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As a pastor and church leader, I’ve always been sort of a rebel. 

I look at things not as they are, but as they could be.

That’s not an easy path, particularly in the church world where, along with the bad economy, safe often is the understated status quo.

One reality in the church world is that 70% of the people living in most American communities now CHOOSE not to get up and go to a church service on Sunday.

I’m pretty sure if Batman heard that amazing statistic, he would shout:  

“Holy church frustration!!”

The experts say there are lots of reasons for this stat, but the one that I don’t ever hear is the one that I feel should be at the TOP of the list:

There is an ever-growing CHURCH COMMUNICATION GAP.

The 70% can no longer relate to how most churches in America communicate their message on Sunday.

THEY watch videos (3 billion a day).

WE talk to them.

THEY love variety.

WE do pretty much the exact same thing every Sunday (greet/music/message/music/dismiss/repeat-repeat-repeat-repeat).

THEY live to be entertained.

WE package the most important message on Earth in a mostly verbal communication in a one-person sermon.

THEY learn from "multi"media through the week.

WE teach them with lectures and a quick splash of multimedia.

THEY want choices.

WE remain the same.

THEY want God to be relevant to THEIR world.

WE want them to be relevant to ours.

So what’s it going to take to reach the 70%?

Change-change-change, and the RIGHT message communicated in the RIGHT way.

Editor's Note: What are you doing in your preaching to make sure the message is clear for today's culture?

Barry Whitlow is a Church Growth Consultant and pastor specializing in visitor attraction & retention; how to cast vision to keep giving momentum high; church growth through guest services; and capital campaign fundraising.

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Talk about it...

David Buffaloe

commented on Mar 1, 2012

This is the most nothing article I have ever read. It communicated nothing - at all - so little that the editor had to add a note at the end to give it any substance. What is the RIGHT message communicated the RIGHT way? For me it is the Bible communicated clearly in the power of God's Holy Spirit and prayer. Only God can open a heart and only God can save a soul.

Pastor Bob Hunnicutt

commented on Mar 1, 2012

we have 15 min. holy spirit prayer before our sunday services our goal is holy spirit communicate today your special message that my be from the praise and worship to the dance team and are the preaching. the holy spirit i believe is the key to communication between the believer the sinner and the church leader(pastor). coming to church is a choice allowing the holy spirit to move is GOD'S plan every week to communicate his plan for you . our goal at covenant life cathedral is GOD'S plan purpose and destiny is holy spirit given and holy spirit received.

Jay Didriksen

commented on Mar 1, 2012

David Buffaloe - Hey. why are you so negative? Seriously, I don't mind that this article was at the bottom of your list but why be so discouraging? The few times I have read your posts it is clear what you are communicating from your heart. Are you communicating through the Spirit when you post here? Your words should build the body not dismiss people and what they struggle with. Jesus didn't dismiss peoplenk even when He was direct and harsh. Speak the truth in love. This wasn't my favorite article either and I don't know the author, but we can still build each other up.

David Buffaloe

commented on Mar 1, 2012

I'm sorry, Jay, but there's nothing here. I can't make something where there's nothing. I came looking for a buffet and found empty trays. I appreciate Bob's input, and yours, for there is substance there. But not meaning to be ugly I would have got as much input from this article as I would from a blank piece of paper.

Luke Robertson

commented on Mar 1, 2012

Good points but I preach in a church with 30 members. Multi media is a big challenge.

Lloyd Vorderstrasse

commented on Mar 1, 2012

a church communication activist that is passionate about communication as it relates to the mission of the church... This article does not seem to be from an individual who is passionate about communication. Poor communication done here. All I see is complaints. No recommendations on how to "build up the body of Christ."

Daniel Pollard Sr.

commented on Mar 1, 2012

I hate to give negative criticism, but...I find several problems with this article. First I think it's based on a faulty premise that is not verifiable. The author states:"70 of people in America now chose not to get up and go to Church on Sunday morning." Then he identifies the major problem as not being able to: "relate to how most churches in America communicate their message on Sunday." Something which he admits no one else is identifying as one of the major problems in the Church. He has used an opinion of his and a statistic, that may or may not be related, to lambast the Church for not being relevant to the world. While I know that there are a lot of people who will agree with what he is saying about how that the Sunday sermon needs to be relevant (something I do agree with to a point). I think that we need to be careful that we do not cater to the itching ear. I think we get into a fight we cannot win in trying to always compete with the world in the arena of entertainment based sermonizing. If all we are aiming for is competing with the advertisement based industry of Hollywood we will build Churches full of superficial Christians with the attention span of gnats. This is not to say that it's wrong to try to be great communicators and even to experiment a little with some of the different tools out there to help convey the message but at the end of the day what the Bible encourages is the preaching of the Word. We have a lot of freedom in the expression of that mission but we should be leery of trying to out entertain Hollywood. That's a pursuit that will only frustrate us as preachers. Our goal is not building the biggest Churches we can or even reaching the most people we can. First and foremost our goal is to honor our Heavenly Father and then "preach the Gospel" to all people. We are called to conform to God not to make God conform to our desires, time schedules, and pleasures. What I have seen, and I admit I am no expert, is that there is no substitute for Spirit-anointed preaching. It captivates and challenges in ways that draw people into deep personal relationships with God. Where does Spirit-anointed preaching come from? It flows out of deep personal commitment and devotion to the one and only true God. Does that make multimedia irrelevant? Not really. It just isn't a substitute for preachers who know Christ intimately and walk in the Spirit. We have got to stop looking for easy fixes to lacking intimacy with God. We must know Him and the power of His resurrection.

