Northshore Probe: Meeting the Challenge
Only 3.3% of the population of the Northshore attends a SBC church on any given Sunday. After multiple interviews with leaders from other Evangelical denominations, it is highly likely that less than 10% of the population attends an evangelical church on any given Sunday. Maybe a better indicator of success is small group attendance and only 1.9% of the population of the Northshore attends a Small Group Bible Study on any given Sunday. To double these percentages to 6.6% and 3.8% over the next 10 years, keeping up with population growth means we would need to add 16,434 worshipers and 9,304 Bible Study attendees. Find all the data and full report here.
Four suggestions to meet the challenge: First, we need some of our churches to breakout. Second, we need healthier and riskier church planting. Third, we need to partner to help churches in need of and willing to engage in revitalization. Fourth, we need a discipleship revolution.
A breakout church is defined by Thom Rainer in his book by that title as a church that reaches at least one person for Christ every two weeks or 26 persons per year, has a conversion ratio of 20:1 or 1 conversion for every 20 members per year, has tenured and consistent leadership, and the church makes a clear and positive impact on its community. The momentum of growing churches breaking out will help us catch up with population growth and move past a season of decline.
Healthier and Riskier Church Planting
Healthier church planting means church planting that is led by churches with a heart to multiply and reproduce themselves for the sake of kingdom expansion. So, what’s needed for healthier church planting is healthy mother churches with a heart to reproduce. As Bob Roberts says in his great book The Multiplying Church, “The future of faith in America (and anywhere in the world, for that matter) is not tied to planting more churches, but in raising up of mother congregations of every tribe, tongue, denomination, and network that are reproducing… The hope is in pregnant mother churches.”
Riskier church planting would be multiplication that targets hard to reach areas and unchurched pockets of our population. Missiologist Alan Hirsch suggests that current church models are reaching out to smaller and smaller segment of the population, with possibly as much as 60% of America untargeted by our evangelistic and outreach efforts. Our probe identified multi-housing residents as one potential segment that is underserved. Others may be those in their early 20’s with very little understanding of religion in any form. We need some church plants that go beyond planting a worship service that looks similar to others in the community, but will ask the question “Where is the church not?” and go there with the gospel. We need some church plants that have different scorecards and different expectations, but will faithfully deliver the message of Christ to unchurched people.
Partners in Revitalization
Church revitalization is needed to turn momentum around for congregations that are not effectively reaching their communities. Churches are needed who are willing to adopt or sponsor or merge with existing congregations for the glory of God. And churches are needed who are willing to admit there in need of coming under the wing of a benevolent parent church or work with a church wanting to help then in a revitalization effort.
A Discipleship Revolution
Call it revival, lay renewal, or awakening, what we need is a revolution of discipleship that will lead Northshore Christians to multiply themselves spreading the Gospel like a sneeze to their neighbors, classmates, coworkers, and beyond. In his book Church 3.0, Neil Cole observes, “we have lowered the bar of what it means to be a Christian, such that simply showing up to the weekly one-hour event with some regularity and a checkbook is all it takes.” We must refocus on making disciples who will reproduce themselves by telling others, inviting others, and discipling others.
 Rainer, Tom. Breakout Churches. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005.
 Roberts, Bob. The Multiplying Church. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2008.
 Cole, Neil. Church 3.0: Upgrades for the Future of the Church. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010.