The reports can be discouraging. The statistics can be demoralizing. The trends can be disheartening.

Year after year we hear about the dismal state of American congregations. We hear that the number of members connected to churches is down. We hear about declining conversion rates. We hear about change-resistant churches and discouraged pastors, staff, and laity.

And the bad news is not made up. It’s reality. The overall macro-trends in churches in America are simply not that great.

Looking for Hope

What seems to be missing, however, in most of our reports of reality, is a message of hope. Though the situation may seem bleak, we serve the one true God who always gives hope. Local churches may be down and discouraged at times, but God is not done with His Church.

I am an obnoxious optimist about American churches. I do not have my head in the sand, and I am not ignoring the dismal reports. Indeed, I have authored some of those reports. But, in the final analysis, I believe that most of our churches have a great future with great possibilities.

The Reason for Hope

My hope first and foremost resides in our Lord Jesus Christ. And He is the reason I believe that the churches will prevail with great hope.

And almost every day I hear from a church leader or a church member who tells me something exciting about his or her church. I hear those stories. And I hear great hope. Listening to the stories reminds that God is still doing great works in so many of our churches. And I am instilled with hope and encouragement.

Listening to Your Story

I want to abbreviate this blog even more than usual. I am hoping that most of this blog will be completed with readers’ comments. I respectfully request you share some story of hope in your church. Let us know what great things are taking place. Share with us some stories that will remind us that God is still working in our churches.

Here are some questions to get the discussion started:

· What effective community ministries are taking place in your church?

· What are some examples of answered prayer in your church?

· How is your church reaching people with the gospel?

· How has your congregation become a part of reaching the nations for Christ?

· What is a recent story of someone who became a Christian through a ministry in your church?

· How are members in your church becoming more effective disciples?

· How are members in your church spending time in the Word?

· Do you have a brief story of someone whose life has recently been transformed by the gospel?

· What is your church doing to minister to widows or orphans?

· How are your church members demonstrating the love of Christ in your community and beyond?

· What are some examples of gospel unity in your church?

· What exciting prayer ministries are taking place in your church?

· How have families been impacted positively by the ministry of your church?

The list is obviously not exhaustive. The questions are merely starters for discussion. There could be countless other examples.

Please share with us some great things God is doing in your church. Let us hear your story and be both motivated and encouraged.

Let us hear your stories of hope.

What’s God doing in your church?

 

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Comments

  1. Angela Noel says

    Wanted to upload a video but don’t know how! We had Winshape C3 Camp at our church last week (08.01-05). 185 children attended, there were over 50 decisions!!!! All of them were not salvation, many were to deepen their faith and discipline. Winshape is the philanthropic arm of Chick-Fil-A. These are day camps put on all over the country with 25 staff per camp from Winshape. It is an outgrowth of their resident camps in Berry, GA.
    My church is Faithbridge Church, 13720 McCormick Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32204. We partnered with 4 other churches in our neighborhood to sponsor the camp.

  2. Mike Parker says

    God has been doing great things at Hurt Road Baptist Church in Smyrna, GA! I have been the Pastor here for just one year, but it is amazing how far this church has come in that span of time. Here is just one of the many stories of God’s faithfulness, and movement, within this great church. Upon my arrival here I met a young mother with two children who had recently joined the church. After I had been here a couple of months she came to me to ask me to join her in prayer for her husband. She told me that he was angry and confused because he has lost a brother who was a great man, and he could not understand why God had chosen to take him. I began to pray for Shaun. Earlier this year I had the privilege of leading both of this woman’s children to Christ and baptising them. Shaun came to both of the children’s baptisms and heard the message of the Gospel. Shortly after that she approached me and told me that Shaun had some questions and asked to set up a meeting. I told her that I would be glad to meet with her and her husband. Sadly, two days later she called and cancelled. She said that Shaun wasn’t ready. I told her that I would continue to pray for him. About a month ago I received a text message from a number I didn’t recognize asking if I would be willing to meet. After an exchange of text messages I found out that it was Shaun contacting me! We arranged to meet at a local coffee shop and after a lengthy discussion about who God is, and how God feels about Shaun, he asked Christ into his heart and life! Shaun turned from anger and confusion to the One who calms every storm! I baptised Shaun two weeks ago! God is at work!

  3. Micah Carter says

    My name is Micah Carter and I serve as director of communications at LifeWay. We are experiencing some technical problems with our server that is hindering the posting of comments and Dr. Rainer’s response.
    We ARE receiving your comments and they are great. Please keep them coming! It is a joy to hear what the Lord is doing!
    We are working to fix this problem and will have your comments posted as soon as possible. Thanks!

  4. Barry Ballard says

    Two young couples started a group for young families in our small church not long ago. The group meets for meals and encourages parents to bring their children along so that they can develop friendships and peer groups may be formed under the umbrella of the church. From time to time, the group holds fund raisers or provides some service to the church or needy people in the area (including home repairs and maintenance for people who could not otherwise afford it). The service aspect of the group seems to keep the men interested. Many of the young families have not only found friendships within the group, they have come to Sunday School and worship, too. From this group, our church (of about 180 members) has baptized a dozen people from May through August. These young families have grown in their faith, been blessed by God, and have been a blessing to our church. We are very grateful to God for the spiritual and numerical growth.

