Issues and Answers

The American Church Crisis

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: Shelley Quinn (Host), Julie Norton, Ken Norton


Series Code: IAA

Program Code: IAA000338

00:30 Hello, I am Shelley Quinn
00:31 and welcome again to Issues and Answers.
00:34 We are so glad that you're tuning in
00:36 no matter where you are around the world.
00:38 And thank you, for this opportunity
00:40 to come into your home.
00:42 We have a very interesting program today.
00:43 We are gonna be talking about the crisis in the church.
00:47 And I wanted to begin this with a little passage
00:51 that comes from Matthew 24.
00:52 This is the book that is known as the little apocalyptic.
00:56 And Jesus is telling His disciples
00:59 signs of His coming.
01:01 In verse 6, He says, you'll hear wars, rumors of wars.
01:05 You're gonna see people that are frighten but the end is not yet.
01:09 verse 7, He's talking about how nation will rise against nation
01:12 and kingdom against kingdom, famines, earthquakes,
01:16 like the one that we've seen in China and all over.
01:20 And He goes on talking about the tribulation and how people--
01:25 His people will be hated by all nations for His namesake.
01:30 And as He is coming down here
01:32 He says, that there is gonna be very many false prophets
01:35 that will rise up and deceive others.
01:38 He says in verse 12,
01:40 that "The love of the great body of people will grow cold
01:43 because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity."
01:47 But He says that "He who endures to the end will be saved."
01:51 And here's how we know when it's really the end.
01:55 The good news of the kingdom of the gospel
01:58 will be preached throughout the world,
02:00 Jesus says in verse 14, and then the end will come.
02:05 How close are we to the end?
02:08 Lots of wars, rumors of wars,
02:09 earthquakes, famines everywhere,
02:12 but is the gospel reaching the entire world?
02:16 Please help me to welcome Ken and Julie Norton.
02:19 And we are so glad that you are back in 3ABN again.
02:23 Thank you. We are too.
02:25 Now you all are with the Lay Institute for Evangelism.
02:30 This is a ministry operated by the Adventist-laymen's Services
02:34 and Industries the Seventh-day Adventist church, right?
02:36 That's correct.
02:37 How long have you been doing this?
02:39 Since August 2007.
02:41 So you have-- the Lord has entrusted
02:44 a great ministry to you.
02:46 Tell us just briefly what this ministry is about.
02:50 Because its called the Lay Institute for Evangelism,
02:53 our focus is on training lay people, equipping lay people
02:56 to be able to impact their communities for Christ
02:59 with all kinds of things, to taking online training
03:03 or programs that we have onsite there
03:05 but our emphasis is to really give the lay people
03:08 the tools they need to get the gospel message done
03:11 like it says in Matthew 24.
03:12 Amen. How are we doing?
03:14 I mean, not just in the Adventist church
03:16 but what is going on in the Christian church.
03:19 Let's focus on the United States right now.
03:23 I know we have viewers from around the world
03:25 but in the U.S., what's going on?
03:27 Well, I think a subtitle for maybe what we were doing today
03:30 would be called "the American Church in Crisis."
03:33 And I had never really thought of what was going on as a crisis
03:38 until I started doing some research.
03:40 You know, as we started looking into
03:42 how we can most effectively help lay people.
03:45 I started finding articles, I ran into an article on the web
03:49 call the American Church in Crisis.
03:51 And the author actually
03:53 has recently written a book that has that title.
03:57 But as I started to go through the statistics
03:59 I was so shocked at what's happening in the churches.
04:03 In a typical American church
04:05 the trend that's happened over the past,
04:08 especially 20 to 30 years that just--it's really alarming.
04:13 Than I think its some thing that we need to understand
04:15 and know how to try to reverse if possible.
04:18 What are some of the statistics?
04:20 Do you have those to share today? We do.
04:22 I think the first big one is that less than 20% of Americans
04:28 attend church on any given weekend.
04:30 Now, that shocks me, because when they do surveys
04:33 they'll say that, what,
04:34 73% or 83% of people claim to be Christian.
04:37 That's correct.
04:38 But less than 20% attend church. Yeah.
04:41 The reason is it's called the halo effect.
