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The Church Size Shift

Clearview Today / Abidan Shah
The Truth Network Radio
December 7, 2022 9:00 am

The Church Size Shift

Clearview Today / Abidan Shah

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December 7, 2022 9:00 am

In this show, Dr. Shah talks about the new shift in church sizes and what it means for modern American Christianity.

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30 Days to a New Beginning:


Welcome back, everyone. Today is Wednesday, December the 7th. I'm Ryan Hill.

I'm John Galantis. You're listening to Clearview Today with Dr. Abbadon Shah, the daily show that engages mind and heart for the gospel of Jesus Christ. You can find us online at

If you have any questions for us, any suggestions for Dr. Shah, things that you'd like us to talk about in future episodes, send us a text at 252-582-5028. That's right. You guys can also help us keep the show alive, keep it in the airwaves by supporting the podcast.

You can share it online, leave us a good review on iTunes, and really just help us keep the name of Jesus Christ in the airwaves for as long as possible. That's right. Do you want to... Oh, go ahead. What were you going to say? I was going to ask if you were ready for the rest of the day. Yeah, I'm ready. Are you ready?

I'm ready, man. Are you sure? Actually, can I have a second? Yeah. Hello? Really?

My social security? It's 241? No, no. Don't give him that. Okay. Sorry about that. Sorry. I got to go. I'm right in the middle of a radio show. All right.

I love you, too. That was Ellie. Oh. Yeah.

Well, you can call her back later. Sorry. I'm blowing up. Unbelievable. Hello? Tell me more about these here knives.

How sharp are they? Is that also Ellie? That was my dad. Oh. I got to go. Bye.

Your dad's selling cutlery. Yeah. I'm ready for the rest of the day. Okay.

Verse of the day comes today from Ecclesiastes chapter 10 verse 18. Because of laziness, the building decays, and through idleness of hands, the house leaks. Because of laziness, the building decays, and through idleness of hands, the house leaks. Don't be lazy. Yeah. I mean, that's the short application.

Pretty much. Don't be lazy. Put your hand to work.

Make your mind up to do things. I mean, God wants our best. He absolutely wants our best, and he wants us to put some effort in. That's one of the things that we tend to misinterpret as Christians is that we live by faith alone. We don't have to do anything. We don't have to work or improve ourselves. We just have to have faith, and it's going to be all good. But the word of God is very clear that it's active participation in growing as a Christian.

Because of laziness, the building decays. I like it. Absolutely.

I like it a lot. Like, description needs my approval or whatever, but... Stamp of approval.

Yeah. I'll go ahead. I'll go ahead and check Mark on that one. Good job, Solomon. There you go. Well, speaking of Solomon, Solomon was the wisest man, other than Jesus, of course, that ever lived. Of course. Second wisest man. That's insane.

That's a great title. Wisdom teeth. Yeah.

Mine, particularly. I know this has been a, pun not necessarily intended, sore subject for you. Yes, absolutely.

I think we've talked about it on the podcast. I've got two impacted wisdom teeth that are completely horizontal in my mouth. Yikes. I can actually put the x-ray up on the screen right here if you want to. There it is. Look how crazy that is. Isn't that painful? That looks painful. I'm so sorry.

Yeah. But basically what is happening is they're going to take one out, the one that's coming up through the gum, they're going to take it out. The other one, the root is so close to a nerve, it's going to be really risky either way. So we talked about it and I went for a consultation yesterday. I said, let's just go ahead and take it out.

They were like, if you don't do it, that's fine. But if you want to do it at like 35, 40, 50 years old, it's going to be a lot more complicated of a procedure. The recovery time is going to be a lot longer and it's just going to be way more unpleasant and it'll even be riskier. So you're either forfeiting those teeth on the off chance that something happened. What I mean by that is the one that's going sideways is under my gum, but if it impacts the other tooth, it could cause decay and I might lose both. Instead of just the wisdom tooth, I would lose the tooth that it's touching as well. Now, do I want to be 70 years old with all my teeth?

