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The church in America is in a fix today, perhaps as deep a fix as never before in the history of the church in America. Ed Stetzer, in his book Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age, makes a number of observations regarding the demise of the church in

America. For example:

In 1900, 27 churches existed for every 10,000 Americans.

In 1950, 17 churches existed for every 10,000 Americans.

In 1996, 11 churches existed for every 10,000 Americans.19 Further he cites Win Arn’s report that 3,500 to 4,000 close their doors each year in the United States20 making the United States the fifth largest mission field on earth.21 Missiologist, David Smith, writes, ‘We ring our bells, says Darrell Guder, ‘conduct our services…and wait for this very different world to come to us.’ Pastors continue to preach sermons and carry on internal polemics over doctrine as though nothing outside has changed, but the reality is that everything has changed and the people ‘are not coming back to the churches.’22 Tom Clegg and Warren Bird, in their book, Lost in America, say “roughly half of all churches in America did not add one new person through conversion growth last year.”23 Further they state, “In America, it takes the combined effort of eighty-five Christians working over an entire year to produce one convert.”24 Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, creators and instructors of a church planting class called ZerOrientation, say that although this year in the United States 1,300 churches will be started, 3,750 will disband

Ed Stetzer, Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age, (Nashville:

Broadman and Holman Press, 2003), 9.

Ibid., 10.


David Smith, Mission After Christendom, (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2003), 33.

Clegg, Thomas and Warren Bird, Lost in America: How You and Your Church Can Impact the World Next Door, (Loveland, Colorado: Group Publishing, 2001), 27.

Ibid., 29.

and close their doors.25 Ninety-eight percent of church growth is by transfer growth as smaller churches close their doors and growth is consolidated into fewer, though larger churches.26 Although there are few true atheists in the United States and the vast majority of unchurched people describe themselves as “spiritual” (though not religious) and would like a deeper relationship with God,27 the church is doing a dismal job of connecting with these seekers. If present trends continue, by 2060 “no one will be in church.”28 David Smith observes that the real problem of Christian mission in the modern West is not the absence of spiritual hunger within the postmodern generation, but rather the church’s failure to recognize the existence and significance of this quest on the part of thousands of people beyond its doors. Even where such recognition does occur there is often a refusal to respond on the terms set by the searchers, rather than those dictated by existing ecclesiastical traditions and structures.29 One cannot expect the trajectory of the church in the future to change by doing more or better of the same things the church has done in the past. One needs to think differently and act differently if one expects the future to be different…and better. How can the trajectory of the church be changed?

Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, ZerOrientation—Creating Church Where It Doesn’t Exist (Anaheim, California: Church Resource Ministries, 2004), 2.

Halter and Smay, lecture, September 28, 2004.

Pete Ward. Liquid Church (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002) 2-5.

Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, “Creating Church Where It Doesn’t Exist” (lecture given in Denver Colorado, 28 September 2004).

Smith, 73.

I believe that some of the answers to that question are found within the context of this paper. If a local congregation of people refuses to get outside the walls and engage the community with words and works of love, the days of that church are numbered. God has designed the church to be salt, light, and leaven in the world—agents of transformation that work very well up close and very poorly from a distance. The church must rediscover her role as “the soul” of a community and in doing so to discover fresh ways to enter into the life, rhythms, and conversations of the community. As with individuals, the church can only become great by becoming a servant.

The churches that were participants in these LCs have discovered fresh ways to love and serve. They have discovered afresh the words and life of Jesus whose ministry put him face to face with the needs and dreams of those he would die for. They have rediscovered the gospel and why the gospel really was “good news” to the people of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and how it can be good news today.

Most people tend to overestimate what can be done in one year and underestimate what can be done in five years. The church does not need another “40 Days of Purpose” as much as it needs “40 Years of Purpose” if church leaders really want to transform the church and make a sustained and lasting kingdom difference in a community. A common proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree is ten years ago.”30 But there is a corollary that is often left out. “The second best time to plant a tree is today.” The church may have Available from http://thinkexist.com/quotation/the_best_time_to_plant_a_tree_is_twenty_years_ago/254

949.html; accessed 25 May 2007.

not done what it could have done or should have done in the past but there is no time like today to begin.

–  –  –

Dear Colleague, I need your help. As you may know Leadership Network has a handful of donors who are eager to advance what God is doing through innovative and influential churches like yours by helping to fund and staff Leadership Communities. Though your church pays a registration fee, the program is subsidized approximately 70% by Leadership Network donors. Like any good donor they want to know what difference their investment is making. So here’s how you can help all of us advance the ball.

The Leadership Community for Externally Focused Churches convenes around accelerating the number, level and frequency of engaging the people in your church in the needs and dreams of your community. Although community transformation is a desirable byproduct, what we can take responsibility for is those within our bailiwick that can be deployed. So…

Here is the quantitative information I need from you:

1. Current data--In 2007 (this past year) · How many people from your church were engaged in ministry / service outside your church in 2006? ______ · How many hours / 2006 did each person serve? ______

Here is the qualitative information I need from you:

1. A brief description of how your church’s involvement in the Leadership Community has helped (or not helped) your church.

2. A four-sentence story of one person who was touched through one of your externally focused ministries.

3. Multiplying effects-If you held any type of teaching event with other churches or leaders around externally focused ministry please write down, what, who, when and how many attended.

I know this is a busy time of year but I think doing this report will also help you and your team get a snapshot of where you are in this process. Most likely you or one of your colleagues has this information at hand. So forward this to them if you like. Thanks so much in advance for your help!