Dr. Shelby Delaney

commented on Mar 1, 2012

2 Timothy 4:3 New American Standard Bible (NASB) 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires., If Dr. Whitlow assumes that it takes human effort to draw people to churches, then he is correct in his writing. However, if one believes that God's Holy Spirit will draw folks then he is much "off the mark." The above Bible Scripture points out clearly my position. Yes 21st Century people are drawn by entertainment; entertainment fulfills a need. This need/enjoyment is most fleeting. It doesn't last. If people are not drawn to churches by God's Holy Spirit then the attendance becomes a "band-aid" covering a much more serious condition.

Michael Dissmore

commented on Mar 1, 2012

This author may not have cited where he got the 70 statistic, but we can all agree that church attendance in America is embarrassing to those of us who have a mandate to reach the lost. Don't shoot the messenger! We've got work to do. Perhaps the author didn't give us the ABCs of making our church and our message relevant to today, but he's challenging each of us. What are we doing about it? This is a thought-provoker; a discussion-starter. Pray, do some soul searching, and ask God what you should do to reach the unchurched in your communitywith the gospel.

Priscilla Hammond

commented on Mar 1, 2012

Daniel, I agree that the causal relationship is not supported -70 of people stay home from church may be a fact (although no citation is given) -but there is no link to poor communication. I do agree to some extent with the author that the church does not communicate in the vernacular, which is becoming far more media-oriented. However, I also believe that the church has a role in leading people through the transformation of their minds. "THEY live to be entertained" is not a good thing. We shouldn't become more entertaining, we should become more relevant so they will desire to be entertained less and commune with God more.

Stan Roam

commented on Mar 1, 2012

I agree with using all moral means necessary to influence the unsaved to come to church but let us make sure that when they come the GOSPEL, the only TRUE message from God is overt. Media is good and useful to accent the service but we need to make use teaching and preaching is the core of means of delivery. If we can do this I believe God will be glorified. Whether we completely agree about these subjects of not, it sharpens us! Thanks for the article.

Charles Reed

commented on Mar 1, 2012

Much thought has no doubt gone into this...but, I'm thinking that the bottom line for Christians and our congregations isn't really "change." I believe the thing that sets us apart from the world is consistency. Being Christian means that we are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow...just like Jesus. We need to be rock solid in our faith and the way we project that faith. My thinking is to do that we must keep doing what Scriptures tell us...not what the world tries to tell us.

John E Miller

commented on Mar 1, 2012

"A church communication activist that is passionate about communication as it relates to the mission of the church." Where did that come from? Apart from a description that is woefully grammatically wrong and linguistically hopelessly convoluted, where does it fit into biblical truth? "He believes media is the language of today etc., etc." Who controls the world's media? Think about it and answer the question. God's word is the answer to the sinner's need. FULL STOP! Read Hebrews, chapter one, verses one and two. That's how God has communicated His word to man, that's how He is communicating it now and will continue to do till the rapture of His church. How can born again, bible believing children of God take this seriously?

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 1, 2012

Why is is when someone comments that they didn't like the article someone feels the need to attack the person and tell them they shouldn't be so critical? Are we not entitled to express our opinion as much as those who may like what was written? Are we to lie and say, "Wow! That article was outstanding. I really learned a lot from what was said" when in fact we don't? Should we not be entiitled to express why we didn't like what was said? We just had a big discussion about this in the article written by Perry Noble. Listen, there are certain things said that are not necessarily biblical and people have a right to express that. This article seems to be in the same vain as Noble in that it seems to say we need to be more like the world to bring people into the church. As Pastors we are commanded to "Preach the Word." Is he saying that we should record our sermons in video form and play them with glits and glammer, maybe even a lightshow instead of us getting in front of the people and preaching since they watch 3 billion videos a day? We are in the last days and this is what Jesus said would happen. He asked the question, "When the Son of man comes, will He find any faith?" People are sadly indifferent to God these days. People are neither "hot nor cold." The Bible says that the preaching of the cross is foolish to the lost. We don't become like the world to make sinners comfortable. 1 John 2:15-17 Are we to put on a different variety show each week to keep people coming back? We need to follow the unchanging Word of God and do as 2 Timothy 4:1-4 says

David Hodgin

commented on Mar 1, 2012

Barry made his point, as does every commentor. But as for the need to have a snappy entertaining service, I recall a past article when the author said something along the lines of, The most vivid multi-media we can offer is to allow our congregation to see and hear someone who is completely sold out to the belief that our hope is in Christ. To that I still say, amen, amen. "As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"" So just preach on people, preach on. "What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice."

