Monday Morning Insights

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    How do we get young people to come to church?

    How do we get young people to come to church?

    "To get the young people to come, you almost have to cooperate with their tastes."  That's the quote from 92 year old Ethel Sprague.  Ethel joined First Baptist Church of Stevens Point in 1937.  She's been attending ever since...

    An article in the Stevens Point Journal gives us the story.

    Ethel says "You can't imagine what it was like years and years ago. We had the church jammed full of people in the balcony, in the gym -- young people, college-aged kids, young families. It was really hopping... It has gone downhill tremendously in the last few years. We've lost a lot of the congregation to other churches and because of death and a lot of families are moving."

    In fact, the once thriving First Baptist Church of Stevens Point is now down to 25 people.

    Enter Kelly Knauss, the new pastor at FBC.  His goal:  to restart the church and watch it emerge as a viable church that once again reaches the Stevens Point community.  He knows he only has 18-24 months to do this, or the church will be shut down.

    How many times could this story be written about churches in America?  Once thriving churches that are dying (literally).

    Ethel's quote caught my eye:  "It's not the old-fashioned church service that we knew as older people with the organ and the get the young people to come, you almost have to cooperate with their tastes."

    After attending FBC for more than 73 years, Ethel wants one thing:  for FBC to be effective and to reach people.  Her conclusion:  things have to change.  She's come to the realization that the organ and choir are not the best ways to reach people (or to keep FBC alive).  Even though that would be her preference, she's faced reality that the gospel is more important than her own style preference.

    Notice that she said that the tastes of the church need to change; not the message or doctrine have to change.

    Ethel is a very wise lady.  I hope she gets what she is hoping for:  a church that is vibrant and once again reaching her community.  A church that is 'hopping'.  And I hope that God will give her a few more years so that she can see that dream become a reality.

    Because... I'm guessing... there is NOTHING that would make Ethel happier.  A couple hundred people who know Jesus, even if there's no choir or organ.

    Take a moment and pray for Ethel today; and for Pastor Knauss and FBC Stevens Point.  They can use our prayers...




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    1. Lee on Mon, September 27, 2010

      Art, I have to respectfully disagree with you.  Right now on my kitchen table is today’s mail with one of the latest advertisements from a very high profile religious center in our town (they don’t use the word church so I guess it is OK for me not to do so).  In one of the ad, I am invited to “get in the game!” so I can be “playing to win in the game of life!”  Sounds like a theology of glory to me and not the cross.  The sermon series is “Get in the Game”, “Play Like a Champion”, “Go Team” and “Stay in the Game.”  I will give the ad credit in that it does say (on the back) that “winning” is dependent upon a “successful” relationship with Jesus Christ; of course, being a fallen humanity, it is impossible for us to have a successful relationship with God without the grace of Jesus Christ and his work on the cross, which totally negates this theology of glory. 

      True, I have not heard any of these sermons, but I have heard (and have been forced to do on internship) plenty of similar ones.  I had to do a NASCAR themed sermon and somehow fit the Gospel text of the day into it. 

      I do not mean to be confrontational or crass, but it is becoming clearer and clearer to me that Christianity is once again facing a huge schism on par with the Reformation and the prior split between the Eastern / Western Church.  We are beginning to not even talk the same language anymore when it comes to what is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

      So, again, Art, I respectfully disagree: whether or not the Gospel is being preached is a HUGE issue and the answer too often is, “No.”

    2. CS on Mon, September 27, 2010


      “I must say, �In none of them is preaching Christ an issue.�  But being relevant to the culture of their community almost always is.”

      You’ve echoed the biggest injustice to the Gospel that we see in modern American Christianity.  Christ already is relevant to the culture and community.  The message of the forgiveness of sins doesn’t have to be made any more relevant.


    3. Jan on Mon, September 27, 2010

      Christianity isn’t irrelevant, neither is the gospel.  But Christians and the church are a lot of the time.

      We dont’ see much ministry happen IN the church building. It’s 99% of the time outside those walls.  Mostly the Christians complain and whine about what pleases them or displeases them while that watch others do the real work of ministry with people they don’t want to love or even care whether or not they come to know Christ or not.

