Between 6,000 And 10,000 Churches In The U.S. Are Dying Each Year” – And That Means That Over 100 Will Die This Week

There are 23 Comments

Jim's picture

Eight Signs Your Church May Be Closing Soon

  1. There has been a numerical decline for four or more years. Worship attendance is in a steady decline. Offerings may decline more slowly as the “remnant” gives more to keep the church going. There are few or no conversions. Decline is clear and pervasive.
  2. The church does not look like the community in which it is located. The community has changed its ethnic, racial, or socioeconomic makeup, but the church has not. Many members are driving from other places to come to the church. The community likely knows little or nothing about the church. And the church likely knows little or nothing about the community.
  3. The congregation is mostly comprised of senior adults. It is just a few years of funerals away from having no one left in the church.
  4. The focus is on the past, not the future. Most conversations are about “the good old days.” Those good old days may have been 25 or more years in the past. Often a hero pastor of the past is held as the model to emulate.
  5. The members are intensely preference-driven. They are more concerned about their music style, their programs, their schedules, and their facilities than reaching people with the gospel. Their definition of discipleship is “others taking care of my needs.”
  6. The budget is severely inwardly focused. Most of the funds are expended to keep the lights on and/or to meet the preferences of the members. There are few dollars for ministry and missions. And any dollars for missions rarely include the involvement of the members in actually sharing the gospel themselves.
  7. There are sacred cow facilities. It might be a parlor or a pulpit. It could be pews instead of chairs. It might be the entirety of the worship center or the sanctuary. Members insist on holding tightly to those things God wants us to hold loosely.
  8. Any type of change is met with fierce resistance. The members are confronted with the choice to change or die. And though few would articulate it, their choice by their actions or lack of actions is the choice to die.

 

Bert Perry's picture

A couple of years back, I was discussing the decline of churches and community organizations with my grandmother, who noted that she really didn't think people today knew they "needed to join them."  Well, yes, exactly.  And how shall they know without a preacher, as someone said?  The decline of churches is not really the fault of people becoming more worldly, but rather of churches turning inward instead of outward.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

WallyMorris's picture

"The decline of churches is not really the fault of people becoming more worldly, but rather of churches turning inward instead of outward." Although sometimes true, not always true. Many small churches have very active evangelistic ministries yet see few saved as a result. Many reasons for this, not simplistic as suggested.

Possible Reasons: Numerical decline in community population, lack of conviction of sin & guilt in unbelievers, selfishness by unbelievers to continue their life as is, people looking for handouts from church & not interested in the gospel, Christians whose commitment to any church is minimal ("Sunday morning service only, don't bother me the rest of the day or week"), attraction of TV & radio ministries as a substitute, unwillingness to give money to a church & therefore people don't go to any church [more common than you think], outdoor activities have become people's "god", growing individualism among Christians and therefore reluctance to associate with any church. This is only a small sample of possible reasons. In other countries, persecution has decimated churches as Christians leave and therefore churches close.

I wouldn't be so quick to blame the churches themselves. Although a church may be the cause of its own decline, many other reasons exist as possibilities. To automatically blame the church for being too "inward" is theologically immature.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Bert Perry's picture

Now Wally, we can say that at times, God does not indeed give the increase, but if our earnest efforts at evangelism are bearing no fruit, shouldn't we be willing to consider the possibility that either our efforts are Biblically uninformed, or they are culturally clueless?  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

WallyMorris's picture

No Bert, we do not HAVE to say that. Your reasons are certainly possible, but your analysis leaves out so many factors that we should consider. Also remember that several times Revelation describes people refusing to repent even though they know the truth abut what is happening to them. So I doubt we can say that the churches at that time will be uninformed or clueless. My point is very simple: Decline in churches has multiple reasons and not all of them are a church's fault.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Paul J's picture

We were just gifted one of these church buildings. It is a 225 year old United Church of Christ build in a declining community where the congregation had fallen to just about 10 people.  We have the resources and people to reclaim this building, and are looking forward to joining this community and hopefully using this building to help make a difference, both for eternity but also making a difference in their lives today. https://lcbcchurch.wistia.com/medias/hv1qcwcjmz?wvideo=hv1qcwcjmz&foreign_data=mailchimp_campaign_id%3Ab444a0ceeb

