When the Church is Hated, How should Leaders Respond?

As a church leader, I realize the popularity and seemed importance of what I do has declined in recent years. Culture no longer values the voice of a pastor as the history of our nation would record that it once did. Even this week, the news of Louie Giglio’s exit as the pastor to pray at the inauguration of President Obama served as a sobering reminder…things have changed.

This is an interview with John S. Dickerson. Dickerson’s new book The Great Evangelical Recession identifies six factors of decline in the American Church and offers six solutions for leaders. Dickerson is a nationally awarded journalist and Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church in Prescott, AZ. His work has appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Q: How would you summarize your book, The Great Evangelical Recession?

A: Culture is changing faster and faster. The conflicts around Louie Giglio, Chic-fil-A and Hobby Lobby demonstrate this. Rapid change in American culture is already shaking evangelicalism, but it’s going to worsen because the rate of change is accelerating.

As shepherds we must identify where the Church is struggling to adapt. Then we must look to God’s Word to find solutions for our day. The Great Evangelical Recession does this by documenting factors of decline—and then by building Scripture-based solutions for each area of decline.

Q: Is the homosexual-evangelical conflict an example of this cultural change? And if so, what sort of solutions does your book suggest?

A: Yes, the conflict between the evangelical and LGBTQ communities is case in point. The book documents that in the last 15 years Americans have entirely reversed their views on homosexuality. Furthermore, each younger generation is radically more pro-homosexual, so this trend will accelerate as older Americans pass away.

My solution chapter argues that we need to start treating non-evangelical “tribes” in America the same way our missionaries treat foreign tribes in Africa or New Guinea, by suspending judgment, serving and modeling unconditional love–so Christ can reach their hearts.

The chapter grows from a word study of the Greek word “good” in the New Testament. “Good” is about deeds. It’s more nuanced than this, but here’s the gist of that solution:

1. Take God’s good deeds directly to the homosexual tribe in your life and community. Don’t wait for them to come to you.

2. Refuse to classify the homosexual tribe as some worse class of people. This is unbiblical and showcases poor theology.

3. As with any tribe, don’t focus on changing behavior. Focus on changing relationship to God through Christ.

4. Don’t be surprised when you are hated and misunderstood about this issue. You will be.

5. When you are hated or misunderstood, don’t defend yourself or other evangelicals with words. Instead, let your quiet good actions eclipse any accusations (1 Peter 2:12).

6. Keep on demonstrating God’s good-ness and unconditional love—to the homosexuals closest to you.

The book includes Scripture and examples, but that overview gives you a taste.

Q: Your book identifies six trends of decline in the American Church. Is every ministry declining in these ways?

A: Typical ministries will find many trends of decline apply to them, while some don’t. Take the funding crisis for example. On average, 76 percent of evangelical gifts come from the oldest two generations. Many ministries are unprepared for the decline of donations in the next 15 years. That trend won’t apply to young-demographic ministries—like Reality LA, but other trends will.

This book is really a tool for ministry leaders. It helps leaders identify which negative trends are at play in their specific ministry. The book then gives practical Biblical solutions to adjust course in any areas of weakness.

What do you think? How have your seen the culture and church change in your lifetime?

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22 thoughts on “When the Church is Hated, How should Leaders Respond?

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  7. First of all thanks for sharing the interview conversation, with John S. Dickerson. It really reveals the bitter facts which exist in today’s world. It provided me a lot of information. Thank you so much Ron for sharing this. Keep posting.

  8. This is a convicting post Pastor Ron. I'm going to pick up the book by John Dickerson. During this last election I felt "Christians" on both sides did not represent Christ.

  9. Princeton University Professor Peter Brown in his monograph "The Rise of Western Christendom" argues that Western Christianity " was created in the seventh century (in Europe, my emphasis) and not before" is a fair and poignant indictment of a Christianity that Jesus never authorized, based on a "new testament" about Him rather than on His actual teachings and encoded in the Council of Nicaea of 325. King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
    And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. Matthew 11:12. it is written that Jesus once ran money changers from the Temple. Violent men who deal in money in the name of Jesus as in Jesus' day control "the Church" through programs and projects while the people suffer. There are two "churches" in the world. One is real and the other is a mirror image that bears no spiritual fruit. Aramaic Bible in Plain English (©2010)
    “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow Me. John 10:27. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God 1 Pet 4:17

  10. Ron

    Yes – It's the things we learn after we know it all that really count…

    And – those people who think they know it all – really aggravate those of us who do.

  11. Ron

    This post mentions – “Dickerson’s new book “The Great Evangelical Recession”
    **identifies six factors of decline in the American Church**

    Since leaving “The Abusive Religious System” I have a little different take for this “Decline.”
    And – I can also **identify six factors of decline in the American Church** that most leaders “Ignore.”

    For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God 1 Pet 4:17

    Seems lots of folks are recognizing and leaving – “The Corrupt Religious System” of today. Many never leave The Church of God. aka The Body of Christ. (I love His Church.) Most have left “The Corrupt Religious System” – That has damaged so many. The 501 (c) 3, Non-Profit, Tax $ Deductible, Religious $ Corporation, the IRS calls church.

    Should His Disciples call an IRS Corporation “His Church?” His ekklesia? AAARRRGGHHH ;-)

    Now – Maybe I’m exaggerating when I call it “The Corrupt Religious System” of today?

    Lets check out – Corrupt – Dictionary…
    1) – showing a willingness to act dishonestly in return for money or personal gain.
    2) – debased or made unreliable by errors or alterations.
    3) – in a state of decay; rotten or putrid.

    Hasn’t The Whole Religious System, for 1,700 years, been *Totally Corrupt?* With…

    1 – Elder/Overseers who do NOT meet the qualifications found in the Bible?
    …..(1. Must be Blameless. 2. Holy? 3. Just? 4. Rule well their own house? etc.)
    2 – Multiple thousands of denominations – NOT found in the Bible?
    …..(Baptist, Presbyterian., Catholic, Lutheran, Assembly of God. etc.)
    3 – Multiple Movements – NOT found in the Bible?
    …..(Reformed, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Emergent, etc.)
    4 – Abusive Heirarchy – Abusive Authoritarians – NOT found in the Bible?
    …..(Who Exercise Authority like the gentiles and lord it over God’s heritage.)
    5 – Traditions of men – NOT found in the Bible?
    …..(Money as a Tithe, Go to church, Join a church, church membership. etc).
    6 – Titles/Positions – NOT found in the Bible? (Pastor/Leader/Reverend?)
    …..(Clergy, Doctor, Right Reverend, Cardinal, Senior Pastor, Lead Pastor. etc.)

    Isn’t “Today’s System” filled with those having “a willingness to act dishonestly”
    And are after…
    1) – “money and personal gain”
    ….. (Celebrity Pastors, Authors, Confrence speakers. where everyone KNOWS my name.)
    ….. (He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory… John 7:18
    2) – and make “Today’s Religious System” “unreliable by errors or alterations,” to the Bible.
    …… (How the Bible describes “His Church.” How elders “Ignore” Qualifications for Overseer?)
    And because of these errors and alterations to the Bible and qualifications of Elder/Overseer.
    3) – The Corrupt Religious System is in a state of decay; rotten and putrid.

    And folks are leaving by the millions.
    And turning to Jesus.

    So – Am I exaggerating when I call it “The Corrupt Religious System” of today?

    • Thanks Amos. Someday we will meet. We will have a good laugh together as Jesus shines and we realize none of us had it all figured out. God bless