Eighty years ago, 80 percent of Americans attended church. Today that number has dropped to 20 percent, and in 10 more years, it is expected that America will be as unchurched as Europe with an attendance rate below 10 percent.
Hugh Halter, pastor, author and speaker (and father of Northwestern students Alli and McKenna Halter), has a heart for answering the “why” of that statistic. Halter visited Northwestern’s campus last Thursday and Friday and challenged students in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting on Thursday and a full chapel on Friday.
“The Church is in massive decline,” Halter said. “There are no denominations that are growing … Christians won’t know how to relate to the world.”
Halter said he sees the solution to this struggle in a renovation of the church, and the way to do this is through missional communities. During his chapel message, Halter outlined the ways that a Church can become a missional community rather than an uninspiring body of hearers. His answer seems simple: “You must walk as Jesus walked.”
Northwestern student Kelly Thurman said she appreciated the approach Halter took. She liked “his humor and how he took something serious and made it easier to understand.” This is a serious topic, indeed, and the challenge Halter laid out is not a matter that is tackled easily.
Halter challenged NW students to leave their comfort zones and seek out the people that Jesus would seek out if He were here today. Halter said it is a misstep to surround yourself only with people who are like you — people who hold the same religious and political views or ethnicity as you. This creates a type of Christianity that fosters harsh judgment.
Instead, Halter called for Christians to go find those who are different, even while in college.
“Don’t join a church league softball team; go play in the community league,” he said.
If Christians “drop in” with other people as Jesus commands, doors will open, conversations will start and relationships will be formed.
Freshman Samantha Wielenga said she appreciated Halter’s message.
“I feel like what Hugh talked about is directly related to NW as a school because we tend to stick with our own and just judge everyone else instead of interacting with each other and jumping in,” Wielenga said.
Halter serves as the lead pastor at Adullam, a church located in Denver, Colo. Adullam is a nontraditional church that rarely meets on Sunday mornings. Rather, they are typically out participating in “kingdom work.” Halter described it as a “network of missional communities around Denver.”
“People have to feed themselves,” Halter said. “They don’t need a pastor to teach them everything. Instead, we work with the poor, and when we do gather, it’s like a big family reunion.”