Michael Dissmore

commented on Mar 1, 2012

After reading some of these comments I no longer wonder why 70 percent of people stay home on Sunday morning. If some of you people lived in the 15th Century, you would have said "We don't need Gutenberg to print the Bible. We're only supposed to preach the Word, not read it." If you think people will be drawn to churches that do church the way it's been done for generations, you're sadly mistaken. There's a lot of new technology out there in case you didn't know. Wake up people. We need to CHANGE! The message stays the same, but the methods must be relevant to the times.

Scott Hourigan

commented on Mar 1, 2012

This "church communicating activist" (whatever that is???) failed to convey much if any biblicaly practical information at all!! No offence Mr. Whitlow. What little was conveyed (change, change, change) sounded more like an aretha franklin song rather than wise council. (chain, chain, chain, chain of fools) (:ha-ha). Seriously, Jesus and Paul communicated the "euaggelion" good news not by the media of the day but through the "foolishness of preaching"! the known world in their, day used the media (plays, theatre, music,dance, etc.) to communicate their philosophies and meet their personal agendas. God chose a common method called "preaching". In contrast to the means and ways of the first century culture this method was foolishness. c.f.(1 cor.1:18-21) (gal.2:2) (2 tim 4:2) church communication activists need to leave the change, change, change to mo-town and aretha and allow Gods method "foolish preaching" to be the means and way to communicate the GOSPEL!!!!

Scott Hourigan

commented on Mar 1, 2012

This "church communicating activist" (whatever that is???) failed to convey much if any biblicaly practical information at all!! No offence Mr. Whitlow. What little was conveyed (change, change, change) sounded more like an aretha franklin song rather than wise council. (chain, chain, chain, chain of fools) (:ha-ha). Seriously, Jesus and Paul communicated the "euaggelion" good news not by the media of the day but through the "foolishness of preaching"! the known world in their, day used the media (plays, theatre, music,dance, etc.) to communicate their philosophies and meet their personal agendas. God chose a common method called "preaching". In contrast to the means and ways of the first century culture this method was foolishness. c.f.(1 cor.1:18-21) (gal.2:2) (2 tim 4:2) church communication activists need to leave the change, change, change to mo-town and aretha and allow Gods method "foolish preaching" to be the means and way to communicate the GOSPEL!!!!

Robert Sickler

commented on Mar 1, 2012

Excellent message. Statistics are within the ball park. In personal research, I have found the main reason for the growth in unchurched Christian is their disconnect with our methods of communication. We have forgotten: I am all things to all men that I might win but one to Jesus. The message does not change but the method of communicating the message had best change, or it does not deserve the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

Jerry Shirley

commented on Mar 1, 2012

I'm sure this was a great article but he lost me - no visuals, drama, or entertainment. I just clicked out. :)

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 1, 2012

Sorry, misspelled "glitz" and "glamour" in my previous post.

Cameron Buchanan

commented on Mar 1, 2012

I agree with the heart behind the article, even if I disagree with the 'stats' that have been presented. I am also in Australia so I admittedly have a different context here. <br>However I have been a long time student of church communication, having been a youth pastor for 19 years and now doing senior ministry. I have observed and heard from a bunch of pastors whom I consider admirable, and they are big spokespeople for the use of entertainment and the arts and varying methods of communication. And what I have noticed from all these 'experts' is that with every 'artistic' presentation: every multimedia exercise, every song, every dance recital, every video clip employed in a church or outreach setting - it is ALL accompanied by the presentation of a spoken message (preaching) which puts it all together, which ensures it all makes sense. <br> Let's not get caught up in these imaginary stats just yet, and remember that the CLARITY of the Gospel, the CHALLENGE of the Gospel, the INVITATION of the Gospel all come up in the spoken, preached, Bible-based verbal presentation! The risk is an over-entertained crowd with no substance and by the very nature of the 'arts' a rather ambiguous message indeed!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 1, 2012

LOL! That was good Jerry!

