Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve here… I keep a reminder taped to my desk. I look at it often. I pray about it and it keeps me praying.
A couple of years back, the FEB Central Region published a list (from their statistical analysis) of factors typical of Fellowship Churches in Ontario. I imagine these are similar character traits of all Fellowship Churches across Canada. They are as follows:
· Average weekly church attendance: 100
· Average church age is 40-45 years
· 30% of attendees are in small groups
· 20% are born outside of Canada
· 50% of attendees are serving in their church
· 2-3 conversions reported each year
· 3-4 baptisms reported each year
· $200-250,000 annual budget
These stats keep me praying because we cannot remain satisfied with these results. Like so many of you, I continue to pray for the “more fruit” that Jesus talks about in John 15.
Church Consultant George Bullard talks about the typical life-cycle of a church in North America. He said, “The average church that makes it seven years will have a life-span of 80 years.”
The actual closing of churches is more common than you might think. Our own Fellowship member churches have numbered around 500 for the past two decades. Many churches have been planted during that time, but many churches have also closed, and so our net gain is minimal. This is not ideal.
For another example, the Assemblies of God (USA), had 8,443 churches in 1965. Forty-five years later they were 12,371. But during those 45 years, they closed 8,153 existing churches and planted 12,049 resulting in a net gain of 3,928 churches. The closing of churches is very common.
George Bullard identifies ten stages in the life cycle of a church.
NEEDS A MOUNTAIN
Needs a Mountain:
This church as it nears “adulthood” or “maturity” needs to climb a new mountain together. It needs some fresh vision or the church will decline over the next 3-5 years.
Needs an Intervention:
This church has lots of structure but less and less movement. Its traditions can/may choke out its life and reason (mission) for being. This church needs a Church Consultation, with an outside party to develop some prescriptions to help redirect it back on mission. If not, the church will die sooner than later.
SO WHAT IS MY POINT?!
I recognize these are sobering words. Some declare we’re called to “faithfulness” and that’s it. I certainly cannot disagree. However, this declaration only gets it half right. The Bible calls the church to “faithfulness and fruitfulness.” Lives that are won, discipled, transformed and multiplied in others. Our church stats indicate we are experiencing only modest outcomes. What are we to do with that knowledge? I visit global fields where church planting movements stagger the imagination. But this is Canada. So we believe it cannot happen here?
We all love the church, the very bride of Christ. It is precious.
Certainly, we want to present Christ, His Bride as a healthy, vibrant expression of what He called us to be and do. Then let’s talk about it. Be honest about the “state of the union” of our churches and know our Region and Fellowship National exists to help our local churches keep on mission.
Local Church Consultation
Our Fellowship Regions have a ministry whereby they come alongside of a Fellowship Church and consult and coach. The “Church Consultation” takes place over a weekend with key leaders and members in your church. Several “prescriptions” are identified and steps are determined for the church over the next 1-3 years. This intervention has been used by the Lord to help dozens and dozens of our churches pursue missional health.
Global – Mission Consultation
Our Fellowship National has a ministry that supports Fellowship Churches who desire a consult and coaching on their global mission initiatives. Similar to “Church Consultations”, a Staff member(s) from our Fellowship International department comes alongside your mission and church leaders over a prescribed period of time to help re-envision “your” specific global mission plan.
I personally experienced this global mission consultation when I pastored at Temple Baptist, Sarnia, ON and would highly recommend it to you. Other pastors I have talked to would agree.
September is the start of the ministry season for all our local churches. Why not have an honest conversation about the health of your church and what steps you can take to improve the “mission environment” this coming year. These two consultations are available as tools to help support you in pursuing mission health.
Have a blessed week,