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Theoretical and Foundational Issues in Religious Counseling

Introduction

Recent studies in America have shown that church attendance has been declining. The Americans of the old days followed animalistic religions before the first Europeans migrated to America (Engel and Dyrness 2000, 190-1955). The first Europeans to arrive to America were mostly Roman Catholics, the French and jurist and they were interested in the way to convert the Native Americans from their native religion to Christianity although they had less success in their mission.

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This was followed by the American government importing large numbers of Protestants mostly from Germany and Switzerland who introduced Christianity to the natives. The group of Protestants was termed as the foreign- Protestants and their missions were very successful. Hesselgrave 2009 (29) indicated that “these Protestants were composed of mixed groups of Christians mainly the Presbyterians, Anglicans and Methodists and they dominated the Upper Canada and the maritime while the Lower Canada was dominated by the Roman Catholics”. The natives agreed to follow Christianity and they strictly adhered to the Lords Day which restricted the work that people did on Sunday and therefore this day was strictly respected and dedicated to God (Hesselgrave 2009, 23).

Hesselgrave 2009 (4) stated that “research conducted in 2007 by Pew Research Center in America showed that the modern human life is characterized by many evils, these evil doings are making the need to search for Christ who is to bring salvation to the kingdoms of the world and clean the evil doings”. The need to clean the evils of the world is important so that it can guarantee the reward of eternal life. The people of the world need ways and means that can encourage them to stop the evils of the world accept God and let him to be the guide to their lives by living according to his wishes (Hesselgrave 2009, 33).

Evangelism is playing a major role in this context by encouraging the general public to give up their lives to God. Engel and Dyrness 2000 (192) stated that “the people of America need to put all that they do before God and follow the instructions of God as they are indicated in the holy bible”. From the teachings of the holy bible God loves to his people, the love of God exists always despite the evils that are conducted by the human race.

The evils of the world can be avoided by consistent prayers, missions and evangelism; these are the means that can be used to convert the sinners inn America and make them accept God so that they can be guaranteed salvation (Engel and Dyrness 2000, 45).

The purpose of this paper share what my counsel would be to churches about Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth out of the reasons why the number of people who do not go to church is increasing in America. The paper will consider some of the five reasons that could contribute to this. These reasons are; lack of missions, lack of bible teachings by pastors, lack of evangelism, lack of priority to prayers and lack of teachings about peoples’ problems. The paper further explores some possible solutions particular in the areas of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth.

Discussion

Mission

A mission of Jesus Christ is a task to deliver the gospel and other teachings about the kingdom of God in a certain geographic area (Cowan 2005, 14). The missionary work began in the early days when the missionaries started preaching the good news of the gospel all over the world. The missionary work entails moving to all corners of the world and preaching the good news of the gospel of the Lord. (Engel and Dyrness 2000, 192).

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The missionary work is continuous from the early days and in the modern days it is characterized by different religions coming up and developing a divergent approach to missionary work. The different religious movements in the modern days play a vital role in the developing the mission work.

However according to Reid (1998) “research by Barna Group researchers found out that, Americans are becoming more and more knowledgeable on numerous emerging beliefs and convincing them on the truth about Christ is becoming hard; it is almost like convincing a man who was brought up in a traditionally set society to abandon his “false” gods and embrace Christianity or telling a person who has been suffering all his life that God truly exist, and that this God cares and loves him abundantly”. A good mission is characterized by avoiding all ill odds and be able to deliver more souls to Christ.

For recent years there has been decline in missionary work in America Hesselgrave 2009 (17) stated that, “the study from the census result conducted in Canada in 2001 indicated that majority of the people did not consider religion as being important to their life”. Hesselgrave 2009 (76-79) attributed these results to lack of mission in Canada. In order for people to accept the gospel of Christ, they need to be taught what the gospel entails and why it is good news so that they can appreciate and love Christ.

The modern world is characterized by troubles that happen in various corners of the earth such as calamities and natural disasters some of which are destructive and result in massive destruction. According to Dawson 2008 (5), “these calamities even result to humankind asking why the power of God who Christians believe is powerful does not intervene and protect Christians from such tragedies”. These people who question on God’s power are the kind who need to be taken to the church to learn and see the work of God because there can be no answers for such questions. There is therefore call for a form of spiritual intervention that will deliver the non- believers closer to God (Dawson 2008, 70-74).

