The American Church Magazine - April 2014

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Dedicated to helping the church in America find their purpose, define their mission and reach their community. Vol. 3

April 2014

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No. 4

Editorial It’s Time to Stop Marketing and Start Evangelizing By Steve Hewitt

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No Longer Church As Usual A Call to Be The Unusual By Tim Kurtz

Cover Story

Fourteen Predictions for American Churches for 2014 By Thom Rainer

Editor-in-Chief

Steve Hewitt - steve@ccmag.com

Article

Contributing Editors

Have We Become Too Professional?

Thom Schultz Tim Kurtz David Murrow

By Thom Schultz

Copy Editor

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Gina Hewitt

Church For Men

Why Men Aren’t Buying the Church’s Core Product (Part 1) By David Murrow

© Copyright 2014 by The American Church Magazine. All Rights Reserved Written materials submitted to The American Church Magazine become the property of The American Church Magazine upon receipt and may not necessarily be returned. The American Church Magazine reserves the right to make any changes to materials submitted for publication that are deemed necessary for editorial purposes. The content of this publication may not be copied in any way, shape or form without the express permission of The American Church Magazine. Views expressed in the articles and reviews printed within are not necessarily the views of the editor, publisher, or employees of Catholic Technology Magazine.

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Editorial

It’s Time to Stop Marketing and Start Evangelizing In a recent blog by Thom Rainer he states that only 1 in 20 churches in America are seeing any growth as a result of conversions (non-Christians becoming Christians and joining a church). This is a startling declaration. We already know that only 15% of our churches are growing, and combining this new statistic states that 2/3 of them are only growing because they are attracting Christians from other churches to attend their own. In a way, this isn’t surprising. It is easy to find articles and blogs with emphasis on marketing. However, we KNOW that people come to Christ because they are led by their friends or family, not because of clever or entertaining posts on Facebook, or because of a crafty bill board ad. I believe “program” evangelism can work if we are talking about a church providing great programming that their members can invite their friends to attend. For example, a great youth program allows Christian youth the opportunity to invite their friends to join them for a special event, concert, camp, etc., and their friends might then decide to become Christians when opportunity is provided. However, it accomplishes little to market such events to the community via traditional marketing venues. People bring people to Christ. The duty of ministry is to help equip and teach church memThe American Church Magazine®

bers to share their faith. However, this is where Christianity gets serious, and it appears many churches simply no longer want to go there. If we think we are helping the cause of Christ in America by growing into a large mega church or micro-site church by simply attracting church members from smaller churches, the end result is failure. For over 20 years now, church attendance in America has fallen by 2% each year WHILE the population of America has been growing around 4% each year. Do the math. If 2/3rds of those churches that ARE growing are basically just drawing in the “already” churched, those churches might be following good business practices, but overall Christianity will continue to die in our country. Help your church members have a burden for the non-Christians in their community and families, and help equip them to share the Gospel! Together We Serve Him,

Steve Hewitt steve@cdpublishers.com

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Cover Story

Fourteen Predictions for American Churches for 2014 By Thom Rainer

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redicting is as much of an art as it is a science. And if any prognosticator is honest, he or she will tell you that they don’t always get it right. I know. I certainly don’t always get it right.

But I don’t pull my predictions out of thin air. To the contrary, each of them has a reasonable explanation. For these fourteen predictions, I gleaned from several sources: • Data-based research, particularly LifeWay Research. • Trends that are already underway and gaining momentum. • Conversations with hundreds of church leaders. • My own experiences, based on 25 years of consulting and research of American congregations. This year I am adding a new feature, a confidence factor. For example, if I said I had 100 percent confidence that a prediction would become reality, it would mean that I have absolutely no doubt about it. None of these predictions have a 100 percent confidence factor. But none of them The American Church Magazine®

fall below 70 percent either. That means I have a fairly high level of certainty about each of these trends. The order of the trends is random. They are not ranked in any particular priority. Today, I will share the first seven, and then conclude with the final seven on Saturday. 1. Increased church acquisitions. Smaller churches will seek to be acquired by larger churches in increasing numbers. One of the big factors is simply personnel cost. Many smaller churches can no longer afford to pay a pastor a salary and benefits, particularly health care benefits. (75% confidence factor). 2. Downsizing of denominational structures. Many denominational structures are becoming smaller because their churches are declining. Others are feeling economic pinches. This trend of smaller and more effi-

