism, but partaking in communal life) to spiritual disciplines and devotions of individualized believers.[3]Perhaps the most notable reformer, Martin Luther, believed that discipleship guided the believer into deeper devotions toward Christ.[4] For Luther, discipleship referred to Christ’s inner working power and “not our attempts to imitate” the deeds of Christ.[5]

The early church had communal gatherings for fellowship, teaching, and life-on-life. But, due to ongoing heretical views—the church began to focus more on the individual development of personal character and devotion, along with theological and doctrinal polity. Albeit, Luther’s discipleship consisted of a deeper commitment to the spiritual devotions of prayer, fasting, and the Word of God, it was not communal.

John Calvin described discipleship as an automatic title for the regenerated believer, an identity by grace in Christ.[6] Calvin, a paedobaptist, considered all believers disciples (and I agree), but not in the same aspect of the communal spiritual nourishment, as that of the early church. For Calvin, baptism became the sign and ratified seal of a “professed” disciple (I find an infant professing anything as odd).[7] However, Calvin focused more on knowledge transference, with believers hearing the preached Word, than a day-to-day activity with believers who practiced fellowship-style catechesis and breaking of the bread (Acts 2:42–46).[8] But to his credit, Calvin believed that all Christians should carry out the commission of God within their lives.[9]

So, the problem was an eventual drifting from the early church communal relationship instruction and fellowship to a more individualized spiritual discipline-type formation. So then, you can see, for the contemporary Christian, discipleship is perceived as curriculum, not as much associated with communal spiritual growth. Discipleship became divorced from collective spiritual maturity, because it became divorced from the communal gathering and growth with others.

The solution calls for reverting back to the origin of Christ-following and being a relational disciple-maker of Christ. Disciples make disciples. Discipleship is not merelyspiritual growth, but helping others, relationally, to develop into mature disciples, who make disciples, etc.

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