In the past few weeks a local church that once had over 1000 in attendance a few years ago had reduced to point the church decided to be adopted by another church. Although they were rich with a large facility and land (worth millions), but had become poor in vision. This resulted in what Christ says to the seven churches in book of Revelation is playing out before our eyes as local churches die. (link below)
Current statistics show between 6,000 and 10,000 churches in the U.S. are dying each year. That means around 100-200 churches will close this week. The pace will accelerate unless our congregations make some dramatic changes.
Just as an individual must repent and turn to Christ for new birth, so must dying congregations. Just as Jesus tells the seven churches “Repent & Return” so must the churches. Just as the Temple had become defiled, so have many of our churches. We must return to our first love! We must become houses of prayer!
Stated simply, we are doing too much in our own power. Our churches are often busy, but we are not doing the business of God. Revitalized churches have a desperate and prayerful dependence on God. We need to remember that 1 & 2 Corinthians was written “unto the church of God which is at Corinth”. This was initially to the church as a whole!
2Co 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test?
This examination must start with Pastor and leadership. Indications that the church has lost its way is visible in a number of ways such as the church’s lack of focus on prayer, discipleship, evangelism and/or church fellowship.
The Pastor (hopefully with support of leadership) can initiate a focus on each of these from the pulpit. The pastor from the pulpit with his prayers and preaching can immediately shift the focus of the church. Pray publicly for vision for the church, preach Biblical doctrine and encourage commitment of leaders and congregation.
Pray! It may seem obvious, but in order to discern the direction where Christ is calling, a local church needs to be in constant prayer for guidance (vision), strength and courage to implement, and faith in God’s power for results. Never say die always proclaim victory! Prayer changes us. Inward transformation drives external change.
Pray for a Spirit-wrought revival. Only God’s Spirit can bring the life of the gospel back into the church. Only the Holy Spirit can revive hearts to produce endurance, selflessness, sacrificial living, and gracious speech. Therefore, make prayer the strong practice of a dying or healthy church. At every opportunity ask the Lord (in private & public) to rescue your church and use it to reach the lost with the gospel for his glory.
Return to the Basics! Review the basics of the gospel in your sermons. At the core of the life of any church is its faithfulness “with one mind [to strive] side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). When a church’s members lose focus on the gospel, the church will die spiritually, which leads to dying numerically. This restoration can be accomplished by reviewing the gospel regularly by teaching the basic Biblical truths focused on God, sin, Christ, cross, repentance, salvation, sanctification, service, 2nd coming of Christ and judgment!
These sermons supported by emphasis on evangelism, discipleship and fellowship will result in a local church that will grow in love for God and others. This results in a church carrying out the Great Commission and Great Commandment, resulting in being a healthy and growing congregation!
As you examine self and your local church look for signs of self-interest. Look outward instead of inward! Important to being a healthy body is that each member “look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” and “outdo one another in showing honor” (Philippians 2:4; Romans 12:10).
Seek ways to give sacrificially of time and other resources to the local church and community.
Be slow to depart an unhealthy church. Stay in the sick/unhealthy church together with all of the saints and “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3). Be a change agent and think of what your presence means for those who will stay.
Lastly, avoid grumbling at all costs: “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9). The Lord hates grumbling (Exodus 16:7; Numbers 14:27; 1 Corinthians 1:10) and it hinders church health instead of improves it.