04:44 Pollster who get pollster to call people
04:47 and they don't want these pollster
04:50 or you always want to represent yourself
04:53 as being good and all that.
04:54 So they don't necessarily tell the absolute truth.
04:58 So when pollster contact them
05:00 they kind of pad their answers to somewhat.
05:03 So really that when the pollsters did their study
05:06 it was said 40% of Americans attend church
05:11 but in reality when they got out and they started
05:14 counting actual numbers it was around 17%.
05:18 Yeah. Oh, that's unbelievable.
05:19 About 17.7% is what it was in 2004.
05:21 And that's not every week.
05:23 That means they are attending-- what was it,
05:26 between one and seven times in an eight week period.
05:32 So it's not every week. So it's not even every week.
05:34 It's just people that--people that went to a service that week
05:39 but maybe not even particularly a church service.
05:42 I'm floored, I had no idea it would be that low.
05:44 Well, its shocking because--
05:47 well, its not so shocking for pastors.
05:49 You know, because pastors, we look at our book
05:52 and I am a pastor before I was doing this.
05:54 And you look and you see,
05:55 you know, you have 600 on the books
05:57 and like my last church and then attendance was 200,
06:01 you know, 250. Right.
06:02 So you have these inflated numbers
06:04 and I think that's weird.
06:06 Some of the researchers said, you know,
06:07 we've been hearing this 40% for years but--
06:10 and it stayed the same but yet we find that
06:13 it doesn't seem like that's a case.
06:14 So they surveyed 200,000 churches
06:17 in the United States, on the ground
06:19 and there are 330,000 churches total
06:23 in United States, that's rough figure.
06:26 But out of those 200,000 churches
06:28 that's what they came up with
06:29 that there is about 17.7% that were attending.
06:32 That just absolutely floors me.
06:34 So what are some of the other things
06:38 if the American church is--
06:40 is this decline has it been recent
06:43 or is it just been a steady or what's going on?
06:46 Well, they actually started their research in the mid 80s
06:49 was when they started to put the numbers together.
06:51 And they were shocked to find that some of the numbers were--
06:56 when they had solid numbers
06:58 they put them together, it came out with 1990.
07:02 It was about 20.4% of an attendance.
07:06 In 2000 it was 18.7%, 2004, where it was at 17.4%.
07:12 The projections is by 2010, it'll be somewhere in the 16%.
07:16 By 2050, they are expecting it to be between 10% and 12%.
07:22 Now are some of these people leaving their--
07:27 the traditional typical church building and going into--
07:32 we hear a lot about home churches and this type.
07:35 Is that part of that or do they consider this?
07:38 When they started to find out what are the--
07:41 I mean, obviously
07:42 your first question is what's the core causes?
07:44 You know, why are people doing this?
07:47 They found out that there is significant house church moment
07:51 that's happening within the United States
07:54 or spiritual support groups.
07:56 Doesn't even have to be a house church
07:58 on Sunday morning, or on Saturday morning
08:00 it's something that happens during the week.
08:03 There's about, it's around 24%, 24.5% of Americans claim
08:09 that they go to some sort of meeting during the week
08:12 but they do not go to a traditional,
08:14 we call it typical church, typical church on the weekend.
08:18 But that's significant because that's a lot more
08:22 than the people, people have expected.
08:24 You know, they think,
08:25 we think when someone leaves church that,
08:28 oh, they are going golfing
08:29 instead of going to church or whatever.
08:30 But they are finding that people are looking for--
08:33 they are spiritually hungry
08:35 but they are finding alternating forms
08:38 than the traditional, the typical church to say.
08:40 You know, when I first went into full time ministry
08:44 and the Lord bought me into the Sabbath truth,
08:46 well, I didn't know really about Adventism then so much.
08:51 So I didn't--I no longer fit into a regular church
08:55 and I had another television ministry.
08:57 And what happened was, people ended up inviting me
09:00 and I did five different home churches
09:03 in five different cities on a weekly basis.
09:06 They reached me different times.
09:08 And I did that for a couple of years
09:10 and it was amazing how that group kept growing
09:12 in each location but they would be considered
09:15 what you would call a home church,
09:17 you know, maybe 60 people
09:19 to getting together in a home setting.
09:21 And it was, it was interesting.
