How to Stop a Church from Closing Down

How to Stop a Church from Closing Down is a post from a church planter (Pastor David Cox) about stopping a church from closing down and terminating its services.

Introduction

I am a missionary and church planter for some 35+ years (since 1986), and in my experience, I have entered literally hundreds of churches of all sizes and situations. I am no expert, and I say that up front. Neither am I a genius, but my God is.

The church is a construction of something that God has designed. He is a genius, and he has a spiritual power behind his intentions that MAKES THINGS WORK when otherwise they will not work. While God’s ways always works, we are the problem element that causes defeat.

God’s plan is perfect, and the problem lies with us imperfect beings when we speak of defeat and spiritual depression. So the simple point here is that there is no need for a new plan. The plan God gave us in the New Testament is sufficient, it works, it works always, and it works well. I can point out hundreds to thousands of examples where churches are successful and doing very good jobs.

But of the churches that fail, they do so because those who are in that church WANT THE CHURCH TO FAIL. That is an acknowledgement that is better to admit and deal with than leaving everybody involved in thinking that God’s plan failed. No, brethren, WE FAILED. If their are still leaders in the church, they have no will to continue on, and the church closes. It is better than they leave the church and let others who want the church to continue to take on the challenges. Where there is a will to have services and ministry, churches don’t close (as a rule).

Why church leaders have no desire to continue with a church is a matter of their own personal relationship with the Lord and most acutely their lack of calling into leading a church.

Moreover, our failure is a reflection of our own souls. #1 We are sinners, and we did not deal with our sinful element in the failure of a church, #2 Our will destroyed God’s perfect plan. Those involved in a church closing are, for the most part, the one’s bearing this burden. Perhaps a few people who come in at the end are not so much to blame, but there is always sinfulness and stubbornness to change one’s self that caused the failure of a church.

The Problem of Almost all Closing Churches

While every church has problems, all churches fight to do the work of the Lord. But there seems to always be a chain of problems that is active in the closing of every church.

Let’s go backwards in the chain. The most recent problem is that there is no money to pay the bills. I have seen a several million dollar building and facilities church (with an auditorium for probably 4000 people) with less than a half dozen members. How? I don’t know, but they manage to pay the bills (no salaries) and keep some kind of services on going. When I saw that, I wondered how a church can really “go broke”? The reason is because the assets that a church has can be used to keep it open any longer. In other words, when the church saw better days, those assets gathered can hold the church together during the hard winters ahead. That church still had a lot of problems, but they were battling through those problems.

  • No money (or scarce money resources) closes a church, or biting off too much financial obligation for their income. This strings from low membership usually.
  • Low membership comes from a lack of biblical evangelism. The twin sister of this problem of is unbiblical evangelism that puts a lot of people in the pews, few saved, hardly any sacrificing for the work economically.
  • A lack of evangelism comes from a lack of sound biblical teaching. If all know their obligation to witness and do it, more people will come into the church.

When you realize that all of this has been addressed in the New Testament, in the Scriptures, and the real problem here is none of the above. It is simply not reading the instructions for our NT church found in the Bible. We are not following the directions that God has given us.

The Need of a Real Man of God to Govern the Church

Unfortunately, not every Christian male who has his hand into the affairs of a church is a real man of God. A man of God is not a dictator, but he will not surrender the will of God either. He will make sure his church is walking in the will of God. Men of God live and minister by faith. Faith is not seeing how something can be, but believing it does exist or is right and you follow it anyway, without real evidence or logic.

When a church has one or more men of God directing and governing the church, most of these problems are averted. Why? How? A lot of reasons come forth, but basically they obey what the NT teaches. Sorry for the bad light on those men trying to keep a floundering church together, but I see a lack of strong biblical preaching, a lack of zeal and knowledge in evangelism (usually the leaders never do it door to door but throw their excuses into a defense that their Christian school program is their evangelism program, or a radio station, or some other thing that weekly presenting the gospel verbally to other people in a public setting). Yes, biblical evangelism is hard, and the civil authorities want to shut it down, but to the degree that we continue in that or that we close down our evangelism, to that degree, our churches are going to shut down also. (Note: Never, never be a pain to somebody on the street you are witnessing to. Be civil, be courteous, and be nice. We shouldn’t give reasons for the civil authorities to shut us down.)