I don't think so. Probably not, but I'm already getting the one out because it's hurting. So may as well go ahead and get the other one out too. Only problem is, uh oh, I have to have a baby in January. So that's not a good time.

These are major life events that are coinciding that shouldn't absolutely. So, um, but we were going to do it sometime I think in like February or March. Yeah.

Once the, once the baby settled. But, uh, I'm scared. I've never, I had my top wisdom teeth pulled. Um, and that was dreadful. That was a, that was a bad time. Yeah. I'm so sorry. Yeah.

I mean it is what it is. Wasn't teeth are not fun. I've had mine taken out all four. Yep. Wow. Yeah. They're not fun.

My and mine weren't impacted like yours are they, but they were kind of crowding the other teeth. So I just went ahead and got them all for out at the same time. Yeah. Okay. Wow.

So this was bad. They just pull them. Uh, they just pulled them. Okay. Um, this was back when I was 18. Oh wow. Okay. Right before.

So your wisdom, your teeth hadn't been bothering you in a long time. No. Yeah.

Right before moving into college. Yeah. They were hurting pretty bad. I gotcha.

Um, so they just went and took them out. Yeah. It's one of those things that just almost everybody deals with. It's crazy. Yeah.

There's some people who have their wisdom teeth, no problem at all. And for many of us was they start to cause an issue. I, and I feel like this happened because of the fall. Like I feel like had Adam and Eve not done what they did. I thought you were talking about like autumn. No, no, no. Not the season of the year. Oh, the fall capital F in Genesis.

Yeah. Um, had Adam and Eve not done what they did. I feel like, you know, we probably could have had wisdom teeth and been fine. That's, that's an insane take.

Like it's probably correct, but it's such a, it's such a reach. I'm billing Adam and Eve for my orthodontal problems. I think your insurance would probably go for that. Probably.

Yeah, I think so. They're covering ours. So thank you. I'm on, I'm on my, I probably shouldn't say who we're going through, but uh, it's through my wife's work.

Yeah. Thank you insurance. Appreciate that y'all. Y'all, y'all really good looking out. Well today we're taking a short break from our Christmas series to talk about some recent developments in the state of the church at large. There's a lot going on. There's a lot of conversations that are happening and a lot that we want to talk about on today's show, especially with dr shaw, you know, having him here and his expertise in, in leading a church for years longer than we have combined.

Right. Um, I mean that's going to be invaluable to this discussion, so we're going to go get him in just a second, but if you have any questions or suggestions for new topics, text us at two five two five eight two five zero two eight or you can visit us online at clearview today We're going to go get dr shaw and we'll be right back. Hey there listeners. My name is Kelsey and I'm John and we want to pause the show for just a second to talk to you guys about Clearview church's original EP together forward. Yeah, these are five songs, five original songs that we wrote right here at Clearview church. Myself, dr shaw, David Williamson, our engineer on the Clearview today show, some of the other guys on the worship team. Uh, but sometime during all the shutdowns of 2020 we noticed this really horrible isolationism setting in all over the world.

It was like nothing we've ever seen before. That's right. And one of the things that we've always been about here at Clearview is forward motion and community.

Those are both very important. So the whole heart behind the EP was, Hey, let's just take these two things and let's put them together because we truly feel like that's the antidote to what's happening in the world today. We're right in the middle of writing a whole bunch of new material as a church, but while all of those projects are still in the works, we want to help point you guys towards these songs that God has given us. You can listen to all of them right now on Spotify. Just look up Clearview worship, or if you want to support what we're doing here at Clearview church, you can buy it on iTunes right now. And always remember you can support us directly at the Clearview today show by visiting us online at Clearview today

That's right. Thanks for listening. We hope these songs are as much a blessing to you as they were for us. Let's get back to the show. Welcome back to Clearview today with Dr. Abaddon Shah, the daily show that engages mind and heart for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

You can visit us online at Clearview today where you can send us a text at 252-582-5028. Dr. Shah is with us today. Dr. Shah, we've got a lot of texts to that number saying how much people are enjoying the show, how much they're learning. Absolutely. Absolutely. I'm amazed. I shouldn't be, but I'm amazed.

