West Virginia needs churches that send. By “send”, I mean we need churches that functions as hubs for training people up, and sending them out to reach the people of our state with the Gospel.
Recently, I was reading through J.D. Greear’s excellent book Gaining By Losing, and I came across some quotes and statistics that he shared about what it’s like living in the Post-Christian West. He wrote:
“Our world in the West is changing. The number of people checking ‘none’ for religious affiliation on censuses increases at an astonishing rate each year. ‘Nones’, as they are called, do not casually make their way into churches – for any reason. We have to think of them as we would people of a completely different religion. I lived in a Muslim country for several years, and I was friends with dozens of people who went to the mosque weekly. At no point did I consider going with them. I wouldn’t have gone for a special holiday. I wouldn’t have gone if I were facing hard times. I wouldn’t have gone if the imam were doing a really helpful series on relationships or if he told really funny stories that helped me see how Allah was relevant to my life. I wouldn’t have gone had they added percussion and a kickin’ electric guitar to the prayer chants. Islam was a completely foreign world, and one in which I knew I clearly didn’t belong. So I didn’t go. . . A British friend of mine, Steve Timmis cites a recent study in Great Britain in which 70 percent of Brits declare that they have no intention of ever attending a church service for any reason. Not at Easter. Not for marriages. Not for funerals or Christmas Eve services. For more than two-thirds of the people in Great Britain, nothing will carry them naturally into a church. In light of this, Steve comments:
That means new styles of worship will not reach them. Fresh expressions of church will not reach them. Alpha and Christianity explored courses will not reach them. Great first impressions will not reach them. Churches meeting in pubs will not reach them . . . . The vast majority of un-churched and de-churched people would not turn to church, even if faced with difficult personal circumstances or in the event of national tragedies. It is not a question of ‘improving the product’ of church meetings and evangelistic events. It means reaching people apart from meetings and events.“
This is true about West Virginia as well. There is no amount of so-called “product improvement” that we can do that will get un-churched and de-churched people into our churches. The way that we’re packaging and re-packaging the product simply does not matter to them, because most people feel that they’re never going to need the “product” we’re selling to begin with. Statistics testify to this truth.
In Logan County, West Virginia, there are multiple churches in the city of Logan that are using attractical church models. They have worship bands, preach from modern translations of the Bible, and have beautiful buildings to hold meetings in. What’s interesting is 28,374 people out of the 36,743 people in Logan County are still un-churched.
In Boone County, West Virginia, the spiritual climate is very similar. There are several churches in the communities of Seth, Danville, and Madison using the same attractional church model, and 18,870 people out of the 24,629 people in Boone County are still unchurched.
Now, I’m not knocking the attractional church. I’m not an attractional vs missional guy. I think it’s necessary to speak the language of the culture that we live in. Paul did the same thing at the Aeropagus when he quoted Pagan philosophers and poets when doing apologetics with the Greeks, but I also recognize that the last thing that’s going to change the spiritual landscape in West Virginia are churches with drum kits, slammin’ Easter services, and preaching from the English Standard Version.
We need to be able to speak the language of our culture, and we must build churches that send. These people are never going to come to us, so that means that we must go to them. As Steve Timmis stated, we must reach people outside of our services and events. Let us remember that our God is a sending God. He sent Christ into the world to save us. After His resurrection, Jesus said to His disciples, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). To follow Jesus is to be sent.
Jesus’ commands every disciple to “go” (Matt. 28:19). This means that if we are not “going”, we are not disciples, and if the people in our churches are not “going”, we are not doing our jobs. As leaders, our job is not to gather people, amaze them, and collect their funds. Our jobs is to help them discover that God has called them to go and make disciples, and to equip them for this work.