Where Are We Now?—Part 16

CGGC Executive Director Lance Finley
CGGC Executive Director Lance Finley

I’ve spent several weeks exploring the idea of where we are right now in the CGGC, particularly as we anticipate looking forward into the future and discerning where the Lord wants us to go and what He wants us to do as His people. Some of what I share will be from a broader view – where the CGGC reflects what’s going on across the larger evangelical church in North America. At other times, the sense will be much more specific to the CGGC and where we find ourselves in this critical moment.

This past spring I’ve had the privilege of attending the annual gatherings in the Eastern Regional Conference, the Allegheny Conference and the Midwest Region Conference of the CGGC. Last weekend brought the Great Lakes Conference to Findlay and in August the Western Region will gather in Ft. Scott, Kansas. I’ve shared the following observations at these recent gatherings and felt like they were appropriate to share here over the next few weeks as we draw this series to a close. These are my observations as I have had the opportunity to interact with various churches and leaders across the U.S. and even around the world.

My third observation is simply that there is an enormous need for the Gospel in our culture.

Back in April I got to hear a presentation by Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska. He addressed a couple thousand leaders, most of whom came from a Christian perspective. He asked this roomful of leaders to help address the present crisis in our country. He shared the following:

For the past three years (2016-2018), the United States has seen a decline in the life expectancy rate. This is both unprecedented and unexpected. The U.S. hasn’t seen a three-year decline like this since the early 1900’s. No other industrialized nation in the world is seeing this trend right now. It’s most surprising given that the two leading killers in our country, heart disease and cancer, are both trending downward.

Senator Sasse went on to share that the four causes of this downturn in the life expectancy rate have been traced to the following factors:

  1. Suicide
  2. Opiate overdoses
  3. Other types of drug overdoses
  4. Liver disease brought on by alcohol abuse

He noted that the demographic of those ages 25-45 are seeing the most rapid increase in the mortality rate.

He summarized his talk with the following statements:

 Community is in collapse in our culture.
We’re experiencing an epidemic of middle-aged death.
We need your help in the faith community to answer this crisis that
we’re facing.

The information shared by Senator Sasse resonates deeply with what I’ve observed in my own community as well as other communities across the U.S. We are facing a crisis of hopelessness that’s leading to some tragic results across our nation.

Early this year the Pinetops Foundation released their report entitled The Great Opportunity (http://www.pinetops.org/). Their research reveals the following information about the church in the U.S.

There are currently 340,000 congregations in the United States.
There are nearly 4,000 new congregations are planted each year in the U.S.
There are 3,700 existing congregations that close each year in the U.S.
This results in a net gain of 300 congregations each year in the U.S.
The U.S. population is expected to grow by 75 million people over the next 30 years (2050)

The need to keep pace with the increase in population and maintain church involvement at its present level requires that we increase our church planting efforts by at least 4,000 churches a year over the next 30 years.

They have identified a gap of at least 4,000 new works per year if we want to maintain our present levels of church involvement. Again, this is to simply maintain our present day levels.

I know the subject of new churches can be a controversial one at times. “Why do we need new churches when we can’t take care of the ones we’ve got?” Why don’t we revitalize the churches we have rather than start new ones that compete for our already limited resources: funds, people, staff, etc.?”

The truth of the matter is that the need in our culture is enormous. People desperately need the hope that is only found in the Good News of Jesus Christ! To carry that Good News to people, we need all kinds of work to help the church of Jesus Christ demonstrate and proclaim the Good News of the Gospel. We need existing churches revitalized and repurposed to carry out this great work. We need new congregations raised up of all kinds of shapes, sizes and expressions to meet the challenge of taking the Good News of Jesus to people who have a desperate need for His grace and mercy. It’s not about choosing one over the other, it’s about doing all we can to carry the Gospel to people whose very lives depend upon it. We need it all: new church plants, fresh expressions and other new works as well revitalized congregations, all committed to carrying out the work of the Gospel for the sake of the world and to the Glory of God.

The need is great brothers and sisters. Will we respond to this great need? This moment is our moment in history. Will we rise to the challenge before us?

Christ’s Peace,

CGGC eNews—Vol. 13, No. 23

2 thoughts on “Where Are We Now?—Part 16

  1. Wow. I can’t stop thinking about this… and the connection to poverty, racism, xenophobia, and everything else wrapped up in creating the hopelessness behind statistics like these. It’s hard not to think of it in political terms. It seems we are making america hopeless again – just like the early 1900s. Anyway, thanks for this piece, Lance. Good stuff, that should be put to good use.

  2. Dan,

    Like you, I found Lance’s summary of Ben Sasse’s address powerful.

    And, you are exactly correct. This information must be, as you say, “put to good use.”

    Nevertheless, the lesson of recent history is that the church today is a hot mess.

    It seems to me that the lesson of the last century is that the church is the problem, not the solution.

    The solution to the explosion of the sales of imported cars in the U. S. in the 1970s was not to produce more AMC Pacers. The problem actually was the AMC Pacer, and other cars like it.

    It will not be “good use” of this knowledge to plant more churches until the church changes itself.

    Truly, the culture needs Jesus. It needs the gospel…

    …it doesn’t need today’s church.

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