Why Are Church Memberships Declining?

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When I was a child, there was a nursery rhyme that went “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the door and see the people”

But where are the people now? Church memberships have been declining steadily across the board amongst almost all denominations with the exception of the Evangelicals.

In God We Trust?

Considering we were once a nation for whom “In God We Trust”, the stark reality is that many people are opting not only out of church life but out of religion entirely. So where is the disconnect?

What’s Happening Within the Church?

With the rise of reported abuses, scandals and wrongdoings within the church community, coupled with the societal demands for church traditions to keep up with a modern world, the sanctity of churches somehow are becoming obsolete.

Also, societal views of church members overall have waned.  Religious beliefs have been further confined to being practiced in churches or at home. Doing so in a public setting such as in an office or a school is now oftentimes frowned upon as being “politically incorrect” or an infringement upon the rights of others.

But what is correct about a world that is turning away from God?

Louis Posthauer, the Executive Director of Hunters of the Harvest Ministry, “Helping Christians Return to the Body of Christ” has been deeply involved in various aspects of ministry since 1979 when he turned his life over to Christ.  Over the last 36+ years he has been actively involved in teaching and leading a broad range of ministries in the local church.

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CFU:  When did you first realize that there was a crisis in the local churches concerning declining membership?
In 1989 through 1991, I was a full-time volunteer Pastor in the local church and got involved in outreach and visitor follow up. During that time I noticed many casual attenders and friends of theirs who basically were disconnected from the church. As a result, the Lord showed me a Biblical strategy that was very effective in restoring dropouts to the local church. I continued to utilize that after I went back into industry for 25 years and saw many friends and neighbors and work associates restored to church.
However, it wasn’t until 2016 when the Lord impressed me to raise up this ministry and impart it to local churches to train their congregations that I realized how bad this problem of dropout believers has progressed in the western church! The Barna group in 2016 conducted a study that shows for every 10 adult Americans over the age of 21, only 3 out of 7 who consider themselves Christians are actively engaged with the local church. That means that 4 out of 7 of all of those who profess Christian faith are dropout believers. This is stunning. 55% (4/7) of all professing Christians in America today are drop out believers! I’ll bet you know some.
Some of your family members, some are your neighbors, some are your work associates and some are your friends. If you are an actively engaged Christian you’ve already found that simply inviting them or trying to get them back into church generally just doesn’t work. That’s why God’s biblical strategy is so key and important to restoring dropout believers.
CFU: What do you think has contributed to these diminishing numbers?
Some consider that the secular culture is a factor, others consider the level of engagement or lack therof of the church in society, others suggest the relevance of the church today. And there are other factors. All these issues, however, are merely manifestations of the latter days Church age we are living in, in which most people’s love is growing cold (Matt 24:12).
As a result, dropout believers have bought into a variety of lies that justify their disassociating themselves from the church  – the body of Christ, none of which are the will of God. These are strongholds – false, deeply deceptive belief systems in the mind, that must be torn down spiritually in order for them to know the truth.
CFU: What is the goal of Hunters of the Harvest Ministry in rebuilding the Kingdom?
The vision of Hunter’s of the Harvest Ministry is to see millions of dropout believers across the church in the Western World restored to the church – the body of Christ. Our mission is to impart the biblical strategy of hunters of the harvest to churches and their congregations to enable them to effectively reach out to their own sphere of influence: their family members, friends, neighbors, and work associates; and see God work miraculously to restore them to the local church.
Just think – if every active christian engaged and helped restore one – just one dropout, the church would double in size! Think Easter/Christmas level attendance all the time! Think of Holy Spirit revitalized on fire churches – because when dropouts are restored they come in on fire and ready to give and to engage!
CFU: What do you recommend as an action plan for rebuilding the Kingdom?
LP: Churches in the West still try to do evangelism as if most of the society around them is not saved or are unbelievers. That is not the case in America and some other Western countries. In fact the Barna statistics say in America only 30% of adults profess no commitment to Christian faith. Yes, this 30% will respond to traditional evangelistic outreach that proclaims the gospel of good news.
However,  those 4 out of 7 believers who are dropouts have already “been there, done that”.  They won’t be inclined to be responsive to such traditional outreaches(“I know that – I already believe in Jesus…”). Dropout believers already believe in Jesus. They just don’t believe the church is real – a vital part of their professed belief in Jesus. Their false belief systems – strongholds – must be brought down spiritually (2 Co 10:5) and overcome by the love of God manifested through prayer in individual believers who are committed to them. This is the power of the biblical strategy of Hunters of the Harvest.
I encourage every active Christian and especially leaders who are concerned about this issue to carefully review our website HuntersoftheHarvest.Org  This is the biblical answer for the restoration of dropout believers.
Christians, Pastors – it is time to act. The hour is late. Maranatha!
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Surviving Church Hurt

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How Do You Define Church Hurt?

