Archives For outreach

graham-bday-2013-editedToday marks the 95th birthday of world-renowned evangelist Billy Graham. And in keeping with his call to carry the Good News of Jesus Christ to people of all walks of life, over the next several days Rev. Graham will present a 30-minute broadcast on select cable networks and other television outlets. (Click here for TV listings.)

Through a year-long effort called ‘My Hope,’ the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) has enlisted the support and partnership of thousands of churches all over the United States and Canada to share the message of Christ’s redeeming love. Rev. Graham’s ‘lifetime audience’ (including radio and television) was, as of 2008, an estimated 2.2 billion! Through his pre-recorded broadcast message this week, the famed preacher will speak what he believes will likely be his final message to millions all over North America.

I’ve never had the opportunity to see Graham in person. However, I remember sitting with my family as a young child listening to the unmistakable timbre of the passionate orator’s voice as he delivered God’s Word right into our living room via our large wooden console television. Ah, yes, those were the days. His crusades were always packed with many thousands of people, and his invitations to ‘accept Christ as Lord and Savior’ resulted in some 3.2 million professions of faith. While times and technology have unquestionably changed, the timeless truth of the gospel remains as relevant today as it has ever been.

graham-quoteThough increasingly frail and weakened with age, Rev. Graham’s prayer life is as strong as ever. In recent years he has admittedly grown deeply concerned about the spiritual condition of our nation. One word summarizes the beloved evangelist’s desire to speak one more time: urgency. Essentially, Rev. Graham has sensed God calling him to deliver a message to the people here in the US and Canada. Click here to read a touching article about the filming process for ‘My Hope.’

You might have stumbled upon this post at random, but I can assure you that it’s no accident. Whether you’re a longtime fan of Billy Graham, or you’ve never even heard his name, I urge you to take just 30 minutes out of your schedule at some point over the next few days to watch ‘The Cross.’ Having seen the program in its entirety, I can tell you that it is an incredibly powerful message that I know God will use to change many, many lives. You can preview it here — or watch the full message by clicking the graphic below:

How has the ministry of Billy Graham impacted your own life and spiritual journey?

jpc-church2After 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?