An anecdotal “ground zero” for why the church is shrinking in the western world

Both churches and visitors are waiting for the other to take the first step and initiate connection. It is a perfect recipe for decline and decay. | by Don Corder

I recently wrote an article entitled “Is She ‘Allowed’ in Your Church?” The article was about a young woman I met (I called her Katie) who lived very far from God but had interest in connecting with a church in her neighborhood. This article was read by over 30,000 people and garnered hundreds of comments and responses.  Collectively, those hundreds of comments are a perfect living anecdote as to why…

1. Katie probably will not find a church.
2. The Church is declining in the western world.

In the article I described the woman I met:

I recently met a young woman I’ll call Katie. She is 23 years old and a single mom. She has two sons by two different fathers. She lives alone and struggles to put food on the table and a roof over their head. She is also a repeated victim of domestic violence.

Katie asked me an odd question. She asked if I knew of a church that would “allow” her to attend. I asked her why she thought some churches would not allow her to attend. She told me she had never been baptized and she also could not afford to pay the “ten percent dues.”

Every person who responded or commented on the article said Katie is “welcome” in their church.  Not one person said anything to the contrary.  That did not surprise me.  What church doesn’t want new people coming through the door?  Thinking that people might be missing the point, I took the time to respond to about 200 of these comments with this question:

“How does your church ‘go’ to and connect with Katie?”

This is where this human anecdote got real.  Every single person who answered my question (there were about 100), responded with Katie finding their church on her own and walking through the door. Not one person responded by describing a method for “inviting” her. Well, one man told me, “She could read the sign out front.”  I guess that is technically “outside the doors of the church.”

Many people told me how their church supports ministries and missions both foreign and domestic. But not one person responded by describing a behavior, ministry, process or method in their church designed to connect proactively with the neighborhood around their church that occurred outside the doors of their church. Not one!

These responses are the anecdotal “ground zero” for why the church is shrinking in the western world. 

Like it or not, we are the post-Christian era Church.  Like the Church in the first through fourth centuries AD, we are once again a minority religious sect in a predominantly secular culture. We are the post-Christian era Church and we need to start acting like it.

Connecting with the neighborhood and undiscipled people in the post-Christian era has to be front-loaded in a relationship, meaning the church has to make the first move and proactively provide the energy and activity that leads to connection with visitors, the neighborhood, and undiscipled people. Most churches today are still acting like a leading force in a majority Christian culture and passively waiting for connection to happen as a visitor-initiated by-product of being in church. Both church and visitors are waiting for the other to take the first step and initiate connection. It is a perfect recipe for decline and decay.

The church cannot “make” disciples of undiscipled people if we do not connect with them and develop a relationship.  That initial connection, in the post-Christian era, usually happens outside the doors of the church.  If we are going to fulfill the Great Commission, we have to create a culture of evangelism in our local church. The Church is going to have to take the lead in this post-Christian era and initiate connection (and relationship) with everyone we meet and in everything we do. We have to reach out.  We have to connect with people, we have to do it outside the doors of the church, and we have to do it first!

I know this is scary.  I know this represents serious change and makes people anxious.  We don’t need courage and we don’t need expertise.  We need faith in a God who is good and whose Word is true.  God promised us if we would just “go” and try to connect with people who live far from Jesus, He would be there.  Do anything.  Initiate contact. Try anything and do it now.

If you have no idea where to begin, I suggest you pick up a copy of the best-selling book Connect. In it, you will find 28 things your church can do right now to find Katie, reach out to her, and connect with her.

Katie is still sitting in her apartment across the street from your church.  She is still lonely and scared and crying out for a savior she does not know and has never met.  Will someone please take the initiative and reach out to her today?  Please. Do anything.  Just “go.”

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