Church hurt is a term that is frequently used when a believer hurts another believer. Gossip, slander and isolation are just some examples of behavior that can cause individuals to feel as they do not belong. It can be emotionally distressing to undergo bad treatment in general,  but these feelings are somehow magnified when they occur within the church.

Church hurt can sometimes be a result of misplaced anger or one’s unwillingness to handle correction or take constructive criticism. Nevertheless, while it doesn’t even seem plausible that the two words church and hurt would even be associated with each other, it’s one of the primary reasons people give for leaving the body of Christ.

Sticks and Stones

As children we’ve all heard the phrase “sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you”. But they can, and do especially if they’ve come from fellow churchgoers or God forbid the actual shepherd of the church.

Preacher’s Pet

The role of the clergyman or clergywomen of a Church will always be perceived as a position of power. A position perceived to be closest to God. Similarly, those who are closely aligned to the Pastor, are often seen as an extension of this power.

Whether it is the spouse of the minister or the head of a ministry in the Church, titles somehow suggest superiority. Church officials are often viewed as an object of favoritism  rather than individuals appointed based on their ability to lead.

These hierarchies have oftentimes led to dissension amongst fellow members causing harm not only to individuals but to the Church body as a whole. But why?

Unrealistic Expectations

Church members for some reason expect more from each other. Just because they see each other on Sunday mornings, worshipping the same God, they expect each other to think the same way about everything.

Church members have a hard time allowing themselves and each other any margin error. The expectations are somehow different just because they are Christians. The truth is, people are people and will forever be flawed whether they are in the Church or in your workplace. Here’s another eye opener for you, there are people at every Church, so church-hopping is not the solution.

For it is Written

  • Christian or not, you aren’t going to like everyone and everyone will not like you. But don’t let that stop you from loving them. (John 13:34)
  • God sees everything. Not only does He see what others have done to you He also sees how we choose to respond. Two wrongs have never made any one person right. (Romans 12:17-21)
  • Stop judging each other’s standards. Being a Christian is not a title it’s a declaration of one‘ s determination to pattern themselves after Christ. If you want to be like Jesus, don’t be petty. (2 Timothy 2:14)
  • Don’t get an attitude with God just because God’s people may have let you down. His ways are not are our ways. (Isaiah 55:8)
  • Jesus cares about everything that you care about. If you’ve told everyone with ears what has happened to you, then why not tell Jesus? When you need answers go directly to the source. (Psalm 18:6)
  • Speak with the person(s) who offended you. This does NOT mean confront them. If you’ve received an apology accept it. (Matthew 18:15)
  • Don’t be afraid to do a bit of self-examination. If you find yourself having personal issues at every church you attend then perhaps it’s time to ask God to reveal you to YOU. (Psalm 139)
  • There are always going to be people determined not to let an offense go. They will carry their hurt and pain like a trophy from church to church and even make it a part of their testimony. Pray for them. (Matthew 24:10-12)
  • God can change situations and hearts when you least expect it. Readily receive any offers of reconciliation. (Ephesians 4:32)

Finding a Church Home

Here is where you have entered a judgment free zone.

If you’ve been out of church for a while or perhaps you have relocated and have yet to settle down with a new church home.Search for church online for free. Let’s Pray Together is a nationwide church search database available to church seekers and those who volunteer to list their churches as a resource: LetsPrayTogether.org

If you still need assistance finding a church or if you have specific requirements for the church you are seeking. Email: MetaWashington@siriusxm.com with your request.

 

Can You REALLY Afford to Tithe?

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Tithing God’s Way

The real question is… Can you really afford NOT to tithe?

The answer is a resounding NO! Tithing is not about us paying God back for our blessings. The purpose of tithing is to teach us to always put God first and check on our attitudes about the source of our resources. We ought to always recognize God as our sole source of security.  The world however, makes it’s easy to believe that once you’ve made enough money and have purchased enough material things, THEN are you guaranteed a life of security and happiness.  But reality says…not so! Besides, how much  is ever enough? This false sense of thinking is the primary reason so many people today are in debt.

