The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Annual Report: Health & Public Service

March 27, 2011

Media trends affect churches

ANDERSON, Ind. — In an age of entertainment with movies, television, iPads, theater, concerts, magazines, books and reality television, one might wonder if churchgoing can compete.

According to Pastor Jim Lyon from Madison Park Church of God, who has served as the pastor for 20 years, the real relevant issue with entertainment is the language that the media present.

“Media and entertainment often drive the language and the style of communication and the way that people share ideas and process them. So churches have to be aware of what the rest of the communication business — and we’re in the communication busines — how it is functioning so we can make sure that the language we use and the medium of communication can be heard and understood because it is constantly in a state of flux,” Lyon said.

Lyon says with the world changing rapidly, this change only magnifies the need for a solid platform in the church.

“Sometimes people have a problem with the institution, and that’s a pendulum that swings back and forth from time to time. There are institutional forms of religious expression that may fall by the wayside, but the church itself — the people of God — that’s not something that is going to pass away.”

Gaining new members to join the congregation is a process in which potential members go through the Explore class to see if they like what the church has to offer. Explore is a 90-minute introduction to the church that allows people to see what the church believes, gives a tour of the building, introduces them to fellow church members and allows time for people to ask questions. People then either move to a class called Reason to Believe, allowing them to question God, or they will shift into Bible studies or helping the ministry.

The number of members is continuously growing, according to Lyon. Church attendance remains high, with a couple thousand every Sunday.

The rigidity of the faith does not seem to be turning people away, he said.

“I think there is a longing and a thirst for some kind of anchor in life,” said Lyon. I would not call our faith rigid, but it certainly is well defined and within that definition there are a lot of flexible edges that are some elastic in some places that might be held rigid in other forms. But for us there is our core belief, and then there is a lot of diversity past those. The fact that we have absolutes and there are some truths we hold absolutes, I think it attracts a lot more people than it turns away.”

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