Another very key element is the preaching in the church. Preaching should have as its only goal, to form Christ in those that hear it. That starts with repentance and obedience, but repentance should be an element in our preaching until Christ comes. Churches that teach facts, with sermons that would be better suited to be printed as a Bible commentary, dry and lifeless, these churches are always heading towards ruin and closing.

A New Testament church needs to regularly have sermons and movements of their people to change morally (revivals, evangelistic conferences, faith promise missionary conferences, etc). This things demand involvement by the people, and they have to make commitments and change in some way. But, moral change in some way should be present forcefully in EVERY sermon. That is the application, an invitation, or a call to action. When people are challenged morally, get their lives straightened out with God, then the church grows. It is through the members’ growth that the members overflow this goodness to the unsaved outside the church.

Holiness is really what we are talking about here. The members are slowly changing through good biblical preaching that rebukes the soul every Sunday making them become more Christlike, more holy. Holiness is not head knowledge, but in the hands, feet, and mouth of the person (his actions and conduct). Does the regular sermon reach down into these daily parts of common life for the members? If not, then the preaching is lacking.

Hypocrisy is also a common problem. A church leader or the pastor had a sexual romance outside of his marriage, and everybody is in shock because of that. Somebody took the accumulated money and walked away with it. Or some pastor spent it all foolishly in what is not eternal but brick and mortar.

Preachers make mistakes, but the mistakes of a preacher that didn’t have his people fully behind him, where he didn’t involve the majority of the members in the decisions, that pastor will become the focal point of scandal and bear it all. He leaves, and the next pastor (maybe a very good man of God) will also bear the weight of his predecessor.

Relationship Problems are usually present also

In the chain of problems that lead to the closing of a church, I have also noted that very many of these cases have an element of the pastor not being convincing. The people set themselves up as opposition to the pastor. To these cases, I note, choose carefully your battles. There is a price to be paid for every heated discussion that happens. It is never worthy to argue or fight over the color of a new rug for the church. It belittles the real spiritual battles that we always have to engage in.

Most pastors seem to not understand that very simply, they are leaders not owners. They are taking care of God’s flock for Him. The pastor has to discern the will of God, and then he has to convince the membership what that will of God is. If he does that, everything will go smoothly even if he discerned incorrectly the will of God. Listening to your people (members) is very necessary. In the abundance of counselors there is wisdom. And a committee never gets anything done, or anything done right and quickly. You must use your people to direct the work of God, but we must be the ones leading, persuading through convincing arguments and revelation of God’s will in his Word.

No where in the New Testament do we find any church fighting among themselves for a building program. That thing just didn’t happen such that it was mentioned. But we see the NT church witnessing and suffering for that witness. Put the priority and focus on what is important in the light of the NT. Not what you personally want.

The Power of Prayer

Another element that most churches and pastors seem to conveniently forget when most they need it, is the power of prayer. Of course, God will chastise us for not seeking His will and fervently doing it, so discern if your church problems are because God is chastising you or because you are doing God’s will. In every case, a church with problems will say that it is because they are faithful, but few of those churches is that actually the case.

Prayer can change people’s hearts. But let’s take this down to the basics. Do you pray intensely for the salvation of souls in your community? Do you pray and take new converts by the hand and keep them close to the heart of God? This is especially necessary the first years that they are saved. Do you pray for unity among the members in the decisions of the church? How willing are we to give the deference to our brethren in an issue? Prayer changes others, but it can also convict us and change our positions.

Conclusion

If you think a minute, all of my comments are solutions from within the very same church and people of the church that is closing down. There is also a factor of other sister churches that could help, but that would be from God. I don’t say that wouldn’t help. But within the local church, there are solutions that God gives us.

If you go to a real church planter, he most probably has started a new church with 1 or 2 families meeting in somebody’s living room. With this setup, the church planter pastor works a secular job, and there are no other real expenses except for maybe hymnals. If a church can survive, actually be birthed in such a situation, how come established churches with hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in cash, and paid for buildings cannot survive? It is all in the minds of those running the show. “We cannot continue as a church if we don’t have $100,000 a weekend in offerings.” The real problem is not the lack of money, but the misuse and misplaced priorities of those in charge.

I am a missionary. I have had supporting churches explain to me that they are undergoing financial problems, and they have cut my support in half, and some even dropped me completely. This I understand. I do not understand the attitude to give up and shudder the church.

How to Stop a Church from Closing Down

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