Ezekiel 22:26; Matthew 5:13-16; 7:16-18; 28:19; John 15:4-8; Galatians 2:19-22; 3:1-3; 5:19-23; Colossians 1:19-29; 3:12-16; 4:5-6; Hebrews 10:24-25
Is your church one that reminisces of the glory days? Oh, how wonderful we were when we….. Or when we had…..? Is your passion and affection for yesterday's church greater than today's? Do you fear tomorrow's church? Has your excitement been fleeting? Is the passion absent? Has fear of change caused you to be over-cautions or even disengaged? Is there a compromise of God's Word and or worldliness going on? Is next Sunday just a run-of-the-mill Sunday with no excitement or urgency to what God has for you?
If you have answered "yes" to any of these questions, it is time to revitalize--or become extinct! Learn from over twenty-five years of research, what goes wrong and how to turn your church around.
Frist off, there should be no better days behind; they should still be ahead of you. If not, something is away from God's plan for you. Consider that, each year, over 4,000 churches close in the USA! We will present you a plan from God's Word that can prevent your church from going under. This can reinvigorate and reform your call, showcase the relevance and vitality of God, reawaken the neighborhood around you.
We fail when we forget who we are In Christ and our call to be His Church!
The primary purpose of any church is to point the congregation to Christ and worship Him as Lord! From that, we are to disciple, equip, inspire, and train people to grow in Christ and serve Him.
If this isn't happening in the lives of those in ministry, you are away from His call and will. What happens in your live—personally and professionally—flows to your congregation. Pray about this, reflect, and renew so that you might recognize any misalignment with God's will and purpose for your church.
How do we go wrong in our churches? The bottom line: We become negligent with God has given us, and we forget what He is willing us to do! This negligence can present in many forms and in many people:
- The Pastor is in Negligent! The pastor and/or church leadership have forgotten what their roles are; they are not operating as called. I have found myself in this category more than once; it is easy to slide, and you may never know until it is too late because we chase the wrong things. Basically, our role is to point people to Christ and shepherd them to Him. This includes discipleship, teaching, encouraging, equipping, building leaders, caring for the flock, and/or training other leaders to do these things well. If you are not teaching and shepherding people to Christ, what are you doing? Are you giving in to narcissism--pointing to yourself, hogging the spotlight? Pointing to trends? Following bad ideas? Are you neglecting the call and the effectiveness that is required to build the church and relate to the community? Reorder your calling. Why is the pastor the pastor? It must be to help others worship and grow in Christ! If you're not doing this, it's time for a change.
- The Leaders are Negligent! If the leaders are pointing to themselves or if there is greed and dysfunction, negligence is already in play. For example, if the leadership care more about themselves and their positions and less about what is best for the church, you have major problems. All leaders must care more about the mission of the church: To glorify God and do what He has called you for in that community. The truth is that there is no room for personal agendas, self-serving desires, jealousy, fear of failure, or attention-seeking. You have to deal with your insecurities and issues before you lead God's people effectively.
- The Leaders' personal Spiritual formation is Weak or Absent! Would you go to a doctor who does not know anatomy or who is lacking in medical knowledge? Would you go to a concert for a group of musicians who have not played or practiced in years? What about a lawyer who never passed the bar? You see my point? There is no higher duty for a Christian leader than to grow first in Christ. Y simply need to know Him and His Word before you can lead others in their growth and worship. There is no way for you to lead others when you do not know the way. I am amazed at how many pastors and church boards I counsel that do not practice any spiritual disciplines; they do not even read the Bible on a regular basis. What you are thinking? We all should read the Bible through each year; we should each be in daily prayers and devotion. We must have a passion for the Lord before we have a passion for ministry!
- The Leaders are Negligent to their Families! Your family is your first and prime ministry. If you neglect them, you are negating your primary call of our Lord. We must carve out time and energy for our families and be guardians of those blessings. If you do not do this, you and those whom you love are headed for disaster.
