I would like to share with you a terrifically affirming bit of information. It comes by way of a bit of training I recently participated in, along with several other members of our ministerial staff. From Monday, September 30th, to Tuesday, October 1st, the American Baptist Church of the Northwest hosted an event called “Leadership Tune-up” over at Ross Point Baptist Camp in Post Falls Idaho. I was able to accompany Lynn Crawford, Jessica Kirsch, her son Davy, Chris and Stacie Cummings, and their two children, Mason and Taylor.
It was a wonderful event. Our keynote speaker was Dr. Aubrey Malphurs, the senior professor of leadership and pastoral ministry at Dallas Theological Seminary as well as a prolific author. He is also the founder of “The Malphurs Group,” an organization that works similarly to the assessment team that our region sent to us a few years ago. In short, he is quite the expert and was well worth our attention and time.
While the training was, indeed wonderfully affirming, it began with some sorrowful news regarding the state of our churches in the US. Across the board, studies show that the Church in America is in a major state of decline, headed in many cases towards closing completely.
Most studies agree that between 80 and 90 percent of churches in America are either declining (loosing members) or, at best, have plateaued (failing to grow). According to a study by David Olson, only 17% of American people attend church on weekends.
One of the major reasons for this decline is that the Church, as a whole, has done a rather miserable job of leading our young people to faith. One of the studies cited by Dr. Malphurs stated that 60% of young Christians between the ages of 16 and 29 are leaving the church.
But, perhaps, you can guess why, in the midst of this tragic news, your staff and I were able to find much of it truly affirming. Ladies and gentlemen, we – all of us who are part of the First Baptist Church of Port Angeles – we are bucking the trend! This is so exciting.
Time and again, as Dr. Malphurs laid out the pathway to revitalization, those of us who were part of FBCPA were able to nod knowingly at each other. This is what we have done, it is what we are doing. A key element of Dr. Malphurs’ suggested path toward success was to ‘Revision Pastoral Leadership’.
Why is such revisioning necessary? Because currently the average tenure of a pastor in any given church within the US is just 3.5 years. This means I’ve been pastor at First Baptist for twice as long as the national average.
And the average time for someone to stay in Chris’ position is an even more tragic 18 months. Not a day goes by in church life that I don’t give thanks to God for all Chris does for us in response to God’s call on his heart.
Obviously something about the Church in America needs to change and, rightly, it must begin with the pastors. And as Dr. Malphurs outlined what was necessary for revitalization that needed to come to a church, it became clear – we are well on our way. It is no wonder then, that we see our church moving so dramatically in a direction completely opposite where many of our sister churches are headed. We are bringing new people into our church – and even more exciting, new people into faith – many of them within that very demographic that is the most difficult to reach.
Baptisms this year, alone, include:
Alex Stowell, Monica Rice, David Scholten, Mike and Misty Peterson, Audra Perrizo, Bill and Hillary Gentile, Josh and JJ Thayer (pictured), Caleb Crawford and Joan Gill.
And the above is just “so far” because we ‘ain’t done yet!’. This Sunday, we will be baptizing Melissa Koon and Randy Smith in our 9:30 service. And Barbara Tracy will be getting baptized during the 11:00 service! Praise God!
Of course, as with any good training, there was more than just affirmation; we also came away with some wonderful challenges and helpful suggestions as well. But how thrilling it is to hear how well we are doing.
- Pastor Tim