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Declining Churches

The stats are in – the American Church in many ways is not booming, it’s declining. According to research done by David Olson the church is not keeping up with the growth of the population. Some churches are closing, others are stagnant, and thankfully others are seeing exponential and continuous growth.

I am no expert, so please don’t read this with that expectation. However, as I have observed certain congregations I have concluded that at least some of the following could be reasons why many (not all)¬† churches are either declining or failing to grow and then I will offer what I believe to be possible solutions. They are in random order.

#1 Answering Questions that No One is Asking
The world has changed and continues to change. Many of the issues our culture face in the 21st Century are vastly different from those of the previous century. Yet many churches fail to address relevant issues and apply God’s still relevant voice to those issues. Blowing the dust off of yesterday’s sermon illustrations, spouting off old cliches, and insisting on ancient music don’t draw many people to churches who are looking for hope and help. Listen to God and keep an ear toward culture and make the connection.

#2 Attachment to Outdated Methodologies
I have heard countless people criticize things such as contemporary worship songs, use of media, not having Sunday School, etc. No matter how much growth is experienced by those places who stay open to God’s ideas regarding some of the possible¬† “how tos” of ministry today, still critics remain. Yesterday’s ideas may have been God given and we should celebrate those ideas. However, to insist on doing them forever is to close our hands to the rest of what God desires to give us and do through us. No, every church doesn’t need to have bells and whistles, but God does call us to forward movement – He has more.

#3 Solo Leadership Models and Practice
I’ve been wrestling with whether or not solo leadership is healthy for an individual and for local congregations. One pastor who does it all couldn’t be healthy. Even if the ability to have additional paid pastoral staff is not possible, it is necessary for the health of churches and leaders to give her/himself to the role of equipping others for ministry so that they share in the work God is doing rather than simply watch the solo pastor do it. The same is true for those who lead specific subgroups within churches. It makes sense to me that those individuals are not called to do all the work but to “pastor,” develop/train, and release those whom they lead into service.

#4 Self Reliance Over God Reliance
There’s a statement floating around and I am unaware of where it originated from so please forgive me. Here it goes. ‘If the Holy Spirit walked away from many churches today, things would still carry on as if He never left.’ Reaching a place where we believe that we are smart enough on our own and skilled enough on our own to be effective at the work of God is a bad idea. The Holy Spirit is the One who sustains and empowers us to have a significant impact.

Do the challenges mean that we should pack up our bags and go home? The Church is God’s organization and organism in the world, so that couldn’t be what we are called to. These challenges present us with an opportunity to do one central thing – CHANGE.

LIFE CHANGE – Everyone who ever encountered Jesus experienced change, whether in thought, behavior, direction or position. The change that Jesus brings about in us is not just for us but to cause us to live lives that draw others one step closer to Him. We’ll get stretched and it’s worth it!

STRATEGIC CHANGE – Every organization, the Church included, should have clear vision, goals that walk in the direction of that vision, and a power source to enable the execution of those goals by accessing the resources made available.

PRACTICAL CHANGE – Lofty vision and goals are good, yet they need to be fleshed out in a way that makes practical sense for those we are aiming to reach and do ministry with. Practical change should take place in our practices within congregations as well as in our approach to connecting with the needs of the people in the communities where our churches are located.

That’s what I think. What do you think? Share in the Comments below and let me know. I want to hear from you.