- The Leaders are Distracted with Bad Trends. We love our charismatic personalities, spiritual "junk food", and trends, don't we? (For the record, trends are not good and are not Biblical.) We tend to desire these things more than we desire what is deep, effectual, and important. However, we must stay on track and maintain a focus on the most important: Growing in and with Our Lord and making Him known in our community through The Word, love, and Fruit of the Spirit. Beware of trends and be discerning by keeping what is good and tossing what is bad. Always, though, keep the main thing the main thing. Do not let misplaced focus or undisciplined passion move you away from God's call! Do not let bad management rob you of God's mission!
- Leaders are not Good Managers. Good management involves training and empowering people—engaging them and giving them a true sense of belonging. Bad management involves micromanagement and a lack of focus. Bad management includes jealously instead of assisting and releasing, paying attention to the haters and critics instead of the mission, and disregarding people--especially new members and the community. Do not be the one who takes away someone's passion for ministry! Be persistent in pointing to Christ and the mission and tell the Truth in a manner that easy for others to know and see the vision.
- Leaders not Staying Healthy. Yes, we all get sick. Sometimes, devastating illnesses strike us through no fault of our own. This is more about guarding our rest and intake—eating healthy, making time to enjoy the outdoors, getting enough sleep, and taking a full day or two off per week.
Based on 25 years of research, here is what happens when we are not right with God, when we run "our" churches our way instead of serving in His Church by His Will:
- The church is consumed with conflict. The leaders and congregation spend their energies on fighting each other on change, over pet-project or pet-peeves, and are much less in interested in outreach and relationship-building. Healthy churches are operate in the Fruit of the Spirit. Read Galatians 5 and the verses before the Fruits; are you listed there?
- The congregation is not growing deeper in Christ, and they are not reaching out to the community. Instead, the starving and unfocused sheep fighting and failing.
- Pride clogs our ability to be kind and caring, and we cannot point people to Christ! If the leaders are not kind and ready to listen, or if they are greedy and selfish and will not repent, it is time for new leaders. Real leaders from God are giving, fruitful, and sacrificial.
- The church does not pray and/or prayer is not a priority in the service or in the lives of its congregation. You must communicate with God and listen to Him, too.
- Insecurity or fear rules the hearts instead of being who we are in Christ.
- The church has no sense of urgency. Passion for ministry and the transformation we received is placed on hold or has evaporated. We have to see our relationship with Christ as extraordinary; we must keep leading our communities by example and with courage. Don't recede; keep reaching!
- The worship is lacking in quality, passion, wisdom, and/or focus on Christ. We are made to worship as Christians, we have to get this right!
- The church stops being innovative and switches to a preservation mode. A dying church becomes overly cautious and spends too much time in meetings and not enough time doing real effective ministry. Do not fear change as you remember God once changed you!
- The visitors to your church do not come back. Why? Yes parking, signs, cleanliness, effective children's ministry, and greeters are important. But, the things that really turn people away are usually the things in the rest of this list.
- The facilities are so worn they are dirty, smelly, and uninviting. Fixing up does not have to be expensive. Invite the congregation to an all-church-project-day with cleaning, painting, and mending. Keep the bathrooms clean and stocked, keep the lights in good condition, and take care.
- The new members come from other churches, not outreach. Yes, welcome everyone; but, do not neglect evangelism and outreach for new Christians.
- The neighborhood does not notice you or sees no relevance. Get to know them so they get to know you.
- The church that only preaches what is popular or just entertaining while neglecting the full council of the Word is in breach of its purpose and call.
- The church does little to resolve conflict and gossip. If you do not stop strife, strife will stop you!
- The church has the same leaders and new ones are not encouraged or trained. You need to rotate called and equipped leaders who have a heart for God and ministry. You must encourage and seek out new leadership.
- The church gets too comfortable; they stop innovating and reaching and become lazy. Absence of spiritual passion is the main cause. Reignite with Christ or wither away.
- The budget does reflects administration and survival, and does not reflect the real ministry—missions, outreach, youth and elder ministries, etc. You need to invest in advertising and ministry to build back up.
- The average church member has no idea of the mission and purpose of the church; therefore, they do not know where it is heading. You must have a good, easy to communicate Biblical mission.
- The church is overly driven by finances, more like a church incorporated rather than a church triumphant. We have to reach out and take risks. Be wise with finances, but do not let a budget determine your response to your call. Remember faith?
