"Early in the spiritual journey, we start to experience the reality of God and God’s love as more than an abstract concept or theory. At the same time, however, we tend to start by believing that God’s love is limited to just us, just our group! The circle takes a long time to widen.
"Little by little we begin to respond to God’s love, but we still perceive God’s love as dependent on our ideal response. We believe that grace is a conditional gift, that God will love us if we are good, that God will save or reward us if we keep the commandments or go to church.
"As we practice giving and receiving love, we begin to see God’s love is infinite and unconditional, but the implications are just too mind-blowing. We acknowledge that God loves us whether we are good or bad, and that God is gracious to the just and the unjust alike. But we still think that God is doing that from afar, from up in heaven somewhere. We do not yet see ourselves as inherently participating in the same process. Frankly, we have not yet discovered our own soul.
"Finally, we make the breakthrough to seeing that God’s grace and love is present within us, through us, with us, and even as us! We wake up to who we truly are: the image and likeness of God. The mystery of incarnation has come full circle. We can now enjoy God’s temple within our own body as the Apostle Paul teaches (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and throughout), and we can love ourselves, others, and God by the one same flow. It is all one stream of Love! We fully realize that it is God who is doing the loving, and we surrender ourselves to being channels and instruments of that Divine Flow in the world. We do not initiate the process; we only continue it."
- Evolving Faith by Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations, 2018
"The biblical tradition reveals that whenever the prophetic gift is lacking in any group or religion, such a group will very soon be self-serving, self-perpetuating, and self-promoting. Without prophetic criticism, all sense of mission and message is lost. Establishments of any kind usually move toward their own self-perpetuation, rather than 'What are we doing for the world?' In fact, the question of mission is not even asked because self-perpetuation has become an end in itself."
- Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations 2018
There is only one Nazarene church on the Front Range megaregion that has over 1,000 in worship attendance--Denver First with 1,309. The second highest worship attendance is also in the Denver metro in the suburb of Westminister at a church called The Crossing with 707. Here's the kicker:
One of every 4 worship attenders are in these two churches during a typical worship gathering. And, one-fourth of the total Nazarene membership in this megaregion is also found in these two churches.
About half of the churches on this megaregion (46%) run below 45 in average worship attendance.
There are 14 churches that average more than 150 in worship attendance (including the two mentioned above). Let this figure settle into your missional thinking for a moment. Remember this megeragion has 5.5 million people (and will grow to 10.2 million in three decades).
87 churches reported attendance more than zero in 2017.
Pueblo, Colorado is the geographic center of this megaregion (if we extend this area south to El Paso).
About one-fourth of the churches in the Front Range megaregion are designated as ethnic.
Only 15 have assigned pastors; one is in a dual charge assignment.
Two of the 15 assigned pastors are women.
Twelve percent have more than 75 in average worship attendance.
One out of every ten Nazarene members on this megaregion belongs to an ethnic church.
The predominant ethnicity is Hispanic.
There are six female Nazarene senior assigned pastors in the Front Range megaregion.
That's 8% of the senior assigned pastors here.
The largest church attendance with a female pastor is 92; however, the median attendance is 25.
Two-thirds of the women have served in their current assignment for less than eight years.
It seems as if there is going to be enough churches to reach the coming population expansion in this megaregion, women seeking ministry will have to be sought, encouraged, and nurtured into ministry just as much as men. There is a clear emphasis on male leadership when there honestly may not be enough men available or responding to the call to preach.
Whatever may be the case, where are the women and who will open doors, clear the pathway, and become mentors for them?
What would it take for a current pastor to mentor more women into ministry?
There are 75 senior assigned pastors on this megaregion, one pastor has a dual assignment in two churches. There are 17 churches without an assigned pastor.
The median tenure for pastors on this megaregion is 2012. That means half of the pastors have been in their current assignment since this date.
One-third of these pastors have been in their assignments for less than four years, and another one-third for more than eight years. Eighteen pastors have been in their assignments for more than a decade.
Median worship attendance at churches with an assigned pastor is 57.
This is for a population of 5.5 million (see second image below). This megaregion will add another 4.8 million people in the next three decades.
