Susan and I are in Nashville this week. Every year, a group of senior pastors from high impact churches from all over Virginia gather together for 3 days. I was invited to be a part of this Transformational Pastors Network a few years ago. It was a great honor to me and to PCC for me to get the invitation, because the pastors present are seriously heavy hitters. They are high capacity leaders representing churches that are reaching large groups of people. We meet in September and our gathering happens in various places around Virginia. This is the first time we've gone out of our state.
One of the great benefits of coming to Nashville is that we get to spend some time with Ed Stetzer, who lives and works here. Ed is an internationally recognized author, pastor and blogger who is an expert in cultural trends in America, especially as those trends relate to matters of faith. You can find out more about him here.
Ed is a regular interviewee on major national news networks and a sought after speaker at all kinds of conferences and events all over the world. He has a huge following and we were blessed to get to spend a lot of time with him.
In my experience, people who study data and statistics are usually not very engaging as communicators. But Ed Stetzer is one of the most entertaining communicators I've met. He has a way of connecting the relevant parts of the numbers with where I live, lead, and do church.
One of the things that he did yesterday and today was to debunk some commonly quoted, but factually incorrect 'statistics'. Here are a few examples:
- Megachuches are NOT slowing OR declining. For the past few years, some voices have declared the impending death of large churches. There is no factual evidence that this trend actually exists.
- Among evangelical* churches, less than half of youth drop out as adults. The common myth is that all the young people are leaving. But in healthy churches that are passionate about reaching and growing people in faith, that's not true.
- The biggest trend among yound adults is the move from small & medium churches to large, evangelical nondenominational** churches. They are going to the Perry Nobles' , to Andy Stanleys' to Steven Furticks' of our day.
- Christianity is NOT collapsing in the U.S. and Evangelicalism is not really in decline.
- Only 4 to 5% of all Americans are athiests, and that has not changed in many years. There IS NO growth in atheism, but their voice has become more prominant and socially acceptable.
- 90% of young people say that they are open to spiritual conversations and over 60% of all adults say the same thing.
So, I'm learning a lot here about how our church can continue to reach a large population of people who are still very open to spiritual matters.
More later...(we meet with Eric Geiger later today!)
* When I use the word 'evangelism' or 'evangelistic' it refers to a mentality and focus on reaching people and helping them to come to know who Jesus is and to commit their lives to HIm.
* Most people no longer care about denominations. That does NOT mean that the church can't affiliate with a denomination (PCC associates with Virginia Baptists and others). But it does mean that denominationalism cannot be the forefront of the conversation.