It is however, undeniable that money does allow for more certain conveniences but by tithing you demonstrate your trust in God to provide all of the things you need. Tithing is an opportunity to open up your finances to God to be blessed and increased by declaring that neither money nor material things represent the god in which you worship.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)

  • What is the correct way to tithe? The Bible says that we are required to return one-tenth of our earnings to God (Deuteronomy 14:22-29).
  • Does this also include my time and talents?  It may in some cases, depending on how your time and talent are used to contribute to the Kingdom.
  • Should I tithe gross or net of my income? This is an age-old question. Many have said that tithes should be calculated based on gross income or what you’ve made overall before taxes etc.  However, you can check with your own church clergy to confirm.
  •  How does the Church use my money? Churches pay bills the same as secular organizations. As a religious organization they are entitled to certain exemptions however this does not mean that they operate for free. Monies collected oftentimes cover a variety of Church-related expenses. Each Church usually has it’s own record keeping system in place according to their own bylaws.
  • Does this mean tithing just another church fundraiser?  Absolutely not, tithing is an act of obedience as commanded by the Word of God.
  • How can I be sure that my tithes are not helping finance something that doesn’t directly benefit the Church?  What happens with our tithes once we pay them honestly shouldn’t concern us as long as we honor our responsibility as Christians to be obedient to God’s Word regarding tithing.
  • Do my other Church donations count towards tithing?  Tithing is considered to  be ten percent of your total earnings, whatever those earnings may consist of.  In addition, many Churches also collect a general offerings aside from the special tithes which may include donations.

What If I Can’t Afford to Tithe for Financial Reasons? 

Although ten percent may not seem like much when compared to what God provides, many still find themselves struggling with the notion of parting ways with even portion a small portion of our salaries. You are not alone! After all, we all have bills to be paid and neither the landlord nor the electric companies are waiting upon the Lord to deliver on your behalf, They are waiting for YOU to deliver cold hard cash, on time each month.   Just like death and taxes, bills will undoubtedly always be a part of life but despite this ,you can still afford to tithe and it’s a lot easier than many of us would imagine. It does however require discipline and once you learn to adapt healthy attitudes about money then you are the best position ever to be the person God has destined you to be.

God is truly a great provider! He supplies ALL of our needs according to His riches (Philippians 4:19).

ChurchFolksUnited.com will be publishing articles in an ongoing series entitled “Saved & Saving” that will offer you tips and advice from experts to help you budget, save and grow your resources. If there are any topics of specific interest to you, please feel free to reach out with any suggestions: (Meta Washington – ChurchFolksUnited@gmail.com).

I look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Discernment in Today’s Church

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One late night while watching television, an infomercial came on featuring a very charismatic televangelist. He referred to himself as a prophet and spoke of amazing miracles. Testimonials were given by everyday people who declared they were able to overcome obstacles either by receiving large unexpected amounts of cash or they were cured instantaneously of cancer and other terminal diseases. They all seemed very convincing. Some even held wads of cash while others gave tearful recollections of their lives prior to being healed and all of this good fortune was due in no small part to a tiny vial of liquid known as “Miracle Spring Water”. What’s most amazing is that 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water.  Yet somehow, the promoter has made millions of dollars peddling it.

There is a real danger in leaning to our own understanding and it is pretty evident that there certainly is no shortage of false prophets or false doctrines in the world. Herein lies the importance of discernment. 

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“Proverbs 3:5 – Trust the LORD with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding”

Pastor Hart Ramsey is the pastor of Northview Christian Church with locations in Dothan, AL and Atlanta, GA. Here is what he had to say about the topic:

CFU: Pastor Ramsey what comes to your mind when you hear Church people say “we’ve always done it this way”? 
HR: What comes to mind is the word tradition. Tradition does not necessarily mean than an idea or method is right or wrong. It simply means that it was passed down from one generation to the next and has now become their custom. Somewhere along the line, they were told that the way things were done in the past is the only way it should ever be done. The intent is usually right; but it almost always results in stagnation.

