By Jim Tune
As a pastor and leader, I’ve noticed some changes in the spiritual climate of North America. Here are some of my observations about the current situation.
1. There’s very little nominalism anymore. This is a good thing. Cultural Christianity is dying. If someone attends church, it’s usually because he or she is investigating Christianity or committed to it.
2. Attending church isn’t on people’s minds. We used to talk about building churches with programs that would attract unbelievers. No matter how good your music, sermons, parking, or programs, most people won’t even think of coming.
3. People are open. Although there’s some hostility to Christianity, many people are surprisingly open. There are more atheists around, but there are still plenty of people who believe in God and the reality of the spiritual world. They’re a little suspicious of churches, but they’re not closed.
4. Most people haven’t rejected the gospel. They have never heard the gospel. When they hear it, it’s completely different than they imagined.
5. Younger people like to be challenged. They don’t expect us to change the Bible to make it more palatable. They want the straight goods. They’re comfortable with hard truths.
6. Also, young people don’t need “cool.” They need “real.” They are hungry for churches that are honest about life and are ready to love them. This is much more effective than trying to be cool.
7. Churches need to deal with tough topics in a winsome way. Avoiding tough topics, or preaching to the already convinced, just won’t cut it.
8. Regular church attendance isn’t what it used to be. People used to attend church two or three times a week. Many regular attendees now go to church once or twice a month.
9. Big churches are getting bigger, and small churches are holding their own. Both big and small churches are effective in their own ways.
10. A church website is more important than ever. It’s rare to find someone who goes to a church for the first time who hasn’t already gone to the website. Online reviews matter too.
11. Church planting is more common than it used to be, but it’s still a tough slog. Church planters are doing great work and reaching people that existing churches aren’t reaching. Just don’t expect it to be easy.
12. It’s hard to change a dying church. It’s possible, but it’s rare. Many churches want to grow but they don’t want to change, and they don’t realize how much trouble they’re in.
13. The naysayers are wrong. For every church that’s dying, there’s one that’s healthy and growing. The reports of the death of Christianity in North America have been greatly exaggerated.
14. This is an exciting time to be a Christian. The opportunities and the challenges are endless. God seems to work powerfully in tumultuous times, which makes it a great time to be part of the church.