By Not Known
Thom Rainer is a realist observer, who analyses churches in the US with great insights. He wrote recently about churches still living in the 80s which I found to be so true to our situation as well.
He said, “Nine out of 10 churches in America are either declining or they are growing so slowly they are not keeping up with the growth rate of the community in which they are located.” Is this also true of ORPC or of churches here in general?
Churches are trying to shelter themselves from culture. In the 80s, congregations were typically part of the mainstream culture. They were accepted in most places. Today many in society have found churches to be irrelevant and out-dated. Yet, many church members still use their churches as a getaway from the realities they don’t want to face. Do our transformed lives bring meaning to a broken world? Do our values still speak relevantly in a secular society?
Programmes were easy answers. The majority of churches in the 80s were programme-driven. If there was a perceived need, they would get together and plan and organise programmes that best solved that need. Many churches today still think they can get quick fixes from them. Perhaps, we may do a quick count at ORPC on how many programmes we have and how we depend on them to live out our Gospel-centred lives. Are they still meeting needs?
In the 80s, churches largely catered to the needs of their members. We thus created a culture of membership that is me-driven. Many do not want to make the sacrifices needed to reach our communities and culture. They are demanding their own needs and preferences to be their priorities. One church member told me recently, “If lost people want to come to our church, they know where we are. They can join our programmes.”
In fact, evangelism, like in the 80s, was ‘outsourced’. Evangelism was the responsibility of the pastors or the para-church groups or a few people in a programme. Church members relied on others to do the work they were supposed to do. Some today are more concerned about their worship style preference than lost people who need to hear the gospel.
As we take a closer look at our church’s ministries and stewardship next weekend, we have to once again not just look at numbers for their own sake but rather numbers from another perspective: How many of us are doing Gospel-centred ministry and are involved in building a Kingdom-minded church for our Lord?
My biggest concerns are that churches are lost in the rapid changing world and become irrelevant because we do not understand what it really means to be anchored in the Rock but geared to the times (a YFC slogan in the 80s itself).
What would we become in ten years’ time? Will we still be relevant with the Gospel? Will we still be faithful in bringing lost souls to the Kingdom of God? Will we still be a lighthouse as we have been called, or just a beautiful white building at the corner of Orchard Road?