Are We Trying to Just Get People Back into Church?

What’s the goal now, get more people back in the pews, or something so much more?

In early 2020, the Gallup poll on church attendance in the United States reported the first dip below half of the adult population attending church since it started measuring in 1937. It has been on a steady decline from 73% down to 47%. The Barna Group reports that one in three Christians stopped attending church during COVID. Pastors around the country are feeling the pain and pruning within their churches. Faithful congregations are longing for the glory days when the room was filled, the environment electric, and people were attracted to attend.

Now what? How do we get people back to church?

If that’s our primary question, then pastors and churches already know the obvious answer and are pros at it. Triple down and focus all our effort on outward-facing activities.

What programs can we create that will interest many?
What programs can we run that will draw people back in?
What events can we launch that will fill up our churches?

These are good questions that spring from good desires. After all, it’s called good news—naturally, we want more people to gather and to hear it.

But these questions—that are so focused on our work, rather than God’s work—might not be the best starting place. What if asking how to fill our churches again is altogether the wrong first question?

Often it’s easy for our hope for many to drift into a lesser motivation than what the Lord wants for us. It can even morph into a broken motivation, especially when it’s tied to attendance numbers, offering totals, a sense of self-significance, or notches on our eternal evangelism belts.

We need to be asking ourselves much more challenging questions, questions that look at the root of our desires, rather than only the outcome.

What lies at the heart of our hope for many?
Is it that the seats in our half-full auditoriums would be filled?
Is it that the dwindling offerings would be revived?
Is it so I can stop feeling ashamed for a while about the unfulfilled command, “Go, and make disciples…?”

Hoping for many isn’t a wrong desire, but it is the wrong starting point. What God wants even more is that many would hunger for him—including you! Ultimately, the ignited love of the Lord within us is what draws other people to him; allowing our primary motivation to be only the urgency of the gospel, or the command to go and share so that many will hear and be saved. Our evangelism efforts must be rooted in our love for Christ. We have to hunger for God for ourselves more than we ever have before.

Our desire for the revival of our churches must begin with the cry, “Revive me! Revive Us!”

Here’s how we get there:

First comes regeneration. This usually arrives in the form of conviction, in which we see our need for God, Jesus, and the cross. We’re given the righteousness of God and become new creatures in Christ. It’s the kind of personal revival that introduces us to a life in Christ and begins the process of opening our eyes to the truth. It’s the movement that begins with the cry, “Lord, revive me!”

Second comes a process of restoration during which God, in his unfailing kindness, begins to bring back the things that were lost when we lived apart from him. Maybe it’s finances or family, relationships or health. Perhaps you have experienced this, and you realize what a beautiful thing it is, this restoration power.

Third comes reformation. This is a time of struggle and engagement with God unlike anything you’ve experienced before. You will probably become aware of your old ways of living and have a strong desire to walk in the Spirit. During this stage, we put on Christ and put away the flesh, but only by the grace and power of God. This becomes a time of incredible spiritual maturity.

From there we move into renewal, where we experience a dynamic energy that isn’t the result of human leadership but of the supernatural, legitimate working of the Spirit. This can be a tremendously exciting time where fresh energy comes and fills us and the churches we inhabit. Maybe you’ve witnessed times of renewal, perhaps in prayer or church planting or some other phase, during which you could sense a palpable excitement gathering around the work of God.

After regeneration, restoration, reformation, and renewal comes revival. During revival. the number of people who normally come to Christ in a twenty-year period come to Christ in two months. Everything is accelerated. In fact, so much happens in such a short time, and so many people decide to explore and follow Christ, that our normal ways of doing things cannot contain the work that’s taking place. Churches overflow. Lives change. Cue the imagery of those early disciples trying to haul in the nets.

After all of these, and only then, awakening is possible. This is when God transforms an entire culture.

