In this episode of As In Heaven, Jim Davis, Mike Aitcheson, Michael Graham, and Skyler Flowers give a preview of the third season of the podcast, which focuses on dechurching in America.
The hosts define key terms used throughout the season and discuss who the decurched are, how we can help, and where we’re headed as the church in America.
The bad news is bad—roughly 40 million people have left the church over 30 years. But the good news is good—there’s something we can do as the body of Christ to bring people back and love them in a gospel-centered way.
Episode time stamps:
- Introduction to the show and hosts (00:00)
- Overview of the season topic and episodes (3:40)
- Michael Graham’s favorite episodes (5:16)
- Mike Aitcheson’s favorite episodes (5:56)
- Skyler Flowers’s favorite episodes (7:58)
- Jim’s favorite episodes (9:38)
- Invitation to the next episode with Ryan Burge (11:32)
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Welcome to as in Heaven Season Three this preview episode My name is Jim Davis I pastor Orlando Grace Church. And if you’re joining us for the first time, as in Heaven is a season on a topic we created each season with a clear narrative arc with about 20 episodes that have a clear beginning, middle and end, as in Heaven was initially developed for Orlando Grace Church and appropriately. The first season was on ministry in Orlando. Season two was a Christian conversation on race and justice that we recorded again for Orlando Grace Church and for Christ United Fellowship Church is Mike Aitchison formally joined our our team as a co host. And that season is when we joined the gospel coalition network of podcasts and now we’re here to preview Season Three on what we call the Great D churching. And I am joined by Mike Aitchison, my friend, my primary co host, Michael Graham, our executive producer and Skyler flowers, who helps write and produce episodes for us. And he used to be our student director at Orlando Grace Church and now serves as the assistant pastor at my old church Grace Bible Church in Oxford, Mississippi. So what is the great D churching? A DTS person is someone who used to go to church at least once per month, and now goes less than one time per year. We all knew that we wanted to do a season on D church and because that’s the context that we in Orlando find ourselves. The problem was, there really is no good data available on this phenomenon. We didn’t just want to operate off of anecdotal data. So we commissioned the largest and most comprehensive nationwide, academically peer reviewed study. That’s a mouthful ever done on D churching. And the study was conducted by sociologist Dr. Ryan Berge and Dr. Paul Joop. And we commissioned three different phases of the research and the information we learned confirmed our feelings challenged our preconceptions, and actually, and unexpectedly provided a lot of hope. So we set out to basically confirm or deny this thesis. We are currently in the largest and fastest religious shift in the history of our country. And phase one of our study proved that that that thesis is in fact true, that we now live in a period that we’re calling the great de churching. And we then used phases two and three, to try and drill down and understand why people are leaving, where they’re going and what it is going to take to bring them back. So some of the delay in producing and releasing this season of the podcast is that Michael Graham and I have co authored a book under the same title, the great deed churching, published by Zondervan, which will be available August 22. And our hope is that this research would better inform this season of the podcast. And we having recorded this season already feel strongly that it did. Now, one of the things that makes our podcast unique is that we record as I said every episode before we release anything to make sure that we have a comprehensive narrative arc and a helpful flow through each conversation. So today, we want to provide a brief preview to this season as we look back on the recordings and talk about what was helpful to us and why. So I want to get started by asking Michael Graham to talk a bit about the arc of the season and specifically, who are the de churched? How can we help and where are we headed?
As Jim mentioned, as in he, as in heaven does a lengthy deep dive on one challenging topic per season? This season? The story arc is really simple. First, who are the D charged? Second? How can we help? Third, where are we headed in the future? In the first section on who are the D church, we will examine the data profiles that we developed history of D churching, and casualty churching versus D church casualty concepts. In the second section on how we can help, we will examine the keys of relational wisdom, the time period of 13 to 17 and 18 to 25 years old, the role of mental health, the challenges of political syncretism, the importance of consistent ethics, and preaching and ministering in light of these dynamics. And in the third and final section on where we headed in the future. We’ll talk about perspectives on detaching from post Christendom Europe, the church in exile, embracing missional and confessional church simultaneously, the role of formation inside the local church and non anxious leadership.
Okay, having heard all these episodes, the quality of each guest their knowledge of the topic and the ability to connect it to the churching made all these episodes much more impactful really than we than we expected and maybe even hoped, and I know, this will be hard because there were a lot of great episodes, but I’d love for each of you to talk briefly about which to Epic So it stuck out to you the most and why. So Mike Graham, why don’t we start with you?
