I Love My Church

March 5, 2013 — 6 Comments

sph-missionsThings have been extremely busy lately, but exciting. I’m so thankful for the way God is working on me and working around me. I’m getting to see so many cool things.

I love my church. God is doing so many exciting things at Fellowship and even more great things are coming soon! Here are some statistics that God us using to stir our hearts:

The population of Little Rock and the surrounding cities/suburbs is: 877.091 people
The number of churches in the Greater Little Rock area is: 780 churches
The average church attendance is: 75 attendees

If you (generously) doubled the average attendance for churches in the Greater Little Rock area to 150 attendees, there would still be 760,000 people without a church home.

And here is why I love my church:
Our church has gotten serious about seeing a movement of discipleship in the Greater Little Rock area. There are groups forming all over the city in homes, on school campuses, and in offices. The focus on discipleship is opening even more opportunities to reach the Greater Little Rock area! I cannot wait to see what God does as we work to reach the 760,000!

For more on our mission and D-Group strategy, check out this video…
Making Disciples–Fellowship Bible Church

6 responses to I Love My Church

  1. Several questions:

    a) Where do you get those statistics – particularly the one about church attendance? What gets to count as a “church.” How is your “average” measured – mean, medium, or mode? The number “75” has different implications depending on the type of average we’re looking at here.

    b) In light of (a), if “75” is the “mean average,” then the next most pertinent question is distribution – is there equal distribution across the 780, or do a few large churches represent most of church attendance? What is the socio-geographical distribution of those numbers?

    c) How is it that you get the number 760,000? It seems like you just doubled the average (75) and then multiplied that number by the number of churches (780). If that is what you did, would not the number 760,000 be a misleading statistic because it assumes that 75 is the ACTUAL number of attendees per church, not the average? The number of people without a “church home,” therefore, could be much greater or lower than 760,000. Am I missing something here?

    d) What does “getting serious about a movement of discipleship … in homes, school campuses, and in offices” have to do with increasing church attendance? Is the goal of FBC to increase attendance in ALL of those 780 churches, or just increase attendance at FBC and other “like minded” churches. This also begs the question, of course, what is the correlation between church attendance and discipleship?

    e) What does it mean to be “without a church home”? Why is it the case that these people aren’t attending church? Are they completely un-churched? Have they never heard the Gospel? Are they just burnt out with churches in LR? Have they been in churches but are not apathetic? The answer to this question would seem to make a big difference in discipleship strategy, no?

    e) Let’s assume that all your statistics are accurate, that if you double attendance there really will be 760 thousand, and that those people are simply “unchurched” – never heard the Gospel. What if 90% of that 760 thousand are not in your homes, schools, neighborhoods and offices – what if they live and work in completely different contexts of LR? How then is the “focus on discipleship” effective for reaching those people?

    The focus on discipleship is a great goal, of course, but I ask all these questions because I’m interested in how FBC plans on making this “focus” concrete in LR. The stats above are potentially misleading and don’t help shape HOW discipleship is done in this city. Maybe you guys have a lot of vision bubbling beneath the surface of the general rallying cry toward discipleship – but I just don’t see it. Can you help me out here?

    • Seth,

      Thanks for the comments. You raise some great questions and I appreciate you looking for clarity.

      The Population/Number of Church statistics are from the city of Little Rock and the Chamber of Commerce.

      The term I used, “average attendance,” was misleading. Based on a national report, “the average congregation consists of 75 regular participants”. Even that number is probably debatable depending on how you run your math. Here is the report: http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/Docs/NCSII_report_final.pdf

      The statistic may or may not be an accurate way of measuring unreached or unchurched people in a city, because there are larger churches within the 780 (Little Rock). Based on distribution, the number of people not connected to a local church could be more or less than the 760,000.

      All that being said, I don’t know that the exact numbers matter to the point of the post. There are pockets of people all over Little Rock who are not connected to a body of believers. It may be that they’ve never heard the Gospel or that they’re apathetic towards church. Whether it is 760,000 (quite possible) or 76 (equally possible), I’m excited because I’m seeing followers of Jesus Christ (from many churches) make a commitment to discipleship in various locations to reach those pockets of people. (i.e.—D-Groups from our church, multiple pastors and lay leaders participating in DownLine, & other congregations putting emphasis on their discipleship process)

      It is not about attendance to a church. Those 780 churches include Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness, so I would say that the goal is not to increase the attendance of every congregation. But yes, the goal is to

        make disciples

      and see them connected to a local body that believes and teaches the Word.

      The video in the post describes Fellowship’s design and process for discipleship. I think it clearly explains the concrete focus behind our rallying cry. And there is also a lot bubbling under the surface as we pray for direction.

      Thanks for the questions. Sorry if the statistics were misused or misleading, but I think the point can be made even without the numbers. Jesus has called us to be disciples who make disciples. I’m excited that I’m in a city of churches and working with a church that take that seriously.

      • Thanks for your response, Matt. And thanks for the link to that report. I’m excited too about being in city where churches are increasingly trying to take discipleship seriously. This is an encouraging trend.

        I’m concerned (and I know you are too) that we continue to pay close attention to HOW discipleship is taking root (or not taking root) among us – lest “discipleship” becomes just one more program that we rolled out for a while but failed to cultivate long-term faithfulness.

        And I think that the numbers (especially how we interpret them) are important to the extent that it helps us discern our context and respond accordingly. For example, if it turns out that most of those “unreached” 760 thousand truly are those who have not been exposed to the Gospel, and geographically those people live in neighborhoods where the “thriving” churches are NOT, then the WAY we go about making disciples in that particular context will be much different than if those “unreached” are actually those people who live nearby and are simply disenchanted with church culture. What if it turns out that our discipleship method is only effective for reaching those who are already inculcated into our form of church culture? Then we will be spinning our wheels in making a dent in that 760 thousand number, no?

        To me, these contextual questions are fundamental for discerning the shape of discipleship in our particular church/city. This is what I mean by “concrete focus” – not, are the ideas concrete? but, when this thing hits the pavement, are the concrete expressions faithful to the Gospel and the context?

        peace

        • I think the best way to say what we’re feeling is that true discipleship is messy. It’s not about a program, but it’s about life. At Fellowship, our push to “make disciples” is our mission that our programs revolve around. I think we do need programs and strategies for equipping the body to disciple their neighbor, co-worker, family members. But I agree that it is not just a program. It is a process of doing life outside the church and spurring one another on to follow Christ.

          Having grown up in Little Rock, I would say that the scenarios you brought up could likely exist within a single household. Dads may be unreached, children may be disenchanted with church culture, and mom is trying her hardest to hold fast to her faith. That’s what I mean by messy. The context is very messy.

          I’d love to have lunch sometime and hear more of your thoughts. I’d love to have a network of people in the city that are talking about discipleship in Little Rock and about how we can carry the Gospel into particular contexts.

          • Thanks, Matt. I resonate with the messiness. I’d just add that while context is complicated, it is not imperceptible.

            You’ve got my email – shoot me your contact info and we’ll get together sometime.

            peace

  2. clarification on question (c): I understand that 760 thousand is accurate if 75 is the mean average. I guess, to reiterate, it all depends on they type of averaging being done.

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