Shoulder to shoulder, Eric

–  –  –




Accomplishments in 2006:

The start of a new home weatherization and improvement program known as Warm Homes Warm Hearts. Five homes were completed in the spring and another 25 during ShareFest 2006.

Opening of a neighborhood charitable health clinic in the urban neighborhood we serve.

Supported the completion 4 Habitat for Humanity Homes.

Major supporter in the launch of Prison Fellowship’s Inner Change Freedom Initiative in Arkansas.

Played a significant role in the 8th successful ShareFest in Central Arkansas. More than a 100 churches participated in some way with 3500 volunteers working on the community workday, almost 7000 holiday food boxes collected, and a ShareFest love offering gift of $88,000 (the largest gift to a single ministry in the history of ShareFest)

Multiplying Effects:

Taught two workshops on External Ministry at our National Church Conference in May with approximately 125 ministry leaders attending.

Consulted with 4-5 churches in Central Arkansas that are adopting the one-church, oneschool, one-neighborhood model.

How involvement in the Leadership Community has helped our church:

We have continued to move forward in our one-church, one-school, one-neighborhood focus building on strategic plans developed during our leadership community.

–  –  –

Auerbach, Carl F. & Louise B. Silverstein. Qualitative Data: An Introduction to Coding and Analysis. New York: New York University Press, 2003 Bakke, Ray, and Jon Sharpe. Street Signs. Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2006.

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________. A Theology As Big As the City. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1997.

Barna, George. Revolution: Finding Vibrant Faith Beyond the Walls of the Sanctuary.

Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 2005.

Bass, Bernard M. Transformational Leadership: Industrial, Military, and Educational Impact. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc, 1998.

Belasco, James A. The Flight of the Buffalo: Soaring to Excellence, Learning to Let Employees Lead. New York: Warner Books Inc., 1993.

Bellesi, Denny, and Leesa Bellesi. The Kingdom Assignment. Grand Rapids, MI:

Zondervan Publishers, 2001.

________. The Kingdom Assignment 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishers, 2002.

Blaise Pascal Quotes. Available from http://en.thinkexist.com/quotation/there_is_a_god_shaped_vacuum_in_the_heart_ of/166425.html; Internet; accessed March 15, 2007.

Bosch, David. Transforming Mission. Mary Knoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1991.

Burns, James MacGregor. Leadership. New York: Harber & Row, 1978 ________. Transforming Leadership: a New Pursuit of Happiness. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003.

Cahill, Thomas. Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus. New York: Random House, Inc., 2001.

Campolo, Tony. Revolution and Renewal. Richmond, Virginia: John Knox Press, 2000.

Carle, Robert D. and Louis A. Decaro Jr., eds. Signs of Hope in the City. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1999.

City Hospitals—Organized Charity; available from http://www2.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/walsh-u.htm; accessed 12 March 2007.

Clegg, Tom, and Warren Bird. Lost in America: How You and Your Church Can Impact the World Next Door. Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, 2001.

Cnaan, Ram and Robert J. Wineburg and Stephanie C. Boddie. The Newer Deal: social Work and Religion in Partnership. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Cnaan, Ram with Stephanie C. Boddie, Femida Handy, Gaynor Yancey, and Richard Schneider. The Invisible Caring Hand: American Congregations and the Provision of Welfare. New York: New York University Press, 2002.

Collins, James C., and Jerry I. Porras. Built to Last. New York: Harper Business, 1994.

Collins, Jim. Good to Great, First ed. New York: Harper Business, 2001.

________. Good to Great and the Social Sector: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great. Boulder, CO: by the author, 2005.

Conn, Harvie M. Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace. Grand Rapids, MI:

Zondervan Publishers, 1982.

________. The Urban Face of Mission. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 2002.

Cymbala, Jim. Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997.

Dennison, Jack. City Reaching: On the Road to Community Transformation. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1999.

deBono, Edward. Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step. New York: Harper & Row, 1970; reprint, Harper & Row, 1990.

De Pree, Max. Leading Without Power: Finding Hope in Serving Community. Holland, MI: Jossey-Bass Inc, 1997.

Dotlich, David L., and James L Noel. Action Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc, 1998.

Drucker, Peter F. Managing the Nonprofit Organization. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1990.

Dudley, Carl S. Next Steps in Community Ministry. Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute Inc, 1996.

Epistle from Mathetes to Diognetus, available from http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANFanf01-08.htm#P668_121134; Internet; accessed 14 January 2007.

Frey, Lawrence R., Carl H. Botan, Paul G. Friedman, and Gary L Kreps. Investigating

Communication: An Introduction to Research Methods. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:

Prentice Hall, 1991.

Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2000.

Green, Clifford J., ed. Churches, Cities, and Human Community: Urban Ministry in the United States 1945-1985. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996.

Grigg, Viv. Companion of the Poor: Christ in the Urban Slums. Waynesboro, GA:

Authentic Media with World Vision, 2004.

Hacker, Stephen, and Tammy Roberts. Transformational Leadership: Creating Organizations of Meaning. Milwaukee, WI: Quality Press, 2004.

Halter, Hugh and Matt Smay. ZerOrientation—Creating Church Where It Doesn’t Exist.

Anaheim, CA: Church Resource Ministries, 2004.

Harnack, Adolf. The Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries. Vol. 1.

Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998.

________. The Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries. Vol. 2. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998.

Harper, Nile. Urban Churches: Vital Signs: Beyond Charity Towards Justice. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998.

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