And what I mean by I shouldn't be is because we are discussing the very things that people are thinking about, talking about, asking us about. So it's, it's, we should assume that people are excited about this show, but sometimes it's still, um, you know, just, just humbles us that people would care to listen and write to us and communicate with us. So thank you to our listeners.

Thank you for tuning in. Yes. We're almost two months in.

I don't know if you guys know this. This is, that is amazing. We're almost, we're almost two months in and the amount of support that we've gotten from you guys has been absolutely incredible. Wow. Two months in our Clearview Today family.

Next week will be two months. Wow. That's very cool. Thank you. Thank you. Thank God for that. Amen.

Well, if you guys are joining us for the first time, you've never listened to the show before. Dr. Abadan Shah is a PhD in New Testament textual criticism, professor, Carolina University, author, full-time pastor and the host of today's episode. You can follow all of his work at his blog site. That's

That's right. And today we're talking about something that we've been seeing for awhile now, but it's starting to manifest itself in something of a more obvious way. Dr. Shah, do you want to kick our conversation off?

Just kind of let our listeners and viewers know what we're talking about today. Yeah, absolutely. You know, being in the community and have been in this community for the past 24 years, I have seen pastors come and go. I've seen churches grow and then decline. And I've seen a lot of transition and I have to be honest with you.

I've never seen things the way they are today. And I don't want us to feel hopeless or discouraged or give in because that spirit is not from God. The Holy Spirit is a spirit of hope. And wherever he is, he brings life. He brings vision. He brings possibilities.

He brings God's presence. And when God's presence is there, we don't have to live in defeat. So I want to go ahead and say that upfront, but it is good for us to time to time face the reality. And the reality is that churches are struggling all across the land. I'm seeing that in our community, but I'm also seeing it in other communities all over the nation, all over the world, but especially in America, I'm seeing that. And just recently, and when I say recently, I'm talking about, I believe it was the first week of November, that LifeWay Research, which is sort of the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. They came out with a research. I mean, they're constantly doing research.

They're constantly surveying people and they surveyed pastors and asked a lot of questions and even church people as to where are churches today, post pandemic, where are churches today? And the numbers don't look great. And we need to face that, not face it in the sense that all doom and gloom, but face it in the sense of, okay, so this is where we are. Our work is cut out for us. We need to pray. We need to trust God, but we need to, you know, as the old way of saying goes, gird up our loins, go to work, whatever that means. But anyways, you know, let's just, let's jump in. Let's work.

Let's capture the flag for Christ in our community, wherever that community is for you. Because God has put us at a very specific point in time for a very specific reason. So we can sit and act as though we're supposed to be living in the ideal world. But the fact of the matter is, just like he did with these, the people of Israel and the Babylonian exile, he's put all this stuff in our lives for a reason.

He's put us in this time period maybe to make a great impact. But it's like you said, we have to accept the reality of what's going on before we started changing. Yeah, unless you face the reality, you cannot move forward. So I'm not, I hate pessimism.

I hate doom and gloom. I don't agree with that because that goes contrary to a person walking by faith. But so this is not that kind of a talk and I hope you won't take it that way to our listeners. It is a faith-filled talk, but let's look at the stats first.

That's right. And so let's share those numbers a little bit if we can, the numbers from that article by LifeWay. So they're saying that two in three, yeah, two in every three US Protestant churches, so about 68%, have congregation attendance fewer than a hundred people every week. 68%. 68% of all Protestant churches in America have less than a hundred people. And then drilling in further into that, 31% of those have fewer than 50. So over nearly, nearly a third of churches have less than 50 people attending every week.

68%. That's, that's, that's almost, it's, it's hard to believe. That, yeah, that's, that's well past half onto three quarters.

Yeah. At first glance, it seems that that would be completely ludicrous. And yet those numbers, those numbers aren't lying to us. It goes on to say a quarter of all churches, about 24% fall into the 100 to 249 person range. And they're counting everyone at the church, like walking in the doors.