If the current number of pastors (75) is maintained during the population growth that will occur, the following ratios apply:
One pastor for 73,333 people (2010)
One pastor for 92,000 people (2025)
One pastor for 136,000 people (2050)
The Front Range megaregion includes the urbanization along the eastside of the Rockies from Cheyenne in the north toward Albuquerque in the south. I have extended the megaregion's territory further south to El Paso, Texas following the Rio Grande River. This megaregion also includes the urban island of the Salt Lake city metro area in Utah.
The megaregion is very similar to the elongated megaregions of the Gulf Coast and Arizona Sun in that they intermingle or overlap the Mexican border. Again, national and state borders do not always show separation between where people choose to live, work, and do business. These kinds of borders also have very little to do with how people come to Christ and choose to gather for church fellowship. The missional impulse flows from where people gather.
The Front Range megaregion is smaller than most of the other megaregions with just over 5 million people. It will also double in size in the next thirty years to over 10 million inhabitants.
There have been just over two hundred Nazarene churches (209) started or organized in this megaregion. Of these churches, 93 are still active.
The previous two decades have been the most proliferate with 39 churches started or organized. By comparison, 42 churches were started or organized between 1970 to 1999.
The oldest active churches are the First Churches of Salt Lake City and Denver, started in 1903 and 1907, respectively. There are five churches over 100 years old on this megaregion.
Over the course of time, there have been 116 churches closed from the 209 that have been started or organized.
The year with the most closings was 2002. No other year had double digit closings. Notably, over half of all churches that have been closed were closed since 2000 (53%). The spike in closings can be easily seen in the chart on the infograph below.
Fourteen churches (14) closed after fifty years of active ministry.
The rate of churches closing within two years, seven years, and twelve years remains consistent.
Just shy of one-fifth of churches closed within two years, almost half after seven years, and six out of ten churches closed within twelve years.
Churches Closed . . .
18% within two years
44% within seven years
69% within twelve years
Large Churches and Missional Centers | Nazarene Presence in the Northern California Megaregion (2007-2018)
There is only one church over 1,000 in worship attendance: Yuba City Hope Point. There are two very close to one-thousand in average attendance in Lodi and Oroville. All are on the Sacramento district.
There are eight churches (on the infograph below) that reported over 600 in worship attendance. I consider this size of church to have the capacity to become a missional center: a base for church planting, preparing leaders, and offering significant support to the local and global missional impulse.
These eight churches have one of every four Nazarene members in the NorCal megaregion and one of every three Nazarene church attenders.
Of the 168 churches that reported attendance, about one-third have less than 45 in worship attendance. A little less than half are above 75 in worship attendance, which I consider to be the tipping point for a church's capacity to provide pastoral compensation, maintain a facility, and give sufficient resource to the missional impulse in their local and global context. It is not a statement or evaluation of a church's effectiveness in their communities. Therefore, it is necessary to rethink what a church needs to be within its local context and not with standards used in the recent past, such as counting nickels and noses, or buildings, butts and bucks. :)
The geographic center of the NorCal megaregion is Modesto, Calfornia which allows easier access to Bakersfield, the Bay area, and Neveda. This location is important because it could become a base of operations for reaching this megaregion.
NOTE: This megaregion has an odd, elongated shape. The primary reason for extending the reach so far south is that the population follows the I-5 corridor which follows the "breadbasket" of the Great Valley. The economic activity of this megaregion follows through this area, and this activity includes residential expansion, or seven million more people in the next 30 years. And, where people are so should the Church be.
Fifty-seven percent (57%) of the active churches in the Church of the Nazarene on this megaregion are designated as ethnic. That's 113 out of 217.
By comparison, the next three in the list below--Florida, Northeast and SoCal megaregions--have more active ethnic churches--125, 230, 157, respectively--but with smaller percentages of ethnic churches (52% in Florida, 38% in Northeast, 37% in So Cal).
One-third of total membership is also within ethnic churches.
About 12% of the ethnic churches have a female pastor.
One-fifth of the ethnic churches have more than 75 in worship attendance.
More than half of the ethnic churches (56%, 64) are Hispanic.
By far, the majority of ethnic churches are in northern California.
There are fourteen women serving as senior assigned pastors in the Northern California megaregion, or 8% of the total assigned pastors (174).
The largest church attendance with a female pastor is 89.
The median church attendance is 31 with a female pastor.
Only four women have been in their current assignment for more than eight years.
Half have been in their current assignments for only four years.