Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Pinetops Foundation - The Great Opportunity Report

Some of you might be interested in this report entitled "The Great Opportunity - The American Church in 2050.' Published in February from the Pinetops Foundation, it is a very interesting and dense [139 pages!] read and I found it via a tweet from Jon Tyson. In essence, the Foundation asked themselves what the best use of their money. What they found was that the American church is at a pivotal moment in history, what they called 'the largest missions opportunity in American history.'

Their recommendations circle 5 major initiatives: Church Planting, Youth Missions and Formation, Digital Platforms for New Audiences, Caring for the Poor, and Cultural Leadership. A few highlights and suggestions from the report:
::: Starting New Churches
+ Need to triple church planting efforts for the next 30 years
+ Average church size - 186 people
+ Median size is 75 people
+ One church per 680 Christians in America today
+ 4000 church plants start every year. 3700 churches close every year - net 300. Not even close to keep up with population growth.
+ New churches are the most effective form of evangelism.
+ Real estate investment trust - hold properties for church planting.

::: Mission for Youth [obviously the section I was most interested in]
+ "However, we are learning from the data that a youth-group model as the primary means of forming young people in a culture that is increasingly at odds with the Gospel is not enough. What does work is actively serving together on missions (domestic and foreign), active training in what following Jesus means, and serving alongside other adults in the church."
+ Surprisingly, one of the least impactful factors on substantial faith was a teen’s peers. It is the adults in their lives that ended up having the most impact, contrary to what we may think of teen culture.
+ "Historically, great movements of faith have been catalyzed by mission minded youth. In many cases, the very act of moving out in faith creates the context for faith to be strengthened and confirmed. It is our desire to see the next generation mobilized for missions for the sake of those both inside and outside the church."
+ "Critical opportunities for youth formation are missed when youth are not integrated into the fabric of the church, encouraged in their faith by multiple adults, and given opportunities to lead in corporate worship and missions."
+ Creation of a gap-year program prior to or during college that emphasizes cross-cultural evangelism or integration into a church plant.

::: Reaching New Audiences for a Digital Age
+ PewDewPie - 55M youtube subscriptions, 15B views. 75x more than total number of people that heard Billy Graham preach live over his whole life.
+ Casey Neistat - 2B views, 7.6M youtube subscriptions. Would constitute second largest denomination, behind the southern Baptists.
+ 2% of all people on Twitter follow a religious leader, house of worship or pastor.
+ "There is a conspicuous lack of Christian innovators and communicators among prominent social media innovators and leaders, and none that we could find with a substantial presence focused on those outside the faith about the faith."

::: Caring for the Poor
Increase church-driven care for the poor via better approaches to resource mobilization
Increase the effectiveness of church-driven care for the poor via investments in social entrepreneurship, cross-church collaboration, and more effective tools
Help the broader society see the good works already being done via awareness building

+ For example, time and time again empirical data demonstrates that people give more:
In response to an optimistic vision and hope for change, instead of an appeal to guilt and shame.
When there is a compelling vision instead of an appeal to “keep the lights on.”
When there are social proofs—people know that their peers and people they respect are also giving.
When they can connect with the recipient on an individual or emotional level

+ Mentions for
Praxis Labs
[I've been following Praxis Labs for a few years now and love what they are about and how they do it.]
When Helping Hurts
+ Elevate PR efforts [see Dan Pallotta - The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong]

::: Building Long term witness - Christians on the university campus
+ We believe that if we are to see millions of youth come back to Christ, and millions more accept him for the first time, we need both a strong ground game of local church ministry reaching one person at a time and a strategic long-term effort to articulate the Gospel in our culture. To do both well, we believe we need to reinvest, like we once did, in leadership development pipelines that equip emerging leaders to articulate the Gospel persuasively and with distinction in the world. We also think we need to invest in and help convene Christian academic and thought leaders who inhabit the front lines of thought and discovery and are wrestling with the ideas of our time. It is as Mark Noll wrote over two decades ago: “The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that there is not much of one.”
+ Dense networks
+ Clapham Sect [see more here]
+ Top 40 colleges, Christians comprise less than 5% of professoriate
+ Christian tutors in the Roman Empire
Obviously lots of other great information in this report - I highly recommend downloading it and at least skimming the Intro and the Summary. Here's a few other reflections with regard to The Ember Cast:

+ The gap year idea is a big win. We've sought to do this when we can even though these have been either a summer or semester in duration and these have been some of our most fruitful projects. Whenever we have done it, it has been centered around a church plant. [Summer Sends - Poland, Arizona (1 and 2)
+ Designing a gap year, helping drive more funds to the poor, serving in a church plant, creating a digital platform - all of these require someone that can dream and execute. Both of these skills are exceedingly rare but both can be taught and learned. If anything is needed in the global missions space, it is future leaders that can dream missionally and then roll up their sleeves and get to work. We at The Ember Cast see both of these skills as vital for the emerging generation and they form a subtle backdrop to our culture.
+ These kinds of initiatives and the people involved will push the imaginations of the leadership for many existing churches. Big challenge.
+ If you start a church, you should start it with the DNA that you will reproduce, right from day 1.
+ Lots of adults that work with students, me included, default to the perspective that peer identity is the most important thing to a teenager. But the fact is adults can make more of a difference when we invite, engage and challenge students to live lives that are bigger than themselves. Those of us that work with students need to be reminded of this often.

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