09:26 I mean, I couldn't really consider that my church,
09:28 I just was going out and teaching
09:30 but it was very interesting to see how hungry people are
09:35 and just not feeling like they were getting what they needed.
09:38 Why do you feel that--
09:41 what do you feel that people want in a church?
09:46 Did the survey say anything about that?
09:49 They were saying that what you have spoken about
09:52 that they want intimacy, they want friendship,
09:55 they want someone that they can confide in.
09:58 Because the way technology is happening now
10:02 we can work from home
10:03 or our own little cubicle, our cell phones,
10:08 all the things that come along with a very good,
10:12 very efficient society it isolates us from each other.
10:18 So we think about wanting to get together with other people.
10:22 They really want that time to be,
10:24 a time where it's actually interacting,
10:27 they are not just sitting and observing.
10:29 So that's what they are finding that,
10:31 if they are not finding that in their typical church
10:34 that they are going and they are searching around
10:36 in their church hopping or group hopping
10:40 until they find something where they feel like if I am not there
10:43 they are gonna miss me, that group kind of.
10:48 And I think its also significant that
10:50 one of the stats that I heard recently was that,
10:54 let me get this right now, 60% of those 40 and younger
11:00 have never stepped into a church of any kind.
11:04 Sixty percent.
11:05 Sixty percent of those 40 and younger.
11:07 So we have, our generation
11:10 that's growing up seemingly distant,
11:14 you know, texting all the time and having little isolated lives
11:18 they are very hungry for the interaction
11:22 but they don't find it, even though they have never been,
11:27 you know, they never stepped in to see what its like.
11:30 The perception is that its many churches are cold,
11:33 they are not friendly, they hear from friends that have gone
11:37 and so they are staying away which isn't a good excuse.
11:40 But at the same time I think it let us recognize
11:44 that young people hunger for connection.
11:49 I mean, that's why MySpace
11:51 and some of these other things have just exploded.
11:53 Even though its still--
11:54 And for those who may not know MySpace is a--
11:59 Social networking website. Social network on the internet.
12:01 So, yes. Okay.
12:03 But what we have then is you got people
12:06 wanting this intimacy, wanting the fellowship,
12:11 wanting to participate and be connected.
12:13 And am I to take it that from this survey what they are saying
12:18 is that the typical church model
12:21 is not necessarily meeting that need?
12:24 Is that what you saying?
12:26 Get this, when they interviewed a lot of people
12:28 that had stopped going to church,
12:30 their number one reason why they stopped going to church
12:33 was because they wanted to be more spiritual.
12:36 Mercy. Yes.
12:38 Now that's frightening. That is frightening.
12:41 And so they-- that's why we're seeing the rise
12:44 in these intimate small groups of spiritual support groups,
12:48 house churches, they call them cell churches,
12:51 the different--little bit different type of model
12:53 but they're hungering for that intimacy
12:55 and so they are going to find-- you got a rise in this going on,
12:58 you've got decline, a quick decline
13:00 happening in our mainstream churches.
13:04 Six percent, this is another statistics,
13:06 only 6% of churches in the United States
13:09 were growing as of last year.
13:12 Most, what people call church growth
13:14 when number increase its actually
13:16 members transferring in and out, isn't it?
13:18 Well, it's not only members transferring in and out
13:20 but you have the population growth issue.
13:23 Because between--I think it was between 1990 and 2004,
13:28 the church attendance stayed the same
13:30 but population grew by about 48 million in the United Sates.
13:35 So you, when they put it all together
13:37 they realize, you know what,
13:38 there's only 6% of American churches that are growing,
13:41 94% of churches in our community are loosing ground.
13:46 They are loosing people, loosing ground.
13:48 Those two things that you are saying that are alarming.
13:49 Number one is that people don't feel when they go to church
13:54 that if they are gone they will be missed
13:56 and sometimes that's' very true in large churches.
13:59 You know, you have to have different groups setup.
14:02 We call them care group or TLC groups here
14:04 so that we won't-- the larger your church grows
14:07 the more you can overlook someone being absent.
14:11 But it's that they are not seeing the love
14:14 and the outreach at their own church.
