I have just started to read a new book by Thom and Sam Rainer. The title of the book is Essential Church? and even after only reading the introduction, I am already convinced this is going to be a book that I will want to think through carefully.
In the introduction to Essential Church?, the authors point out that many of those who attend church in the U.S. drop out between age 18 and 22. In fact, 70% of those in this age range will drop out. Here are how some dropout percentages look by age category:
Between 15 and 16: +1%
Between 16 and 17: -15%
Between 17 and 18: -24%
Between 18 and 19: -29%
Between 19 and 20: -5%
So, according to the authors, churches typically pick up a few attenders in the 15 to 16 age group, but after age 16 there is a mass exodus. By the time this group reaches age 21, most of them have already left.
Why are they leaving? The authors say it is because we have failed to make church an essential part of people’s lives.
How do you know if your church is on a path to becoming non-essential? Here are seven warning signs:
- Doctrine Dilution – Watering down Scripture to cater to a younger generation only works for a short time. They eventually learn what the Bible really says and this approach stings worse in the long run.
- Loss of Evangelistic Passion – Dying churches stop speaking of Christ to a lost world.
- Failure to Be Relevant – “Churches that keep their internal culture unchanged for 50 years while the world around them goes through continual periods of metamorphosis typically die with that old culture.”
- Few Outwardly Focused Ministries– “…,dying churches gorge themselves on closed Bible studies and churchwide fellowship events while neglecting outreach in the community.”
- Conflict Over Personal Preferences– “When the church focuses on trivial matters, the greater gospel message is left on the sidelines.”
- The Priority of Comfort – “…’the way we’ve always done it’ will not pass muster if the American church is to thrive. Churches that flourish get outside comfort zones and reach into areas that are uncharted for them.”
- Biblical Illiteracy – a neglect of theological teaching.
As I stated, I just started reading this book, but I am already evaluating the ministries of my church. I have to admit we fail in many of these areas. How about you? Is your church essential to your life? How is it doing in each of the areas listed above?
I will be posting more on this book as I get further into it.