According to Reid 2008 (45), it is not easy for the gospel to gain its functionality fully. Satan is one of the obstacles to keep people a way from God. Satan will employ all means to win followers even if it means employing disasters that can scare believers away from the church. When people are faced with problems they tend to seek other means that can save them thinking that God has forgotten them and that God might not help them (Engel and Dyrness 2000, 192).

According to a research conducted in 2007 by Pew Research Center this is one of the impacts that has confronted the church in America and resulted in reduced number of believers. Engel and Dyrness 2000 (192) further continued to support how this is affecting the churches in America and said that “in the past people would run to the church for consolation, that trend is slowly changing with people seeking other avenues to address their problems; thus creating more challenges to the modern missions”. There is therefore the need for a working mission that will provide solutions to the present’s factors that are affecting the church and set up a strategy to avoid such problems happening again.

Reid 2008 (8) stated that, “recent research by Pew Research Center have shown that the mission to deliver the gospel of Christ and win the soul of Christians is faced with challenges and this is what makes the people of America not believe the gospel”. One such challenge is the emergence of some false prophets who proclaim the gospel of God, this result to doubts building in the people who are evangelized because they are not able to distinguish the false prophets who claim to be preaching the same gospel with the true prophets (Reid 2008 34-36).

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For a mission to accomplish its goals, it needs to focus on the spiritual revival. Agora 2006 (35) found out that, “research carried out that the modern mission strategy is not able to achieve this goal in America”. There is therefore the need for theological experts to come up with the solutions to fill this gap in America. Agora 2006 (34) express this worry by saying that “With the worrying reports on the dwindling number of believers, I figured out that missionaries needed to rethink of their strategy and employ workable plans—the Master Plan”.

The mission plan that work well in American church is the one that does not consider the number of followers but the one that is able to strengthen the faith of the believers. For the modern church mission to be successful it needs to focus on strengthening the believers’ faith in God and adherence to his commandments (Hesselgrave 2009, 17). A research conducted by Gallup Research Center in 2006 found out how there is decline in church attendance.

The table below shows the rate of church attendance by some of the states in America. According to Hesselgrave 2009 (18), “Gallup Research Center found out that Church attendance varies a lot by state and region. In a 2006 Gallup survey, 42% of Americans said that they attended church or synagogue once a week or almost every week. The figures ranged from 58% in Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina to 24% in Vermont and New Hampshire”.

National average 42%
North Carolina 53%
Tennessee 52%
West Virginia 46%
New Hampshire 24%
Alabama 58%

Evangelism

God’s commands guarantee happiness to those who are his strict followers (Busenitz 2003, 12-15). The promise of God to his people is that He will always be with them in spite of any hardship that may arise. God’s teachings assure Christians that there are no temptations that can befall Christians that can be beyond control if at all they believe in Him. God promise to Christian is that, with love Christian are able to go beyond their worst fears. Busenitz 2003 (22-6) states that, “It is this promise by God that give Christians the hope that despite the nature of sufferings, they can overcome it with Gods help and live happily as He wants us to”. However Christians need to know that they owe their lives to God and that they do everything to his glory (Busenitz 2003, 27).

Evangelist comes across many problems in the course of their mission like; being rejected, humiliation, suffering and being despised just as Jesus did. (Busenitz 2003, (27) stated that “evangelist should do their mission work with the hope that they will be rewarded with eternal life as it happened to Jesus”. Christians should learn that Jesus suffered to death and resurrected and through this resurrection they are assured that there will be life after death.

The church in America is faced with the problem of misunderstanding what it means to suffer in the name of Christ and what it pays. Evangelism in America should involve teachings of the gospel that shows the promise of eternal life. Evangelists in America should not lack the courage to go and deliver the message of God to the people because when performing God’s task they are assured of the protection he has over them (Busenitz 2003, 19). Busenitz uses the book of Mathew 28:19-20 that reads as “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…I am with you till the end of ages” to show how God is caring.

Evangelism involves a lot of sacrifice on someone’s time and leaves an evangelist with little time for family and friends. Evangelism in America has been noted to have declined over the past years and this has contributed to the number of people who believe in religion to decrease (Busenitz 2003, 12-15). Barna Group researchers found out that found out that many evangelists in America do not sacrifice their time to spread the gospel to non believers; they normally do not have time to spread the good news of Jesus (Busenitz 2003, 34-37).

