Declining Churches Searching for the Silver Bullet Pastor

  The problem of declining churches in America was nothing new when the COVID-19 pandemic first struck in March 2020. I tend to ignore 2020 through 2022 when measuring whether a church has declined. But let’s be honest: if you look back to March 2020 and compare your attendance and financial giving back then to that of today, in March 2024, and both are lower, on average, by more than a few percent, your church has declined. If you had a children’s ministry before the pandemic, and you now struggle to wrangle up more than a few kids on a typical Sunday, you have declined. Your church needs revitalization. Sure, there are other, less tangible measures of health. How are you doing evangelistically? Are you reaching your neighborhood with the gospel? Are you making disciples? Maybe your church has already taken proactive steps in the direction of revitalization. Perhaps you’ve already decided to make some hard decisions rather than kicking the can down the road. If so, good on you! Sadl

"People just don't want to come to church anymore!" The Last Words of a Dying Church

 Lately, I've had the opportunity to observe some dying churches, and to talk to people about the increasing problem of church decline and death. I know many dying organizations subscribe to the mantra, "We've never done it that way before." But, in the case of churches, it assumes that at least someone in the organization is trying to turn things around. 

Why does no one show up for worship on Sundays? Because "no one wants to come to church anymore." It's actually an answer that I heard before COVID, but the pandemic seems to reinforce that line of thinking. And I understand that cultural Christianity is dead. There is no societal expectation that people show up for church just because that's what "respectable" people do. That should be a win. Do we really want unregenerate people in church leadership? But it does cut into the numbers, especially for churches that don't really have much to offer by way of authentic community, vibrant worship, and real discipleship.

But the funny thing is, there are churches that are doing well despite the pandemic. Must be that rock music disguised as worship songs. Or maybe it's the preacher who's good at "tickling peoples' ears." Surely, those churches aren't faithfully preaching the Word--because people sure don't really want to come to church (at least real church) anymore. Right? Well, I suppose such thoughts give failure a sanctified wrapper.

To say that "people just don't want to come to church anymore" is a classic example of blaming the community for the sorry state of the church. In such churches, the Great Commission has become the Great Omission. Why reach out? or why change the ways we used to reach out? Bus ministry and old-fashioned, door-knocking soul-winning, coupled with sweat-wiping, slobber-slinging preaching used to bring the crowds. Hey, we didn't change.

And there's the problem. Well, we're not going to compromise on biblical truth! I know, Jesus said to worship on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and to be sure to be there Sunday night and Wednesday night. And make sure there's no drums or electric guitars sitting on the stage. Jesus would have frowned on that. I don't think He would have.

And some churches want to change, but they feel they just can't "put on a production." Well just do what you do with some quality and intentionality. Don't be the steward who buries his one talent. Invest it well. Clean up the clutter around the church. Act like you're expecting guests. Don't apologize for what you are--but, at the same time don't badmouth other churches. Do what a small fellowship can do well. Be an intimate and inviting community, intentional about discipleship. Pray...individually, corporately. And when God sends help from other local fellowships of believers, don't refuse, but be thankful that God (and other churches) want to see your church thrive and survive.


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