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Change How You Do Church or Watch Your Church Die

“You do not pour new wine into old wineskins. If you do, the skins will burst, and the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. What you are to do is pour new wine into new wineskins. Then both are preserved.” – Jesus Christ

I happen to think that every generation needs (and deep down, wants) the message of life that Jesus Christ offers.

Who doesn’t want life to the fullest? The desire for life explains every single thing a human being does.

But not every generation seems to want to join the group that attempts to live in and live out that message of Christ (the church). According to a Thomas Rainer study:

  • 65% of the Builder generation attends church
  • 35% of the Boomer generation attends
  • 15% of Generation X (my generation) attends
  • 4% of the Millennials attend

The vote is in. At an exponential rate, the way we do church is not working as a wineskin for delivering the greatest message the world has ever known.

As you can see, the way we do church worked great for my grandparents generation. Most of them still go!

But 65% of my big brother’s and parents generations have stopped.

85% of my peers have, too. And a whopping 96% of young adults are just not having their hearts captured by the community of Christ the way they are offering it right now.

You can see why, generally speaking, the younger generations of people who have stuck with church are hungry for something new, and the older generation is usually more cautious about changing things.

More to come on this…but let me end this piece with the clear pronouncement that by CHANGE THINGS I do NOT mean anything as superficial as changing the worship style, or preaching style, or name of the church. If that stuff would work, it already would have. There is every worship & preaching style known to man available in the relatively small town I live in and it has NOT put a dent in the stats.

We must change much more meaningfully than that.

Christ vs. Church, On Transitioning Church

8 Comments to “Change How You Do Church or Watch Your Church Die”

  1. […] 25 Aug I just read this provocatively titled post by Brian Mashburn … access it here. […]

  2. Brian,

    Not so many years ago the only source for Bible teaching was radio, and later TV, and the local church. Today, I seldom open my printed Bible at home. I study and do my devotional reading at my desktop PC. At my fingertips are untold volumes of theology. The local church is only a tiny source of spiritual information today.

    I think that we depend too heavily on the “building”. I know people with important positions in large corporations who work from home, seldom going to the office. Many new church plants are in apartment complexes and are doing well. They are small group based and are not anchored to a “location”.

    I’m not saying sell the building. I am saying what worked in 1975 is perhaps obsolete in 2010. It was far easier to keep a core group together then, control what they believed and how they lived. Those days are gone and that is a good thing in my view. Perhaps the greatest weakness of the traditional local church model in America is that leaders have not historically empowered people to think for themselves, teach what they themselves find in the Bible (in small groups for example) and allow the people in the pew to “be the church” without a lot of structure.

    Many leaders get high blood pressure even thinking of such things, but….the sheep are God’s sheep. They each have the Holy Spirit, who alone is the ultimate teacher of God’s truth, to why not trust them to his care more and give up some control?

    Many leaders, preachers, missionaries, and elders in our church family came up through leading a small group in the home. Our elders were pretty much hands off. They never told us what we could and could not teach, if we should sing or not, if women could pray or not, etc. And it worked!

    Just some ideas to consider.


  3. Hello Royce,
    We are called sheep for a reason. The care and feeding of the sheep is a divine directive, and carries great reward and penalties for good or poor care. “Hands Off” sounds like another name for Poor care.
    God gave us the structure, and the guidance and the charge.
    If I have misunderstood what you said, please forgive me. God bless you and yours.

  4. I must plead a bit of poor prep and testing as I write this (I am not sold on this idea but I have been thinking about it), so just for consideration…….
    What if (for instance) the church stopped fighting homosexuals in regards to whether they can marry and get insured as a “family” unit etc, but instead, we tried to make their life seem worth as much as Christ views them. (not to hide that the Bible condemns such acts) but to say we love you, respect you and care for you in spite of the fact that what is going on in you relationship is wrong.
    What if Christians began to really make a stand against Abortion. ( not the current legislative stand ) but instead to take an unwed mother into our home,accept her, feed her, clothe her, help her with school/work and help her get her child adopted or help her keep it. But, make it absurd to choose abortion over living with a Christian family who would treat you that way.
    That is radical and I think radical is attractive to many young people. Jesus called us to be radical (turn the other cheek, love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you, walk the second mile because you choose to!)

  5. As an accoutant I always tell people ‘numbers don’t lie…people do’. Sometimes we need to look deeper, but sometimes the answer is right there on the surface. Look at the numbers generationally. Each successive generation has less and less attending ‘church’. Look at the world generationally. Each generation has succeeded materially over the past. As a ‘boomer’ my parents and grandparents attended worship services on a regular basis. Never missing a service and never missing anything additional (i.e. church picnics, gospel meetings, singings). But….there also wasn’t anything else to do, especially on Sundays. There weren’t any shopping malls open, no banks, no baseball or football practice. Sunday was a day of rest. This is not the world view anymore. Sunday is just another day. The 4% of the younger generation attending worship is a frightening statistic. When they are bombarded with the internet, 500 TV channels, Ipods that hold thousands of songs, cell phones and texting….is it any wonder that God can’t compete? The current generation (and maybe the older ones) have bought in to the instant gratification myth. And, I think, into the idea that God should offer instant gratification too. Kind of like me praying for patience, but I want it now. Maybe this country’s current economic situation is a wakeup call. If we have no choice but to get back to the basics with our finances, why should getting back to basics be any different for our faith? What did the first church do in Acts? No fancy building, no worship leaders, no praise teams. They came together in one another’s homes. Maybe it’s time to go back to the beginning.

  6. Brian, that bit about understanding why the generations who are seeing their peers walk away are generally more open to change is extremely interesting, particularly as it nuances the understanding of the connection between change and youth.
    The common idea is that that liking change is just something younger people do simply because of the youth. Of course, in the minds of those who desire stability, that suggests that the craze for change is something we’ll grow out of while we mature. You have to think though that the walkoff rate of peer groups is a significant factor, though. I can easily imagine that if the numbers were inverted, and it were only 4% of the builder generation still plugged in, there would be a much stronger desire on their part to see change.

  7. […] you are intrigued by this idea, I highly encourage you check out the following posts – http://www.brianmashburn.net/?p=295; […]

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