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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Why Churches Are Dying

Most churches in America are dying. Most of the churches in America who are growing are doing so by the transfer of members from other churches.

Christians are huddling in mega-churches. These are presented as evidence of God's great work in America. Yet, the percentage of people in America who claim Christianity continues to fall.

Church leaders rush from one fad to another. We grab up each new book that tells us what we need to do. We break our necks to get to a conference that will tell us what we need to do. We do everything but read the Bible and do what it says.

We built great cathedral like churches hoping to attract people They did. People wanted to see the inside of something that looked so magnificent outside. They wanted to be a part of something so beautiful. But the wonder faded in their children. So many of these great buildings stand almost empty on Sundays now.

We went through the "program" era. Each new program that came down the pike would set our church toward growth. We had Sunday School programs, evangelism programs, fellowship programs and discipleship programs. We spent a lot of money but each of these lost momentum and we abandoned them one by one.

Some churches went through a phase of "vision" statements. They heard people tell them that is was the lack of vision that kept their churches from growing. Church leaders formed committees and spent long hours crafted what would be known as the "Church's Vision Statement." It was voted on by the church. Framed and placed on the walls of the church. Filed in the church minutes and promptly forgotten by all.

Then came the "purpose" of the church. We gathered around trying to figure out what our purpose was. We looked for mission statements. We patted ourselves on the backs and said, "We are purpose driven." Those books are gathering dust on our shelves.

During this time, televangelists were gathering large crowds of Christian followers. Often the spouted heresy but gave wonderful performances. They told the people what they wanted to hear and people gave millions to their shows. Churches weren't helped one bit by these great crowds.

When will we learn that we can't grow our church like others have grown theirs? When will we learn that God uses the personality of the individuals to reach people? We can see that clearly in the New Testament. Paul was very different from Peter. Can you imagine Paul coming to Peter and saying, "Can you tell me how you are growing the church? I am willing to buy the notebook and send my whole staff to one of your conferences!"?

The Bible tells us that Jesus will build our churches upon the statement that Jesus is the Messiah. Christians will go out to tell others when they truly believe that. The problem is not programs, vision, mission or purpose.

The reason churches are dying is because they have bad hearts. Anyone with a heart for God would realize that He loves the world and wants to win souls to Himself. Churches are afraid of running because their heart just isn't that strong. Running involves telling others about Christ. It means that you live by faith and are not afraid of spending money when it means reaching people. It means that you will be found in church on Sundays even when there is something better to do that day. It means you will give because you want to see souls won for Christ. It means exertion. Bad hearts are afraid to run.

Churches set up guardians which will keep them from exerting themselves. Sometimes that is giving to the denomination. They can't spend the money that they do have on reaching people because we must remember to give to the denomination. The end result is bad for the church and the denomination. If the churches fail, the denomination fails too.

A guardian can be a proposed building. That building is expected to send the church into a new era of growth. Nothing else happens because people have been waiting on that building to be built.

A guardian can be "finding the right pastor." This excuse is used more than any of the others. We will go back to our former greatness when we find the right pastor. Each pastor is rejected so that will not happen. The church greets each new pastor with a facade of enthusiasm. They are willing to let him do anything he wants as long as they don't have to exert themselves. The one that causes the church to grow will demand exertion and that can't happen if you have a bad heart.

Most Christians never see the crowds before them. They do not see the lost marching into hell. They do not know that you could line up the lost and circle the globe over thirty-seven times. They don't know that this line grows over twenty miles every day. They have focused on themselves so they can't see the lost. It takes a good heart to see the lost.

Most non-believers say they would come to church if someone would invite them. Jesus said that we should pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers. These laborers will have good hearts to get out into the fields for His harvest.

Yet, the prayer meeting is all but a forgotten part of churches. Prayer meeting is an organ recital for most of the churches which have one. We are praying for Sister Sue's liver and Brother Al's kidneys.

Churches aren't growing because they haven't gone to their knees. Sure, they will have a prayer emphasis but they are not sustaining the prayers. It may take years of prayer to see the heart of a church changed.

If I am wrong, the Bible is wrong. Then, it is not the word of God. It is just a book that keeps our children off the streets and out of jail.

Would you be willing to start a group of praying people in your church? They will pray for the lost and for God to send laborers to reach the lost. They will pray for God to give the church a new heart.

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