The Real State of the Church Statistics

Have you ever read something and wish you hadn’t?  That just happened to me.  While researching for message prep I stumbled on this blog post.  It’s not “new” information, just compiled in a way I haven’t seen; all in one neat, tidy, sobering place.  What to make of it?  Not sure yet.  I’m still processing it all. 

Check out what stirred my thoughts this morning at:

Quotes I like from Most Admired Companies

I like these quotes and observations from Fortune Magazine’s article on America’s Most Admired Companies: (March 17, 2008) My question in reading these snipets about each company is what can the church learn from corporate America, especially successful corporate America?  You make your own conclusions, but to me some of the applications are very obvious.

Berkshire Hathaway

Said of Warren Buffet’s success: His key to turning today’s problems into tomorrow’s profits: “An absence of any regard for short-term results”


Google’s philosophy:  Google believes “what’s good for the web has always proven to be very good for Google.”

(That sounds like a Kingdom principle many churches should learn.)

Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson responded to the uncertainty in the health-care markets by “narrowing their focus”.

Goldman Sachs

The company posted record profits in 2007, in a year when Wall Street was struggling to hold their own.  Reason: “Its results are a testament to its culture, and impossible-to-replicate mix of extreme aggression, deep paranoia, individual ambition, and robot-like teamwork.”


In a year when retail sales were in a slump, including at this retailer, they continued their tradition of giving away $3 million a week back to the community.


The company may be 100 years old (I had no idea), but they act much younger. They are known for their “ability to combine cutting-edge technology with its own brand of ‘human engineering’ to great effect.”


Known for being a mega-sized company ($24 billion a year), but still managing to generate new ideas each year.  William McKnight, Chairman, says, “Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative.  And it’s essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.” The moral, according to Fortune, “Don’t tell employees how to do their jobs — let them innovate. “

I don’t know about you, but there are lessons here for me.  Thanks Fortune for a great article.

Which comment jumps out at you most from this list?

Where have all the slogans gone?

Can you tell me what product goes with these slogans? 

  • M’m, M’m, Good!
  • It’s the Real Thing…
  • It takes a licking, and keeps on ticking. 
  • Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is!
  • The best part of waking up is ______ in your cup.
  • The milk chocolate melts in your mouth-not in your hand…
  • You’re in good hands with _______.
  • Don’t leave home without it.
  • Let your fingers do the walking.

How did you do?  Could you name them all?  I suspect you were pretty close. Most of these slogans have been around a large part of my life, but even my teenage boys know them.  They are “sticky” slogans.  These slogans helped brand their products. 

My question, and the reason for this post, is what has happened to all the good slogans? Have we run out of good ideas?   I’m trying to determine what the modern day slogans are that my kids will still remember 20 years from now.  Are there still marketing phrases “sticky” enough to make a product stay in our minds; so much so that we can’t get the words, or the product, out of our mind?  Are we still branding things for life?  My hope is that we haven’t lost the art of branding. 

If you know of current, recently introduced “sticky” slogans I may be missing I’d love to hear from you. 

(BTW, We have one slogan at Grace Community Church that I hope never goes away; or at least the principle behind it. Our slogan: Everyone needs a place to start over….that place is Grace.) 




What Can the Church Learn from Wal Mart?

I have been to Wal Mart twice in the last few days and both times the customer service was less than one would hope to receive from America’s number one retailer. It almost seems to be a trend these days. Could it be the king of discount has forgotten that what got them to where they are today is more than just low prices? Apparently I’m not alone in thinking that Wal Mart is slipping in the customer service area. This MSNBC story from last year explores the problem: In my opinion, if Wal Mart doesn’t figure out how to bring customer service back “with a smile”, they may not always be this nation’s number one retailer.

I also feel a similar phenomenon is occurring with some mainline Christian denominations and churches today. Over the years they have grown in numbers, built larger buildings and added new programs, but they have neglected some fundamentals of the Christian faith. They have become almost country club-like atmospheres where real strugglers in life (which is really all of us) almost feel unwelcome in the church because they don’t “fit in” with the church’s strict guidelines and stands on certain issues. The concept of “love others” (where they are) has almost been replaced with “teach others” to be just like us. In my opinion, the future of these denominations and churches will be decided by their ability to get back to loving others as Christ has first loved us and allowing the “kindness of God to lead to repentance.”

Will the Housing Market Impact the Church?

I was speaking with a home/commercial builder from our church recently. He’s been very successful and is a smart businessman. He seems to be able to analyze and predict trends fairly well and had readjusted his business several years ago in preparation for the coming changes he saw in the market. He has been following the recent economy, mortgage crisis, and building trends and his assessment is that this period of time will change the landscape of the housing market for years to come; especially in terms of the size houses and design of houses people build and buy. For example, he doesn’t think the tall ceilings or roof lines will be as popular in homes in years to come and people will go back to more basic interior designs. People will be looking for practical over prestige. (I guess some of the same things are happening in the auto industry.)

