Why do churches decline?

Tony Morgan had a great article about his conversation with a denominational leader who presented the five most common attributes of declining churches last week.  I found it interesting and challenging at the same time.

Lack of mission and vision clarity: This seems a little obvious, but without a defined mission, you don’t have something to fall back on to remind you why you do what you’re doing.  Any time the mission is unclear, the church’s efforts are scattered and undefined because there’s no central purpose to tie each activity to.   The vision of the church is the direction that the church is headed.  What will it look like in 5 years, 10 years, 50 years?  What will it have accomplished?  Again, this (along with the mission) is the best tool to help define a success in ministry.

Failure to define a concise strategy to help newcomers become fully-devoted followers of Christ: How does your church disciple believers?  Are we developing disciples who make disciples who make disciples?  How?  It will not happen without a strategy in place.

Complex structure: Rick Warren once wrote that, “You can either structure the church for growth or for control, but not for both.”  Too often, the bottleneck of a church’s growth is the level that the pastor is willing to release the ministry.  Committees who run committees who vote on committees full of people who don’t serve ANYWHERE in the church will KILL the church.  One of my greatest frustrations are churches that choose traditional denominational structures rather than Biblical structures.  It’s amazing how God’s Word is always the answer!

Inward-focused with little connection to the surrounding community: Is the church supposed to be a bomb-shelter to protect God’s people from the outside world, or is it designed to impact its community?  Does our community see our church as the people God reaching out and making positive contributions to our community, or are we seen as another church that “feeds off” of the community.

Weak leadership especially in the senior pastor role: Ouch.  Every lead pastor should ignore the natural inclination to gloss right over this point and let that challenge us.  Weak leadership.  That’s the area of personal development that I’m spending extended time in during this season.  What about you, lead pastor?  Are you growing in leadership?

Now, can this list be exhaustive?  By no means.

And we can’t deny that it is Jesus who closes the doors of many churches who have lost the mission to which they were called and denied the One who called them.

But can we really justify NOT at least exploring these 5 areas?

2 Comments

  1. These four reasons hit home for me. They may or may not for you…

    1) I have to agree on this one:
    >>>Complex structure: Rick Warren once wrote that, “You can either structure the church for growth or for control, but not for both.” Too often, the bottleneck of a church’s growth is the level that the pastor is willing to release the ministry. Committees who run committees who vote on committees full of people who don’t serve ANYWHERE in the church will KILL the church. One of my greatest frustrations are churches that choose traditional denominational structures rather than Biblical structures. It’s amazing how God’s Word is always the answer!

    2) Not equiping, not equiping, not equiping. (and translating equiping as being 100% about head knowledge)

    3) Picking and choosing bible verses. (Also if we’re fundamentalists–we’re selective fundamentalists.)

    4) Also not looking enough to Acts 2. Period.

    1. Great thoughts!

      How much more effective could our churches be if we would take the Bible seriously – not only as hearers of the Word, but doers as well?

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