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ELCA (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) is in trouble… in fact, trends show number of churches is down significantly over the past ten years, and the number of people attending services is down significantly as well.  From the Orlando Sentinel: The Lutheran magazine’s January cover story is about the decline in membership and churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

ELCA Trends: Nearly 30 percent of ELCA churches average less than 50 people for Sunday services. Average worship attendance dropped 26 percent between 2003 and 2011. More than 1,000 ELCA churches have closed during the past 10 years, some merging with other congregations and some just shutting down.

The plight of the Lutherans is not unfamiliar to Protestant denominations. In 2012, less than half of Americans identified themselves as Protestants, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “Nearly every U.S. Christian denomination has seen membership declines in the past two years, including Southern Baptists, who seemed invincible in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s,” Radziszewski writes. The Lutherans have tried to reverse the trend with Congregational Renewal Partnership grants, which provided 163 congregations with $2.5 million in 2011. The grants are for three years, but renewal often takes five to seven years, said Neil Harrison, director for Renewed Evangelizing Congregations. // Read more here… What do you think will happen to the ELCA.  Can they turn it around?
Todd elca trends

One year ago today, January 2, 2012, I made some ‘mostly fun’ predictions for the church and ministry world for 2012.  Let’s see how I did: Ted Haggard. Ted Haggard will again get headlines for something we wish he wouldn’t.  (And his upcoming appearance on Wife Swap doesn’t even count).  I predict that Ted will say or do something this year that will make us all want to hide under a rock. Ted was pretty quiet in 2013.  Looks like it’s me hiding under a rock. Pat Robertson. Speaking of rocks, and our desire to stone someone, Pat Robertson will sometime this year, say something that will embarrass every Christian in this country.  It could be racial, it could be silly, but it most probably will be something that will again show the world that he should have given his broadcast chair to his son a few years ago. What I lacked in my Ted Haggard prediction, I made up for in Pat Robertson’s.  Just do a search here on Pat and you’ll see what I mean. Perry Noble. I predict that Perry will get ‘really pumped’ about SOMETHING this year. I think even the most liberal judge would say I won this one.  🙂 Steven Furtick. Steven will really freak out if, in fact, the sun really does stand still for a day. Didn’t happen… thank goodness. Megachurch Merger. Look for a megachurch merger sometime this year.  A couple of really big churches making really big impacts will decide that they can make an even more colossal impact if they join forces. Not like I thought it would.  But watch out… it’s coming. Other Church Mergers. While mergers have been happening for years, I think 2012 will see the speed up of the number of mergers happening in churches of all sizes.  Most of these will be healthy churches that will be taking over struggling churches.  Many churches that have considerable financial resources but are quickly dying will be looking for alternatives, and partnering with a local healthy church that will come in and carry on the legacy will look very appealing. New Birth / Eddie Long. More hard times for some large churches though.  I predict that Eddie Long will no longer be the pastor at New Birth by the end of 2012.  The latest divorce and marriage breakup will be the last straw as that ministry fights to survive with or without Long. The Bishop did have a rough year… really rough.  But, he’s still the head at New Birth.  So I blew this one. The Crystal Cathedral/Schuller Family. I predict that the Schuller family will call it quits when they leave the Crystal Cathedral.  I believe they have a year and a half before they have to vacate the premises to their new Catholic owners.  After looking at the spreadsheet and the number of people still left at that time, I think they’ll cut their losses and call it a good run. SUCCESS:  Though I didn’t quite get it totally right, the Schuller family (with the exception of the grandson) are all gone from the Crystal Cathedral.  Of course, I didn’t predict the $5 million lawsuit, or the new (just this week) article from the National Enquirer that said that the senior Schullers may now be mostly destitute and lose their home. Christian Lady Gaga. As the Christian community normally does, we’ll have some great rip-offs this year… probably to include a Christian Lady Gaga, a new Christian social media twitter rip-off or something like that. SUCCESS:  I guess, kinda: The church around the world will flourish. I think 2012 will be a great year for the church around the world.  