Showing posts from 2022

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

Successful Revitalization of Small Evangelical Churches Hinges on Leadership Development

My doctoral dissertation, focused on how successful church revitalization pastors act to develop and empower next-generation leaders. A Phenomenological Study of Pastoral Leadership Development Behaviors in the Revitalization of Small Evangelical Churche s Available at Abstract Church revitalization has received renewed interest in the last several years. Rainer (2014) says that a congregation’s failure to develop and empower next-generation leaders is one of the leading contributors to church closure. Likewise, Clifton (2016) and Stetzer (2007) highlight the importance of developing next-generation leaders during church revitalization.  The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand the leadership development behaviors of senior or solo pastors who successfully led revitalization in a small evangelical church. This study defined a small church as one averaging 65 or fewer in attendance at the beginning of the pastor partic

Did the Early Church Fathers Believe in a Pretribulational Rapture?

UPDATE: I look back at this old paper and find some good arguments but, as I concluded, there is no smoking gun for the belief in a pretribulation Rapture among the early church fathers. I am more compelled now to say why: No, the early church fathers did not believe in a pre-tribulation Rapture, at least in the way Darby and dispensationalists ever since the 1800s have held it. They didn't believe it because the Bible didn't teach it--and they were much closer in time and place to the biblical authors. They did expect the imminent return of Christ--with no hint of an idea that they expected to escape the Great Tribulation (indeed, for much of the early church, the Roman Empire certainly proved a source of great tribulation!). They also believed in a millennium. What Scripture actually says has always been the standard to which we evangelical Christians have always claimed to hold. I hope to write more soon, but I think the "Pre-Wrath" Rapture--the idea that the chur