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Discover.LifetreeCafe.com Copyright © 2013 Group Publishing, Inc.

*Projected 2025 church attendance from George Barna’s Revolution

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cient denominational structures at all levels will only become more pervasive in 2014. (90%). Decline in conversion growth. American churches that grow are more likely to get their growth at the expense of other churches. Evangelism is waning in many churches, and fewer non-believers are becoming Christians. The negative reaction to programmatic evangelistic methods has evolved into an overreaction. Too few churches emphasize personal and churchbased evangelism. (75%) More megachurches. The data are clear that there are more megachurches (average worship attendance of 2,000 or more) today than a year ago. There is also little doubt the trend will continue. The only uncertainty is whether or not the rate of growth of megachurches will continue to climb. (85%) Greater number of churches moving to a unified worship style. For years a noticeable trend was churches offering different worship styles. The most common was the offering of two services: traditional and contemporary, though the definitions of each were elusive. In the next year we will we see a reversal of that trend, as many of those same churches decide to move to one common worship style. (70%) Increased emphasis on high-expectation church membership. For decades American congregations as a whole lowered their expectations of church membership. One could be on a church roll in many churches and not even attend worship services for years. We will see a gradual reversal of that trend in 2014 as more churches move to higher-expectation membership. (70%). Increased challenges for congregations to build and acquire land due to restrictive governmental policies. American churches will experience more frustration with governmental authorities as they seek to expand, build, and acquire land. Part of the reason will be due to the authorities’ concern about traffic and congestions. Another part is the underlying concern of losing a property tax base to a nonprofit organization. In a few cases there will be outright animosity and prejudice against Christians

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and churches. (80%) 8. More large churches will function like mini-denominations. These churches will have multiple locations. They will have one senior or lead pastor, and several other campus pastors. They are more likely to fund their own missions priorities, even if they are also contributing to a denominational missions fund. Many of them will write their own small group literature. Some will have their own church planting strategies. (70% confidence factor) 9. New worship centers will be built smaller. There will be a greater emphasis on smaller gatherings more frequently. This trend is being affected significantly by the preferences of the Millennial generation (born 1980 to 2000). A related trend is that many congregations will find ways to downsize their existing worship centers. (70%) 10. Increased emphasis on small groups. In 2014 we will see a decided shift from nearly two decades of the “worship revolution” to the “small group revolution.” Church leaders are rapidly discovering that members who connect to groups are the most faithful members in the church by a myriad of metrics. That is not to suggest that worship will become unimportant; it is to suggest that small groups will have a greater emphasis than the previous quarter century. (75%) 11. Longer pastoral tenure. There will be incremental but steady growth in the length of tenure of pastors at a given church. Part of the reason is the influence of the Millennials who do not view larger churches as their next step in ministry. Part of the reason is economic; moving in today’s economy is not nearly as easy in pre-recession days. Hopefully, the main reason is a sense of God’s call to stay rather than move. (75%) 12. Local churches increasing their roles as ministry training leaders. The role of ministry training in the past decades fell largely upon Bible colleges and seminaries. More churches in 2014 will partner with those colleges and seminaries to provide contextual training at a local church. (90%) 13. Church movement to the community. The posture of many American churches in the most recent decades has been to find ways

