John 17: 21a May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. (HCSB)
ICOC Progress Report
is running a series of articles on the membership statistics for ICOC congregations. Today's article
, the third in the series shows some fascinating charts comparing the number of growing congregations to the number that are not growing. The charts clearly show that the declining growth in the ICOC did not begin in 2003, but years earlier.
In 1998, 80% of the ICOC congregations reported growth in membership. But between 1998 and 2002, the number of churches reporting growth declined steadily to only 60% of congregations. That was a significant drop in only four years.
The Atlanta congregation was one of the best performing large congregations in the ICOC during those years, baptizing a combined 1,551 people in 1999, 2000, and 2001. The congregation also gained a net 138 people from move-ins, as more people were moving into Atlanta than moving out. Yet 848 people left the church during those three years. For every 10 people who were baptized in those three years, 5.4 people left the church. And remember, that was one of the best performing ICOC congregations. Many congregations were losing members almost as fast as they were gaining them.
Viewed against that backdrop, the good news in this year's report is all the more remarkable. Despite the fact that the number of baptisms is dramatically lower than in the late 1990's, many of these congregations are holding their own. No longer are members leaving these churches in droves. The bleeding has stopped.
There are some obvious reasons for that. The focus of many of these churches over the past few years has rightfully been on shepherding, taking care of the weak, feeding a more balanced diet of Bible teaching, and developing a deeper understanding of grace. As a result, people are feeling cared for and cared about. They feel safe. And so they are not leaving. These churches are healing.
What is even more exciting is that many of these churches are once again reaching the lost. Baptisms are happening once again, with increasing numbers. And these new Christians are coming into a healthier church.
As the Mission Memo chart shows, only about half of these congregations grew in 2007. But the trend is in a good direction. I believe our best days are yet to come.