It will be mixed here in the US… with real pockets of health developing among younger congregations.  But there will be no shortage of conflict and dying churches to contend with as well. Success on the conflict and dying churches prediction, but that was a given.  According to this article, I got it mostly right. A sad day. Unfortunately… with many big-name Christian leaders aging, we’ll say good-bye to a good number of high-profile leaders this year… either through retirement or death. Not really a tough prediction either.  Some notable deaths:  Chuck Colson and evangelist R. W. Schambach.   Social Media. Some changes coming to social media as we know it.  There will be a new face introduced this year that will give Twitter and Facebook a run for their money.  It will be highly customizable and unique, and will help all of us cut through the clutter that we’re all now experiencing in our social media.  And, no… it will not be Google+. OK… missed this one.  But I might keep this on my list for 2013. Mobile Devices. Phones will continue to get much faster, and do newer and cooler things.  Some great advances for the church will be the new app that automatically silences your phone ringer and disables Angry Birds as you enter the sanctuary. There are now GPS enabled apps that do this… so technically, I got it right.  I still think someone needs to package a ‘church cell phone silencer’ app that shuts down the cell phone ringer when you enter the church (via gps).  Sell it for $.99 to individuals (who don’t want to get embarrassed when their phone rings during the service, or license it to churches for $100k (after all, they want the cell phones to stop ringing during the invitation). Gospel Coalitions. There will be a lot of strife in the Gospel Coalition this year, as they find out exactly how many things they actually disagree on.  The strife will, as in most cases, come from criticism from the outside… from people that don’t like anything, that will attack until something gives. Boy.  Pegged this.  James MacDonald resigned from the Gospel Coalition in January after a flurry or criticism about the Elephant Room 2 invitation to T. D. Jakes.  Later Mark Driscoll steps down as the council as well. Tim Tebow. Super Bowl ring.  If not, it blows the whole “God” theory thing. What?  No Super Bowl ring?  What was God thinking? Humility check time. Denominations. It’s only a matter of time before a mainline denomination falls on hard financial times.  Look for new stories telling about a major denomination’s future in question because of finances. Yep.  Here and here. Southern Baptists. Southern Baptists will probably NOT change their name (even though I’ve actively campaigned that they now be called “Stetzers”).  And if they do change their name… expect about 20 – 30% of current SBC churches to defect and start a new denomination called “Southern Baptists”. They wimped out and decided to opt for a new ‘optional’ name.  That saved the coop I predicted.  I’m defiant enough to go with my first inclination and just call them Stetzers or Stetzerites anyway. Doomsday. You do know that the world is going to end in 2012. Man… Blew that one… I was sure it was the end of the world.  Oh well… another year to blog! What are YOUR predictions for 2013?
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… featuring my friend Mark DeYmaz: The number of multicultural churches — those in which at least one in five people is from a different ethnic group — is still relatively tiny. Even within diverse denominations such as the Assemblies of God, where about a third of the churches have minority congregations, or the Southern Baptists, where 20% of churches have minority congregations, only a small percentage meet that one-in-five criteria. Mark DeYmaz, pastor of Mosaic Church, a diverse non-denominational church based in Little Rock, says he believes the number is going to grow. DeYmaz said his congregation of 600 is about 40% white, 33% African-American, 15% Hispanic, with the rest from a variety of backgrounds. When Mosaic opened in 2001, DeYmaz said he knew of few diverse churches. Now he knows of several hundred. “When we get to heaven, the kingdom of God isn’t going to be segregated,” he said. “So why should the local church be segregated?” Efrem Smith, author of The Post-Black and Post-White Church, agrees. Smith, who founded a multiracial church of 1,000 in Minneapolis called Sanctuary Covenant Church, said the election of President Obama and the success of such African Americans as Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Oprah Winfrey are signs that America is ready for multiracial churches. “You saw black people who weren’t just leaders of other black people,” he said. “They are leaders of all people.” You can read more here…

