After a drastic change in marketing strategy which resulted in much negative publicity and dismal sales figures, the JCPenney Company recently released a television commercial with a simple message: We made mistakes. We heard our customers. We’d love to see you again. (View the mea culpa commercial.)
Their customers may give them another chance. Time will tell. But some analysts argue that the harm done to the JCPenney brand is irreparable.
As a former retail associate for JCPenney, I’ve given this situation some serious thought. Sadly, my thoughts have produced little to help the struggling retail giant. However, I think the Church in America could possibly learn some lessons from this situation. After all, church attendance is down pretty much across the board. Baptisms and other indicators of church health and growth paint a picture of significant difficulty connecting with people both inside and outside the Church. And many church leaders appear to be grasping at straws just to maintain their sense of relevance and impact on both congregation and culture.
Consider these thoughts, as taken from several online articles:
One in five adults have no religious affiliation. (Full Article Here)
If the current decline in church attendance were the medical case history of a hospital patient, the diagnosis would read: “Chronically ill; resistant to change; on life support; likely terminal.” The church itself is the one institution most in need of the very thing it proclaims to the world — salvation. (Full Article Here)
The overwhelming majority of churches in America are in a major decline mode. In the US alone, more than 35 million people, many former churchgoers, want nothing to do with the church anymore. Yet, if you listen to church leaders, as of course I do, you get a very different interpretation and explanation for the church’s decline. The most frequent explanation for the decline is the “secularization” of our culture. (Full Article Here)
The March 2012 Gallup poll on religious behavior in the United States exposes how lots of people are avoiding church. As Gallup reports, “32 percent of Americans are nonreligious, based on their statement that religion is not an important part of their daily life and that they seldom or never attend religious services.” (Full Article Here)
The actual rate of church attendance from head counts is less than half of the 40% the pollsters report. Numbers from actual counts of people in Orthodox Christian churches (Catholic, mainline and evangelical) show that in 2004, 17.7% of the population attended a Christian church on any given weekend. (Full Article Here)
Obviously, there is a lot of information available about the state of the Church in America. Some articles are more optimistic than others. As most church staffers can attest, almost every leadership conference we attend presents a reminder of the stark realities facing the Church today. Regardless of the times in which we live, the mission of the Church is indisputable. In what we commonly refer to as the Great Commission, Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20a, ESV)
Just as the executives at JCPenney are having to re-visit their mission and re-cast vision, today’s pastors, church staffers, and lay leaders must do the same thing if we are to fulfill the call of Christ.
Here’s where I’d like your thoughts and feedback:
1. What do you see as the #1 issue facing the Church in America today?
2. Does the Church in America owe people a JCPenney-style apology? If so, how would you word it?