Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Mrs. Smith rose early on Sunday morning to bake homemade cinnamon rolls for her family, while her husband walked the family dog, Fido, down their tree-lined suburban street. When Mr. Smith returned home with the dog, he was very excited. “Sally and Tom from across the street are going to church with us this morning,” he exclaimed to Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Smith’s heart overflowed with joy as she made her way upstairs to wake her son and daughter so they would have time for breakfast before going to Sunday school. About an hour later, as the Smith family drove down the street in their minivan, they saw Sally and Tom pull out of their driveway and follow them the two miles downtown to First Church on Main Street. Mrs. Smith thought to herself, “What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning!”

Such idyllic scenes may have been common across America in the past, but in our increasingly post-Christian society, such situations are acted out less often. In this current era, it is much more likely that Mr. Smith and Ms. Jones will live together for years, raising their kids together without feeling the need to be married.  The neighbors across the street could be a married couple named Tom and John.  The two couples are more likely to go camping together for the weekend than to attend church, and if they do happen to attend church, it is probably for a special service at either Christmas or Easter.

By all accounts, the North American church is enduring dicult times. Most Christians realize that churches are struggling to reach out to the surrounding community, but people are not sure why churches are struggling or what they, as individuals, can do about it.

Though there are many reasons churches are struggling, the primary reason is that North American culture is experiencing rapid change, while most churches remain unchanged.  Therefore, churches are struggling to reach the generations that are emerging from this new culture.

Some churches have made it clear that they do not intend to change, even if it means their membership will keep shrinking. These churches have ignored culture and vainly hope that people will come to faith even though—because of cultural dierences—those people cannot understand the church’s message. Other churches have adjusted their core values and tossed out all their time-honored traditions in the hope that the community will respond positively to their radical change. Such churches have lost much of their identity and are frequently still in decline as they abandon biblical principles and find themselves adrift in an ocean of rapidly changing theology.

Many evangelical churches are looking for a third option.  These churches are willing to adopt certain levels of change to reach their community but are determined not to give up their core values and biblical principles in the process. Tough American culture is always changing; the timeless truth of the gospel remains the same. How we communicate the gospel may change, but the gospel itself never changes. The gospel is relevant to all cultures in all time periods. We must hold true to the gospel while discovering new ways to communicate with a non-Christian culture.

An excerpt from Terry Dorsett’s book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, published by CrossBooks, a division of Lifeway.


  1. What churches should focus on is properly discipling those who profess Christianity. I am reading through Fox's Book of Martyrs and it's a complete abomination before God that so many Saints willingly sacrificed their lives for the faith, yet as you so accurately described, we as Americans literally have to beg, prod and plead our neighbors to come to church. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't we tell people that what church offers is something far beyond what a weekend at the beach or campground can offer.

    I'm first in line when I say this, but we've failed as Christians to share the Gospel with our neighbors in a way that is attractive as Christ should be to any and all. We were having a Bible study yesterday at work when someone said that "we need to get out of our comfort zones to evangelize these folks." My response to him was, "Shouldn't Christ BE our comfort zone?"

    And therein lies the ultimate problem in the church. How many American "Christians" would stand firm for their faith if confronted with serious persecution, similar to that of the 1st through 3rd Century Christians under Roman rule, where burnings at the stake, beheadings, and beatings to death were mere sport for authorities.

    Sadly I think most American "Christians" would quickly renounce their faith, rather than suffer any sort of pain or possible death because they stood for their faith in Christ.

  2. Phillip,
    Thanks for sharing your ideas. I agree that what churches need to do is lift of Christ. Though some do that, many tend to lift up their perferences and traditions and call it "Christianity." And I think that is what most young people have rejected.