      In our community my husband (the pastor) is the only Bible believing pastor that will conduct a funeral for someone outside of our church.  If he cannot do it, then a Buddist or a wacko new ager is the only other option.

      In the last two weeks he did two funerals with over 500 people who attended.  Most of them were unchurched.

      Unfortunately, it’s not just church members. It’s ministry people too. We like our comforts.  We don’t want to change.  We want to maintain what we do.  And unfortunately, if it means we might have to get out and actually meet people where they are and be real and relevant, a good majority of Christians and their leaders couldn’t care less.

    4. Peter Hamm on Mon, September 27, 2010

      CS (and some others),

      Pardon me, but it seems to me that you SO don’t get it.

      Nobody said Christ was irrelevant.

      Relevance is not just “in the message” but also in the way that you present it.

      If I walk into a Greek Orthodox Church, and they are conducting their entire service in Greek (some do still do this), then that message is irrelevant TO ME, because I don’t speak.

      The same can be said, many of us believe, for the stylistic “language” you use. Some folks don’t get hymns at all. Some find them nothing but a reminder of an abusive church situation. Shall I force them to sing hymns? Guess what, they’ll just leave…

      I wonder if folks who lump all “relevant churches” together in these kinds of threads and criticize them as a group (as if we’re some organized movement or something… which we’re not…) would be as quick to criticize a church who is very traditional, with hymns and verse-by-verse exegetical preaching and solid “correct” reformed theology… but who makes no difference in their community, makes no new disciples, only feeds the old guard in their building…

      I think not…

    5. Thomas on Wed, September 29, 2010

      This is encouraging, One year ago last week I became the Sr. Pastor of an Assemblies of God church that is 55 years old. In it’s glory days it averaged 200+ people on a Sunday morning in a community of less than 10,000. Sounds nice huh, Well In our first service there were 5 people not counting my wife and son. For many reason’s that don’t really matter at this time the church suffered a major blow and was standing on it’s last leg or maybe toe.

      The District was only a few weeks away from closing it’s doors and locking it up which is happening more and more everyday (sad I know) Our new congregation was made up of 1 elderly lady who had been there since the 60’s she is great. 1 guy in his 40’s who was raised in the church and loved it too much to see it die (completely) Another guy in his 50’s who came to play guitara and sing… at least he was playing some Chris Tomlin songs. and another couple in thier 30’s. OK not exactley the ideal first time pastorate by some standards but I always enjoyed seeing God do miracles and I believe He did.

      3 months after being there we seen some minimal growth, really it was former members coming back to see this young kid trying to preach. They didn’t stay. LOL

      In December I gathered everyone together and suggested we treat this as a church plant and give the church a new name and a new idenity.

      At the first of the year we began planning an Easter Sunday launch for the New Church in town. We became Missional focused in everyting we did from our new name to how we advertised.

      We sold an old delapidated parsonage and used that money for new paint, carpet, sound, lights and equiptment.

      When Easter Sunday rolled around we had over 80 people that were there for the first time and many gave their lives to Christ.

      Apart from God I must contribute alot of what has happened to that lil Elderly lady that had been there for 50 years. With every new wild and crazy idea this 30 year old pastor came up with she always responded by saying “OH MY… Well as long as it reaches these young people and the gospel is not compromised.” Today we have a full blown Worship Band that is concert loud with a light system that rivals most rock shows. But at the end of the day it’s all about Loving People and not losing Hope on God’s plan for a church… to save souls.

      Thank God for open minded old folks huh they are a blessing!
      Hope this encouraged someone.

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    7. Kathleen McDade on Sat, October 23, 2010

      I think there’s no one model that fits every church! There are many churches that reach more people by using a more contemporary presentation of the gospel. There are others that thrive on tradition. Neither is intrinsically right or wrong. In either case, if you’re not reaching people for Christ, you might need to change things up. And if what you’re doing is working, keep doing it!

      And I agree with Josh that it’s not just what happens INSIDE the church that matters.

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