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Friday, February 18, 2011

The Root Cause of Dying Churches

The root problem in dying churches is not in growth methods. It isn't in the fact that they get fat and happy and can't remember when it was like to be lean and hungry. It isn't in their lack of young people nor their trying to use 1950's methods to reach a twenty-first century world. It isn't the age of their pastors nor the look of their websites. Each of these things may play a part but they are not the real root issue. The real root issue is a lack of humility.

I have tried to help churches that are giving every indication they are dying. I have called and asked what I can do. I never receive a return call. Maybe they don't think I can help. They might be right. But I sense they are too proud to ask for help. I sense they are unwilling to give up their own ways in order to grow.

I see the lack of humility in the way they criticize the ways of other churches. They laugh at the "seven-eleven" songs of these churches. They claim that these other churches sing seven words eleven times. They claim their method of singing hymns is superior to this childish worship. They fail to remember that each of the gospel hymns has a chorus which is typically sung between each verse. They fail to remember that the Southern Gospel songs typically repeat the same words over and over again.

The people castigate the young people who listen to music that is closely associated with gangs. They fail to remember that they listened to the songs of Sinatra who seemed to have a somewhat close connection with the mafia. The only difference I see is that the mafia is dressed much better.

The church is not going to have God's presence as long as it is full of pride. It needs humility to have God's grace. It will need to ask for help from God and others to help it grow. The members cannot demand rights and still have humility. They can't expect special parking, special recognitions, services that suit only those already in the church and service times which meet their schedules and expect to grow.

No church will ever be a praying church without humility. Prayer is an admission that help is needed from God. It is saying that the church cannot do what it needs to do without Him. Humility is necessary to come into God's presence. Prayer is coming into His presence. Prayer is access to the thoughts and power of God. It changes the one who enters His presence and changes the world of the one who has prayed.

There will never be any repentance in the church without humility. Repentance is coming face-to-face with your own sin and declaring it evil. It is turning completely away from that sin. It is going straight for God. It is coming to a purity that mere improvement will never accomplish. Pride hides sin as long as possible. It declares it does not exist until it can't deny it any longer. Then, pride minimizes sin. It points at how small the sin is. When that can no longer suffice, pride accuses others for sin's presence. It is not the fault of the sinner but of the environment, the economy, the parents or any other possible scapegoat. Humility says, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge." (Psalm 51:4)

The church will never seek God's face without humility. The church may seek His hands. They want what He can give them but they will not truly want to have Him carefully look upon them. This would require a complete commitment to God. The church is quite happy doing whatever God wants it to as long as it is convenient. God's total approval leaves no room for attitudes and activities which do not honor Him. A.W. Tozer once said that the church is "politely bored with God."

What is true of the land is true of the church. God would heal any and every church that would have this humility. He would make it a place which so strongly held His presence that people would be drawn to the church. He would straighten out all the conflicts within this church. He would solve the financial problems and set them back on a course of growth.

Humility. It seems like such a simple thing. It is against our human nature. It is the hardest thing that we must continually work at. It is the root of our relationship with God. It can bring our churches to growth.
Yes, I have seen proud churches grow but the growth is very superficial. It is all about the beauty of the building and the elite nature of those who attend there. It isn't God caused and it will not be God continued. These churches will come and go.

Who will be the one in their church to accept this humility before God? Who will be the part of a God made movement which will start his or her church toward humility and growth?

I want to be one. Are there others?

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)
14  if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

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