We're Number 10

Just noticed that the National Council of Church’s 2009 Yearbook was recently published (found via MMI). Here are the stats on the 10 largest religious groups in America.

  1. The Roman Catholic Church, 67,117,06 members, down 0.59 percent.
  2. The Southern Baptist Convention, 16,266,920 members, down 0.24 percent.
  3. The United Methodist Church, 7,931,733 members, down 0.80 percent.
  4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5,873,408 members, up 1.63 percent.
  5. The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members, no change reported.
  6. National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., 5,000,000 members, no change reported.
  7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,709,956 members, down 1.35 percent.
  8. National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., 3,500,000 members, no change reported.
  9. Presbyterian Church (USA), 2,941,412 members, down 2.79 percent
  10. Assemblies of God, 2,863,265 members, up 0.96 percent. dangerous beauty divx online bluetoes the christmas elf movie download download homeward bound ii lost in san francisco online

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So…. yeah. We’re number 10, we’re number 10, we’re number 10! Maybe we can chant that at General Council.

Sadly, we’re the only Christian group (in the top 10) that is growing. And even sadder, when you get into our internal numbers you realize that a few parts of our movement are growing rapidly but that there are huge swaths undergoing slow decline. For now, the explosive growth is offsetting the decay.

I’m grateful that I’m on a winning team and that our movement is growing when so many are stagnating, but I must confess that a 0.96% growth rate is not exactly the sort of thing that stirs the pulse.

We need divinely-sparked revival to which we must respond with organizational renewal, or else we’ll soon be celebrating the fact that we shrunk least.

But hey – for now I’ve got a handy fact I can share with people who say, “The Assemblies of God? Never heard of it.” I can now shoot back, “Hey – we’re almost as large as the Presbyterians. Nearly. We’re only off by like 80,000 people. That’s the size of a good South American church. We haven’t quite figured out how to do that in North America, but it can’t be that hard. So we’re basically one missiological insight and then one good church plant away from being number 9. So there.”

Baptism on Campus

January 29th I had a great privilege. I was able to baptize my friend Kelly in the Claw Fountain in between the Bookstore and Old Union.

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The water was cold. In fact, I saw Kelly’s eyes shoot open when she went under the water and I could practically read the thoughts running through her brain, “I want to gasp. But if I gasp, I’ll drown. Drowning is bad at a baptism. But I want to gasp so badly.”

Fortunately, the warm California sun brought her back from the brink of hypothermia right after I pulled her up. I’m just glad I told her to bring a change of clothes and a towel!

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watch slaughter online If having a baptism out in public strikes you as a little odd I’d like to point out that it has ample Biblical and historical precedent. The most famous Biblical example is from Acts 8:36-38:

As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

Yeah. So we did that.

And I hope we get to do it again soon. 🙂

Digital Discipleship

In one of the first conversations I remember having with Scott Aughtmon, he tried to sell me on the advantages of using sequential autoresponders download evil under the sun

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in ministry. I had no idea what he was talking about, so I smiled and nodded.

Turns out they’re awesome. I wish I had listened to him sooner.

Consider the case of Dick Schroeder. He speaks at retreats and frequently prays with people to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Over the years, he has put together a series of emails that he sends to people afterwards to coach them from a distance.

One day he asked me if there was a way to automate the process. My mind flashed back to Scott’s enthusiasm for these autoresponder things, so I downloaded a free PHP script called Infinite Responder

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and set up http://chialpha.com/resources/holyspirit.

Now if someone signs up, they begin receiving coaching emails from Dick once a week. Since the messages appear to come from his email address, students can just hit “reply” and ask Dick about anything they found confusing or that they need special advice about. It’s very low-maintenance for him, and Chi Alpha students nationwide get a year’s worth of Dick’s expertise.

Since rolling this out at the World Missions Summit (Jan 1st), we’ve had just over 200 people subscribe to these updates. That works out to about 7 signups a day. I have no idea where the total will cap out, but momentum is building and I don’t even feel that the resource has been thoroughly publicized yet.

Things I like about the tool:

  • Low-tech. geronimo download

    It’s just email. No one has to install a special plugin, put headphones in their computer, or have some insanely fast connection.

  • Personal. The emails come from an actual human being to whom you can respond.
  • Low-maintenance. Once the email is in the database, it’s just there. Neither Dick nor I need to do anything special to send them out. And Dick only gets replies from people who have specific questions, which is only a fraction of the people who receive any given email.

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Pretty cool, eh?

Lately I’ve been wondering what other opportunities are out there. Some ideas that I’ve had:

  • Emails for new believers
  • A “40 days” type campaign for Chi Alpha with daily emails where each campus that chooses to participate picks its own start and stop times and the script takes care of all those details.
  • A first two weeks of school devotional to get students fired up when they return from summer break
  • Coaching emails for people who are called to ministry
  • Monthly emails for Chi Alpha grads to help them make the transition out of college gracefully
  • A term’s worth of weekly emails for people pioneering new Chi Alpha ministries
  • etc,etc

It’s just a matter of finding a person with the right expertise and hooking them up. So if you’ve got an idea, I’d love to hear about it. I’d especially love to hear if you’re a Chi Alpha leader who has content ready to go. I can just run it past Dennis and get that stuff online faster than you can imagine. 😉