CFU: What are a few red flags that signal that a church is operating outside of
God’s realm?
HR: The first thing that usually jumps out is the heart (or spirit) of the leader. If the leader doesn’t see himself as a representative of Jesus, but as a substitute for Jesus, he will be tempted to draw people to himself and not to the Lord. Also every life-giving Church has to be strong in three areas: (1) Sound Doctrine. We must preach a rightly divided Word (2) Make Disciples. We must teach people who Jesus is, what He has done for them, and what He requires of them (3) Maintain a Difference. The basic meaning of the word “holiness” is difference. The Church must be in the world, but not influenced by it. We must have a different flavor and atmosphere about us.

CFU:  How do you go about using discernment when searching for a Church home?
HR: I believe God connects people to the places where they should worship Him. So, when you first visit a church, don’t go in trying to figure out whether or not it’s right for you. Instead, ask the Lord to lead you with His peace. More often than not, modern churches will have lights, excitement, professional music, appealing optics and other interests that are designed to impress and attract people. But “red flag” churches lack depth. They know how to attract but not how to make lasting impact. They can draw you, but they can’t develop or deliver you. So, unless you’re definitely led of the Lord, never join after your first visit. Attend multiple services until you have a definite YES or NO in your spirit. It’s about having complete peace before committing to a Church home. Then once you commit, really COMMIT!

CFU: How can you be sure you are interpreting the Word correctly?
HR: That is a powerful question. The word for “disciple” is also the Greek work for student. Jesus told His followers to make disciples of all nations. He told them to share the Good News with everyone and those who accept it should be instructed into their new life. We are directed to first become learners before we assume to be teachers. That’s what Jesus meant when He said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me.” So, I think the answer is that we have to learn to interpret Scripture. The Bible is one continuously unfolding story. When false doctrine creeps into the Church, those who are committed to the learning process can usually discern it. The Holy Spirit will testify in our hearts against false and self-serving teachings. But we must pay attention to Him. We must be continual learners and never presume to “know it all.”

Is Your Church Making You Fat???

No, this isn’t another article celebrating those who are thin. Despite popular opinion, being ultra thin is not for everyone. The subject gained interest soon after I posted a social media poll asking church members to name the various occasions their churches hosted events involving food. The response was overwhelming.  Parishioners across the nation started naming activities like church anniversaries, Pastors anniversaries, friends & family celebrations, bake sales, fish frys, harvest celebrations, cookouts, homegoings AND homecomings just to name a few. Some of the occasions didn’t even official names, they were just simply referred to as 1st or 3rd Sunday meals.

Feast of the Lord??

My personal favorite was a fundraiser my own church made up called “Twelve Tables”.  Each of the twelve tables depicted a month during the year and the theme of course was FOOD! The tables all represented holidays and displayed a virtual cornucopia of delicacies. One ticket, afforded you the opportunity to partake in a year’s worth of meals. July’s table was filled with cookout favorites like ribs, potato salad and burgers, January boasted pig’s feet, collard greens and black-eyed peas then there was November…the grandest of all feasts complete with a full Thanksgiving spread.

What’s Up With All This Food At Church?

One year, during one of these events a church member had fallen ill.  911 was called and an ambulance arrived. When the crew entered the church, they stopped dead in their tracks taken back by the unbelievable sight of wall-to-wall food in our fellowship hall. One of the EMT workers said “It’s wonder no one has had a heart attack in here. What’s up with all of this food???

Great question. What IS up with all of the food at our churches?? Fellowshipping has somehow become synonymous with the Feast of the Lord….LITERALLY!

Churches are increasingly becoming a breeding ground for people slowly digging their own graves with a knife and fork. 

But its not just church members, nationally nearly 38% of adults are obese and approximately 8% are considered extremely obese.  Yet, diet and weight loss procedures have often been a confusing and even daunting task for many. Overall, the goal is not that everyone should be skinny but each individual should strive to maintain a healthy weight range to avoid potential issues such as limited mobility, heart diseases, breathing disorders, diabetes and a host of other preventable ailments.

Here are some stats from U.S. states:

  •  Louisiana, Alabama, West Virginia and Mississippi have the highest adult obesity rates nationally with over 35% of adults who are considered obese. Louisiana being the highest at 36.2%
  • Mississippi has the highest rate of diabetes at 14.7%.
  • West Virginia has the highest rate of hypertension at 41%.

Charles Butler Jr. the founder of the Stellar-nominated gospel group “Charles Butler & Trinity” knows the struggle of weight loss all too well. At his peak weight, he was 499 pounds. But today, with the help of the medical professionals at the Decalo Weight Loss Center in Maryland he has lost 150 lbs and counting within 9 months and without surgery! He also serves as their Brand Ambassador.

