A Call to Community
A few weeks back I participated in a discussion about the recent Gallup data regarding church membership with a journalist from the National Desk in Washington, D.C. As a result of that interview, I’ve had a handful of other opportunities to reflect on how church leaders and Christians in general can respond. I’m sitting in my office now preparing to go on Moody Radio in South Florida to continue the conversation.
I’m not a pastor or an elder of a local church, so I don’t pretend to have the kind of insights someone might have who is facing these issues every single day. But I do think there are some general values we can consider in light of the announcement that church membership has, for the first time since Gallup starting asking about church membership in 1937, has dropped to a minority of Americans who identify as members of a church, synagogue, or mosque.
This is an important time for church leaders to reflect on what the Bible says about the local church. What does the New Testament describe as core priorities for a faith community? How is the church necessary for the Christian life? What covenant commitments should churches expect of their members?
We live in an isolated time in which people really are craving community. This is clearly seen in about any news piece unpacking the pandemic. But I don’t think this is new. In her book The Gospel Comes With a Housekey, Rosaria Butterfield reminds Christians of the need to prioritize hospitality in order to reach our neighbors, to have meaningful ministry to other believers, and to nurture the kind of healthy growth in our own lives.
It’s time to get back to basics. In light of secularizing trends in North America, the church is growing around the world. According to Pew research, the number of Christians in China will outnumber the number of Christians in America by the year 2060. Why is it that Christianity is growing rapidly in Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, while it is in decline here?
With all of our trappings, conferences, books, resources, et cetera, we aren’t seeing the scope of gospel transformation in America as elsewhere in the world. Let’s get back to belonging, believing, and the biblical basics of community and care. The new study reminds us, particularly in light of the global picture of God’s work in the world, that our power is found in the gospel and nowhere else.