Why Does a Church Decline?

Why is it that churches tend to slip into decline? A vibrant and growing ministry becomes “plateaued” or begins to lose the numbers or excitement it once had. How about these steps to find a solution:

1. Return to Your First Passion (Revelation 2:4-5) – But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.

Churches don’t realize how far they have fallen, then “church” simply becomes routine, going through the motions, and going into maintenance mode. If we will only remember the first days of our relationship with Christ, the excitement, the purpose, the mission, the commands, the new insights; perhaps we will be restored to our earlier fellowship, and make an impact on our community and others around us. The key in this passage is a single word… REPENT. While that is so humiliating, (to admit that we have fallen away, or drifted), that is the solution the angel provides through the apostle John.

2. Remember Your Foundational Purpose (Matthew 28:19-20) – Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This passage talks a lot about mission and purpose; we are to be about our Father’s business of evangelism and discipleship. How often do we begin to cool in our desire for God’s kingdom to increase?

I recently read Brian Moss* who writes, “Churches plateau and decline due to missional drift.” I cannot think of any church that ever drifted and kept the main thing the main thing. In order to get the church moving in the right direction we’ve got to figure out which direction we need to go! Moss again writes, “Too often plateaued churches focus on growing the church numerically before they correct the drift philosophically. If you focus on growth before depth you’ll be tempted to adopt gimmicks, quick fixes and copycat tactics. Don’t change anything until your core leaders are thoroughly committed to the biblical purposes of the church.”

The Great Commandment is essential as well; to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). These are the reasons for worship and ministry. We worship due to our love for God and we are involved in ministry because of our love for others. Let’s rekindle our focus on the primary purpose of the church, to know Christ and to make him known.

3. Refocus on Your Favorite People: by “favorite” I mean your target audience.

Moss writes about his church experience: “Our church was hidden in the woods at the end of a dead-end road completely surrounded by an upper-income housing development. Our congregation was comprised of medium income families. We tried for months to reach the families in the homes surrounding our church. It was a complete failure. Finally, we decided to try reaching people like us. We learned the hard way that you reach who you are, not who you want.”

That sounds a lot like our situation, high income and powerful people in the neighborhood north of the church property. We are a congregation that has a good number of these types families, but we also have plenty of average income families, young and old, and a fair amount of transitioning young Navy families. Perhaps we have a schizophrenic personality, not knowing who we are, but we CAN reach people like us; each group reaching out to their own circles of influence.

That, my friend is relational, and I feel is the beginning of effective evangelism and discipleship.

[print_link] [email_link] *Brian Moss is pastor at Oak Ridge Baptist, Salisbury MD

The Missional Church

I love this concept; it’s very simple and looks sneakingly similar to what we see happening in the New Testament. The early church met in homes in their communities (house to house; Acts 2:2, 5:42, Philemon 1:2), not just in a large “church” gathering.

Churches that are in traditional roles in the community will not think like this, perhaps like trying to turn an aircraft carrier (it takes a slow, wide turn). But even in this Navy ship illustration, the ship has to be moving in order to make the turn.

Take a look at this brief missional church video. What do you think? How can we change the “church” mindset toward making disciples who in turn make other disciples (making disciple-makers rather than more believers)?

Here is a video on authentic and biblical discipleship… how can we more effectively make disciples?

There are several questions that must be asked…

  1. Who is doing this?
  2. Where are you doing this?
  3. What is the context of your congregation’s community?
  4. What do you think is the key to transforming your congregation into a fellowship driven by purpose and mission?

Church Planting in the Congo

This is a guest post from missionary Ed Miller, who served along with his wife, Linda, nearly four decades as missionaries to Zambia:

Since leaving the field in December 2008 and retirement in December of 2009, our hearts are still in Zambia. Ed Miller has made three trips back to Zambia and Linda has made one. Since October 2009, the work of the Copperbelt has extended and now there are over 45 churches in Congo as a result of the Chande Baptist Orphanage Ministry.

It is amazing how the Lord has used the Chande Baptist Orphanage ministry in Kitwe to be a church planting tool. Someone said, “An orphanage is not a church planting tool, but here we see the opposite.” As the people got their eyes on ministry to orphans, the Lord also showed them the mission field near them in the neighboring country of Congo.

Even with little resources, they have reached out to share Christ with people in Zambia, but also as a church planting tool.  The orphanage has been a spring board for church planting not only in Zambia, but also in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Use this link to read a story of how the Lord uses the outreach of the Zambian people from the Chande Baptist Orphanage to touch lives in Congo. [ Read More ]

[print_link] [email_link]

Serve Before You Sit and Soak

I love the catch phrase, “Look for a place to serve before you look for a place to sit.” Once we find a place to sit, we tend to just sit there and soak it in. Since Jesus is our example of service, and he is the greatest example of servant leadership, we should be inspired to get serious about being proactive with our faith; to make an impact for the kingdom of God.

Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:3-5)

Think about it: Washing feet was an act of service left to the lowliest hired servant or slave.

  1. How did Jesus’ bond with God affect how He treated others?
  2. Who would you nominate in our church for the “Mother Teresa” award, for selfless acts of service?
  3. What does Jesus know that the others did not (John 13:1, 3, 11)?
  4. How would foreknowledge of events have kept you from serving Judas?
  5. What are you holding on to, that which you don’t want Jesus to cleanse you (John 13:8)?
  6. How does being served help you become a servant?

[print_link] [email_link]

To Serve or Not to Serve?

Tonight the topic for my small group is, Ransomed by God, out of Hebrew 9:11-28. The purpose of the study is to clarify that Christ was God himself, sacrificing himself for sinful humanity. The theological doctrine we are covering is substitution. I love this key verse out of Mark, he is so to the point:

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:43-45)

  1. What does it mean to willingly be the slave of everyone else? What does this look like in daily life?
  2. Why do you think God’s plan was for Jesus to be a servant rather than an earthly king?

Since the context is about leadership, here are some thoughts from Ken Blanchard regarding self-serving leaders vs. servant leaders:

One of the quickest ways to tell the difference between a self-serving leader and a servant leader is how they handle feedback:

  • A self-serving leader always fears he will lose his position. They focus on protecting their status, so when there is feedback, it is seen as a threat to their leadership and position.
  • A servant leader sees leadership as an act of service. They welcome feedback as a way they can provide better service in the future.

There is generally a temptation to hold on to position, so we are all self-serving to a degree. Is there anything more self-serving than a new baby. They don’t come home from the hospital asking how they can help around the house. Life is a journey of moving from a self-serving to a serving heart. Babies mature into adults, and eventually we all must learn that life is more about what you give, not what you get. Every morning we should ask the question, “Which type of leader will I be today?”

Here is how to combat the temptation to be self-serving; surrender your motives and actions to Christ and role model how Jesus would lead. (1 Corinthians 10:13).