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With People Flocking Away from Church, Marion Pastor 'Apologizes,' Blogs

Kevin Jones, the Marion pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, spoke with me about his continued effort to approach the old ideas of church in a new way.

Kevin Jones is open to the the idea of change, but it still scares him.

"It drives me crazy," he said.

The pastor of the  has been watching as attendance at Lutheran churches has dropped 6 percent in the last 10 years and has seen his congregation’s population stagnate, while living in a growing community.

After reading countless articles and blog posts on why many are leaving the church, he’s written a nine-part blog series, "apologizing" for people leaving the church and what he considers his part in it. He's refocused his efforts on the church to provide a new direction, but it’s unclear and too soon to tell if anything is gong to stick.

"That’s frustrating," he said. "To stand up in front of a congregation and say I have to change, we have to change, but I don’t know what we are changing to."

But, at the very least, he said he knows much of what is going wrong. 

That means doing away with what’s called the "one-size fits all model of theology," among other things.

Instead of using his faith and his understanding of spirituality as the model for the church’s message, which can alienate those that have a different personal relationship with Christianity, he would like to see himself as a spiritual resource that people can come to.

That also means not approaching the church like it’s a business. He’s said he’s fallen into the trap of relying on membership numbers as an effective measure of success, instead of considering the ignoble effects of what he does — like whether what he’s done has helped others.

So, what’s changed?

Part of this change means taking action in the community, in a way that honest reflects the message of the church instead of trying solely to recruit new members.

That means instead of donating to Marion charitable organizations like FLY (Feed Lunches to Youth) and Marion Cares, the congregation is working on participating in them.

"We are really called to be servants and to serve others in need," he said. "I think it helps people realize that there are people in needs in their community."

But is it working?

Jones said he doesn’t know whether or not these changes is helping his congregation become healthier or larger.

He does know that members of his congregation are now more aware then ever of the problems that the church faces. The key now is to balance those changes with the members of the parish that simply like things the way they are.

He’s noticed an encouraging response to his apology blogs and the openness that he showed in admitting fault. 

He said this open dialogue is really only the start of the challenge of fixing a problem without a clear solution.

Scott Raynor (Editor) May 02, 2012 at 08:34 PM
What do you think of his approach? Do you think churches are due for a big change?
Joe Polzin May 03, 2012 at 09:05 PM
I see this change happening in many of the churches that partner with Marion Cares and FLY. Thanks for the boldness Pastor Jones!
Ed May 04, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Oh my, you're leaving! I'm sorry for all my hate and ignorance. Bring back your MONEY!
John May 04, 2012 at 08:46 PM
People go on Jerry springer and say they are ready to change after a life of debauchery and we all applaud. A pastor says he wants to change and people like Ed can only respond with cynicism. I say it takes courage to admit fault regardless of one's station or ideological stance. This generation needs to hear the words "I'm sorry" from a church that has failed to meet their needs for quite some time to bring restoration, healing, and a returned faith in the Church.
Sistagirl Young May 04, 2012 at 09:11 PM
I don't know about other people; I can only speak for myself. I love The LORD. I haven't been to church in a couple of weeks. Prior to my recent attendance I hadn't been for several years. Why? I don't know. Truly. I was a baptized member of a congregation, but I stopped going. I recently went back to another church, and while I like the people there; something is missing. It is more than likely me and not the congrgation. I am seeking something and am not quite sure what that something is. I pray The LORD will guide me. My former congregation was full of lovely people who I believe love The LORD. Yet, I stopped attending. I don't know why. I want to go where when I get inside I don't want the services to end. If anyone can understand what I'm saying.I read scripture daily. Sometimes for hours on end. Each day HE awakens me I find yet more reason to love The LORD. I am stagnating but seeking. There is consolation in that "seek, and ye shall find" Matthew 7:7. HE has never failed me. I don't believe HE ever will. HE can't and that too is consolation.
anonymous May 04, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Hi, I think I might be one of the people leaving the church. Few of the reasons, that I don't like to come to church often is because, now a days its getting too political. I come to church because I seek answers on how to be a better person. Live my life in the ways of our Lord. But the speakers rarely reconcile the teachings of Christ to the lives we live in the 21st century. Most of the time the speakers don't go to the depth scripture is trying to tell us or give views that don't make much sense or they have an political affiliation and try to impose those views on everybody. Times have changed, people reason/question more than they used to & are not afraid to ask. Now-a-days leaders don't have meaningful/insightful answers. So people leave, look to other places for answers. I think this is one of the reasons you don't find guys from my generation in the Churches these days.
Gary Walter May 05, 2012 at 08:38 AM
Doesn't matter if it's "working" or not, it is the right thing to do. Some denominations (mine) will fire a pastor (me) for thinking and acting on change like this.
stacey May 06, 2012 at 05:32 AM
The cancer has metastasized in Christianity. Fools are propped up as "leaders" who hate intellectualism, gays, science, other races, or anything not of "them." These leaders love cruelty, lust for blood, and respect no one. The real followers of the prince of peace have stood by and done nothing for fear of being singled out. If good Christians have feet of sand when it comes to standing up to their friends, how could they possibly be a bedrock to others? It really doesn't matter anyway. Christianity is dying on the vine when it should be thriving. The roots are poisoned and is one generation from being just one of many minority faiths. Like smoking, it's a death by it's own hand.
charlie Gable May 09, 2012 at 08:04 PM
in my opinion, until the church teach and preach the real truth about the orient of the church, its orgination being in old African then we will continue to go down the slippery slope of being fake.
Darla May 09, 2012 at 11:27 PM
True Christians are fearless even in the face of opposition. They stand up for God's Kingdom. They follow Jesus examples and that of the apostles.
Dr. Timothy D. Miley May 09, 2012 at 11:43 PM
I think the major reason why people are leaving the church is because they are finding out through science, that it is all BS. Religion has been with us for over 30,000 years when man had to invent Gods to explain the unexplainable. Today we have science to give us some of those explanations and God has less places to hide.

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