HOW CHURCHES ARE INSPIRING PEOPLE TO SEEK GOD FIRST
Statistics are showing that people in the pews are more Biblically illiterate today than 10 years ago. How can this be with digital Bible apps in the pocket of most christians in the world today? Shouldn't access to digital Bibles equate to greater Biblical literacy?
"Unfortunately, easy-of-use doesn't always equal more use!"
In most churches today, the preacher provides the Bible verses on the screen and attenders follow along with the screen presentation. This is easy to follow, but the experience is "presentation" driven, rather than being "participatory" focused. People come and watch, but don't necessarily participate.
Studies show the lack of participation in church presentation greatly lowers retention, weakens depth of understanding, and directly correlates to people not feeling the need to seek God further as a response to the message. The methods of presentation that Churches use clearly can have a great impact on inspiring or not inspiring people to pursue God beyond the church service.
One example of a church focusing in on increasing participation in the preaching is Dreamer’s Church, in Austin Texas. This church is in a very liberal city, with a younger, techy culture. The pastoral team faced the challenge that most churches face today, people wanted a great visual presentation, a sharable pic for social media, and a thought that would encourage them. These are not evil wishes for a Sunday attender, but Dreamer’s Church made a decision to go a few steps further and focus more on participation than just great presentation.
They made 3 strategic shifts that any church can implement to inspire participation, and ultimately increase people seeking God on Monday as a result of their Sunday experience. Here are the three steps they took.
1. ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO BRING A PHYSICAL BIBLE
Leadership made a decision to start the preaching time by asking everyone to hold up their physical Bible as they opened in prayer. The first time this request was made, iPhones, androids and one physical Bible went up in the air. The pastors challenged the room to bring their physical Bibles to church, to underline, circle words and write in their Bibles as the pastor preached. The goal was not to hate on smartphones, but rather to remove the distraction they create, while also building a bond with their physical Bible that goes beyond the Sunday pew.
The result this request made over the next 6 months led to 75% of the church bringing their physical Bibles to church. Highlighting, circling, and underlining became common practice. Church attendance grew and so did the level of Biblical intelegence. As a further result, passion for God's word and devotions during the week noticeably increased by church attenders.
It's now common practice for the majority of the church to open their physical Bibles to the location the preacher is referencing. This has resulted in significantly more engagement with the messages, leading to a greater application of the messages. New converts are bringing their physical Bibles because that is the culture of the church. People are doing devotions at a far greater rate during the week as the physical Bible is being highlighted. All this is happening in a church with the average age of 28 in a young tech city.
Statistics clearly show how Bible reading habits are so important to spiritual growth. Someone who engages in reading the Bible 4 or more times a week is:
- 30% less likely to struggle with loneliness
- 59% less likely to view pornography
- 200% more likely to give to charitable causes
- 228% more likely to share faith with others
- 407% more likely to memorize scripture
2. ASK EVERYONE TO USE A JOURNAL
Looking up scripture and journalling are simple ways that help the brain to remember what is being taught. Dreamer’s Church made a decision to encourage and resource people with journals and Bible reading plans. These are given to all people that come to their next steps class and also sold in the book store.
Today, culture has an auto-pilot-response to pull out their phones, and look at emails, texts, or social media. This immediately disengages them with the message. This auto-pilot disengagement is the norm in our anxious culture. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that "1 in 5 Americans had an anxiety disorder in the past year." People are really struggling with anxious thoughts and they’ve developed disciplines that only perpetuate them.
This is where journaling can greatly increase participation to the presentation. Journaling has been proven to help remove cultural distractions and help better engage people. When people focus one the message by taking notes in a journal, they remove the temptation to look at emails, texts, or social media. This establishes better emotional, spiritual, and mental engagement with the message.
You don’t need to feel bad, old school, or not relevant because you’re telling people to put the phones away. Major corporations, universities, and schools are requiring people to put their phones in lockers during work/school hours to remove this distraction. At Dreamer’s Church, a young vibrant church in Austin Texas, people are encouraged to pull out their phones for the offering and the announcement times, and then as we transition to the message, they are encouraged to turn their phones off and get out their Bible and journal. Both young and old alike find this practice relevant.
3. END WITH A QUESTION FOR MONDAY
If we want people to seek God first throughout the week, we need to connect Sunday to Monday. The end of the message should include having people write down a question in their journal to answer this week. This will increase participation in the message, and it will also point them in the right direction on Monday. Churches that do this have found increased organic conversation about the message on social media and small groups.
This practice of ending the message with a question will encourage devotions, further contemplation of the message, and inspire application of the Sunday presentation. All three of these are important aspects of the desired participation the church at large needs to better inspire today!
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