The two episodes that most deeply resonated with me were our interviews with Dr. Ryan Berger and Dr. Sam Chan. As you guys know, probably by now I’m a total data nerd and getting to talk with Ryan about the four vastly different D church evangelical profiles with him was absolutely fascinating. That episode, which happens to be the very next episode is perhaps the most important in the season in terms of wrapping your mind around and demystifying who are the deep church in America. The other interview that deeply resonated with me was our conversation with Sam Shan on relational wisdom. The amount of humor practical insights and wisdom from that episode really made it stand out for me.
Big Mike, what stood out to you?
Jim, did you just tell everybody my dear secret nickname? There’s only a few people who know about Big Mike. Well, so the two episodes that stood out to me were Colin Hansen and Dr. Erwin ence. I mean, Colin Hansen’s episode resonated with me because of his passion and expertise around history. And history provides us as we know with context for our lives. It constantly answers the How did we get here question. And Collins grasp of the internet’s evolution from 2000 to present was absolutely jarring. It connected the dots for critical issues that I believe we’re facing today. And people’s preference for digital reality over physical reality has a direct impact on the church today. algorithms we learned are revealing and exploiting the darkest parts of our souls, and leading to ever increasing polarization in society. As I think about Dr. Earn insights, app episode, he connected with me on several levels, one of the primary being that I passed her diverse cross cultural church, and to that many conversations are taking place related to unity and diversity in the church and in society. And as we all know, these conversations are very provocative and the broader culture. Yet, Dr. Ants helps us navigate them peacefully through faithful scriptural engagement, which is very helpful. So he emphasizes the importance of faithful doctrine and ethics, which includes how we treat other people, something that’s very often overlooked in these conversations. And this is a necessary discussion, I believe, for the future of the American church. And I mean, I don’t think any of us would argue that basic to God’s nature, his mission, and the Church of Jesus Christ is unity and diversity.
Hi, Skylar, what about you what stood out?
Yeah, thanks, Jim. Yeah, as someone who works with children and students of all ages, literally, from the time when children are born all the way through, they graduate college here at the University of Mississippi, and in the town of Oxford as a whole, I really appreciate it. There’s three conversations that we had, just right in the middle of the season that are walking through, I mean, the whole progression of a child’s life, right walking through what it means to parent in our conversation with David and Meg Robins, who work with family life, then walking through what does it look like to engage upcoming generations when they’re children, as a church and and in youth ministry, and then within our conversation with Cameron Cole, and then also engaging in our conversations with Derek rich Maui, and talking about what it looks like to shepherd students in college. And all of these were framed within? How can we resource them as a church as a whole. So not simply in the home, but we care about the home that simply as they’re being siloed off to youth ministry or college ministry, but certainly caring about those things, are really looking at thinking about how is the church teaching? How is the church forming? How’s the church discipling children and students and families? Because one thing that was clear from our all of our early conversations with Ryan, with Colin and history is that so much of the churching begins from the second year, they’re able to cognitively understand culture, and receive media and the world. And they’re being discipled by so many people in so many voices. And so having the church and their parents and their ministers all along the way, helping them that is one of the main ways that we’re going to address D churching. In this age and moving forward. So I’ll throw it back to you, Jim, to hear your thoughts.
Yeah, it’s really what’s hard to narrow down to I feel like I want to have a list of honorable mentions that would include Justin Holcomb and some others. But for me if I had to pick two, the first one that sticks out was the episode on political syncretism with David Platt. Obviously, David lives in our nation’s capital and has even had a president drop in on a service which he talks about in the podcast, a political division has deeply divided the church and I felt like David gave us an extremely helpful understanding of why that is and how the Gospel informs these conversations and unifies our churches amidst the political polarization that we’re experiencing. The second episode is that stood out was actually been canceled. So we’re moving from probably one of our most well known guests to very likely our least known guests been talked about mental health in the church. And I really think it was one of the best episodes that we have ever had on any season thus far. You know, we all know Ben, and we knew why we wanted him that he would do a good job, but he just even exceeded our expectations. He helps church leaders understand how to minister to people more effectively by understanding mental health in the church. And he did so with with both a lot of science and Bible. And he talked about spiritual formation in the church, and that the impact that it has on the whole person, how it impacts the whole person. And this episode literally changed the way that I think about some of the things that we’re doing in our own church. So there are other episodes, you can see the guest list online, we’re just really thankful for the guests that we’ve had. And we’re thankful that you’re listening. And we hope that you find this this season helpful. And if you do, we hope that you will share it with other people in your church, and online that that might find it helpful as well.
So with that, join us in our first full episode with Dr. Ryan Berge, who conducted our study, this is what Mike was talking about, and get an in depth look at what we’ve discovered. Some of it, as I said, was concerning. Some of it was surprising, and some of it was actually extremely hopeful. So you can go ahead and subscribe so you don’t miss an episode. And we especially just want to ask that again. If you find these episodes helpful. Share them with your friends and church leaders.