The picture below of Charles wearing a suit was taken 2017 on the red carpet at the Stellar Awards. The other picture, again on the Stellar red carpet was taken just last month and really shows his remarkable transformation!

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CF United:  What do you think is one of the greatest misconceptions about people who are overweight?

CB: I think one of the greatest misconceptions is that we are unkempt. That we live a piggish lifestyle, but even at my heaviest I was always well-groomed, always smelled well and always kept myself up.  So that’s one of the biggest misconceptions, which is why one of the things I’ve always hated is when people have said “Oh you smell so good” it was like I was not supposed to.

CF United: What was the turning point for you that made you lose the weight? 

CB: The turning point was definitely travel and being able to fit comfortably on an airplane. I knew this what I was supposed to do and if I had to ride coach I did not want to be uncomfortable or make someone else uncomfortable. Between travel and even seeing pictures of myself on the red carpet. I just knew I wanted to be better and live better.

I actually thought about this coming home last month from the Stellar Awards.  I had a connector flight and it took us all on a small jet and I said God no….I was so comfortable on the other plane. But when it came time to board I didn’t have the usual anxiety. I didn’t say I have to get on another plane or ya’ll have to rearrange anything. I just got on my plane, sat down, slept and came home.

CF United: How did you find out about the Decalo Weight Loss Center?

CB: I got a call from a gentleman I knew who asked me if I’d mind taking on an endorsement with the Decalo Weight Loss Center. He saw me once on the red carpet and at that time I had lost about 20 lbs, to me that was not a significant amount of weight but I said to myself you know what… I can’t do this anymore and I said “Sure” I would do it and he said, “You have to be serious about it” and that’s when I said “You know let’s do it”. When I went into Decalo I weighed 499 lbs  I didn’t know it…you never could not of told me I weighed that much.  I just let it go. It was the fear of the unknown, it was like if I don’t know I’ll never know and because I never had medical issues I figured I’m good.

 

CF United: You’ve tried in the past to lose weight. What was different about the Decalo Weight Loss Center?

CB: The accountability, the staff is excellent! There’s a lady named Tish that I deal with on a weekly basis and she’s awesome to communicate with. I will never forget, once when I was in Philadelphia I went to a restaurant for a dinner party and literally almost had a small breakdown because there was nothing on the menu except pizza, pasta and salad. So I went to the bathroom and called Tish and I said, “I’m salad’ed out…I don’t know what to eat”.  She literally sat with me on the phone and went over the menu. THAT right there meant the world to me. It was the most human thing ever for her to sit on the phone with me while she was in her office and say, “Ok…what’s on the menu?”.  She said, “I know you don’t want salad, so let’s not do salad” and then she asked if they had alternative crusts with the pizzas and they didn’t so she asked what types of pastas they had? Eventually, I wound up getting lobster ravioli.  She said, “Ask them if they can go light on the sauce” and they were able to do that. She was sooo accommodating and that made a world of difference.  And after all of that, I think I ate less than half of the meal.

CF United: Decalo also offers online products such as the BellyTox Tea. What is it and how has it helped you?

In the beginning of my weight loss journey, I noticed at first there are these big numbers but then the weight loss numbers started to decline. My first week at Decalo I lost 18 lbs, then afterwards I was losing maybe one or two pounds per week so the BellyTox Tea literally accelerated my weight loss. The Belly Detox Tea has a 14-day AM and PM tea.

Kudos to Charles for sharing his amazing weight loss journey. Find out more about the “BellyTox Tea” or call the Decalo Weight Loss Center and be sure to mention you saw them on Church Folks United!

Overall, it takes approximately 21 days to form a new habit. Perhaps you’ve already fallen off on a New Year’s resolution. Don’t give up on the rest of the year.  Your season for a healthy beginning can start today. If staying motivated or even getting motivated is a challenge, consider partnering with someone willing to share the journey like a spouse, a close friend or a support group. If emotions are what trigger your overeating, consider some meditative techniques and of course prayer.  You might even want to try getting yourself moving with some spiritual vibes combining gospel music with inspiration and exercise but don’t attempt a drastic overhaul overnight. Remember, gradual changes can eventually become routine.  It’s your temple invest in it and cherish it.

This is a judgment-free zone! Feel free to share your own journeys and testimonies here at Church Folks United to help encourage, uplift and bless others!