I read the results of a national survey that really set me off. The Barna Institute conducted an inquiry among 40,000 people across America, over the last 7 years. The goal was to determine the number of people in various cities that are involved in a local Christian church. You can read the results here.
This is what I learned: Of the 85 largest cities in the US, our city, West Palm Beach, is the 12th most unchurched city in the country! We have around 37% of our residents who go to church. That’s 63% non-church attenders. With a conservative population estimate at 352,618 (people who use “West Palm Beach” as their mailing address – if you live here, you know it is MUCH larger than that!), that’s 222,149 who are not going to church. These people are within a 15 minute drive of one of our two locations. But they are not coming.
I am on fire about this!
While I do not believe a person has to go to church to go to heaven, I do believe that we cannot be an obedient Christ-follower without being a part of a local church. What this means to me: we are right in the middle of a mission field! And we need to start acting like it! We have to do whatever it takes to reach people. We’ve got to increase our level of passion. We’ve got to stop focusing on ourselves and start reaching out – whatever it takes!
Within the past few weeks, I have heard these statements from “churched” people:
“I like a smaller church”.
“There is no need to start more churches, there are plenty around already.”
“We don’t need to go to additional locations, let the people come to us.”
I can’t think of any attitude that is farther from the heart of God. In essence, we are saying, ”those unchurched people can just go to hell”.
Without blowing a gasket here, I am more determined than ever to build the church. We have to reach some of these people. Thinking in terms of bite-sized chunks, in order to change these stats by only one percent, we will need to reach 350 new people. Let’s break it down even further: if every adult in our church would be responsible for leading one person to Christ and to our church, we would bump from 37% to 38% of the people in our area going to church. How cool is that?
That’s a place to start, huh?