A common question that many churches across America are asking is why is our church empty? There is no doubt Church attendance and especially membership is dying. The only state in the union that is not seeing church decline is Hawai. So the question is what caused us to get here, and how do we reverse it?
I think the first thing to look at is how we are starting churches, churches have a life cycle: Birth, growth, plateau, decline, life support, and death. One of the most important factors in churches is how are we planting them? Are we spending time researching the area making sure there are people that can support the church? What would a new church do here that the churches that are already here not doing? And asking the all-important question? Can this church ever support its pastor full-time? If the answer is no, then it is not a good place to plant a church.
In addition to this, it is so important that we follow the Biblical model that Churches plant Churches. I know there are many churches today some of which are doing well that were not planted in this way, but through a study of scripture it is clear that a mother church planted daughter churches, this should be the goal of every church…To plant new churches.
The question stands though what about the existing churches which are plateaued, dying, or even on life support? What do we do about them? There are a few solutions I see and we will take them one at a time.
First far too many churches are inward focused, meaning they are only concerned about who comes to church and not reaching out. In this type of church if they do try to grow they go about it the wrong way by receiving new people because they are disgruntled at their current church or they have moved and are looking for a new church home.
Don’t get me wrong we should be reaching out to people that move to town and connect them with the church, but that is not the primary way Church growth happens. Church growth happens through building intentional relationships with people and leading them to Christ. New converts are how church growth is supposed to work.
Second, we need to do a better job training our young people, far too often if we give any type of in-depth training at all it does not happen until Jr. High or High school. At that point, it is too late.
Children are learning about sex-ed in the Public schools by first grade and then we come to Sunday school and they are drawing a picture of Noah’s ark, that just simply is not good enough! This is why at Berean we are starting a new kids program this fall which focuses on teaching kids on their level the fundamentals of the faith and further than that how to defend their faith.
One of the big reasons kids are leaving the church is that their questions are never answered. Often times we just say it’s in the Bible so we need to believe it, or even worse we say this is been a Baptist belief for a long time why are you questioning it. We must be answering these questions with solid scripture. And further, then that, we must be teaching kids and teenagers apologetics how do we defend the faith. We should not just teach our side of the argument, but we should also be teaching the World’s side and why it is wrong. We must help kids and teens to critically think their way through the Bible.
Thirdly, many people today are asking what do I really benefit out of going to church the church hasn’t done anything for me and they are just a bunch of hypocrites that go on Sunday morning to feel good about themselves and then on Monday they are no different than me. As the church, we need to help people see that they need the gospel and when they come to Church they should get good solid exegetical theological teaching.
The final issue takes a backseat to everything else. The most important thing we need to do in a church is to teach and preach the word of God, the message has never changed and will never change but how we communicate that can and should change.
One of the big issues in the church today is some of the older churches that are that plateau, decline, or even life-support, are focusing on where they have been instead of where they need to go. don’t get me wrong I am not saying that we need to totally ignore the past and we need to Focus only on the future. However, we do need to embrace the generation we are serving, and this is also totally dependent on the culture we are at.
The way we do church here in rural Minnesota is completely different than the way it would be done in Los Angeles California, Houston Texas, Orlando Florida, etc. The key I adapting to the culture that we minister and to reach the people. Again let me be clear I’m not arguing that we conform to the world, but rather that we adapt to the culture that we live in.
The way do we do ministry today is different than the way it was done in the 80s, just is the way they did in the 80s what is different in the way they did in the 40s and the way they did in the 40s is different than the way they did in the 20s etc.
Above all the best thing that we can do to reach people for Christ is to show that we love them we have wonderful church buildings and other than the pastor in far too many cases they are sitting empty five days out of the week.
We serve and communities with hurting people why can’t we advertise our counseling ministries, we have the best news anybody can ask for, the gospel in the Bible change lives, how wonderful it would be for any church to have someone come for counseling that’s dealing with any sort of problem from a marriage issue to addictions and see that person come to Christ and get involved in the church. Now again please don’t misunderstand me we also need to be careful and there are some issues that a pastor just is not equipped to handle in the counseling skip the spectrum which even more so drives the emphasis that we should be training in this area heavily in our Bible colleges in people are hurting and we need to be there to help them.
In addition to this, what else could we use our buildings for what about morning Bible Studies, or coffee time, ext. we ought to find ways to use our buildings other than just on Sunday and Wednesdays.
This is an area I am truly passionate about back in the 60s, the 70s and 80s there is a church in every city and multiple churches in every city even the small ones because nearly everybody in town went to church, but today those same churches exist some of them are small and even still some some of them are closed because people just stop coming to church so we as the American church needs to be reaching out we need to be showing people love of Christ and that we are not exclusive country clubs but that we are welcoming to all and when they visit we are treating them as guests in our home instead of just a random visitor. In addition when their visit they get solid biblical preaching and teaching it is all too sad when a message is preached but there is no clear plan of salvation within it I’m not arguing every message needs to be focused on salvation but every message should have salvation in it, you should be able to have someone listen to you preach and know that they need a savior.
So my encouragement with this post is that we think about what we are doing as a church to reach out I’m not just focusing on my church here in Winnebago Minnesota, but every Bivel preaching church we need to show people that we love them we care for them and train our kids and teenagers in good solid Bible teaching on their level so that they will not depart from it.
Finally, the question every church must ask is “what are our goals, and what are we doing that other churches in this area are not” if the answer is nothing then the church needs to find something.