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to get people in the community to come to the church. That is shifting, perhaps dramatically. In more churches, the congregation will move to the community. Instead of a philosophy of “y’all come,” the dominant theme will be “we’ll go.” The congregants will be a more powerful presence in the community they serve, thus ministering to, influencing, and reaching more people with the gospel. (80%) 14. More multiple teaching/ preaching pastors. In larger churches, there has been a decided trend toward having more than one teaching and preaching pastor. Now the trend is taking place in smaller churches. We will see more churches with attendance under 200, even some under 100, with more than one teaching/preaching pastor. Of course, not all of them will be full-time vocationally at the church, so there will be more bi-vocational pastors whose role is to be a second or even third pastor in these smaller churches. (85%) These fourteen predictions are not infallible. But there does seem to be growing evidence that most, if not all of them, will become a reality in 2014. This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on January 2014. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. You can connect with Dr. Rainer on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

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No Longer Church As Usual

A Call to be The Unusual By Tim Kurtz

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pril 5, 1992, over 180 people came to our opening church service. In our small community, a congregation of over 100 people is considered a good sized church. Because so many people attended our inaugural service, in my mind, I was confident that I was “God’s man.” I was going to be the first mega-church pastor in our city. Our second service was Palm Sunday, and this time nearly 150 people were in attendance. Okay, a few less folks, but things were still looking good for our little upstart church. We were becoming the talk of the town. Our third week of existence would fall on Easter Sunday. I – emphasis on ‘I’ – decided we would serve Communion and give people an opportunity to officially join our ministry. All my church life I had seen the crowds who normally showed up on Easter, so I made provision to have Communion served to 200. I was ready! Easter Sunday came. I arrived early to make sure everything was set up and ready to go. Our starting time was 10:30, and I wanted to be ready for the crowd. At 10:15, no one was in the building but me, my wife, and our two children. At 10:25 the place was still empty. My heart was beginning to sink in a torrent of emotions. “I am The American Church Magazine®

a failure!” “All the other churches are laughing at me!” “Maybe everybody got the time mixed up!” At 10:30, a couple we knew came through the door – and they were literally arguing with each other. “This is it!” I am doomed. I retreated into our church office to wallow in self-pity. Around 10:40 my wife found me and asked, “What are

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you doing back here?” “I’m praying for the Lord’s guidance for my message this morning” I responded, trying to sound spiritually deep while hiding my true feelings of despair. “Tim,” she spoke resolutely, “if no one is here but me, you, and the kids – we start!” I could not resist her wisdom. Slowly I went back into the auditorium and gathered the few who were present around the altar for prayer. It took everything in me to pray with any resemblance of confidence. When I finished praying and opened my eyes, about 30 people were in the aisles waiting for us to finish. God used that Resurrection Sunday to strip me of pride that was setting in from our first two successful weeks. I learned that day that my focus must be on the purpose and will of God. Now many would assume that I should have known to have my total focus on the Lord. To be honest, I thought I did. And if most are honest, what we consider trusting God is often tainted by our need to have a successful church. In the church world, success is measured by size. The larger the church, the more successful you are considered to be. Therefore, evangelism in some circles has become slick marketing campaigns that lure people with events, programs, and flesh appeasing entertainment – rather than the Gospel. We made it through the first year by God’s grace. To celebrate, we invited a guest speaker from Atlanta who presented us with a unique challenge. Space will not allow me to include everything he said, but one part stood out in particular. He said, “You will not be ….just the ordinary, you will not be just the usual, and the day that you get to be ordinary – the day that you get to be the usual – you will find that the anointing will recede a little bit. God said the moment you sense that, always remember that this means you’ve become the usual, and you’ve become the ordinary, and you’ve become like anything else. It is not a reflection on any other ministry at all. It is just that God has raised you up for a time, and for a season, and for a specific purpose”. His words were not my first encounter with the concept of us being an unusual church. But it struck me that someone from nearly a thousand miles away would come and publicly declare that being unusual was God’s purpose for us. It has taken nearly twenty years for us to begin manifesting what it means for us to be an unusual church. I surmise this is because God used most The American Church Magazine®

