Do Churches Contribute to Their Communities?
by Stan Elder
Recently I’ve been looking at a new Barna Group study that says, “Most Americans remain relatively upbeat about the role that local churches play in their communities.” It continued to say “that three-quarters of U.S. adults believe the presence of a church is a “very” (53%) or “somewhat” (25%) positive influence for their communities.
In contrast, only 1 out of every 20 Americans believes that the influence of a church is negative—either very (2%) or somewhat so (3%). That leaves about one out of six adults (17%) who are indifferent toward the role of churches.” People who tend to view churches in a more favorable view are the elderly, married adults, women, churchgoers, Protestants, African-Americans and political conservatives.
The first part of the study shows really positive results, but in the later part of the study, things are looking grim. In the second part of the study it shows groups of people who have a less favorable view of the church. These people are young (18-27 age), men, never-married adults, those living in the West and Northeast, unchurched adults, and political liberals.
Also despite people’s positive feelings about the church, only 21% of adults could tell how the church is contributing positively to their communities. There also seems to be a disconnect for most Americans between serving the community, and helping individuals find their way to God through Christ. A ministry-related goal such as teaching the Bible, introducing people to Christ, and bringing people to salvation seems to be missing.
I can see this problem play out in this generation. The National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) show that most youth see church as just something nice. Many teenagers approach church like an extra-curricular activity. Teens see it as a good thing to do, but not a necessity in their everyday life. Kenda Creasy Dean talks about this in her book Almost Christian. “Many youth said religion was important…though most could not describe the difference it made to them personally.” Rick Lawrence from GROUP magazine interviewed students from different church youth groups and asked them one question “Who is Jesus?” Almost all the students answered “He is loving and nice”.
Jesus and the church is a nice thing to have in the community. Just nice? That is not what the first church was, and this is not what Jesus shows us. We see in Scripture power and passion flowing out of the life of Christ. He welcomed sinners and ate with them. He corrected the self-righteous and turned over the money tables in the temple. Then Christ was willing to be beaten and bruised, then nailed on a cross for the sins of all mankind. The leader of the first church had such passion for the gospel of Christ that large numbers of people became believers in Christ.
The Church needs to be more than a nice fixture in a community. The body of Christ needs to work together in loving, powerful, and passionate ways to reach the community. The Church needs to show that Jesus is truly the Living God, and He is powerful.