Local church addresses ‘crisis’ by reaching out to community

Barb Mosher, Contributing Writer

Courtesy photo

New Hope Community Church’s Bellaire Campus Pastor Bob Felton and his wife, Amy, welcome worshippers to services held at Bellaire High School.


REGION – Churchless Christianity: It’s a national trend according to 2016 and 2017 Barna studies. Two area pastors see it as a local crisis.

“Barna’s research lists Traverse City/Cadillac as the 14th most de-churched city in America,” said Craig Trierweiler, senior pastor at New Hope Community Church (NHCC) in Williamsburg. “People are consistently buying into a churchless Christianity which is, ultimately, dangerous. Reaching them is a passion of mine, because it’s a major issue here in northern Michigan.”

Barna defines the de-churched as former active churchgoers who have not attended a service in the last six months excluding a special event such as a wedding or a funeral. Their statistics show that while 73 percent of Americans claim to be Christian, 34 percent are “de-churched.”

Finding those people and encouraging them to give church another chance is the focus of a current campaign by NHCC to “Re-Church the De-Churched.” Billboards, print and broadcast advertisements, and media interviews invite those who are missing from the pews to “Fall Back to Church.”

“A lot of folks no longer consider it an important thing to attend church on a regular basis,” said Bob Felton, pastor of New Hope’s Bellaire campus. “Maybe they were hurt by someone in the church, or they no longer see church as relevant, that it doesn’t make a difference in their life. What they may not understand is that we were created to live in relationship and to have those ongoing support systems.”

Trierweiler agrees there are multiple reasons why someone who once enjoyed worship and fellowship in a local congregation decided at some point to “hit the eject button.” Whether they were wounded or offended by a church leader or member, got distracted by other priorities, or simply became bored with God, he says there are a lot of people in the region who have given up on the church but not on Jesus.

“And the real question then,” Trierweiler mused, “is what does Jesus think about a churchless Christianity? In Scripture, we see Jesus loves the church in spite of all her flaws and weaknesses. He never gives up on the church.”

Trierweiler hopes NHCC’s efforts to “re-church the de-churched” will encourage those who have wandered away to likewise not give up on something that at one time was a significant part of their life. To those who have been hurt or offended, he says he would apologize and then share the analogy that “it would be silly to stop seeking medical care for the rest of your life because one doctor had a bad bedside manner.”

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