This is just membership. This is everyone in the children's ministry, all the volunteers. This is everyone who's walking into the church. 24% fall into that 100 to 249 range. And only 8% of congregations host 250 people or more each week. 8% of churches in the entire U.S. Wow. 250 and more.

250 or more. Only 8%. That's, that is surprising to me. Yeah. Yeah.

It's been, I would say it's been coming for a while. This is not, we cannot just blame this on the pandemic. A pastor said this, and he said it during the, the, the height of the, of the whole pandemic shut downs and, you know, all the restrictions. He said it this way.

He said, it's not that the pandemic caused people from coming back to church or coming to church. It simply revealed where they were. I think that's exactly right. That's exactly right. That is on the nose.

It was almost the perfect excuse to carry out what was already happening under the surface. It's just that now I have a justified reason to actually follow through and not come back to church. Right.

Right. And yes, people are coming back and we're seeing that in our church. We have a bunch of families and people who have returned, not just yesterday or day before, but I'm talking about over the past year, they've been coming back and we welcomed them with open arms because there was no judgment. There was no, oh, how dare you?

It was a disappointment there. That's like, oh wow, you shouldn't leave the church. You should not stop attending.

Keep finding ways to stay connected, but people are coming back. So I do want to clarify that, but the churches are not where we need them to be. Right. And that was the thing is that when every, when all of this started, we were hearing that we were, you were saying that nonstop, this is going to affect the church. Even if we as a, as a church, as Clearview stay open, the church at large is going to be negatively impacted by this.

And I think people agreed on the surface, but I think until looking at these numbers, it was difficult to see or to visualize exactly how much it would be impacted. Oh yeah. Yeah. What those ramifications would be.

Yeah. And you know, even prior to the pandemic, it was people were struggling in their faith and growing in the Lord and all that unwilling to change. You know, that's a big one in America. Churches are unwilling to change.

They like what they like and please don't mess with it. We'll pay you a certain amount of money. You're not the pastor. You're just a chaplain. Just do your thing and then go and you can't grow a church like that. You cannot, you cannot, you know, capture the flag for Christ in your community by having that kind of mindset that we're not going to change.

You come and do what we tell you to do, or just stay out of the way. Or, you know, we welcome you with open arms, but then find a seat and sit down, you know, you just can't do that. And not for a single moment will I ever say, you know, compromise doctrine or change your theology or water down the gospel. Oh, absolutely no.

Don't do that. But you can change, you know, Hey, bring your music, make it more contemporary. And I'll be the first to tell you, you know, sometimes some of the contemporary music doesn't have as rich a theology as say some of the hymns of old, but sing the songs of today. Don't sing the songs of the past.

You know, those songs were written to inspire us to keep writing new songs. That's right. Will there be a 10? Of course not. I'm sorry. Psalm 23 has already been written. Okay. It's done. It's done.

You're not going to top that one is over, but you can write another one that will be applicable and, and, and resonate with the hearts and minds and the lives of people today of the next generation today. Right. It's interesting too, because in, you know, LifeWay did another survey in 2021, a year ago and they were asking people once, you know, the pandemic was no longer a threat. It was no longer active in their minds. It was behind them. How many people plan to attend their worship services at least as much as they did prior to the pandemic.

91% of people said, yeah, absolutely. I'm going back as soon as this is right. That was only a year ago and we have not seen that. We haven't seen that. It's not quite the same. It's not the same at all. So I'm wondering in their mind, it's kind of like what you were saying, Dr. Shah, is there really a pandemic thing anymore or is it just, well, I mean, now that I'm out, I'm good. Life is going on. It's easier.

Why should I give my money or why should I give my time? Why should I have that commitment to this organization when I survived? You know, I made it through without all this. So I'm okay. And I'm saved. I'm, you know, do you have to go to church to be saved?