14:18 But the other thing that's alarming is that
14:20 as they withdraw and go into the home churches,
14:24 now I think it's wonderful to have home groups underneath,
14:28 you know, care groups,
14:29 whatever you want to call them under the church structure
14:33 but as people come out from underneath
14:36 the umbrella of the "organize church"
14:40 which, you know, I had some people say,
14:42 "Oh, I don't like organize religion."
14:44 I say, well, God does.
14:45 I mean, He organized it, didn't he? That's right.
14:48 But as they come out sometimes they end up getting teachers
14:52 who may not know really what they are talking about
14:56 and you get all kinds of strange doctrines
14:58 that get began to be preached and taught.
15:04 So we know why this is happening,
15:08 what's the solution? What?
15:10 This is supposed to be "Issues and Answers," right?
15:12 But I am not sure I have any other good answers.
15:15 We've talked about some of the possible solutions.
15:20 I think first of all, this sound really bad
15:22 but for the first time, go with the crowd.
15:27 That mans, if people are wanting intimacy
15:31 and they are wanting the love
15:32 then if you are in a typical church setting
15:35 make that available somehow, either through small groups
15:39 or some type of dividing up your leadership
15:41 to be able to have true mutual membership care
15:45 and not just relying on the pastor
15:47 to do all the hospital visitation
15:49 or to do all the calling and making sure everybody is okay.
15:53 But it's a mutual care system.
15:55 So if that's what people are hungry for,
15:58 let's not close our eyes and just say, you know what,
16:00 well, it's just too bad.
16:01 They are not religious or they are not spiritual enough
16:03 and we are just gonna forget them.
16:04 No, provide something in your church
16:06 that allows for that. Amen.
16:09 And it might take change,
16:10 and it might feel uncomfortable at first because that--
16:13 for those of us still in the typical church,
16:15 we feel comfortable in that setting but sometimes its--
16:19 its time now to start thinking about those
16:22 that are not in our typical church.
16:24 And to sit down and to say,
16:27 "Hey, let's lay it all out
16:28 and what can we do to help nurture around."
16:34 You know, I think I am really excited about our church here--
16:40 meets in our 3ABN worship center,
16:42 The Thompsonville church, it's a very loving church.
16:45 We have fellowship meals every Sabbath after church services.
16:51 And everyone's invited and particularly we encourage
16:55 the visitors to stay by
16:58 but a good number of people do stay.
17:01 It's a huge fellowship dinner and there's much interaction
17:05 and we usually don't leave church till,
17:07 I mean, the fellowship dinner
17:08 till maybe 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
17:10 So there's praying and elders get together,
17:13 and meet, you know, take people off
17:16 and have special prayers for them
17:18 and lots other praying going on as well.
17:21 But I've been to different churches
17:22 that instated different models like, you know,
17:25 one church had a very special lunch in
17:27 just for the visitors and people.
17:30 There's all kinds of things we can do.
17:32 We need to be creative but we need to be--
17:34 make certain that when we go to church,
17:37 if we are a member of that church
17:39 that we are not just going be fed
17:41 but that we are going to be a blessing to someone else
17:44 and minister to someone else.
17:46 That's very important.
17:47 You know, especially when you get back into--
17:52 you get back into the New Testament
17:54 looking at how members related to each other.
17:57 The way that, you know, there were no--
18:00 some people don't know that
18:01 there were no actual church buildings
18:04 until the 300's and to the 400's.
18:06 Everything was house churches back then.
18:09 And some people say, well, that's because
18:11 they didn't have the money to be able to build churches
18:14 or maybe there was persecution, it wasn't convenient.
18:17 But you find that the reason why there were house churches
18:20 was it was based on the theology that Jesus setup of community.
18:25 It's based upon the fact that--
18:27 in 1 John, John says--
18:29 actually that would be a really good text.
18:30 Can we look that one up? Sure.
18:31 It's interesting in 1 John that John says
18:37 the reason why he's writing his letter
18:40 Was not for the people to be saved
18:42 or to have a better relate--
18:43 or to have a knowledge of salvation
18:46 which many other places he says
18:48 that that's the case when he write that.
18:50 But it's interesting. Look into 1 John Chapter 1.
18:58 Find that scripture.
19:00 Will, you write this thing to,
19:01 I will, I'll find it right here.
19:03 Okay, verse 3.
