Pastors Discuss Elephant in the Room

Pastors and Bible workers from across the Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) met recently to talk about the proverbial elephant in the room. The issue at hand is that many churches across North America are stagnant if not slowly dying.

According to General Conference statistics (www.adventiststatistics.org), the growth rate of the Adventist Church in North America has declined from 2.26 percent in 2001 to 1.68 percent in 2010. The decline is even more significant when you consider growth rates from the 1960s.

"We cannot continue to ignore the slow growth in our churches," says Bob Folkenberg Jr., UCC president. "We must make a change now in order to keep the church from dying in North America."

The meetings took place in three different regions of the conference with pastors and Bible workers from each region meeting with conference administrators. They met in Yakima, Wash., on April 9, in Walla Walla, Wash., on May 10, and in Spokane, Wash., on April 11, with nearly 70 pastors and Bible workers attending.

The discussion cited many valid reasons for the decline as well as reasons why members and workers are reluctant to do public evangelism or give Bible studies.

"Members have a hard time sharing their faith when they hardly know anyone outside the church," said one pastor. "People just are not involved in the community like they used to be."

"It's a matter of priorities," said another pastor. "Most of my members don't make it to training seminars or organizational meetings because they are too busy working."

These critical discussions have highlighted a few key points. First, we desperately need to regain our passion for Jesus and His mission. The most important thing we can do is to begin praying for the Holy Spirit to help us be fully consumed with Christ. A real friendship with Jesus is central to being able to introduce others to Him.

Second, we need to understand that friendship evangelism is not a project or an event but a lifelong commitment to a relationship with Jesus. When we have that connection, we're promised that the natural outflow will be our uncontainable desire to share that friendship with others. When we are consumed with Christ, we'll also be consumed with His cause, and that is truly what will make our church grow.

To find out what UCC is doing to help members be consumed with Christ and His cause, visit www.uccsda.org/sharethelife.

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