A recent study by George Barna revealed some sobering statistics. Weekly church attendance has declined by nine percentage points, from 48% in 1991 to 39% in 2011. Adult Sunday school attendance also dipped by nine points, and church volunteers declined by 18 %. Experts offer various reasons for this decline; but no one should ignore a vital truth Jesus left us for winning and keeping people. We find it in John 13:35. Jesus told His disciples, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” In other words, correct teaching alone does not win and keep people — as vital as correct teaching is. Marketing tactics may initially attract people, but if they do not find genuine love and acceptance, they soon wander away. We win and keep people when they find among us an atmosphere of love and acceptance — across age, race, class and culture. The Apostle John stressed this truth when in 1 John 4, he wrote, “Dear Friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love — not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.” Love and acceptance wins and keeps people.
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