The Vision Thing Part 2

So what is it we are trying to accomplish at The Mission Place with our work in the Institute for Missional Directions and Seminary Without Walls?

I was just re-reading some statistics about how many people go to church. (See, As is stated in that article, the research tends to indicate a pretty consistent answer: about 40% of Americans say they went to religious services in the past seven days. But there appear to be discrepancies in the research analysis. The author of this article probes the effect of the "social desirability bias". This bias would tempt people to give an answer based on what would be the "right" thing to say. Generally, this affect comes in at a 2 to 1 ratio. One example is given in which church attendance rates are examined. If there were a static percentage (40%), then as the population increases, so should attendance rates in churches. But this is not the case. In fact, church attendance seems to have peaked in the 1960s.

The author then goes on to present research supporting the idea that church participation in the United States is actually around 20%-26%. So just for fun, let's say 25% of Americans go to church. Roughly, how might that break down? With about 300 million Americans, 25% would come to about 75 million attending religious services. Loosely, about that means 60 million Christians. Of that number, most likely the 80/20 rule is in affect, meaning that the leaders and influencers of the church might estimated at 12 million people.

Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” It is these 12 million people we want to reach. These 12 million can touch the lives of about 48 million other church attenders. These people can heal broken communities; they can befriend children whose parents are out of the picture; they can speak peace to anxious living and conflicted relationships; they can give themselves to civic responsibilities; they can raise and nurture their children to carry it onward. 12 million people would make a difference.

So what is our vision? We'd like to wake the sleeping giant of 12 million people to engage in real missional transformation. So many of these church leaders may still be functioning on the old modern paradigm and wondering why the old ways don't work any longer. Some may be caught in the trap of trying to recreate the success stories of the "growing church in town". Still others may be experimenting with new ways, but not able to network and form a shared learning community to accelerate learning and discernment.

If we can move 12 million leaders into missional transformation, another 48 million might follow. But more, there will be a world that will witness Christians acting like Christ in the world. Not that this is a "strategy" for growing the church, or a new attractional program to pursue. It's just a desire to awaken a sleeping giant to bring grace, justice, peace, and love to a world needing to know that the reign of God is at hand. To move 12 million or more from just going to church, to actually being church.

So how do I put this vision into seven words?