  5. DennisS says

    Children. Our small, rural congregation is being entrusted with children. A couple weeks ago there were 51 in attendance, and 15 of those were children (middle school or younger). I was told there were even more children this past week, with total attendance of 60 (good for summer months in a rural area). At Christmas and Easter, when attendance swells to 120 or more, children are 20-25% of the attendance.
    There is a children’s message up front each week, following the passing of the peace. It is often interactive, and you never know what the kids are going to say. Following this, the younger ones (2nd grade or younger) go to a classroom to continue learning more on their level.
    When the children are in 3rd grade, they receive a Bible, and the congregation gives them a full scholarship to Summer Camp. We do this for all the children, even marginally associated with the congregation, all the way through high school. Some have sports programs or other camps to attend so don’t go to Summer Camp. Even then, we have sent 14 or more kids the last couple years to camp. Paying the way for camp began fairly small, with about 4 kids, and pastor going with them to camp. Those in 3rd and 4th grade are taken to camp by pastor. As they get older they take the camp bus.
    The kids participate in the fund-raisers for camp (a couple of meals), serving food, cleaning up, and even forming their own band to play some live music. Even those not old enough for camp are there to help.
    Pastor volunteers in a 4th grade class room, and gets to know a good percentage of the children in town this way. People who work in retail, or nursing, etc work with the children each week – showing loving care for each child. There is VBS each year, but it is an effort of several congregations together.
    This congregation has been bucking the statistical trends for over six years now. Attendance, membership, and giving have been stable to gradually climbing – in a rural community which continues to lose population and jobs.
    We don’t get many visitors, but when we do, they generally come back. They are welcomed by the congregation in various ways, but not asked to stand up or sign a register pad. They see how people treat one another, including the children.
    When there are new people joining, it gives opportunity for fresh faces in the activities and work of the church – which is an encouragement to all. This leads to fresh ideas, as newer folks take leadership roles.
    This isn’t a large church, and the numbers aren’t large, but the continuing trend towards becoming stronger and healthier as a congregation is encouraging.
    I think that many leaders (in small to medium-size congregations) expect decline and they get what they expect. They don’t put forth the energy, imagination and love, but go about the dreary tasks of decline and damage control. There are efforts to try something that worked somewhere else, but these programs generally fail for lack of real vision and heart and connection throughout the church.
    We need true commitment from pastoral leadership – love that lasts and seeks the best – in word and deed.
    Small group Bible studies have formed. There are more and more weddings in the church in the past couple years. The congregation is becoming known for generosity. People are involved in the community. The church is becoming a meeting place for non-profit groups, as well as other groups – often with no fee. A group of quilters (mostly members, meeting in the church almost daily) has made over 100 prayer quilts in the past few years for those in the community with cancer or other concerns. All this in a mainline (Presbyterian) congregation.
    There has been no official policy or intentional effort to bring children to the church – they have simply come, and found welcome. And this means also that parents or grandparents have come and found hospitality and hope as well.

  6. Gena says

    Our church started a Celebrate Recovery ministry about 18 months ago. As a member of the leadership team and active part of the ministry I get to witness healing, renewed hope, and true life change week after week. No more masks, no more fear of rejection, no more playing church, no more secrets, no more lies. People are able to be real and honest about who they are, what they have done, and what has been done to them. They aren’t met with judgment or condemnation or fear. They are met with love, acceptance, and support. It’s what the church is really supposed to be. And I’m seeing this spirit permeate every corner of our church. It’s become a safe place. A place where people can come as they are and know that’s exactly where they will be met.

  7. says

    My husband and I have been members of ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America) for years. Two years ago we left a failing church that had turned inward and created a lot of pain, choosing instead a lively and vibrant church filled with the Holy SPirit. For the first time in a long time it felt good to go to church.
    Recently, the seeds of discord that had been sown a year or so before we appeared on the scene have begun to sprout and fill the congregation with bitterness and despair. Part of the problem stems from the gradual shift from the basic teachings of the Bible, most recently the subject of homosexuality and the Synod ruling that we must allow gay and lesbian clergy to lead churches.
    A movement is now under way that I am sure will split the Lutheran churches in the way that the Episcopal churches have split. We are now attending a church with a small but growing congregation in a movement that has named itself Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ. Only eleven years old, this movement is growing, with full congreagations throughout the United States. The conservative area of Colorado Springs has gained over 1,000 members in one LCMC congregation.
    We miss our previous congregation and the friends we made there, and it has been painful to witness the joy of Christ turning to a tool of Satan. Both the pastors have resigned and the congregation continues to dwindle.

  8. Bill Prater says

    My wife and I just finished 30 years of ministry at Fellowship Baptist Church in Liberal, KS where I was saved as a “bus kid” back in 1976.
    The Lord has given our church a wonderful ministry to the members of the Liberal Police Department. Just recently, I was able to lead our Chief to the Lord on a Monday night during a revival. This past Thursday night (8-11-11) my wife and I were able to lead the fiancee of our K-9 officer to the Lord. He got saved in my office about a year ago. Over the course of the past couple years we’ve had dispatchers, records clerks, patrol officers, and members of the command staff come to Christ.
    Law enforcement members are some of the toughest people I’ve ever tried to minister to, but I’ve learned that being a “friend of sinners” and earning trust is the key.

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