|The Covenant Prayer & Evangelism Associates held their annual Advance this past week in Mundelin, IL at at a Roman Catholic seminary. We have an annual Advance because we don't retreat. Our time together was from Tuesday afternoon until Thursday at noon, and it was rich.|
It was a great event. Let's see ... who was there: Julie Moraga, Gordon & Geneva Christensen, Robert Owens, Adam Edgerly, Anita Elseth Eyer, Lon Allison, Gary Walter, Carla Erickson, Art Greco, Paul Knight, Debbie Blue, Don Peres, Rudy King, Dallas Anderson, Roland Boyce, Bill Anthes, Dwain Tissell, Marcus Putnam, Bill & Lisa Orris, Dan Johnson, Dave Rasmussen, Ted Nordlund, Rick Mylander, Greg Ralston, Wayne Smith, Rick Lindholtz, Martha Swanson, Eric Stratmeyer, Dave Olsen and Rick Richardson.
As you can see, I was in some high powered company. I remember back in 1996 when Lon invited me to an Advance, when it was held up at the Covenant conference center on Lake Geneva, WI. I was having a great time. We prayed, worship, strategized and learned together. It was marvelous in every way. At breakfast on the last day, Lon asked me if I wanted to join the team. I had no idea that was coming.
I remember stuttering to him, "Uh Lon, I don't know, uh, I'm way out of my league here." I still feel that way. I look at these other godly men and women and their incredible ministries, and I'm still schocked and awed to be on the team with them.
Gary Walter preached on Tuesday night and it was so refreshing. I can't remember the last time I heard that high quality of a sermon. He spoke about investing in things that will outlive us: his children, the next generation, the lost & the poor. I was convicted and ministered to.
Dave Olsen also did a presentation about the state of the church in America. Now that guy is smart as hell to begin with, so I knew it was going to be good. But I was absolutely unprepared for the conclusions of his data. According to his data, in the year 2000 18.7 percent or 52 million people are in an orthodox Christian church (Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant) on any given week. And the number is declining. Estimates suggests that has dropped one percent in the past 4 years. In 1990 it was 20.4 percent. The overall US population increased by 13 percent in that decade.
More bad news. Regular church attenders, defined by attending church 3 out 8 Sundays, which could be a minimum of 21 times a year, are about 23-25 percent of the population.
Sure we can thank God that the Covenant Church has increased 57 percent in the past decade, almost exclusively through new church starts. But I'm still stunned. That has put some urgency in my soul. The Church has fallen asleep and doesn't know it. Europe here we come.