By: Dr. Jerry Bergman
Since I have been involved in the apologetics ministry I have spoken at over 600 churches, ranging from 30 to 3,000 members.
I have consistently noted numerous practices in common in growing churches. Their main emphasis is the firm acceptance of the Word and works of God.
Another common factor is that they have scrapped most of the ritual liturgy common in the mainline Protestant churches.
One important trend is to make the service less formal and involve the congregation more in the service, a trait close to universal in Black churches.
The name of the church is also very important. Terms like Bryan Bible Church, Bryan Community Church or Bryan Christian Fellowship, are recommended. Avoid mainline domination names including Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, or Presbyterian.
Music is critical, and the key is variety, not loudness or repetition. Often used for special music are congregation members, local talent, and occasionally students learning to play an instrument, are used.
Other critical components, besides apologetics, are sermons on the principles of Biblical interpretation (hermeneutics), the study of future things and end times (eschatology), the study of Christ and salvation (soteriology), the study of purpose and the design intent of the Creator (teleology), and the history of the Bible and reasons to explain and support the Christian faith.
A sermon on the Bible and health has been one of the most well-received sermons in my repertoire. Both the Hebrew and Greek scriptures provide excellent guidance for, not only spiritual health, but also mental and physical health.
Most also stress confronting the anti-Christian culture, as was the norm in the early first-century church.
This means delivering Biblically based sermons on current social problems to help members in their Christian walk.
Contemporary issues the Church is forced to confront today include drugs, immorality, materialism, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, divorce, cults, marriage, war, and appropriate Christian behavior supporting the song “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love.”
Community involvement is also important, not only helping feed the poor and other Christian works but involvement in the community supporting the schools and the proper education of students.
Some churches even invite persons running for the school board and/or other public positions, such as judges, or the Senate/ House representatives, to address the congregation.
One method critical in our visual age is to augment sermons with PowerPoint. Sleeping in church is rarely an issue when audio-visual enhancements are used.
PowerPoint is universally used in schools, business presentations, and, likewise, increasingly in churches. All of my over 50 apologetic sermons are in PowerPoint, and it is a rare church that does not have a PowerPoint projector system.
Some churches even act out sketches to teach Biblical events. One of the best examples I have witnessed is the woman caught in adultery, recorded in John 8:3-11, acted out by several talented church members.
The youth especially mentioned afterwards how they have now, for the first time, fully understood the impact and meaning behind this parable.
Lastly, some churches interview each family attending the church, either recorded (which is best because it can be edited) or in person in front of the church to help the congregation get to better know their fellow parishioners.
This works well even for small congregations. Typical questions asked inquired about their faith, their Christian walk, their background, likes, dislikes, hobbies, where and when they met their spouse, their children, and key events in their life including losses due to death and illnesses.
As one pastor mentioned to me, many churches now dying deserve to die. The Church must, besides leading persons to salvation, help the believers live a Christian life.
Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,800 publications in 12 languages and 60 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries.