The New Normal Church

The New Normal Church

Last month I was scrolling through my Twitter feed when I saw a tweet that linked to an intriguing offer that was put out there by Ed Stetzer–a well known, high-profile Christian pastor and leader.  He said that he and his wife were going on vacation soon, and while they were there, he would like to preach at a local church.  He did however, put some conditions on his offer.  One stipulation was that they were not allowed to pay him–he wanted to do it free of charge as a gift to the church.  A nice gesture, but not super earth-shattering.  It was his other, primary condition that really piqued my interest.  He said it had to be a “normal” church.  What, you may ask, is a “normal” church?  He went on to list the criteria, so here’s his list with my two cents tacked on as well:

1) “It has to be small.” He categorized small as under 100 in attendance on a given Sunday.  This is corroborated by the Barna Research Group, which reports that the typical protestant church in the U.S. has 89 adults in attendance on an average weekend.  This is a normal church.

2) “It might have a bi-vocational pastor.”  As most churches are plus-or-minus 100 attenders, a church budget will often reflect the capacity of such a group as one being able to support a ministry operating budget but not necessarily a full-time pastoral salary.  The Wall Street Journal reports that as churches shrink so does their ability to retain full-time ministers.  Many, many churches go the route of having bi-vocational pastors.  This is a normal church.

3) “It is probably plateaued or declining.”  In 2011 the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life polled church leaders from around the world and discovered 82% of evangelical ministers from the United States reported that their movement was losing ground. This is a normal church.

4) “The pastor is tired.” A 2010 New York Times article outlines some of the physical, relational, mental, and spiritual stress that today’s clergy are feeling: “Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.”  This is a normal church.

This was a startling thing for me to see.  It really speaks to the reality of the state of the church, and it’s important for us to be aware of this.  Most churches aren’t mega-churches.  Most churches don’t even have multiple ministry staff.  Churches need help (maybe even yours), and when we say they don’t we do so to our own detriment.  When your house is on fire, you don’t argue about what you’re making for dinner.  You get somewhere safe, call 911, and hope the flames are put out as soon as possible.

This is the new normal church.  It’s time to call 911.

May God help us as we strive to make these church characteristics abnormal once again.

What about you? Is your church “normal?”

1 Comment

  1. Kathy Schwartz

    Praise God! Valley Community Baptist Church is NOT normal!

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