Posts

A New Direction for the Church

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Nearly twenty years ago, there was an interview with David Yonggi Cho, founding pastor of the largest Protestant church in the world, Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea with 800,000 members. Pastor Cho encouraged churches to skip over the older idea of starting new churches with physical buildings and go directly to the next generation strategy of using the Internet to connect a decentralized network of groups and people. He even suggested that many new people watched worship over the Internet. This was almost twenty years ago. My wife, Joy, and I were in Korea about that time. We visited Yoido Full Gospel Church as well as Kwang Lim, the largest Methodist Church in the world with 85,000 members. We also heard them speak about the potential of using the Internet to connect people for church. The initial motivation for these Korean congregations, however, was simply not enough physical space for the huge number of persons with whom they connected. Today, the Internet has beco…

Learning How the Church Grows

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Scripture counsels us to take heed of those who are good at what they do. Within the Book of Proverbs, there are “thirty sayings of the wise.” One of them urges, “Observe people who are good at their work—skilled workers are always in demand and admired” (23:29 The Message). Shane Bishop is the Senior Pastor of Christ Church, a United Methodist congregation in Fairview Heights, Illinois. Christ Church was recognized as one of the 100 fastest growing churches in the United States for 2018. Their weekend worship attendance has increased from 200 to over 2,500 since Shane’s appointment in 1997 and has grown for twenty-two consecutive years. Shane was named A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church in 2010. Shane answers the question about how to grow the church with a simple formula: 1) Make new Christians; 2) Turn new Christians into disciples; and 3) Send those disciples out to make new Christians. He says the recipe is two parts evangelism and one part discipleship, or E…

We Have a Crisis

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This may be hard to hear. Salem has a crisis. I know that’s a strong word, but it’s accurate. This truly is a time of difficulty and danger. It’s also a time of great opportunity. Salem is down to just eight children in Sunday school. We have a crisis in our children’s ministry. That’s not to say we don’t have great leaders and teachers. We do. Rather, this is a symptom of something larger, something we’ve known for a long time in our culture. We are losing our young families, and we’re not reaching new young families either or younger persons in general. This decline is most prevalent in mainline denominational congregations like The United Methodist Church (and the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, etc.). Two years ago, the Washington Post reported that if we don’t stop this, mainline Protestantism only has 23 Easters left. One significant reason for this decline was discovered in the 1970s. Many adolescents and teenagers who were confirmed in the 1960s began dropping out of chu…

Witness

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Most of us witness regularly, without even being aware that’s what we’re doing. We tell people about the good restaurant where we ate, the good movie we saw, the good book we read, or the fun new show on Netflix. We do this without being told we should do this. It’s natural. After the resurrection, Jesus told his disciples they were his witnesses in their own city, in the surrounding regions, and throughout the world (Acts 1: 8). This is not difficult. Like telling a friend about the good food you ate at a restaurant, it’s simple to tell a friend about Salem and invite them. We share our experiences of food and stories quite naturally. That’s what Jesus wants us to do, although with something vastly more important. It’s so important that it’s one of the habits we promise to practice as members: sharing Jesus with others. It’s importance doesn’t reflect the need for Salem to grow larger. Of course that is important. Most United Methodist congregations are declining, and if we don’t grow,…

This Is What Happened

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General Conference, our global family reunion that speaks officially for The United Methodist Church, just concluded last night. This was a specially called session of 864 delegates (half lay, half clergy) from all over the world to discuss and act on the report of the Commission on a Way Forward over the issue of human sexuality. Two of the plans presented had the most support: the Traditional Plan as well as the One Church Plan, which was endorsed by the Council of Bishops. The One Church Plan would have given each local congregation and pastor the authority to make their own choices regarding same-sex weddings based on their cultural context. In an emotional, contested, rancorous, yet majority decision, the General Conference chose the Traditional Plan. The vote was 438 to 384 (this doesn’t equal 864 as some of the international delegates did not make it to St. Louis because they didn’t get visas). The chosen Traditional Plan basically keeps the current language in our Book of Discipl…

State of the Church

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Each year, in assessing the state of Salem, we take a look at some benchmark statistics. As of the end of 2018 our membership now includes 276 professing adults. We also have 70 baptized infants and children— so 346 total.  This past year 3 members died, and we received 16 new members. That means we have received 130 new members since arriving at our current location a little over eight years ago! Additionally, we have 83 active non-members. So we could say we actually have 429 people who are a part of Salem, however, it’s likely the case that we have an equal amount of our members who are inactive. It’s unfortunate when members become inactive. We have to spend time and energy to help them become active again or to withdraw their membership, since they’re not upholding their membership vows. One of the important things we did this past year was hire more staff, getting the right people in the right positions to lead ministries and people. This was part of our goal to implement a staff r…

An Important Habit for 2019

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I need to tell you the end of the story. For our worship series in December, Nine Months, we read through the entirety of Luke chapter 1 and almost all of the second chapter. We heard about the angel, Gabriel, visiting the old priest, and the young virgin, telling them they would soon have babies. We heard about John the Baptist’s birth, Jesus’ birth, the angelic announcement to the shepherds, and the presentation of Jesus in the temple, where Simeon and Anna, faithful people waiting expectantly for God to act, shared in the joy of Jesus’ birth. Now here is the rest of the story in Luke’s second chapter. Once, when Jesus was twelve years old, Mary and Joseph took him to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. They did this each year. When the celebration was over and they started for home, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t know. They thought he was with their group of travelers, but when they couldn’t find him after the first day of their journey, they frantically raced…