The Western North Carolina Conference has worked out a deal with MissionInsite to give us some demographical information about our congregations. It is pretty neat how this works. A pastor can log in and set the radius from his congregation and information about the people surrounding the church will pop out. It has been an interesting journey into the 19 pages of information.
Most of the information I knew but it is good to have a source to quote now. But one stat that really threw me was about church attendance. 44.7% of the population said they consider themselves to be a spiritual person. 38.2% said the consider themselves to be conservative evangelical Christians (I wish I knew a little more about Christian in general but that is the only category MissionInsite had). Here is where it gets scary…18.4% said their faith is really important and 14.9% said it is important to attend religious services. 14.9%! 15% of the people said going to church (or any religious service) is important. These are people who live within 1 mile of my congregation! That is 85% of the people who think what we do on a Sunday doesn’t really matter.
What is even more scary is I don’t know what to do with that information. How can we as a congregation reach out to people who don’t think it is important? We are talking about changing a community’s conscience or way of thinking. It is also the realization that there are that many people who need to know about how a Church can grow one’s relationship with him. Instead of having to travel to vast distances to get people who didn’t know anything about church. Thomasville is a considered another grommet hole in the Bible belt, but are we?
God has provided a way for us to be active in evangelism…it is called talking to our neighbors. Bishop Claude E. Payne and Hamilton Beazley have a phrase in their book Reclaiming the Great Commission. They say that there are three different types of people the church should be focused on in doing evangelism and making disciples.
1.Unchurched non-Christians (that is, secular individuals with no formal religious background)
2. Unchurched Christians (that is, Christian dropouts [I like the phrase] who no longer attend any Christian church)
3. Dropouts from religions other than Christianity (that is, individuals who no longer practice a faith, whatever it may have been)
I think the truth is we have a ton of Christian Dropouts a mile from our church. Within that mile radius there are 5-7 churches of all types of denomination (another United Methodist church .5 miles away!) The problem isn’t opportunities for people to join a faith community, the problem is reminding these Christian dropouts the importance of making the faith journey within a community of believers. We are going to have to rethink how to be and do church because this is not how we are set up to be.