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of these years to wean us (and me specifically) from ‘usual’ thinking. He had to recalibrate my understanding of His church from the religious assumptions of what I thought it should be. Our assignment is definitely not ‘a reflection on any other ministry’. Churches throughout our community are doing what they believe God has called them to do. We applaud them and often fellowship with many of them. What is our assignment? It is to demonstrate and be a prototype of a 21st century version of the first century church. We are learning what it means to gather from house to house. We are learning how to be a kingdom of priest without conflicts over turf. We are learning how to be lively stones that form a cohesive spiritual house. At times this is as difficult to explain as it is to do. We are often measured by the ‘usual’ church system. Therefore, we constantly pray for direction and focus. It was during a time of corporate prayer that the Holy Spirit clearly highlighted Ezra 8:1 to us. It has served to keep us focused. In times of uncertainty, we fast and seek the Lord for ‘a right way for us’. What does all this have to do with you? Why

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should it matter to you what we do? After all, what we are doing has no reflection on any other ministry – or does it? To be clear, our purpose is not to judge what any other ministry is doing. We are however, called to demonstrate something that should possibly be considered by other ministries. Paul wrote that his, “… preaching [was] not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith wouldn’t stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (1Corinthians 2:4-5). If what we believe God has called us to has any merit to the Body of Christ, the proof of it will manifest for all to see through demonstration more than proclamation. God instructed Noah to build an ark before its purpose was understood, or a need for it manifested. Jesus is still building His Church – His way – in the 21st century. The next few years will reveal the need for what is being built in this season. The world is changing – and we all recognize this fact. The church is changing, too. Yet very few seem to admit it. For those who recognize the dwindling numbers, the doctrinal confusion, the public ridicule, and the blatant public attacks often place the blame of these things on the devil, apathy, and outside groups. I believe God is allowing these challenges to eliminate anything not pertinent to His Kingdom. In other words, Jesus is building a boat that will float. He is building an unusual church (if measured by the usual church methodologies). There are three significant areas that, I believe, will be overhauled in the coming years. Technology When my first great-grandchild was born, I remember thinking that she came into a world of personal computers, iPads, iPods, smart phones, and a fast and ever changing landscape of technology. What was science fiction when I was a kid is now the norm. The impact of technology on the church cannot be ignored. Near our city there are small communities of Amish believers. They refuse to own automobiles, use electricity, or power tools. Yet, most of the churches I see are technologically Amish. Some are so averse to technology that they refuse to use it. I was literally rebuked by a pastor who claimed my use of an iPad was sin. Technology has played critical roles in advancing the Gospel throughout the years. From The American Church Magazine®

the Gutenberg Press that printed early bibles, to today’s podcasts, technology is at the forefront of nearly everything we do. Technology is a tool. The church must discover how Holy Spirit wants to use it to advance the Kingdom of God in the earth. Redirection of Resources There are more and more demands for our money. Contributions to churches are dwindling. Church bankruptcies and foreclosures are on the rise. In the past, erecting larger buildings was a sign of a growing prosperous church. That is not the case today. Churches that once appeared to be strong and vibrant, are now battling to stay afloat. I believe this will continue until the church returns to the biblical uses for the resources God entrusts to us. Relationships The church in the first century was very relational. Most churches today are congregational. How people relate is becoming more precise and focused. Mentoring, focus groups, chat rooms and the like are becoming havens for people to coalesce around literally thousands of ideas. In some churches, small group ministries and cell groups help to build relationships, but for the most part they are optional. At the risk of being controversial, I am concerned that the rise of ‘coaching’ (for a fee) in some church circles is a humanistic substitute for what Jesus commanded all to do – make disciples – to live life with and among each other – and to edify, exhort and comfort one another. We need to revisit relationships from the Word of God. They begin when two or three are gathering in His name (Matthew 18:20). They mature as they live out the over 50 ‘one-another’ scriptures peppered throughout the New Testament. I believe in the coming years, the ‘relationship factor’ will play a major role in the health of the church. Jesus is recalibrating His church to become the glorious church Bride made ready for the coming King! The end result may appear a little unusual to some, but it will be His Church – built His way! Blessings! Website: www.ntcdonline.org Twitter: timkurtz712