The moral of this story is that you can’t leap directly into revival or awakening or refilled churches. We all want to see this kind of incredible awakening and emergence sweep through our families, our cities, our nations, and our cultures. Especially now. We all want to see churches filled and hearts in untold numbers turn to Jesus. But we must first travel the path, and it begins with regeneration, or personal renewal within.

Excerpted from How to Revive Evangelism by Craig Springer. Copyright ©2021 by Zondervan. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.

Español

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Talleres en este Track

¿Cómo desarrollar la creatividad pastoral en tu equipo parroquial?

Speakers: Liliana Nariño, Directora Nacional, Alpha Colombia, and María Fernanda Acosta, Líder Regional, Alpha Ados

Presentaremos algunas nuevas técnicas que nos ayudan a crear una cultura de acogida y encuentro en la Parroquia.

¿Cómo alcanzar a la Generación Z Latina?

Speakers: Diego Profita, Regional Marketing And Digital Director Latin America at Alpha International, and Julian Avellaneda, Regional Alpha Youth Leader, Alpha Ados

Descubriremos algunas de las principales características de esta Generación más Abierta y trabajaremos en herramientas y estrategias para ser más efectivos en presentarles a Jesús.

¿Cómo construir una cultura invitacional en tu Iglesia?

Speakers: Diego Profita, Regional Marketing And Digital Director Latin America at Alpha International

Descubramos juntos como crear y fomentar en nuestras comunidades una cultura de invitación abordando

– Maneras en que la Iglesia puede fomentar la importancia de la invitación

– Maneras de cómo podemos guiar a nuestros equipos para que lo vivan

– Maneras de cómo poder identificar a las personas con mayor probabilidad de asistir

BEYOND THE WALLS

Inspiring and practical, learn how to bring the gospel everywhere you go and how to activate your church communities to see gospel opportunities beyond the walls of the church building. Hear stories of innovation and creativity, ecumenical and city-wide movements, and learn about what God is doing in unique contexts like prisons. With many workshops in this track, some are best suited for pastors and senior leaders, while others apply to anyone.

Workshops in this Track

Alpha in Criminal Justice System

Speakers: Audrey Hayes, Director of Volunteer Network, Alpha USA, and Benny Lopez, Prisons Coordinator, Alpha USA

There is an overlooked mission field in our own backyard, one full of people desperate for help, healing, and wholeness. It’s a place much of our society tends to dismiss, filled with people who believe they have been cast aside, and forgotten.

Alpha has been run in 630 prisons in 41 U.S. states. This course is brought to prisons and jails by dedicated churches and organizations who have run Alpha at their local church or parish and want to extend their reach even further. These volunteers tangibly show the love of Jesus to men and women that society had tossed away and labeled as unworthy, broken, dangerous, or beyond help. Through Alpha, prisoners are reminded that God does not label them—he loves them.

Join us in this workshop to hear stories and learn how to get started. You will be matched with a coach who will offer you support based on where you are in your prison ministry journey.

Unified City Alpha Initiative

Speakers: Seth Bazacas, Strategic City Director, New York, Alpha USA, and Shauna Pilgreen, Strategic City Director, Northern California, Alpha USA

What does it take to pull off a unified citywide Alpha launch? Join Strategic City Directors and Pastors Seth Bazacas (Wellspring Church NYC) and Shauna Pilgreen (Epic Church San Francisco) as they share their experiences of bringing a diverse group of churches into a shared vision, prayer night, weekly gatherings, and an overnight Alpha retreat. Hear stories of what worked and didn’t work and how both cities are gearing up for an even stronger launch in 2024!

Translating Jesus--A Crash Course for Sharing Your Faith Daily

Speakers: Shauna Pilgreen, Strategic City Director, Northern California, Alpha USA, and Ben Pilgreen, Lead Pastor, Epic Church San Francisco

As pastors and church leaders, we expect our attenders to share their faith. But do they? Come and imagine how your faith conversations can fuel an evangelism movement in your church.