You know, that same old argument. Yeah. So that's where I think some people are. And it's very tragic because your faith will not grow or glow if you stay away from the fire, you know, and that's, that's, that's what's happening. And again, I want to clarify, there are other churches out there who are doing great, who are growing by leaps and bounds, ours is, and they are growing is because they use that opportunity, that time to not only keep their doors open, but to do whatever it takes to, to find ways to reach people, to speak to them where they were, to stand up and be courageous and bold. They did what they could. Right. And now, you know, they're, they're reaping the rewards in a sense. Right. That's one of the things that has, has always, I've always admired that about you, but especially over the course of the past few years, I mean, taking that to the next level, really putting that into practice, like by whatever means necessary, we are going to keep these doors open because church is essential. And that's something that, that we needed to hear. That's something that people needed to hear, need to be reminded of because so many times the narrative was, you're not essential.

You need to shut down. Right. The bars were right. Bars were essential.

How interesting is that? Go get drunk because that's important. Come to church now. You know, you, we gotta be six feet and we cannot do that. Yeah. We gotta prioritize safety.

I mean, there's the word right there. Prioritize. It shows where people's priorities are. Yeah. And now we have so much addiction issues, so much mental health problems.

Yeah. I mean, on one hand, people look at the past two years and they go, not a big deal. We're bounced back. Everybody's back. But on the other hand, is everybody really back? And I'm not just not even talking about the church.

I'm talking about in life. Are they really back? Yeah.

I don't think they're coming back. Yeah. I think mentally upstairs, okay. In your heart, if you want to say that way, there have been some shifts and it's only the spirit of God through prayer, through the word of God, through godly mentorship, being around people who are truly following Jesus Christ, the best they can by his hand are going to be the ones who'll make it, whose shift will be back.

If not, it won't. Yeah. I mean, just think about like, if you're on a battlefield and you're fighting and you're standing against the enemy, if you lay down your sword and say, okay, I'm giving up, I'm, I'm complying. How, how feasible is it that you're going to pick up that sword again and stand ready to defend? I mean, once you've, it's like you said, once you've given up and once you've given in, something changes in your mind. Even if you pick the sword back up, it's like, well, how hard am I really going to fight? Yeah.

Does my fight even matter? Yeah, right. Absolutely. You know, I was talking to a gentleman just recently and he, he talked about, you know, their church pulling out of the denomination because this denomination as a whole is going away from scripture, especially regarding sexual immorality, especially regarding homosexuality. And so this person shared with me that, you know, their little church is pulling out and they're going to try to go independent. They're going to do whatever they can. I asked him, are you going with that other denomination that they're building of people who are, you know, still in the same denominational umbrella, but you know, they're, they, they, they have chosen to go conservative and he said, no, we're going to go independent.

And I hope it works out for them because I think it's the right move, right? But there are so many steps that need to be taken. They need to examine their hearts. They need to examine their core values, their mission, their vision. They need to have people commit themselves to a longterm plan of how they're going to see God and let Jesus Christ shine and capture their community and do whatever it takes. I don't, I just don't know if they'll be able to do that without guidance.

We're hoping, you know, our team is talking about that maybe in a year or so from now, maybe talk, have some conferences or whatever, how to revitalize. I don't like that term. It's like such a eighties, nineties term revitalization, but I mean, something we got to do to help churches go, okay, so these are the steps you got to take, right?

Just because you stepped away from a liberal going denomination or, you know, doctrinal error. Great. We applaud you. Very important first great step, but there are more steps. If not, you will be that statistic. And I believe if this research continues in five, 10 years from now, I think we're looking at something much worse. And think about the implication of what these numbers suggest. I mean, you, it's one thing to say, well, I mean, what's the big deal? The, so most of the churches in America are less empty seats and it's less than a hundred people. Listen, it's all about the worship of Jesus. As long as those people are worshiping, that's, that's fine. But think of the outreach, think of the ministries and all these churches are going to have to refocus their ministries, refocus their outreach to support this new thing. So there's not, I mean, let's face it, the more resources a church has, the bigger their impact on their community is going to be. Right.

See, it's, I appreciate you saying that because what people say, it sounds good. It sounds like, yeah, I read this statement somebody made recently. They said, you know, this may be the new move of God.

Why? By, you know, making small churches everywhere. And so that, well, okay, I get it.

And it sounds beautiful, but small churches are small for a reason. Right. Right. Exactly. Right.

