Are you looking for some engaging data about a church like yours and the one down the street? And, are you interested in some new hope for mainline churches like yours?
Are you and others in your church in need of a personal spiritual uplift for the beginning of another year?
Are you in need of some resources that get a handle on how you can get from here to there in a world with spiritual hunger but no place to go?
If you aren’t sure there’s anything out there like that there’s some good news for you today!
First of all…the data: Unbinding the Gospel is a book about an amazing Lilly grant study of mainline churches authored by Martha Grace Reese. It is a “good read” and more than that it offers hope for mainline churches like yours, whether big, small or medium-sized.
“Looked at as a percentage of the population, mainline church membership decreased almost 50% in 40 years. In percentage terms, in the year 2000 there were only half as many mainline Protestants as there were 40 years before.”(Unbinding the Gospel, p. 26)
“The accepted wisdom is that new churches can reach unchurched people most effectively. That lets the rest of us in all our old churches off the hook, right? Wrong! We found something wildly different. Our high adult baptism congregations ranged in age from 4 to 270 years! The median age of our high baptism congregations was 96 years old. The average age was 89 years. It is now clear: a congregation may be too stuck in its ways to do evangelism but it’s not too old!”(Unbinding the Gospel, p.31)
Secondly, Reese believes that personal spiritual revitalization precedes corporate renewal and that means that pastors and church leaders need to refresh their faith and commitment to the mission of Christ’s church. We all need to respond afresh to the “call” of our Lord to follow Him in mission to a lost and broken world so loved by Him.
“Right or wrong, we have relied on just being American to teach people about Christianity. Those days of passive absorption are ending. We now have to do more of the beginning work of educating people about the faith, or we will rob millions of people of the option of being Christian.” (Unbinding Your Heart, p.11)
As far as the resources are concerned, there are two books that go with the first one that will help you and your church get a handle on things and begin to move in the right direction again. Unbinding Your Church is a pastor’s guide that will give you the steps, the music and sermonic resources and just about everything else you need to work with your key leaders for the renewal of your church’s life and ministry to the community in which God has strategically placed you.
Another invaluable resource, Unbinding Your Heart will provide helps to engage your congregation in 40 days of prayer and faith sharing. These affordable books are all available now at your favorite bookseller or at Amazon.com. Don’t take my word for it. I’ve served four mainline congregations for 28 years and wish I had something like this “Real Life Evangelism Series” to guide us then. Just check out the books for yourself and get some additional copies for the key leaders of your church. If you are all not convinced this is something that will get the New Year started, or Lent productively programmed, or some other key time in the life of your congregation ignited, I’ll be surprised.
- Unbinding the Gospel, Martha Grace Reese, Afterword by Brian McLaren, 2007, Chalice Press
- Unbinding Your Church, Martha Grace Reese, with Dawn Darwin Weaks and Catherine Riddle Caffey, Foreword by George G. Hunter, 2008, Chalice Press
- Unbinding Your Heart, Martha Grace Reese, Foreword by George G. Hunter, III, Afterword by Brian McLaren, 2008, Chalice Press
Minister of Evangelism
Reformed Church in America