Bill Hybels has a saying that I just love: “We are going to teach our way out of this problem.” Here is what he means.
Suppose you have a giving problem in your church. You are not meeting budget. You are not able to meet expenses. You have bills that are unpaid. You have cut back everywhere possible, but there are still bills to be paid.
More than that, there are missed opportunities. There are ministries to launch. There are needs that need to be met. The fields are white unto harvest if you could just get the money to buy the tractors. How do you solve this problem?
You could organize a campaign. You could hire a consultant. You could put up posters and send out letters. Those things may have their place. Bill Hybels would suggest you do something else: teach your way out of this problem. Whatever problems you have in your church, Effective Bible Teaching is a big part of the solution.
Perhaps the need is not so much money as volunteers. Every church I know could use an infusion of volunteers. Jesus said the harvest is plentiful; the workers are few. The bottleneck of the evangelistic / disciple-making process has always been and always will be workers.
Big churches need more workers. I had a man in a large church say to me once, “Do you have any idea how many workers you need to staff a Sunday School of 3500 people?”
Small churches need more workers. I pastor a very small church in the country. It is what we used to call a preaching point. Twenty or thirty people—mostly farmers—gather each week to worship and study the Word of God. Do you know what the need is at our small church?
And how do we get more workers? Jesus said the answer is prayer. (Matthew 9:37–38) I don’t take that to mean that we are to pray and do nothing else. I take it to mean that nothing else will matter until we pray. In the next breath, Jesus said, “Go! I am sending you out …” I see two things in that passage: pray and send out.
There is a third thing that will help: teach. Teach on the joy of serving. Teach on spiritual gifts. Teach on laying down your life. Teach on finding life by losing yourself in the service to others.
One way to implement this is to organize a church wide campaign where you coordinate three things around the theme you are trying to emphasize:
- Bible teaching in small groups
- Daily quiet time
The classic example of this is the Purpose Driven Life Campaign. It is a model of what can be done by organizing sermons, Bible teaching in small groups and daily quiet times around one theme. (By the way—I have on occasion helped churches with the Bible lessons in a campaign like this. Contact me if you are interested.) firstname.lastname@example.org
Does your church have a giving problem? Teach your way out of it.
Does your church have a lack of workers problem? Teach your way out of it.
Whatever problem your church faces, you would do well to follow the advice of Bill Hybels: teach your way out of it.
Let’s zoom back the lens. Think about the capital-C Church as a whole. Here are four problems we need to teach our
way out of.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the lack of Bible knowledge both in and out of the church. I had a man say to me once: “J
oseph … he had that coat of many colors, right?”
“And that was the father of Jesus?” We desperately need Effective Bible Teachers.
The Pew Research Center did a survey of basic knowledge of the Bible, Christianity, and world religions. Questions included naming the four gospels and whether or not the Golden Rule was one of the Ten Commandments. Curious thing about the results: atheists did better than church goers. To be fair, this was a survey of religious knowledge, not just Bible knowledge. Church goers did do better on the Bible questions. Everyone flunked.
Church in decline
I have heard this stat for years: 75% of churches are plateaued or declining. Here is the latest: Based on our research of 557 churches from 2004 to 2010, nine out of ten churches in America are declining or growing at a pace that is slower than that of their communities. Simply stated, churches are losing ground in their own backyards.1 Surely Effective Bible Teaching would help with that.
With young people, the situation is even worse.
Another way of looking at it is generationally. About two-thirds of the Builder generation, those born before 1946, are Christians. But only 15 percent of the Millennials are Christians. The Millennials are the largest generation in America’s history with almost eighty million members. They were born between 1980 and 2000. And we have all but lost that generation.2
Surely Effective Bible Teaching would help.
Do church goers believe differently?
If we could get them to church, would it matter? Let’s look at this in two ways: first, we will look at what church goers believe. Then, we will take a look at how they behave.
Brad Waggoner reported the findings of a survey of church goers in his book, The Shape of Faith to Come. Here are some highlights of his findings:
• “The Bible is the written Word of God and is totally accurate in all that it teaches.” About half strongly agreed.
• “Christians must continually work toward their salvation or risk losing it.” Only 23% got it right.
• “If a person is sincerely seeking God, he/she can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity?” Only 32% got the right answer, disagreeing strongly.
• “Every person is born a sinner due to the sin of Adam being passed on to all persons.” About half got this right and half got this wrong.3
Notice these are central doctrines of the faith and the survey is among church goers. Overall grade of church goers seems to be about 50%. That was flunking when I was in school.
Do church goers behave differently?
We are actually doing better than some people report.
It has been widely reported that there is no difference between the behavior of Christians and the behavior of non-Christians. That is not exactly right. Here is the more accurately stated truth: there is little difference in behavior between those who claim to be Christians and those who don’t. Key words: “claim to be Christians.” When we dig a little deeper and compare people who …
- Claim to be Christians
- Read their Bibles
- Go to church each week
with people who don’t do these things, some significant differences start to show up. For example:
- Christians live together outside of marriage about half as often as do non-Christians.
- Those who don’t go to church were about 50% more likely to divorce compared with church goers.
- Christians are about half as likely to commit acts of domestic violence.
- People who attend church regularly are half as likely to commit adultery.
- Not only did Protestants commit less crime, but also the Protestants who attended church on a weekly basis did so far less than other Protestants. For example, 4% of the weekly attendees had been arrested, compared to 8% of the monthly attendees, 12% of the yearly attendees, and 15% of those who never attend.4
In every arena, active church attendance tends to predict good behavior, and absence of church attendance tends to predict bad behavior.
Still, the differences are not as great as any of us would like to see. Effective Teaching can make a difference. Imagine if everyone who attended church was engaged in thoughtful, convicting, Spirit-anointed teaching.
Josh Hunt, The Effective Bible Teacher (Josh Hunt, 2013).