Author and storyteller Shauna Pilgreen offers us a new way of evangelism using her latest book, Translating Jesus. She gets practical fast, teaching us two languages that lead to double-listening. Chances are high you’ll become bilingual in this workshop!

Shauna is joined by her husband Ben Pilgreen, pastor of Epic Church in San Francisco. Come, learn how a church can be winsome with culture without neglecting the gospel.

Fueling Creativity and Innovation in Evangelism

Speakers: Audrey Hayes, Director of Volunteer Network, Alpha USA, and Madison Campbell, Alpha Launch Director, Alpha USA

For innovative leaders who want their creativity to be fueled by the Spirit and to flood into their churches and communities. This will be a time of storytelling and dreaming about what God can do through creativity in our churches and Alpha courses. Come dream with us!

TRAINING LABS

These practical training workshops will help you learn how to run Alpha and how to make it the best it can be. Join us to experience the Alpha best practices of listening, radical hospitality, and dependence on the Holy Spirit. Select the workshops best suited for your stage of the Alpha journey to get the most from this track.

Workshops in this Track

Run Alpha--From a Course to a Culture (Mandarin interpretation available)

Speaker: Christian Downs, National Training Director, Alpha USA

Running Alpha is so much more than just a course, it is an opportunity to create space within your community and your church where people can belong before they believe. Run Alpha will help you see how this course is unique by focusing on the values of invitation, hospitality, listening, and dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Grow Alpha--Expand, Enhance, Empower (Mandarin interpretation available)

Speaker: Christian Downs, National Training Director, Alpha USA

This workshop will help you expand the culture, enhance your Alpha course with best practice insights, and empower your team. A common takeaway from this workshop is how Alpha can be more than a course and start to impact the rest of the church.

Creating a Culture Where Everyone is Invited to Alpha (Mandarin interpretation available)

Speaker: Christian Downs, National Training Director, Alpha USA

How do we get more guests on our Alpha? This is the question that comes up most often. In this workshop, we will explore what it looks like to bring the good news of Jesus to everyone… including those cast aside, neglected, or overlooked by society. We will name the fears that limit us, ways the church can help, and practical tips that everyone can put into practice to lead an invitational lifestyle.

Join our Global Director of Prayer, our National Director of Training, and special guests at this combined workshop to help more people receive an invite to explore the life-changing impact of the gospel.

CATHOLIC

Designed with our Catholic guests in mind, we will unpack the missional call of the Eucharistic Revitalization, sacred listening, and how to care for your soul in the ministry journey. This track could also benefit any Protestant ministry leaders in liturgical contexts.

Workshops in this Track

Nourishment for the Soul in the Journey of Ministry

Speakers: Sarah Kaczmarek, Director of Pastoral Ministry, Encounter Ministries, and Monica Martinez, National Director for Catholic Context, Alpha USA

How can we ensure we’re growing personally so that we are operating out of Christ’s strength and not our own?

Reviving Eucharistic Culture

Speaker: Monica Martinez, National Director for Catholic Context, Alpha USA

A time for meaningful reflection, conversation, and prayer around our missional call, awakened by the Eucharist. Together, we will unpack the meaning of the Eucharist as our source and summit of living our intentional discipleship.

Translating the Sacred

Speaker: Rick Grinstead, Director of Alpha Youth, Catholic Context

How do we fill the large gap once people have heard the gospel but have not yet acclimatized to parish life? How do we prepare the parish community to make space and build bridges, and how do we prepare guests who will be transitioning from Alpha to mass to sacramental formation? 

ENCOUNTER

This track is full of amazing main-stage speakers who will showcase the power of prayer in every generation, equip you to live a naturally supernatural life and train you to heal as Jesus did. Senior pastors, church leaders, non-profit leaders, this track is you!

Workshops in this Track

Learnings from Asbury on the Power of Prayer

Speaker: Angela Chadwick, Global Director of Prayer, Alpha USA

Alpha’s Global Director of Prayer will interview some of the spiritual leaders involved in the Asbury revival where a chapel worship service caught the attention of our country. You’ll hear stories of how the students were deeply moved by God through the simplest forms of worship and how the leaders made sure the only celebrity on stage was Jesus. You’ll also be amazed by the powerful breakthroughs in young people’s lives through the gentlest of prayers.

