The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Affinity churches in a post-Christian environment ...

The Southern Baptist Convention recently met in Nashville and there was an AP story about the 1,781 "affinity-based" churches it started in 2004. An affinity-based church is one that centers around a particularly niche.

According to The AP: "There's a theme for nearly everyone. If you want to get in an early game of golf, then there's a golf church that meets before tee time. Other churches appeal to bluegrass enthusiasts and members of Generation X. But ... the most popular are the cowboy and biker churches. The goal? To continue to find a way to reach the unchurched."

One thing I found interesting is that while the Southern Baptist Church started 1,781 affinity-based churches alone, according to The AP the United Methodist Church only started 200 churches in total. Of course, the reasons cited were that anyone can start a church in the SBC, while in the UMC an Annual Conference starts the church.

At any rate, something seems amiss with the UMC. I once proposed creating an alternative worship assistance team that would covenant with three, maybe four, churches a year to assist them in starting new (read "niche") worship services. The price tag was about $50,000 a year.

The response was a no-go, but one comment made to me by the cabinet member who assisted with new-church startups struck home:

"Interestingly enough, that's about the same amount of money we budget for a new church," he said.

"Well, this way you get three or four for the price of one," I explained.

When you start a new worship service, you essentially start a new church ... at least, that's what one bishop told me in 1997, a few months after we successfully launched a new worship service that averaged about 145 on a Sunday morning.

It's a different world we live in today.

Thom S. Rainer, dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said most denominations have seen a steady decline over the years mainly because of a national change in beliefs.< While the affinity-based churches are helping the Southern Baptists reach their goal, he said baptizing that many people will be tough.

“About 50 years ago Christianity was assumed by the vast majority of the population, but I don't call the U.S. a Christian nation anymore,” Rainer told The AP. “If anything, we're post-Christian. And that makes it tougher to evangelize.”

I guess I'm not the only crazy one out here.

Grace and peace ...