Today, I’m thrilled to share my blog with my favorite guy of them all … Steve Scheibner. To me, he’s a husband extraordinaire; to the kids, he’s Dad; and to his grandchildren, he’s Papi. That’s who he is at home, but here’s who he is the rest of the time!
Dr. Scheibner is the President of Characterhealth Corporation and the former Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Topsham, Maine. Steve has been a guest on Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson, the Glenn Beck TV show, Sean Hannity, Janet Parshall’s America, and more.
YEP … He’s one busy guy. What he has to share today is so important. It has challenged my thinking and I think it will challenge you, as well.
According to David Kinneman, president of the Barna Group, one in every five churches in the US is about to close. Kinneman based this warning on surveys of more than a thousand churches in the US. The Barna Group, who surveyed these churches at the beginning of the pandemic back in March, and then again recently, found a significant drop in church giving, attendance, and enthusiasm. In a recent interview with NPR, Kinneman said things were going pretty well initially, but now the circumstances have changed.
Perhaps it is pandemic fatigue or just plain laziness, but it appears that the Church is about to go through a winnowing of sorts. Winnowing events are not uncommon. Throughout the centuries, there have been events that “culled,” pruned, or winnowed the Church.
According to Merriam-Webster, Culling means to literally “separate or remove inferior animals out of the herd to reduce the number or remove undesirable traits from the group as a whole. Matthew 3:11-12 reminds us that Jesus came to this earth armed with a winnowing fork. What was the purpose of this winnowing fork? Verse 12 clearly states that Jesus is actively separating the wheat from the chaff.
His winnowing fork today takes the shape of a worldwide pandemic.
If the Barna research survey is accurate, 20% will not return to Church even after the pandemic is over. A 20% reduction in church attendance will mean that many churches close their doors forever while others face smaller gatherings on Sunday. At face value, this seems like bad news indeed, but if it is genuinely a culling event, it may be one of the best things that has happened to the sluggish, narcissistic, post-modern Church in a very long time.
Losing weight generally means a boost in energy and results in an improvement in our overall health. Could it be that God is prescribing a winnowing-diet to bring our churches back to good health?
Churches worldwide ought to view the present pandemic-driven winnowing as an opportunity rather than another hand-wringing event. If the Chaff doesn’t want to return to fellowship, perhaps it is because there was no fellowship in the first place. Just because someone is filling our pews on Sunday and occasionally dropping a $20 bill in the plate to ease their conscience doesn’t mean that they were ever part of the flock.
Instead of panicking, churches must position themselves to take advantage of this culling event.
Recently, the stock market dipped to record lows. The US stock market plummeted from a high of 29,500 to a low this Spring of somewhere around 18,000. That was a huge drop! However, many saw the plummet as an opportunity to take excess capital and invest it in bargain stocks. They knew that the fundamentals of the economy were still sound and that the dip in the markets would only be temporary. In May of this year, money started to flood back into the market, which helped keep the overall economy healthy, fluid, and optimistic, not to mention the boon to those who saw their investments double and triple in just a few months.
Like the stock market, the fundamentals of the Church are still sound. Yes, 20% of our more casual attendees have dropped out, but the Church ought not to view this as a disaster, but rather see it as an investment opportunity. Buy low and sell high.
Now is the time for the Church to invest in church planting. Look for those areas around the country where churches have closed permanently and plant new growth churches in communities where the churches had become old, sluggish, and smelled of mold.
Now is the time for the Church to invest the capital they have built up through relationships. Instead of panicking and forming a holy huddle, now is the time to walk across those relational bridges we have built, in order to share the Gospel with our unsaved friends and family.
It would be a mistake to spend our time and money trying to woo back the Chaff. We should make an honest effort to reach out to those who seem to be dropping out. However, we shouldn’t deplete the Church’s resources to nudge and cajole those who were never part of our fellowship in the first place into returning just to take up space in the pew.
Jesus knows what He is doing. When His winnowing fork swings, the Church is better for it!