Okay. Unless your community is only 500 people and you have a hundred, hey, listen, you're doing very well. That's pretty great. A fifth of your community. That's amazing.

Even if it's 50, I would, I would applaud you for that. That's what, 10% of the community, right? Yeah. Yeah.

Great job. But if you're, if your community is 30,000, you're sitting there with 50 people. Yeah. Let's not, let's not talk about small is wonderful and the closeness because what's going to happen is that church pastor cannot support his family. He's going to have to move along. He's going to have to become bivocational. He's going to do whatever it takes and still lead the church with the same excellence in his preaching, in his teaching, in his shepherding. He has to do all of that and still try to make his make ends meet and still provide insurance for his family.

When his wife loses her job, that he still has to be there to take care of her. Now, I guess we need to pray for those kinds of leaders. Yeah.

Yeah. Well that's, that's the whole problem of thinking is that, yeah, it's fine for me. Like the average churchgoer, I'm a hundred percent fine. I can worship just as well with 50 people as 500 people, but it's not just about me. It's not just about my, my worship time and my experience at the church. It's also about what my church is able to do. How do we support each other in the church? God forbid you get sick.

Now what? Who's going to carry on your Sunday school class, right? Who's going to be there to lead music in your church? Oh, so now there is no music. There is no worship.

There is no Sunday school class. How long do you think people are going to keep coming and keep plugging in? I mean, people don't think about that. They just say, Oh, we're going to small. Maybe this is a new move of God. Let's not make such statements. Yeah. Right. Uh, how about pray and say, God, give us your wisdom, give us your passion, help us to get back to where we need to be so that we can grow and touch people instead of saying, Hey, look, this may be the new thing.

Um, I don't think so. And even in an outreach sense, that's undercutting your church's ability to make an impact in the community and in people's lives. Because if the pastor's working multiple jobs, if you have to cut down on what the ministries are able to do, if the budget decreases, then you're not going to be able to be in the community. You're not going to be able to be assisting like you were before. You're not going to be able to be making an impact at the level you ought to be.

Right. And I'm sorry, it just, that's just the way it works. When people walk in and see only 20 people sitting in there and no children, they walk right out. So when are you going to grow?

Oh, you're not going to grow. This is your new experience of 20 people. Well, how long do you think it lasts?

Maybe a year, maybe take a trip to Europe on a Sunday and walk through some of those churches and you'll realize very quickly. That's what it's going to look like here unless we change. Anyways, I'm so glad we're addressing this. Yeah, it needs to be addressed. And I hope we can keep talking about this and give churches, pastors, church leaders, um, some pointers on what you need to do now. Okay.

If you're in that stage. Okay. So let's talk about your mission. Let's talk about your vision.

Let's talk about your core values. Let's talk about some kind of strategic plan and please don't get super spiritual and say, well, you know, they're out in here, the Holy Spirit. Yeah. Everything is done with the leadership and the power of the Holy Spirit. That's right. This is not about consumer church. It's about leading people to Jesus Christ. So when they die, they go to heaven. That's right.

And they live their lives to please the father. And I would love, I would love to do some episodes. You talked about conferences. I'd love to do some episodes on that because just from being here, I know that that's your story here with Clearview. So if you guys enjoyed today's topic, if you have any questions or suggestions for future topics, let us know by sending us a text at two five two five eight two five zero two eight. Or you can visit us online at Clearview today Don't forget you can support us financially in the very same place by clicking that donate button.

Every contribution that you make goes to supporting not only this show, but countless other ministries for the building up of the kingdom of God. John, do you have a quote to leave our listeners with today? I do. I do. Here we go.

This is a, this is one of my favorites. Many that live deserve death and some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be so eager to deal out death in judgment for even the very wise cannot see all ends. And that is from our friend Gandalf, the gray Gandalf, the gray do not be so eager to deal out death and judgment for such a great movie.

Oh man. I love talking to him. Love talking. Great, great quote. We love you guys. We'll see you tomorrow on Clearview today.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-07 14:38:33 / 2022-12-07 14:51:40 / 13

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