None of this is “new”. The same morning I had breakfast with this builder I received my new copy of Business Week magazine and they had a similar article. It was interesting, however, to hear it from someone on the “ground floor” of this industry.

Anyway, as a church leader, I couldn’t help but wonder how all this will impact our “industry”. Will people want churches to be more “practical” in planning new facilities? Will less be more in terms of buildings or even programs? Do we need to rethink how we use our buildings and how we make them more available during the week, so they don’t sit empty as much? Some of this was already beginning to take shape prior to the recent economic news, but will this spur changes faster than we might have thought? And, finally, will the church today make changes in the way we operate quickly enough to react to the culture shifts?

Of course, one trend that may happen would be something we saw for hundreds of years around the world. People may change their mindset towards putting less money into their own houses and more money into church buildings. Ornamental and stain glass could be the “new” desire for churches. It will be interesting to watch all this unfold.

Ultimately I’m glad we serve a God who is never-changing. Our end goal will always remain the same. If, however, our goal is to help introduce people to the never-changing God then we must always be looking for the best methods to accomplish that goal.

Mutual Submission in a Marriage

What is the Biblical concept of mutual submission as found in Ephesians 5:21 (and throughout the Bible) and how are we to apply it in our relationships today?

I’m working on a new concept in my mind and teaching. It has originated from recent marital counseling with several couples. Couples usually come to me with the mindset that they will meet the other person half-way, but only if their spouse does likewise. The thought of mutual submission, where each person is willing to give up all rights (100%) to the other person, is a very foreign concept and actually seems to anger people when I suggest it; yet I believe that’s what this passage teaches. The meaning of submission here literally means “to put under authority”. As I read Ephesians 5:21, we are to “submit” to each other. When both parties in a relationship are willing to give 100%, the dynamics of the relationship are incredibly enhanced. (It also seems that is what Jesus was willing to do for us!)

It is obvious today that we live in a very “me” centered society. Unfortunately that mindset includes my children and, sad to say, me. How are we to submit to one another? What is the correct Christian response to the culture in which we live that seems to teach us to think for ourselves and “every man for himself”? Of course the Ephesians passage is addressed to believers, so is submission only withing the Body?

I’m still in the wrestling stage with all this, but would love your thoughts…

God is Bigger

God is at work even beyond the four walls we call our church. Sometimes we miss the big picture of what God is doing or wants to do through us because we become single-minded in our ministry. Over the years I have observed churches become ministries unto themselves rather than outward focused ministries. One reason we create so many programs in our churches is often so we can meet the growing demands of people inside the church hollering to be serviced.

The Jesus model seems opposite of that. He teaches us to consider others better than ourselves and to think about the needs of others ahead of our own. Somehow I believe this is a better method of attractional evangelism. When we begin to invest our resources into other people, even at the expense of our own comforts or desires, I think we will see more of a lost world get excited about the Kingdom of God and ultimately be won to Christ. It is then we will say like the prophet Malachi: “You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD-even beyond the borders of Israel!'” (Malachi 1:5)

God is good. Good is great…way beyond what we ever expected.

Church Membership

We haven’t placed as large a value on church membership at Grace as we have things like salvation, baptism, serving others, etc. Because of that, we have very few members and some of our most active people are not “official” members of Grace.

Recently I asked one such man to attend an annual banquet being held in our city for a large International ministry on our behalf. If I wrote the ministry name here you would easily know it and surely agree they do great work. Still, this ministry is “old school” in a lot of ways. My guy said he and another from our church were the only two without suits on (Shame on them!). At the conclusion of the night our guy was motivated enough about the ministry that he was willing to join their organization. They wouldn’t accept him. Reason: He is not a “member” of my church. If he had been a “member”, they would have taken him without question. (BTW, they did take his donation.)

Can someone explain this one to me? I know churches that have 3 or 4 times as many members as they do people who actually even attend their services each week. I know people who are “members” of a church, but they have attended church in years and they certainly aren’t serving that church.

Is it time to re-think what church membership really is and what it isn’t? Does it have the value it supposedly once had?

Living in a Religious Bubble

I got to be in the presence of religious “greatness” recently. This pastor is at a prestigious church. If you don’t know that he will tell you. Unfortunately he lives in a bubble; the same kind the Pharisees lived in. I saw him walking around a conference we were both at and he came across as unapproachable and arrogant.

I have learned in life that matters of the heart matter most. Even if one is “right” theologically, if their heart is hard towards other people, then they are still “wrong” when it comes to the truest things of importance to God.

I don’t intend to come across as judgmental. I’m sure had I been able to get to know this pastor we would have shared much in common and even could have been good friends. The fact is, aside from the prestigious church part, that pastor could have been me. It served as a good reminder that the way I treat others is more important than who I “think” I am. I can know theology and insights into church history and traditions, but if I don’t love others as Christ does then I’m not living His desire for my life.