Thoughts on Day 2 at Annual Conference: How Will We Reach the 83 percent?

I’m concerned for the 83 percent.

In fact, my heart breaks for them. It really does. I’m worried about them. I hope we all are, especially if you reside in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

So, who is the 83 percent?

The 83 percent represents the number of people in Kentucky who are not attending church. During the second day of the 2012 Kentucky Annual Conference in Covington, Ky., it was announced that only 17 percent of the commonwealth are in church. This should be celebrated. However, in a state of 4.3 million people there are approximately 3.5 million who are not in a church.

That breaks my heart.

No matter what label we use to describe them – unreached, unchurched, or people who are outside the walls of the church – the fact  is we have millions of people who need to hear the true message of Christ’s love and need to see the church living it out.

My heart breaks for the 83 percent for several reasons.

My heart breaks because these are people who are largely forgotten by the majority of the church. The church has a problem in not knowing who the 83 percent are in their community. We know who the members who do not attend worship, but we do not know the families in our community who are not part of any community. The oddity is that we do know them. They are our neighbors. They are our co-workers. We share meals with them. We go to school with them. The church must reclaim its identity to love our neighbor and see everyone as our neighbor. All of us, not just the select few, must be willing to share what Christ has done in our lives and enter into relationships with those who are not in a relationship with Jesus.

My heart breaks for the 83 percent, because many have placed their trust in the wrong things. Among the 83 percent there are many who have placed their trust in idols and the wrong things. They have believed that they are their god and that they need no one but themselves. They have placed their trust in their finances and careers above anything else. They have said that their favorite athletic team is most important. Yet, all of these things will let them down. We must share how the Triune God has never failed in His promises and has never turned His back on them. We must reach out and share that Christ’s love is always present and we can trust in that.

My heart breaks for the 83 percent, because I know that playing it safe is not missional. Pastors have the tendency to play it safe. I’m no exception. It’s easy to lay back and wait to do the difficult, because of not having enough resources, time, or money. Those are excuses and I recognize that. All churches are called to use what God has given them and proclaim the name of Christ in their communities. The smallest church can make the biggest difference in the kingdom of God.

My heart breaks for the 83 percent, but I have hope. It’s a hope that Christ will use our churches to spread grace and love to all corners of the state. I know that my two churches will be used in that. I know that our conference will be active in that, as well.

The only thing to ask, then, is this: How will we truly reach the 83 percent?


No Such Thing as a Sports Outrage

This morning, I picked up the newspaper and read about the outrage regarding Saturday’s controversial boxing match that produced a split-decision victory for Tim Bradley over Manny Pacquiao.

The article suggested that the angst was centered on the fact that ringside judges do not have the same information as viewers who watched the pay-per-view telecast. Other reporters have called for investigations to look into the corruption in the sport.

Call me skeptical, but I have a hard time being outraged over the results of a sporting event. I have an even harder time believing that some injustice was committed against Pacquiao. He still earned a hefty paycheck for the 12-round decision and will likely receive a return bout against Bradley in the near future. Pacquiao is not hurting for athletic acclaim, money, or attention.

In our sports-obsessed culture, we have an improper understanding of what true outrage is and, for that matter, what a true injustice is. Nothing that happened in the Pacquiao-Bradley match is worthy of being labeled an injustice. Even more, nothing that happened in that bout is cause for an outrage.

There are bigger issues in our world that should cause our blood to boil. There are real injustices in the world that should bring us to our knees in prayer and cry out for help. None of those are in the world of sports. Yet, because sports receives the focus of our attention in America, we will focus on this injustice and call for reforms in a sport that hasn’t been relevant for 15 to 20 years.

So, what are true injustices and things worthy of our outrage? Allow me to mention just a few:

  • The fact that slavery still exists in our world, especially regarding prostitution.
  • Approximately 129 million children under the age of 5 in developing countries are underweight, because of poor nutrition.
  • The fact that every 60 seconds a child dies of malaria in Africa.
  • As Christians in Kentucky, the fact that only 17 percent of our population attends church on a regular basis. Kentucky’s population is 4.3 million.
  • The fact that racism, sexism, and agism are huge issues in our country, world, and churches.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good sporting event, but there are more important things to be concerned about. I am passionate about the sports I follow, but I hope I reserve my outrage and feeling of injustice to those travesties in our world that truly deserve are concern and attention.