Scott Hourigan

commented on Mar 1, 2012

cameron, why incorporate the substandard archaic mode of preaching (sarcasm)with the state of the art techniques that the modern church applauds and upholds. could it be that the bible is right when it says emphaticaly and to preach and teach the word. should we use the the new way to herald the gospel to the lost world? let us not forget that the local assembly is for christians to be edifyied, built up. it is not a meeting house where we lure the unsaved in to hear the gospel. we are not trying to sell Jesus, we shouldnt use the pragmatics of the world to get the unsaved to come to church. the church is the saved folk. we meet weekly and bi-weekly to be taught biblical doctrine in order to equip us to go )out in the world and spread Gods Truth.. (pitcure this) what if we met every sunday and were taught at church how to use our computer and youe tube and power points as the resource that should be used to share the gospel with others, after church we come in contact with a lost soul under conviction needing compassion and we say to that lost soul, let me share Jesus with you, we then open our computer and say watch this gospel video and you can be saved.... How impersonal would that be???? it would be ridiculous, humans learn by example. we need to hear the word preached and taught in church in order to go into the world and do the same!!!! the new and improved methods are producing multitudes of nominal believers.

Pastor Warren Olson

commented on Mar 2, 2012

Dennis, I agree with you, well I guess it was the Scripture that you used I agree with. Those of use in churches on Sunday morning should be teaching and learning about how we are supposed to "Go out" and spread the Good News! I think that we have two different issues. The first is being in church and the next is Evangelism. Thanks also to the person who said that it is OK for us to disagree with each other, but please lets not be negative and attack each other. Pastors, we are all on the same side, and we should ALL be trying to do something about that 70 of souls that may be lost forever. Grace and peace to you all, Warren

Mike Ingo

commented on Mar 3, 2012

I agree we need to communicate on their level but should we have to entertain them in order to get them to come? My dad was a minister and he made me go to church until I was 16. I left the faith for years and when I came back it was because I wanted Christ in my life. As a pastor now I do not "force" people nor "lure" them to church. I present the Gospel as it appears in the Bible. It speaks to them; either they want it or not. I communicate it visually and orally. My hope is they will come back because they want Christ: not to see my "show." Just saying. Thank all of you out there for what you do for our Lord! Keep up the good works!

Robert Sickler

commented on Mar 3, 2012

By most standards, I am an old man. I remember tent revivals, arbor meeting, handing out religious tracts and preaching on the street. Yes, I am getting old; but, I am intelligent enough to realize that statistics do not lie. The number of unchurched Christians is growing at an alarming rate. Even more disturbing is the trend found in Baby Boomer children, the Baby Busters, they left church in their 20?s, as did earlier generations, but they never returned. This is made even worse by the fact that they and their children, the Millennials, may a propensity to believe but they have no foundation for their beliefs; and, thus they are very vulnerable to the deception of demons. Why are we losing our future generations? It is simple; we have failed to communicate with them. They want to know the truth but very few preachers are willing to learn how to tell them the truth in a way they can understand. And those preachers who do seem to understand 21st century communications are frequently irreligious libertine prosperity gospel hucksters.

Robert Sickler

commented on Mar 3, 2012

By most standards, I am an old man. I remember tent revivals, arbor meeting, handing out religious tracts and preaching on the street. Yes, I am getting old; but, I am intelligent enough to realize that statistics do not lie. The number of unchurched Christians is growing at an alarming rate. Even more disturbing is the trend found in Baby Boomer children, the Baby Busters, they left church in their 20?s, as did earlier generations, but they never returned. This is made even worse by the fact that they and their children, the Millennials, may a propensity to believe but they have no foundation for their beliefs; and, thus they are very vulnerable to the deception of demons. Why are we losing our future generations? It is simple; we have failed to communicate with them. They want to know the truth but very few preachers are willing to learn how to tell them the truth in a way they can understand. And those preachers who do seem to understand 21st century communications are frequently irreligious libertine prosperity gospel hucksters.

Cameron Buchanan

commented on Mar 5, 2012

Scott, I actually agree with you! My writing skills are not as good as my verbal ones, so my sentences and thought can get muddy. I was actually advocating FOR the preaching of the word of God. The issue of the 'arts' and the many methods of communication can be very abstract and does not always give a definitive clear message no matter how well things are performed. My observation about preaching on the back of these things was that even though a bunch of 'creative' methods of communication was employed, PREACHING was still required for the sake of clarity. The rest for the most part is merely entertainment. I don't think having entertainment present in a church environment is a bad thing, and it can certainly bridge the cultural gap of an audience, but the preaching of the word of God is the key thing that is needed for any audience to UNDERSTAND with clarity the message intended to be presented!

Jun Baday

commented on Mar 5, 2012

Mr. Whitlow pointed out the sociological information of today. Honestly, even we are living here in the third world country, we have seen realities mentioned by Mr. Whitlow. His article is thought provoking but I counted it as a challenge. The point is we live in a fast changing world and we have to preach excellently without compromising our exegesis. I believe that if the Holy Spirit is truly working in us, we preach the truth and excellence follows.

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