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Showing posts from April, 2013

Decline & Renewal, 24: Chris Flanders Guest Column

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Editor's note: Here’s the fifth in our series of guest columns on church renewal. A few more articles are yet to come.
The author of this column is Chris Flanders, associate professor of missions at Abilene Christian University. Chris is a native Minnesotan who spent eleven years as a missionary in Thailand. He has a PhD in Missions from Fuller Theological Seminary.

Great Hope for Renewal
So, we are in decline. That much seems certain. Many churches are experiencing numerical loss. A leader from one (former!) large church I know mentioned that his church wasn’t simply declining—it was “hemorrhaging,” going from over 1,000 active members to fewer than 200 within a decade. This is a story that I hear more and more these days. Many in this series have eloquently and wisely pointed out specific ways this is has occurringed.
Research indicates that the younger generation is increasingly “post-Christian.” (Click here for Barna article). Also, there is the rise of the “nones” (unaffiliated…

Decline & Renewal, 23: Jarrod Robinson Guest Column

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Editor's note: Here’s the fourth in our series of guest columns on church renewal. In the coming weeks, you'll read insightful articles from great thinkers and pioneer church leaders like Ben Ries, Mike Cope, Chris Flanders, Stan Granberg and more.
The author of this column on renewal is Jarrod Robinson, a native of Northern California. After preaching for several years at the Eastside Church of Christ in Antioch, California, Jarrod now preaches for the Riverside Church of Christ in Coppell, Texas. He is one of a growing number of talented, insightful, young preachers who understand what will—and what won’t—help our churches find true renewal in the identity and mission of God.

Good Reason to Hope
You don’t have to be a sociologist to know that the world around us has changed without giving us notice or asking our permission. We are living in what many are calling a postmodern world and an increasingly “post-Christian” nation. It’s not that a huge majority of people in the U.S. …

Decline & Renewal, 22: Mark Love Guest Column

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Editor's note: Here’s the third in our series of guest columns on church renewal. In the coming weeks, you'll read insightful articles from great thinkers and pioneer church leaders like Ben Ries, Mike Cope, Chris Flanders, Stan Granberg and more.

The author of this column on renewal is Mark Love, a native of the West Coast and former preacher in the Portland area. Mark currently teaches at Rochester College where he directs a Master’s degree program in missional leadership. Mark offers the following perspective on how we should deal with church decline.

Repent and Believe the Good News:  A Meditation on the News of Decline
The good news is that you haven’t suddenly become incompetent. It would be tempting to think this because you’re doing everything you know to do, better than you’ve ever done it before, with diminishing impact. The way out cannot possibly be to work harder or to do better, because you’re already doing that. The truth is, the world in which you do these things …

Decline & Renewal, 21: Jeff Childers Guest Column

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Editor's note: Here’s the second in our series of guest columns on church renewal. In the coming weeks, you'll read insightful articles from great thinkers and pioneer church leaders like Mark Love, Ben Ries, Mike Cope, Chris Flanders, Stan Granberg, John York, Jarrod Robinson and more.
The author of this column on renewal is Jeff Childers, a native of Bakersfield, California. Jeff is a biblical scholar who teaches Bible and church history at Abilene Christian University. Through his studies at Oxford University 
and in subsequent research about the ancient church, Jeff has come to important conclusions about the needs of our contemporary, Western church.
Go Big or Go Home?
"Go big or go home!" It's the American way. We like doing things big. The North American continent is massive and we have acquired a taste for big. We like big cities, big stadiums, big cars, big-budget movies, big trends. And yes—big churches. Big churches, with big buildings, big budgets, big p…

Decline & Renewal, 20: Ron Clark Guest Column

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Editor's note: Here’s the first guest column on church renewal. In the coming weeks, you'll read insightful articles from great thinkers and pioneer church leaders like Mark Love, Jeff Childers, Mike Cope, Chris Flanders, Jarrod Robinson and more.
The first article on renewal is from Ron Clark, a native of the Midwest who moved to the Pacific Northwest almost 20 years ago. Ron came to the conclusion that the best way to bring about church renewal was to relinquish his career as a minister and plant a church under the coaching of Kairos Church Planting. He now leads the Agape Church of Christ in Portland, Oregon, a church he planted six years ago with his wife Lori. Ron has been deeply engaged in the greater Portland community for years, and he has accumulated great wisdom about the kind of church renewal needed to meet the difficult needs of the West Coast.

