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Challenging Days

Challenges require faith, hope, commitment, and tremendous levels of courageous faith.  If these qualities are brought to the table, challenges can be met and overcome.  That’s where we are in the Western church right now, and Patterson Avenue Baptist is NO EXCEPTION.

Here are the sobering facts:

In 2010 – only 16.5% of our nation is “Churched”
In 2010 – only 20% of Richmond is “Churched.”
Since 1990 church attendance in the USA is stagnant
There are 95 million unchurched people in the USA
½ of all churches have no baptisms annually
Only 1% of USA churches grow by conversion
6 American churches close every day
In the BGAV there is a 6.6% decline in attendance
In the BGAV there is a 23.9% decrease in baptisms
In the BGAV we have one convert per 42 members

In the Richmond Baptist Association the statistic are not any better.  Since established in 1951 (sixty years ago) consider the following.

1951? 1,000 RBA Baptisms; Last year 659.
1951?28,000 in Sunday Schools; 4,451 today.
1951?6,300 in VBS; 3,700 last summer.
1951?7,000 in the Women’s Missionary Union; 3,100 now.

One more bit of information.  We now have, in Richmond, twice the number of Baptist churches, but only 8000 more Baptists.

Other Christian traditions are not doing any better, by the way.  The challenges abound all over the western world – all over the church.

We have not been immune at PABC.  Last year (and the year prior) we have positive growth.  Thus far in 2011, the numerical growth has been negative.  People have moved away, died, become homebound, or become inactive for one reason or another.

This impacts our finances (we will likely finish the year well shy of expenses).  This impacts our morale.  This impacts attendance.  This impacts our witness.  If we are not careful, everything can begin to slide.

The biggest part of the challenge, however, does well beyond the stats in our church (or the majority of other churches who are in similar straits).  The biggest part of the problem is that we will aim towards a “churchy” or “institutional” solution to a theological/spiritual challenge.

Make no mistakes about it: this is a theological challenge.  The answer will not be found in tightening our belt (yes, that will have to be done).  The real solution, however, is not tightening the belt, but ADVANCING GOD’S KINGDOM.

The crisis is that a full 80% of our city (a % increasing yearly) has not been connected to the Gospel message that God Almighty has come near to them in Jesus, offering life, hope, and a future).

We need to connect more – and connect better.  That’s going to require that we do some NEW THINGS.

In broad outline, here’s the way forward:

We must realize that God is the source of our life and future ministry.  (We are not God’s future in the world.  God will always find a way!)

As we find our life in God, we need to allow God’s Spirit to led us into new avenues of becoming a blessing to our community.  By being a blessing, we can build relationships.  By entering relationships, we can provide witness.

We must build relationship with people where they are – not where we are!  The culture without Christ is different than what we know in the security of the church building.  We are going to have to set aside “churchy culture” and enter the communities where we live, work, go to school, etc. and make connections with people much different than we are.

All of this is going to call forth from us…

The Setting Aside of Pettiness
Imaginative and BOLD faith initiatives
Developing A Missionary Mindset
Expressing an openness to change
Finding LIFE in Christ (not numbers on Sunday)
Growth in Giving – to fund ministry/blessings

As we approach 2012, I encourage you to accept the challenge, get involved in Kingdom work, and give of your whole selves in that effort.

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