Bible Teachings

This is another major reason why there is decline in church attendance in America. People go to church to listen to what that pleases them but not to listen to the teachings of the bible (Wayne 2007, 24). The mission work should involve pastors not just travelling and proclaiming the name of the Lord but also the pastors should teach the people on what the bible says (Stetzer 2006, 45-8). According Stetzer (2006), “many people in America do not believe the works of the pastors, most of them claim that the pastors are interested in meeting their daily needs instead of teaching what the bible commands”.

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Many people claim that pastors are not role models when it comes to following what the bible command; this is because some of them get involved in evil behaviors. For instance: John Paulk, a pastor in Washington D.C. who was reported by a local media to have been involved in homosexuality and also being photographed in a bar (Wayne 2007, 23-5).

Prayers

Praying is a way to directly communicate with God and Christians are encouraged to consistently communicate with God since God has solutions to all their problems (Busenitz 2003, 67). During evangelism Christians are consistently encountered by many problems in the course of their mission, these problems calls for God’s prayers in order to have solutions since God promised that He will never abandon his children.

Evangelists in Brazil faced many problems in the course of their mission in the slums (Kristen 2008, 34). The poor areas in Brazil attracted evangelical mission because the dwellers of Rio De Janeiro really needed a mission although they did not show this. This is because there were many problems ranging from poverty, drug abuse and violence. The situation therefore called for a mission that would save the souls of poor people (Kristen 2008, 44). The mission employed offering numerous social services such as blood pleasure testing and free hair cuts and this paid of with the establishment of the third church in the region. This mission found out that the people of Rio did pray in order to overcome their problems.

The results of the 2001 census in Canada indicated close to 35% of the total population did not believe in religion and this displayed the likely figures of non-believers allover America (Jenson 2006, 24). The result of this is that people do not consider prayers as a first priority in their daily lives. According to Agora (2006, 45), “Prayer is no longer a first thing and might not even be a last thing but rather churches are beginning to operate a business particularly the few churches that have seen growth. The main purpose for the church to be established was to show the way direction”.

Conclusion

As discussed in this research paper, there is a need to introduce a plan that will bring back Christians to the church. The decline in church attendance in America was as result of several reasons as mentioned in the research paper. It is of a major importance to note that prayers, organized missions, evangelism and upright pastors can bring faith back to Christians and change their hard positions. Christians need role models to direct them on what it means to trust in Jesus, this should entail following and observing the virtues of a good Christian.

Reference list

Agora. A Book Review: Changing the Mind of Missions: Where Have We Gone Wrong? 2006. Web.

Busenitz, Nathan. The Purpose-Driven Church. 2003. Web.

Byassee, Jason. Re-purposed: What is church for?: the Christian Century. 2004. Web.

Cowan, Richard.The Church in the 20th Century Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 2005.

Dawson, Scott. The Complete Evangelism Guidebook. 2nd Edition. Baker Publishing Group: Birmingham, Alabama. 2008.

Engel,James and Dyrness, William. Changing the Mind of Missions: Where have We Gone Wrong? Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2000.

Hesselgrave, David. Changing the Mind of Missions: Where Have We Gone Wrong. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 2009. Web.

Kristen Hiller. An Urgency for Brazil’s poor. Brazil: Baptist Press. 2008.

Jenson, Andrew. Biographical Encyclopedia of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 2006.

June Lee and Parker Matthew. Evangelism and Discipleship in African-American Churches. New York: Zondervan press.2006.

June Lee. Counseling in African-American Communities (Biblical Perspectives On Tough Issues). Chicago: Chicago University Press. 2005.

Wayne King, Swaggart. Says He Has Sinned; Will Step Down, New York Times 1998. Web.

Reid, Alvin. Introduction to Evangelism. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers. 2008.

Reid, AlvinRadically Unchurched: Who They Are and How to Reach Them. New York: Kregel Academic and professional. 2002.

Stetzer, Ed. (Planting Missional Churches. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman and Holman Publishers. 2006.

Warren, RickThe Purpose Driven Church: Growth without Compromising your Message & Mission. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2005.

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