Additionally, we will explore how the resurgence of faith in one small American town is relevant to every person in the Church and how it shapes how we share the good news in a good way with this generation.

How to Facilitate Eternal Connections with Jesus

Speaker: Danielle Strickland, Spiritual Leader, Justice Advocate, Communicator, Peacemaker

Encounter is God’s favorite way to spiritual revelation. Why do we emphasize information-formation as our primary means of discipleship? What if we put more time, energy, and effort into facilitating more encounters? Be prepared to discuss together how cultivating curiosity becomes a means to do just that. We will talk techniques, experiences, and new ideas.

Everyday Miracles

Speakers: Dr. Chloe Swart, Associate National Director for Alpha UK, and Dr. Russo Swart, New Wine Cymru Prophetic and Healing Team

This workshop will look at how to heal the sick as a part of our everyday missional lives. Following Chloe’s PhD studying healing miracles in Wales, Chloe found that Christians in Wales were praying for their friends, family, and colleagues, in the gym, in the supermarket, at work; wherever they found themselves, as well as in church services, and Alpha courses. Healing is a missional tool that points toward Jesus. Unpack the theology of healing, while also hearing very practical teaching and demonstration of how to heal the sick in an everyday way.

YOUTH

If you are a student, work with middle or high school students, or just love young people and want their voices to shape the future of the Church, this track is for you! We’ll talk about empowering a generation to lead and will equip you to draw out the leadership of a generation to reach their peers through the new Alpha Youth Series and beyond.

Workshops in this Track

Navigating the New Alpha Youth Series

Speakers: Jordan Biere, National Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA, and Josh Penwell, National Associate Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA

Explore the the new Alpha Youth Series, discover the adjustments we’ve made to better reach Gen Z/Gen Alpha, and how to use this new series best to help young people discover and develop a relationship with Jesus.

Helping Young People Walk Naturally Supernatural

Speakers: Jordan Biere, National Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA, and Josh Penwell, National Associate Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA

Learn how to help young people operate in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit in a way that seems natural (not super weird) yet clearly supernatural. Help them discern the voice of the Lord, pray for healing, and grow in the prophetic voice.

From Guests to Leaders, Activating the Leadership Potential of Young People

Speakers: Jordan Biere, National Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA, and Josh Penwell, National Associate Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA

A practical guide on creating space for activating young people toward leadership to become bold, Spirit-filled witnesses. Learn how to empower young people to lead their own Alpha for their friends and how you can champion Gen Z and Gen Alpha.

FAITH AND JUSTICE

How should the Church respond in the face of injustice? What about in an election year? Could we show up to a polarized political world with the goodness of God like never before? If you are interested in learning how to navigate these complex issues, this track could help!

Workshops in this Track

Navigating the Waters of Faith and Politics

Speakers: John Wentz, Executive Director, Alpha USA, and Josh Williams, Associate National Director of Evangelism and Justice, Vineyard USA

This election year is ramping up to be as polarized as ever. Equip yourself and your teams to navigate the choppy waters of faith and politics during an election cycle. We have a massive opportunity to bring the goodness of God into these conversations or to leave people feeling alienated. Learn five top tips to help your conversations be filled with grace and truth and leave people feeling heard and honored.

Lessons in Evangelism from MLK’s nonviolent Movement

Speaker: Josh Williams, Associate National Director of Evangelism and Justice, Vineyard USA

How should the Church respond in the face of injustice? Hear how lessons from Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent movement provide tools to speak out against injustice while presenting a compelling case for the gospel. Josh Williams, associate national director for evangelism and justice for Vineyard USA will host this workshop where you will hear stories and learn tangible practices for engaging injustice while extending the invitation for people to encounter Jesus.

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