- The church focuses on the wrong things, like picking out the new carpet and not looking to what God has us here to do. Focus on Christ. How do we glorify Him first and foremost?
- The church is succumbing to the culture, secular music, worldly dancing, and/or alcohol. We are to be salt and light. We are to be the influencers while not being influenced.
- The church that does not screen is volunteers with children is asking to be sued and closed down.
- The church cares more about what the big donors want, not what the new members and community need. Care for all; no one person controls it all!
- The church needs to be patient, kind, and engaging to the changing culture. Dying churches fear change and culture. Yes, there are generation gaps, cultural change, but there is not gap in our Lord's transforming power. Be relevant to your community. Be a place for those who have real struggles and who need real healing. Let Him use you.
- The pastors do not control their time and are too busy with everyone's problems while leaving little time to study and to reach out. Use your time wisely. Train deacons and or small group leaders to visit and do the bulk of the shepherding.
How to Grow and Revitalize your Church?
The answer really is simple, see what you are doing wrong and stop it! Repent! Recommit your relationship with Christ, seek forgiveness of one another.
Act, communicate, have a town hall meeting on why we are and what we are called to, listen and inspire. Do not fear change. Begin weekly, really passionate, prayer meetings. Revamp your worship with more sincerity and passion! Start to really teach the Word and do not water it down; just explain it better. What else works best? Be welcoming and hospitable!
Use this tool in your church leadership meetings: Read God's Word, read each of these passages to reset your church back to Christ as LORD!
Ezekiel 22:26; Matthew 5:13-16; 16:18; 28:19; Mark 12:29-31; Acts 1:8; 2:42-47; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; Galatians 2; Ephesians 2:1-9; 4:11-16; Philippians 3; Colossians 1:19-29; 3:12-16; 4:5-6; Hebrews 10:24-25; 1 Peter 2:1-5; 9-12
- What have you been doing wrong?
- What can you start to do to turn around?
- What will you commit to?
Here is a tool to help you assess your church's health. For each question, have your congregation and leaders be open and honest and be in prayer.
Find out what your neighborhood needs. Child-care or a preschool? Job center? Free vehicle inspections or financial seminars? Marriage workshops? Homeless outreach or free- to-low cost counseling services? Youth outreach? Fixing up people's homes with yard work and lite paint and maintenance? Free health screenings or ESL classes? AAA or Celebrate Recovery? Visiting local rest homes on a regular basis? Identify the need in your community and fill it.
The key to a growing church is being kind, encouraging, hospitable, inspiring, providing sound teaching and discipleship, having an excellent children's and student ministry, and praying, praying, praying. Did I mention prayer?
A stagnant church has no passion for Christ. They do not reach out. They only implode with fear, infighting and apathy.
Our call is to listen to the voice of God through His Word, and be joyful, mature, obedient witnesses with love toward others. Christianity is a journey of our faith development as we encounter more of Christ through our learning and discoveries from His Word.
The goal of the Christian life is to worship Christ as Lord, pursue His Fruit, righteousness, holiness, character, and maturity, all of which we get from the workings of the Holy Spirit in us and being in the Word (Matt. 7:16-18; John 15:4-8; Gal.5:19-23).
Your church has value! Our growth in Christ is the real eternal value! Therefore, as church leaders, we are to facilitate real, impacting, growing faith that requires our diligence. Christ asks us in 1 Peter 1:13-25, to rekindle our Christian growth as an ongoing effort and apply His Truth so our hearts become centered upon Him. Just think what self-control, patience, endurance, godliness, and love would do for you and those close to you (2 Pet. 1: 5-11)! Our failure to obey God will cause us to lose out on so much in life and in eternity. Our diligence to remain faithful and obedient with virtue will help enable others to do so, impacting not only our church but the community and the world, too. When we obey God, He will reward us beyond our ability to fathom! So, let us follow Christ as LORD!
Do not let neglect rob you of God's promises or of the potential of what He can do in you and in your church. If you ignore the purpose of your church and who you are within it, you will be driven to extinction!
© 2016, research since 1989-2016, conducted through the Fuller Institute, Pasadena, CA, and the Schaeffer Institute, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org