19:05 It comes into verse, verse 1 he talks about,
19:08 "We are telling you what we've seen,
19:09 what we've heard, what we've looked upon
19:11 talking about Jesus the word of life."
19:13 Verse 2, "The life was manifested,
19:15 we have seen, we bear witness,
19:17 we declared to you that eternal life,
19:19 which was with the Father and was manifested to us."
19:22 Now look at what he says in verse 3,
19:23 "That which we have seen and heard,
19:26 we declare to you," why?
19:29 What does it say? You got it there?
19:30 "So that we declare to you that--"
19:32 I am in the, go ahead.
19:34 Yeah, okay. I'll get it.
19:35 Because I am in amplified, so.
19:37 Okay, all right.
19:38 "We declare to you what we have seen and heard
19:40 that you also may have fellowship with us,
19:44 and truly our fellowship is with the Father
19:47 and with His Son Jesus Christ."
19:49 That's significant because he is saying the whole reason,
19:53 the purpose that we've brought the gospel to you,
19:56 the purpose that we are sharing Jesus Christ with you
20:00 is to pull you into a very intimate and close fellowship
20:07 which John knew was what created true discipleship.
20:11 And you know the--what we would consider your typical church,
20:17 the traditional idea of a church should be this way though.
20:22 I mean, it should be where we've got
20:24 this type of fellowship in ministering going on.
20:27 But sadly, and I don't mind saying it
20:30 sadly many times that's not the case.
20:33 I mean, we've gone into-- to church as visitors
20:38 and maybe had only the greeters that would talk to us,
20:41 you know, and say welcome.
20:42 No one else and that's it.
20:45 Not only is it a mindset but I think sometimes
20:48 the way that we setup and we do church
20:51 has gone into a formal way that doesn't create intimacy.
20:57 And so I think for churches that have the good preaching
21:03 and have the good Sabbath school lessons
21:05 or the good Bible studies they do together in the church
21:08 there has to be something else
21:11 that pulls people into fellowship
21:14 because fellowship is where disciples are made.
21:18 I told my congregation before,
21:19 disciples are not made in pews,
21:22 disciples are made in living rooms,
21:24 disciples are made in a park,
21:26 disciples are made where you are able to get together.
21:29 And I am able to say, you know this week,
21:31 I was weak this week,
21:34 I fell into this same old temptation
21:37 that always comes, please pray for me.
21:39 And it creates-- let's pray together.
21:41 It creates a transparency and intimacy
21:43 and that's what people are hungering for.
21:46 Okay, let me ask this question because it begs to be asked
21:48 and there's someone out there who maybe confused.
21:51 Are we saying, let's do away with a typical church model
21:54 that we don't need a church building
21:55 and let's just go to home churches?
21:57 Or are we saying that the typical model of church
22:02 needs to quit relying on the pastor,
22:06 get the lay to involve and let's really have church
22:10 like He wants us to have church?
22:13 That's correct, that's correct.
22:15 I was thinking when he was talking about
22:16 sometimes we go to church and only the greeters greet us.
22:19 I think it's very important for each of us to have a part.
22:24 You now, I'm a greeter this week
22:26 or there is elders or there is deacon
22:28 however the church is setup but to really say,
22:30 even though I may not have a church job,
22:33 I am still very much a part of it. Amen.
22:36 So I am not just friendly when I am standing,
22:38 greeting out the door.
22:40 My job to come in and to see is there anyone else in need.
22:43 How can I come and serve other people?
22:46 And in that way I think if we all had that mindset
22:49 there wouldn't be any unfriendliness.
22:52 Everyone would feel a part of it.
22:54 So it's taking the role of, I am part of the church.
22:58 You know, my husband,
22:59 we are both very affable and amiable but he is so cute
23:04 because when we are in church
23:05 he's going to say hello to everyone that's at church.
23:08 I mean, he walks in sometimes
23:10 if we were running just a little before the music begins,
23:13 before Sabbath school
23:14 he's still gonna go up and down the aisle
23:16 and say hello to everybody.
23:17 So I got to make sure to get him in there nice and early
23:19 and he's just gonna do it. Yes.
23:21 I mean, that's who he is.
23:23 But we do need people to be-- and you know,
23:25 sometimes the very ones that are being quiet,
23:30 the reason they are quiet not reaching out
23:32 because they really need someone to reach out to them.
