Older statistics showed that 3,500 to 4,000 churches closed each year while only 1,000 churches are planted. 1 A recent study, however, showed 4,000 Protestant churches were planted while only 3,700 closed their doors in 2014.2 There are approximately 11 churches per 10,000 people in America.3
Though some polls will suggest that up to 40% of Americans regularly attend church, studies observing actual attendance suggest that only half of this many people attend church on a given Sunday.4 Roughly 1 out of 5 Americans regularly attends church. From this group, 6 out of 10 attend a church attended by fewer than 100 adults (the average being 89), and 1 out of 8 attend a church attended by more than 1,000 adults.5
The population of Rockford was 148,278 in 2015.6 If we apply the data in the previous paragraphs to our city’s population and round the numbers by using 150,000 for the population, we can make several interesting observations. There should be about 165 churches in Rockford that are attended by 30,000 people. 3,750 people will attend two or three churches attended by 1,000 or more adults each weekend. 18,000 will attend churches attended by fewer than 100 adults each weekend. The remaining 8,250 people attend churches that range between 100 and 1,000 adult attendees on a given weekend.
While it is interesting to see how many people attend the variously sized churches in Rockford, the far more gripping implication from the paragraphs above is that 120,000 people in Rockford do not go to church anywhere at all, 4 out of 5 people. Moreover, assuming each church to be worth attending (a questionable assumption), if there are only 11 churches per 10,000 people in America, that means there are 909 people for every church. If we have 50 people here today, there are at least 859 people nearby who are either disobediently forsaking the assembly or do not know Christ at all. What will do to reach them?
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37–38).
Endnotes: (1) Richard J. Krejcir, “Statistics and Reasons for Church Decline” (2007). Online: http://www.churchleadership.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=42346&colu mnid=4545. (2) Lisa Cannon Green, “Church Planting 2015: Who Attends and What Attracted Them” (Dec 8 2015). Online: http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2015 /december/church-planting-2015-who-attends-what-attracted-lifeway.html. (3) Krejcir, “Statistics and Reasons for Church Decline.” (4) Kelly Shattuck, “7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America” (no date). Online: http://www. churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html. See also Ed Stetzer, “No, American Christianity is not dead” (May 16, 2015). Online: http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/16/living/christianity-american-dead/. (5) Barna Group, “Small Churches Struggle to Grow Because Of The People They Attract” (Sept 2, 2003). Online: https://www.barna.org/component/content/ article/5-barna-update/45-barna-update-sp-657/126-small-churches-struggle-to-grow-because-of-the-people-they-attract#.V0733JErKUk.
(6) United States Censes Bureau, “Rockford city, Illinois.” Search query, “’rockford, il.”
Online: http://www.census.gov/search-results.html?q=rockford%2C+il&search.x=0&search.y=0& search=submit &page=1&stateGeo=none&searchtype=web&cssp=SERP. All online articles accessed 01 June 2016.
It was most likely the early church (i.e., prior to A.D. 100) who first replaced Passover customs with the Easter celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection (though not yet called Easter). This celebration took place “on the day following the end of the Passover fast (14 Nisan), regardless of the day of the week on which it fell.” The timing of the Passover was during the first full moon of spring, which would have been during the first month (Nisan) of the Jewish calendar (Ex 12:2, 6).
Over time, motivated in part from anti-Semitism (i.e., Christian Gentiles held Jews responsible for Christ’s death), a debate arose between Jewish and Gentile Christians over the Gentile Christians’ observance of the resurrection on a Sunday (typically the Sunday after 14 Nisan) as opposed to the day after the traditional Passover fast. The Gentile preference eventually won over, and this momentum led to Easter legislation by both civil and ecclesial authorities. By the end of the second century, the Jewish timing of the day was declared heresy in Rome and Christians who observed the day accordingly were excommunicated. The debate continued over the course of the next century, and the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) ordered churches to celebrate Christ’s resurrection on the same Sunday (which was not necessarily the same from year to year). The Roman Emperor Constantine (c. 285–337) mandated his empire to celebrate Easter on the Sunday after 14 Nisan.
Though the debate continued for a time, it became relatively customary over the next three centuries to celebrate Easter on the Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox. (A vernal equinox occurs in the spring at the point when day and night are relatively equal.) However, because this time was set according to the Julian calendar (365.25 days per year), the date for the equinox kept moving earlier and earlier and took place as early as March 11 in A.D. 1500. Pope Gregory XIII (1502–1585; pope, 1572–1585) introduced the Gregorian calendar (365 days per year with an extra day every fourth year) in order to move the equinox forward, and thus the date of Easter moved forward as well. Though Protestant and Eastern Orthodox countries were reticent to use the Catholic calendar at first, they eventually acquiesced to accommodate international trade. For Western Christendom, the timing of Easter now falls anywhere between March 22 and April 25 as a result.
Winter’s Origin, Purpose, and Duration: God created winter (Gen 8:22; Ps 74:17) so that we would marvel at His infinite power and might (Job 37:5–6; 38:22–23; cf. 40:1–6) and give Him praise (Ps 148:7–8). Winter will continue at least until the end of the earthly reign of Christ (Zech 14:8–9). Besides these facts, the Bible uses the white and chill of winter to teach us a number of truths as well.
Be Faithful. Dependable people and cold air from snow on a hot day have something in common—they are welcome blessings to those who receive them. As dependable people bless their superiors by faithfully completing their assigned tasks, so also does a wintry wind refresh a tired worker (Prov 25:13).
Give Honor to Whom It Is Due. Honoring fools and experiencing snow in the summer have something in common—they are both activities that should not be happening. In other words, just as we would not expect snow in the summer, so also should honor not be given to the fool who has done nothing to deserve as such (Prov 26:1).
God’s Abundant Words Give Us Joy and Peace. God’s words to His people are plenteous as the snow, frost, and ice—like Israel in this Psalm, so also we will never exhaust what He has to say to us (Ps 147:16–19). Furthermore, just as God intended rain and snow fall from heaven for the purpose of causing vegetation to grow, so also does God give His word to believers intending us to have joy and peace (Isa 55:10–12).
As God Is Pure, So Also Are Believers. Daniel had a vision of God the Father, “the Ancient of Days,” pictured with snow-white clothing, most likely referring to God’s absolute moral purity (Dan 7:9). The apostle John likewise saw Jesus Christ with snow-white hair, perhaps indicating His moral purity as well (Rev 1:14). The angel who rolled away the stone in from of our Lord’s tomb also had clothing that was white like snow (Matt 28:3). Just as the Father, Christ, and holy angels are sinless, so also does God see believers as sinless and morally pure, that is, white like snow (Ps 51:7; Isa 1:18; Lam 4:7).
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.