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Article

Have We Become Too Professional? By Thom Schultz

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t’s happened again. The church has been appropriated by the professionals. It’s one of the factors that is weakening the American church. The focus within the church has moved to the professional Christians, the people on stage on Sunday morning. The public now believes that ministry is something that only paid professionals do. Most churchgoers assume it’s their job to go to church, sit passively, and watch the professionals on the stage perform ministry. Being salt and light in the community? That’s the pastor’s job. Introducing children to the God who loves them? That’s the children’s minister’s job. Helping teenagers navigate questions of faith? That’s the youth worker’s job. Out in the world, if the topic of faith comes up, churchgoers often say, “You really ought to talk to my pastor about that.” Has the Body of Christ become convinced that it is deaf, dumb and deactivated? An historical phenomenon Some 2000 years ago the religious elite also The American Church Magazine®

controlled the scene. It was Jesus who democratized the faith and made it accessible to all. He encouraged and empowered everyday people to carry out his transformative message of love. And again, about 500 years ago, the church was bound up in the notion that clerics held the reins to the Kingdom. It took a renegade priest, Martin Luther, to democratize the faith once again, encouraging everyday people to live out their faith. Since then the church has again abdicated its work and thinking to the professionals. And the people’s lack of ownership is contributing to the current decline of the church. Fewer and fewer people want to be mere spectators to a faith journey articulated and practiced exclusively by paid spokespersons.

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Some of these professionals, like those of past millennia, rather like this exclusive setup. They relish thoughts of being in charge, possessing superior knowledge, safeguarding doctrinal purity, controlling the shots, and basking in the admiration of the little people. And, the emergence of the celebrity pastor has also served to distance the people from a sense that “we’re all in this together.” Perhaps it’s time for another spiritual awakening that re-engages all the faithful. Today’s church leaders could help this along with some intentional actions. Such as: • Remind the people that ministry is the work of all the people, not just a select few. • Share the microphone. Allow everyday people to tell their stories of faith. Every week. • Empower people to run with significant ministries–without “helicopter” professionals hovering over every decision. • Go beyond preaching at people to share

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their faith. Enable them to actually practice it. (This is one of Lifetree Cafe’s most important benefits–allowing members a weekly opportunity to talk about their faith in a safe environment.) Encourage questions, give-and-take, and conversation during times that have been traditionally reserved for professional monologs. At least sometimes, put the professional musicians out of sight. And encourage the people to spontaneously come forward and lead the house in worship. Resist the temptation to always be the one who offers a professional prayer. Encourage everyday people to pray in worship, in meetings, at meals. As a leader, be vulnerable and authentic. Admit–often–that you do not have all the answers. Act more like a fellow disciple than a messiah.

The time has come for another era of the priesthood of all believers.

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Church For Men

Why Men Aren’t Buying the Church’s Core Product (Part 1) By David Murrow

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ave you been to McDonald’s lately? What used to be a garish, plastick-y hamburger joint is morphing into a hip, cozy coffee shop. McDonald’s is already the number one java seller in the UK. Some observers believe that within a decade more people will come to MickeyD’s for coffee than for burgers and fries. A few predict McDonald’s will someday exit the hamburger business entirely.