23:34 That's right. That's right.
23:35 All right, so we only have couple of minutes left.
23:38 What are some of the remedies for this?
23:43 Well, we have, at LIFE,
23:46 we've been working together with the Florida Conference
23:49 and talking about a lot of these issues.
23:51 Administration there is very open to saying,
23:53 you know what, let's get out into our urban areas
23:55 and find how we can reach people.
23:58 And one of the things that we are doing is
23:59 we are actually trying to start
24:01 a house church network in Adventism
24:04 that is fully faithful to the Adventist message,
24:06 fully under the denomination of the organization
24:09 but it safeguards against those kind of,
24:13 you know, heresies coming in or things like this.
24:16 And so we are experimenting with that.
24:18 Actually the other, one of our other staff members
24:22 Milton Adams is heading that up
24:24 and I believe he told me that
24:25 at the end of this month they are starting four groups.
24:28 They are gonna start four house churches
24:30 that are networked together and that will meet together
24:33 to do a corporate worship
24:35 but yet the basis of life is found in that small group.
24:40 And they are gonna experiment with it, you know.
24:43 So is this in replace of the mid week service
24:46 or how are they're doing this?
24:47 No, they will actually meet for church
24:48 on Sabbath morning in the homes.
24:51 They will actually meet on Sabbath morning in the homes
24:54 and we want to make sure that it is--
24:58 that its something that is totally acceptable
25:00 to the conference and the denomination
25:02 and so forth that follows along
25:04 but you know, I think that we here in America,
25:07 when we hear about house churches, you know,
25:10 warning signs go off or alarms go off
25:12 but think about this a minute.
25:14 When you look at the New Testament,
25:16 what was the model? The model has to work.
25:18 Maybe it's not a typical model here in the States
25:21 but some other denominations are doing it
25:24 and its working very successfully.
25:26 So we thought let's not-- this has nothing to do
25:29 with doing away of anything.
25:31 It has to do, as Milton says, adding another hose
25:35 into the pool to full up the kingdom of God.
25:39 You know, if people don't want to go to traditional church
25:42 then let's provide something that--
25:45 tradition I mean, a typical church.
25:46 Let's provide something that they can find that intimacy
25:49 and still be fully Seventh-day Adventist.
25:51 So we are working on some of those things.
25:53 I don't know if that's the whole,
25:56 its obviously, its a piece of it.
25:58 There's a part of me, I have to admit.
26:01 That there's almost that gives me a little interpretation
26:05 about that thinking because I feel
26:08 it so important to get together the corporate,
26:10 there is such an anointing
26:11 on the corporate worship of a large group.
26:15 I can see augmenting or supplementing the service
26:18 with that home service during the week or something.
26:23 So I mean, I was one of those.
26:26 You know, that's the thing, there's this variation
26:28 and we can't put everything into a little box sometimes.
26:34 You know, different kinds of things
26:36 will attract different people.
26:38 We just have to be faithful
26:39 to the word of God and to each other.
26:43 And the ultimate to me, the ultimate purpose is
26:45 Jesus said, go therefore and make disciples.
26:49 And it's obvious that we are not.
26:51 So if we want the end to come
26:52 we've got to be about our Father's praises.
26:55 Praise the Lord. All right.
26:56 That's right. Just thank you so much.
26:57 I can't believe how quickly the time has gone.
26:59 But Julie, thank you for being here. Thank you.
27:02 And you're always a pleasure to,
27:04 to just look on that smiling face.
27:06 And Ken, we thank you, for being here. Thank you.
27:09 And by the way, happy anniversary.
27:11 Fourteen years now. Thank you.
27:13 For those of you at home, I hope that the message
27:16 that you are taking away with today
27:18 is that we all have a personal responsibility
27:22 as the members of our congregation
27:24 to make visitors feel welcome,
27:27 to see that there is a healthy wholesome fellowship
27:30 that's going on and transpiring at our church.
27:34 And with small groups, perhaps after church
27:37 or mid week service or even seeing maybe what they--
27:42 gonna be interesting to see how this model works.
27:44 But just know that God wants you to be involved
27:48 in ministering to others so that the gospel can reach the world
27:52 and Jesus Christ can return. Thank you.


Revised 2014-12-17