CB101180

Some argue that the total membership within Churches of Christ in the United States is declining. With no denominational structure to keep the data it is very difficult to say for certain; however, Mac Lynn keeps good records on us and he says, “The numbers are so close, that it is almost too close to call. I think we’re at least safe in saying that the numbers are plateaued.” (Christian Chronicle, June 3, 2002). Whether we’re declining or at a plateau may be debatable; what is crystal clear is that we are no longer growing.

Between 1945 and 1965 the number of congregations of Churches of Christ in the United States nearly doubled. Between 1965 and 1990 our growth slowed considerably. Since 1990 we have experienced the plateau that Lynn talks about.

In the 1980’s the Southern Baptist Convention set a goal of planting 3 new congregations per day worldwide during the decade of the 90’s. They completely revamped their missions approach and set to work. At the end of the decade they discovered that they had actually planted 5 new congregations per day for a total of some 18,000 new congregations worldwide. An estimate for Churches of Christ during that same period reveals that we planted 300 new congregations in the United States with 2 out of every 3 of those being the result of church splits rather than a design for intentionally planting new churches.

Theories abound as to why we have stopped growing. Mine is that we have lost our sense of identity. We no longer attack the denominations because we don’t want the terrible reputation and un-Christ-like disposition that goes along with that. But, we’ve also stopped presenting the distinctive nature of the church to the world. And, we’ve raised up an entire generation that does not know how to make disciples of Jesus Christ (or even think that it’s an integral part of faithful discipleship).

I pray that this generation can recapture the zeal for presenting Christ to a dying world without resurrecting the mean-spirited attitude that came with attacking denominational Christianity. As a fellowship, our survival is at stake.

More important, the lives of human beings are at stake.

Advertisements