McDonald’s “core product” is changing with the times. The U.S. burger market is saturated. Americans are beginning to think outside the bun. The only way McDonald’s can survive is to offer a new core product that will draw people in. A similar change has been afoot in the church for the past 30 years. The “core product” we offered for centuries is falling out of favor with Americans. So we’re rolling out a new one. Unfortunately, this new core product is much more compelling to women than it is to men. So what is the church’s old core product? Eternal salvation. Come to church and live forever. A The American Church Magazine®

pretty potent promise. Religion was literally a matter of life and death. The entire evangelical world was once built around our core product. Traveling evangelists crisscrossed the country. Tent meetings were common. Every Baptist church had a spring revival. Believers went “witnessing.” America’s largest parachurch organizations were all in the soul-winning business: Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth for Christ and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Summer camps focused on getting people saved. Churches counted and reported converts and baptisms to headquarters.

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Our worship services were designed to sell the core product. Sermons often focused on eternity. When I was a teenager, every single church service – regardless of topic – concluded with an altar call. This was a high-pressure invitation to receive Christ. It was your weekly opportunity to escape the flames of hell by coming forward to receive Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. But a funny thing started happening about 40 years ago. People stopped buying our core product. Numbers dwindled at crusades. Altar calls were going unanswered. Door-to-door evangelism stopped producing converts. The old evangelical pick-up line (If you were to die tonight, do you know where you’d spend eternity?) no longer got the desired response.

In 1977, a California psychologist by the name of James Dobson founded an organization called Focus on the Family. About that same time Campus Crusade for Christ launched Family Life, a new kind of ministry focused specifically on relationships. Also in the 1970s a Catholic priest from Spain imported Marriage Encounter to the U.S. Authors such as Gary Smalley created the multimillion-dollar Christian relationship book-and-tape market. These pioneers found huge demand for their new product. Literally millions of Christians read their books, listened to their broadcasts and attended their weekend retreats. Family-oriented ministries grew like bamboo in a rainforest. Pastors saw what was happening. They finally began preaching on relationships in the 1980s. Over the next 35 years the entire Evangelical moveWhy did our core product suddenly go out of style? ment shifted its focus from personal salvation to People stopped dropping dead unexpectedly. personal relationships. Today it’s rare to find a church that offers A little history lesson: since the dawn of huregular altar calls. The word hell is rarely even manity, sudden, unexpected death was common. mentioned in megachurches. But sermon series on People just “up-and-died” all the time. Plagues relationships are as common as boots at a rodeo. wiped out entire cities. Diseases had no cure. In less than 40 years the core product of the Sister Mattie would be fit-as-a-fiddle on Monday church has shifted from saving broken souls to and dead-as-a-doornail by Friday. People had large saving broken relationships. The very way modern families because they knew 2 or 3 kids would not Evangelicals describe the gospel reflects the new live to see adulthood. Undertakers were busy. core product: a personal relationship with Jesus In a world where people drop dead at any moChrist. ment from incurable diseases, your eternal destinaNow, I’m not saying that churches have abantion was of utmost importance. Preachers would doned salvation altogether. We still offer the old stand at the altar and say, “This may be your last core product, but we no longer place it front and opportunity to accept Christ and go to heaven!” center. Like McDonalds, we still offer hamburgers, And they were right. but we market ourselves as a coffee house. But in recent years sudden, unexpected death The new core product is bringing people in the has become rare, particularly in the developed door – but it’s also undermining men’s engagement world. Average lifespan has almost doubled since and enthusiasm. It’s a product more women than the 1850s. Modern medicine has cured or conmen will enthusiastically buy. I’ll show you why in trolled many lethal diseases. Occupational safety my next blog entry. is the law. Cars are safer, and highway fatalities are at record lows. Even wars kill far fewer people than So what do you think? Join the conversation on they once did. my Facebook page. To order books, DVDs and other resources, click here. So about 40 years ago people began to realize To read more from David Murrow visit churchthey weren’t going to die tonight – or even before formen.com next Sunday. The urgency to be saved right now was gone. Americans were no longer thinking much about eternity. So they stopped responding to Christ’s offer of salvation – and they began leaving church. The church needed a new core product to get people in the door. The American Church Magazine®

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