Our churches are declining and dying

Our churches are declining and dying is a post on why our churches are declining and dying from a Fundamental Baptist perspective.

Let’s Clarify what Real Church Growth is

Real church growth is where we need to start. While many pastors focus obsessively on numbers, how many on the bus routes, how many in attendance Sunday, how many professions of faith, how many baptisms, we lose sight of what real church growth is.

Church growth is the result of real evangelism. Real evangelism is when someone who does not believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior as the New Testament presents it, accepts Jesus as their Savior, is baptized and becomes a member of your church, attending and participating. For those who count, you should see out of every 1000 persons supposedly saved, how many are attending your church regularly, participating in the ministry, and giving in a year after their supposed salvation experience. When we want to get down to the nitty gritty of growth, that is it, not coming once a month when you have a meal or give out some kind of food stuffs.

While some churches brag about the 10,000 salvation decisions they have in a year, they baptize a few hundred, and actually incorporate into their fellowship on a hundred or so each year. That is poor church growth. While a country church may only grow by 1 or 2 families in a year, that growth is solid. It is real. (As much as we can tell from these things).

So why are our churches NOT GROWING ANYMORE?

1. Christianity as a popular religion is losing the competition.

Many people and in many circles handle “Christianity” as a club. The club is losing its appeal these days. First of all, we are busy with other things in life. Then we see competing religions and cults taking over. And finally we see our good doctrine and practice churches falling down on the job.

I cannot emphasize enough the single point that the church is built on evangelism.

If evangelism and presenting and understanding the gospel is not woven into the very fabric of your church, then it will not grow, and with the passing of the present generation, you will see crisis like we are seeing today. Yes, everybody hates talking to others about salvation, especially when you know the other person and know his religion is false. But that has to be confronted and overcome through the power of God.

2. Our own relationship to the church is destroying it.

From the 1920s through the 1960s, people of that generation were more loyal to their church as a religious institution. The young people of today are more open to visiting around without ever becoming really loyal anywhere. This is because they are not highly committed to God. They are not a generation willing to sacrifice greatly (for anything, and this is seen in their marriage and divorces). So they attachment to the local church is very light, and being that as it may, they are just not going to persuade other Christians to come worship with them when they are not even convinced in their own hearts. Much less do you see any commitment when it is about convincing the unsaved to accept Christ and be loyal the local church so that they can grow.

3. America is changing, and the demographics is against small churches.

The rural areas of America are dying quickly. There are no more jobs there. Good jobs are scarce everywhere. But people just cannot make it any more in the countryside. Those churches are dwindling, and when the elder retired people die off, those churches will close their doors completely.

In the areas around bigger cities, those areas are swelling, and the mega church is growing. This is at the expense of the medium and smaller churches. The younger people want these mega churches because they have been brought up on entertainment, and the schools try to make learning a trip to the county fair or circus, and that is what they want. Hard stuff like doctrine, prayer, witnessing, etc. is not for them. They want a church that is “light”, i.e. be a part of it without you having to do so much or sacrifice so much, including only attending occasionally.

Having said all of that, don’t think that only small and medium size churches are in decline and the bigger churches are not. We are seeing big and bigger churches also go under and close their doors. The difference is little but is there. A smaller church can handle a downturn of a year or two. Usually they don’t go under and close their doors. But the bigger the church is, the more their expenses are. While the big churches will typically have a larger congregation to pay the bills, it is very easy for their people to throw the financial responsibilities off of the “rest of the congregation”. Commitment issues are common in the small and large church. On that point, they are the same.

4. There is tremendous pressure on churches to resist orthodoxy and tradition.

Our churches cannot continue with services and ministry “as they have always done it” for hundreds of years, because our new adults, our young people won’t support that kind of church. You have to have praise services that are long and very entertaining, and very rock and rollish. If not, that part of the service will turn them off. The sermon has to be light without a lot of pressure to change anything in your life. The modern young people hate people trying to change them morally. If they live together without marriage, they take offense and run from churches that would seek to change their lives in any way.

5. Covid.

Covid has been a very strong attack from the devil in which it has kept Christians from their normal practices. Very few churches have been able to continue in house services through it all. But in actuality, this has filtered out a large group of so called Christians, because they stayed home, they didn’t join the services regularly via the Internet, and when the churches opened, they never came back.

6. Our preaching and teaching is not up to par.

If we conclude that this decline is because we are not making evangelism our highest priority, then we can analyze this. Our view is inward, on ourselves. In past generations and what the Bible supports is that you have a deep relationship with your Savior, and from that, every good Christian will seek to reach outward to the unsaved.

Because our preaching has been entertaining but not edifying, then we do not see any real advance of workers for the work of God. God gave the purpose of the church is to see people saved, and then prepare them for the work of the ministry. We do not do that. We only want to feel good. So repentance is not anything the congregation nor the pastor wants. That repentance is what makes people strong Christians.

Preaching which really convinces people to work for the Lord is lacking, and when it does happen, it is half-hearted.

7. We have redefined the Work of the Lord.

Somehow we have totally lost the idea of salvation while proclaiming that we are saved. We think that somehow we can be saved, and still sin. Somehow we can be the object of God’s saving grace, but when you get down to the nitty gritty of things, you are served and never have to serve others. Your place is not working but enjoying. Throwing a little money at evangelism, and hiring an evangelism pastor should be enough.

Likewise the work of the Lord now is doing non salvation, non gospel things. We have Christian camps that only make a light attempt at evangelizing the kids, and a lot of energy and activity and time on having fun. We see “ministry” in all areas, but seldom see in any of that “ministry” a consistent, constant presentation of the gospel as their priority and primary work.

8. Years of psychological training is killing the concept of “Church”

Between the modern culture and our public school system, our young people have a constantly shorter and shorter attention span. Moreover, they have to fed well, they have to be in a climate controlled auditorium with soft seats, etc. because they will concentrate for 15 or 20 minutes.

With the advent of the television, and now cell phones, things are different. People have no patience, not even for what is necessary or essential. Doctors need to explain medical conditions to people very quickly now because they cannot listen to some hard to understand for 10 minutes. More like 3 minutes.

I read a commentary one time that described the OT reading of the Law on the day of Atonement. The reader was on a hill or elevated area, and read loudly sitting down. The people were standing up, in the sun. Their children were beside them quietly listening also. Now it said that they read the entire first 5 books of the Bible at one reading. How many churches could put up with that today? Satan has trained us from childhood to reject the hard work of hearing and understanding the Word of God.

9. We have a leadership crisis in the majority of our churches.

I am a pastor. I do not like the mega churches’ charismatic leaders/preachers. So I am not saying that is what we need to go to in order to solve this. What we need is real men and women of God that live what they preach, and preach what they live. Many preachers preach one thing then live very differently in their own lives. That is sad. That is simply hypocrisy and their ministry will suffer for it.

On the other hand, we have some really good Christian people that are in the leadership of our churches, but they are cowards. While they do go out witnessing for Christ, they cannot motivate their people simply because they are scared to do so. 2 Timothy 1:7 and Revelation 21:8 speak of the spirit of fear. Christians are not to have the spirit of fear. We believe God. We trust God. Nothing outside of God’s good will can beset us. But if preachers preach hard things like real prayer and evangelism, then they also have to trust God to protect them against repercussions from preaching the true Word of God. What about preaching that God hates homosexuality but loves the person committing that sin. As long as he repents and abandons, God will welcome him into heaven. But preachers cannot take that kind of risk, of preaching the true message of God. When there are no more bold leaders, we all suffer greatly.

Our churches are declining and dying

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Pastor David Cox is a missionary. See my ministry updates here.