The View from Ron Clark
“Have you thought about church planting?” Dr. Stan Granberg asked as we sat at Starbucks and shared…

Decline & Renewal, 19: Renewal Starts with Unknowing

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Editor’s Note: I’ve written this article to launch our series of guest columns on church renewal. In the coming weeks, you'll read insightful articles from brilliant thinkers and pioneering church leaders like Ron Clark, Mark Love, Jeff Childers, Mike Cope, Chris Flanders, Jarrod Robinson and more.

If you’ve followed our blog series about church decline, then you probably have a decent feel for the state of most West Coast Churches of Christ. I haven’t cherry-picked bad stories. The authors in this series aren’t a bunch of grouchy church leaders who only see the negative. We’ve given what I think is as fair a picture as one can make of a diverse topography.
We now turn our attention to church renewal. To be quite honest, it might seem premature to talk about renewal. A small number of our existing West Coast churches—probably less than ten—have maintained at least the appearance of vibrancy. An even smaller number are experiencing renewal out of the ashes of decay. Almost all, howev…

Decline & Renewal, 18: Turning to Hope

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We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. (The "first step" to recovery according to Alcoholics Anonymous)
Truth-telling is not a natural instinct. It’s not our basic human approach. Rather, we tend to hide our problems—sweep them under the carpet, pretend as if nothing ever happened. "What problems?" we ask.
This kind of collective denial can be deadly for a church. We keep trying to convince ourselves that things really aren't that bad. We fool ourselves with these kinds of thoughts:

"We just need one or two new, solid people to get us back on our feet." "If we can get a more dynamic preacher, we’ll be as good as new." "If our worship were more contemporary, these problems would go away." "We just need to grow our budget over the next five years." "Our friends and neighbors will want to come when we freshen up the property."
All these are technical approaches that fail to addre…

Decline & Renewal, 17: Tim Spivey Guest Column

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Editor's note: This is the last in our series of guest columns on church decline. Starting later this week, articles will focus on renewal.

Our twelfth and final guest column is from Tim Spivey, a native of Southern California. Tim preaches for New Vintage Church in Escondido, California. He is a Pepperdine University graduate and has his DMin from Abilene Christian University. Tim is a prolific writer. You can find his blog pos
ts at newvintageleadership.com. He has a keen eye for church health, and I think you’ll find his reflections to be helpful in our conversation about church decline.
The View from Tim Spivey

Growing up in the Churches of Christ on the West Coast in the 1980s and 1990s was a blast. Churches of Christ during that era were growing and spiritually vibrant. Those who have moved into Southern California over the last fifteen years or so may find that hard to believe, but it’s true.
In Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties there were a number of churches with …

Decline & Renewal, 16: Stan Granberg Guest Column

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Editor’s note: Here’s another in our series of guest columns on church decline. Coming articles will focus on renewal.
Our eleventh guest column (on this issue) is from Stan Granberg, the founder and director of Kairos Church Planting Ministries. Stan grew up in the Pacific Northwest. After years as a church-planter in Kenya and as a teacher in the southern US, he returned to the Northwest to find a changing landscape among Churches of Christ. In the article below, Stan describes the impact this has made on his work for the Kingdom.
The View from Stan Granberg
I grew up in the Seattle/Tacoma area. During the 1970s and 1980s our fellowship of Churches of Christ had a dynamic feel to it. Our camps were full. Youth events were frequent and dynamic. The Great Northwest Evangelism Workshop was drawing 2,000 or so participants. We had no megachurches but the incoming people outnumbered the outgoing and our church life seemed good. 

When I returned to Portland, Oregon to teach at Cascade Colleg…

Decline & Renewal, 15: Rick Gibson Guest Column

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Editor's note: Here’s another in our series of guest columns on church decline. We’re about the shift to articles on renewal, but I still have a couple more that help us think about decline.
Our tenth guest column is from Rick Gibson, a native of Bakersfield, California. Rick worked with Jeff Walling at the Mission Viejo Church of Christ in Orange County, where he ministered for 11 years. He is now
the Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President for Public Affairs and Church Relations at Pepperdine University. As CMO, Rick leads Pepperdine’s efforts to elevate the brand and reputation of the University. Rick brings his carefully honed vision for “image” and “branding” to the struggles of our West Coast churches.
The View from Rick Gibson
10 Things Apple Knows that Churches Forgot
I recently read an article that outlined the various views of the major Christian churches in America. The web-based article contained a cleverly animated info graphic. Click on a particular denomination and …