I’ve been a Christian since 1980, and a Pentecostal/Evangelical pastor since 1985. I’ve been a pastor on both coasts of the continental United States. First, in Carlsbad, California: a beach city in North San Diego County. Then in the infamous and beautiful New England port city of Salem, MA. I’ve ridden the waves of the Church Growth movement, Charismatic and Neo-Charismatic revivals, the Emergent conversation, and the still developing post-Evangelical discussions. I’ve also watched the slowly decreasing interest in Christianity in our American cultures, and the diminishing church attendance that is the result of that apathy.
Through each of these movements I’ve noticed that the focus so-often has been upon the health and life of the believers in the churches. The Church Growth movement pounded home the mantra that “healthy churches are growing churches”. Charismatic revivals occurred in a variety of locations from the Toronto Airport to Pensacola, and each time my Christian friends ran to these churches to experience revival and (unsuccessfully) bring it home with them. The Emergent Movement developed among acquaintances, and many of the leaders became close friends. As it later splintered into the various factions determined by orthodoxy or the lack thereof, I watched the splinter groups battle for the minds of struggling church goers.
Through this all, I have seen the beauty of the Christian church in America, and I have seen the dark underbelly of greed and corruption. And yes, I know where some of the bodies are buried, and who buried them. I have been one of those bodies, and I thank God for resurrection.
I am currently studying the influential events, techniques, and the developing theologies of American Evangelicalism and I’ve found myself pondering the fact that this eclectic movement has focused upon its own health, and personal spiritual revival for the last 40 years, yet here we are in a cycle of diminishing returns for our investments. (Even that business focused terminology of “diminishing returns” seems a bit sickly, quite frankly.)
I have some thoughts about this that are fairly simple, but who am I to question the wisdom of the elders? (Oh, wait, I guess I am one now.) But, at the moment I want to toss a discussion point out there: How is that we have focused so much Evangelical attention upon church growth and discovering ways to attract people only to have most of us (I include myself) fail miserably?