Every church wants to be good news to their neighborhood, but the questions is: are they good news to their neighborhood. The problems lies in the fact that every church thinks they’re succeeding in their mission, in reaching and serving their community, and growing more like Jesus everyday. Sure, there are those that are having issue and know it, who are attempting to right the ship, but for the most part, churches think they’re hitting a home run.
If you’re in Indianapolis, the most churched place in America, then you most likely are doing well at leading a thriving a church. You can find more churches in that city than you can find Starbucks, so there’s got to be something there (there is one church for every 289 people). If a church closed in Indianapolis, it would be felt by a lot of people, but because there are so many options, an audience could easily find another option right across the street.
No one is saying the Bible Belt has a firm grip on things. In some cases, reaching people for God is more difficult in these areas, where going to church is the culturally correct thing to do. But there is a stark contrast between the middle of America and the cities that rest on the coasts.
In most liberal leaning cities on the coasts, the percent of people churched hovers around four percent. That means that in a city like Los Angeles, only 161,000 people consider themselves churched. Take that a step further, and less than that are actively involved in their churches.
If a church in Los Angeles closes their doors, their congregation will feel it, their community will notice, but will anyone care? Because their are no options, where will people go? Sure, there are other churches, but because churches are so few and far between, the localized options are as well.
In our city, there are thirty-five religious institutions, roughly one church for every 2500 residents. In 2016, we saw six local churches open their doors for the last time. What this means is that if a church closes up shop or merges with another church, the community does not know about it, but also, most likely does not care.
Why? Because the church in our city does not have a local voice.
The church needs to reclaim their voice. It cannot just be a beautiful property set atop a hill overlooking a city. The church’s congregation must seek to get feet on the ground and serve their communities, starting with the front doors of its members at home and extending outward to the local church they call their own. Our churches need to be a refuge for the poor and disenfranchised, the hurt and the lonely, but also for those seeking truth in a world without whole life solutions.
If your church were to close tomorrow, it should break your community’s heart as much as it breaks the heart of God. If it wouldn’t, then you’ve got some work to do.
How to have a local voice in five steps:
- Never assume you’re killing it. Always listen to your city and ask tough questions (how will you know unless you ask and see the difference you’re making?).
- Weekly remind your church about your mission to make disciples (and how you do it).
- Model your mission as a leadership team and show proof (yes, it’s needed).
- Create opportunities for your congregations to get involved locally (inside – out).
- Open up avenues for your community to know you’re there (outside – in).