The president of the 2011 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference defended a program he’s put together for June 12-13 in Phoenix, Ariz., saying critics who find it outside the convention’s mainstream hold too narrow a worldview. “The Kingdom of God is bigger than Southern Baptists,” said Vance Pitman, 2011 Pastors’ Conference president and pastor of Hope Baptist Church in Las Vegas, a church plant in partnership with First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., and the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. “The main intent of our conference is to communicate the big picture of the Kingdom of God,” Pitman said in a telephone interview March 18. “God is alive and at work all over the world. We as the Southern Baptist Convention are one very small part of that.” The Pastors’ Conference has long been a barometer for Southern Baptist theological weather patterns and a launching pad to the SBC presidency for its leaders. Consequently, although it is not an official organization of the SBC, its direction is closely monitored. Negative reaction has included placement on the worship team of Jamar Jones, executive director of music and fine arts at the Potter’s House Church of Dallas. That is because he is on the ministerial staff of T.D. Jakes, who critics claim holds to the heresy of “modalism.” Modalism, a non-Trinitarian view that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three different aspects, or modes, of one God rather than three distinct, co-equal and co-eternal persons, was first condemned as heresy in the fourth century but is held by some Pentecostal and Apostolic churches today. // Yeah, they’re also upset about the Calvinists speaking; namely Darrin Patrick and John Piper. I think the real rub is with the statement:  “The Kingdom of God is bigger than Southern Baptists.” Can that be? via Associated Baptist Press – SBC Pastors’ Conference slate raises ire.

Current Events
Each week, I try to find the best ‘stuff’ out there that I think you should take a look at. I share this throughout the week on Twitter. I also encourage you to send me news items and stories that you think other leaders should know about. Here’s this week’s list: Ten Reasons Why Churches Stall 7 Reasons Your Leaders are Quitting! The world’s deadliest four letter word Our traditional religious formulas and beliefs too quickly limit God only to our self-centered imaginations Five ways to know if you’re really a Christian “It’s disciples we’re after, not statistics” 5 Warning Signs of a Personality-Driven Church Almost anyone can become a leader… but… If you stop jumping to conclusions, you’ll avoid a good amount of personal conflict Are Southern Baptists facing an identity crisis? The PCUSA joins boycott against Arizona The GENIUS of AND The NINES Church Building Spree ala Huffington Post If you have a 14 year old girl around your house, you’re probably sick of this Free Vuvuzela Concert Check out the “Jesus Loves Strippers” ministry Drive-Through Prayer Rick Warren is expected to make a full recovery Robert Schuller’s daughter is OUTRAGED! Doug Oldham dies at 79 Oral Roberts Presidential Compound sold for 1.5 million Church has to cut staff after $210,000 goes missing This may help your church staff meetings Cross Point is looking for a Campus Pastor How to scan your print documents to Google docs Annoying Email Habits Finally… add images and html to your Gmail signature 60% of evangelical pastors say they don’t drink 5 of the world’s 10 largest churches are in Seoul, which is home to the world’s biggest Baptist, Methodist & Pres flocks Survey says: 1 in 6 women caught up in internet pornography Church sponsors “International Burn A Quran Day,” on Sept. 11 this year Inside Westboro Baptist The Christian Shopping Channel Finding Out Your Pastor is a Murderer What should Christians do with Mel Gibson? Not to be out done by Rick Warren, TX pastor has stomach pumped after eating poisonous leaves of rhubarb plant Reading your Bible could bring you lots of mone Feeling is not the admission price for worship. Jesus’ blood is

                    Rev. Mimi Walker was ordained in 2003 and serves as co-pastor with her husband of Druid Hills Baptist Church.  That’s the sole reason that the Georgia Baptist Convention wants to remove the church from its role. The 52 year old former missionary wonders why. “It seems sad that they decided to go backwards in time…I’m not sure what the value is of trying to go back in time when women were held in subservience.” More from an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution: The GBC’s executive committee made the recommendation to sever ties with the church at a March 16 meeting. If its recommendation is approved at the annual convention in November, the GBC would no longer accept money from Druid Hills for missions and programs, nor would the church be able to send delegates — called messengers — to future annual meetings. “…Druid Hills Baptist Church of Atlanta is not a cooperating church as defined in Article II, Section 1 of the constitution because a woman is serving as co-pastor of the church,” the GBC said in a statement. “We are keeping faith with the Baptist Faith and Message with regard to women serving as pastor,” GBC executive director J. Robert White said in a statement. “The GBC has never been opposed to women serving in ministry positions other than pastor.” The Georgia Baptist Convention, an affiliate of the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention, has roughly 3,600 churches. There are 41 state conventions throughout the country. The Georgia convention is one of the 41 affiliates, but it has its own constitution and bylaws. The church will prepare a response if the GBC should “dis-fellowship” it, the Rev. Graham Walker said. — You can read the whole article here… What do you think?  Regardless of your view of women in ministry, is this something that is worth dis-fellowshipping over? Todd