Over 1 Million SA Citizens not in Church Regularly!
In the summer of 2007, the Southern Baptists held their national convention in San Antonio. In advance of this historic event, the North American Mission Board spent time researching the spiritual climate in our city. The results are staggering!
Eighty-two percent of San Antonio citizens (over 1 million people) do not attend church regularly and sixty-five percent (over 975,000 people) do not have a church home.
These figures should surprise Spiritual Leaders in a city that is considered by many to be religious and was birthed by missions that were planted by Spanish priests. What is going on? How could so many congregations in San Antonio be growing and yet these figures be accurate? And perhaps most importantly, how should the Body of Christ in San Antonio respond?
First, let’s recognize the awesome ministry that takes place in our city on a daily basis. There are many heroes that are making huge differences. We honor them and we are thankful for their ministry. But how can we do even better and how can we be even more effective?
Many congregations are experiencing growth in numbers, but based on the statistics from the NAMB, there can only be one possible answer for this growth… those who are attending church regularly are simply changing congregations or as one pastor said, "the sheep are simply changing pens". No doubt the institutional church has focused on growth, which is healthy and good… but a more specific goal and a more targeted audience must be included in our efforts. You most often get what you are shooting for, so we must see with a new vision and take aim in a new direction.
I am not talking about adding a contemporary worship time or a Saturday service (although these are not bad ideas in and of themselves). I am talking about a focusing on real needs that exist in our city because real needs are always connected to real people. Christ is always the answer in meeting needs, but the methods of presenting Christ are as varied and creative as is His Body. In fact, in Ephesians 3, Paul reminds us that the ultimate result of our efforts is to display the manifold wisdom of Christ to all the rulers and authorities in heavenly realms. Sounds creative, sounds like a display, sounds like meeting real people with real needs where they are at and not only changing their circumstances but also changing their lives! Poverty, divorce, teen pregnancy, suicide and homicide, stress and depression, homelessness, financial crisis are all reported on daily by the news media. Look at the problems that exist in our city and attached to these problems are people, many of whom make up the very ones who are not attending our services.
SO STEP ONE IS TO LOOK AT THE CITY!
TO SEE WITH A NEW VISION AND MOVE IN A NEW DIRECTION. REACHING OUT TO MEET REAL NEEDS AND TO CHANGE REAL PEOPLE! AND THEN LET’S INVITE THESE CHANGED PEOPLE TO BE THE CHURCH INSTEAD OF ATTENDING CHURCH!
Next is recognizing that we need the WHOLE church in order to reach the WHOLE city. There is no one ministry or congregation that has enough resources to solve these enormous problems alone. But what if we were able to take inventory of all His people, all their gifting… both natural and supernatural, all of their finances? What if we connected with each other and we shared a common vision for San Antonio? What if we began to work together instead of duplicating efforts? What if we honored and served each other in order to elevate ministry impact? What if we acted as if we were on the same team instead of competing with each other? What if we were able to communicate with each other? What if we realized that God sees us as His Church in San Antonio and not 1000 congregations and hundreds of denominations? (By the way, all of these are reasons that TransformSA .com was birthed)
All of this starts with relationship. Connecting with Him and then with each other. Getting to know one another. Tearing down misperceptions and loving each other with an agape love.
STEP TWO THEN IS TO LOOK AT EACH OTHER!
TO BEGIN TO BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT BULDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER CONGREGATIONS AND MINISTRIES. TO RECOGNIZE AND HONOR THE UNIQUENESS AND DIVERSITY THAT WE ALL HAVE. TO SERVE SOMEONE WITHOUT HAVING OUR OWN AGENDA.
I believe that there are some congregations who have already begun to move in this direction. Many of them are featured in our Congregation/Ministry of the Week section. We would love to hear even more from these forerunners. We would love for them to share their failures as well as their success stories. And we would love to hear from others we have not yet featured!
Much more can be said here, but we want you to say it! Please comment on this article and give your own ideas and creative suggestions. How can we move towards presence based transformation and a display of His manifold wisdom? Come on San Antonio, speak up! And stay tuned because our God is on the move!