Ken S's picture

Paul J wrote:

We were just gifted one of these church buildings. It is a 225 year old United Church of Christ build in a declining community where the congregation had fallen to just about 10 people.  We have the resources and people to reclaim this building, and are looking forward to joining this community and hopefully using this building to help make a difference, both for eternity but also making a difference in their lives today. https://lcbcchurch.wistia.com/medias/hv1qcwcjmz?wvideo=hv1qcwcjmz&foreign_data=mailchimp_campaign_id%3Ab444a0ceeb

Paul, that's great and I'm glad to see how God is using LCBC. I have a coworker who has attended the Branch Creek location for years and has been really blessed by their ministry.

Paul J's picture

Ken, are you at Allentown Bible Church?

 

Ken S's picture

Paul J wrote:

Ken, are you at Allentown Bible Church?

Yep, that's me. How'd you find me?

Paul J's picture

I bumped into Joe Fox on another Facebook Group a while back.  Are you newer on staff there?

Bert Perry's picture

WallyMorris wrote:

No Bert, we do not HAVE to say that. Your reasons are certainly possible, but your analysis leaves out so many factors that we should consider. Also remember that several times Revelation describes people refusing to repent even though they know the truth abut what is happening to them. So I doubt we can say that the churches at that time will be uninformed or clueless. My point is very simple: Decline in churches has multiple reasons and not all of them are a church's fault.

I didn't say you "had" to say anything, Wally.  I simply pointed out that we ought to consider the possibility that the reason our community is rejecting our evangelism and discipleship efforts isn't a rejection of the Gospel, but rather a rejection of us and our methods.   Is that so much?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Darrell Post's picture

Every time I see "The church does not look like the community in which it is located" or something similar to that, I think it might be better to say, "The church is indifferent in regards to being salt and light to community around it."

I know that the statement as given is in the context of ethnicity and so forth, but there are times and places when the best of efforts and intentions do not result in God's blessing of bringing into the fellowship an even representative sample of the surrounding community.

There could be a danger for the church in this situation to respond by making pragmatic decisions that are otherwise detrimental to the health of the church.

For instance, they might discover that the people in their community would be much more apt to attend if the preaching stopped talking about sin and judgment, and instead changed to warm, fuzzy preaching that tells people what they want to hear in their flesh instead of what they need to hear. 

Ken S's picture

Paul J wrote:

I bumped into Joe Fox on another Facebook Group a while back.  Are you newer on staff there?

 

Since 2015. Technically though, we have four leaders on our leadership team but only one is actually paid staff (and it's not me or Joe).

TylerR's picture

The original ink is from InfoWars, which is not the most reliable and sane of sources! If you follow the links back, you'll find it came from Thom Rainer. In his article, he writes:

Hear me well, church leaders. For many of your churches the choice is simple: change or die.

Certainly from a biblical perspective, I understand the bride of Christ will be victorious. I understand the gates of hell will not prevail against her (Matthew 16:18).

But that does not mean individual congregations won’t die. Revitalization is needed in nearly two-thirds of American churches. For some, that might mean an evangelistic boost. Others need a complete turnaround.

So, what can churches do to bring about much-needed revitalization?

I get what Rainer is saying. Only the leaders of a particular church know how well the shoe fits, here or in the article Jim linked to (above). Wally's points are also very well taken. Leaders have to be honest with themselves about whether the shoe fits, or not. 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Jim Barnes's picture

Are there any stats on how many new churches are being started each year? 

CAWatson's picture

The problem isn't that the churches aren't doing evangelistic programs. They are. The problem is that evangelistic programs don't really work - and they lull the church members into a complacency that says, "I've done my evangelistic work because I've worked at this program." And no one is getting saved in the program. Young people go through the youth group and few return. Children in the community come for Awana, but don't come on Sunday morning, and few are baptized. 

Running programs is not evangelism. Programs substituted for evangelism has caused churches to fail in a big way. 

-A pastor who is pastoring a church through the closure process presently

WallyMorris's picture

CAWatson has a valid point that is important to consider. My point is to remember that evangelism/church (or even college/seminary) "failure" does not always mean that the problem is some error in our evangelism or church ministry. We sometimes unknowingly practice the philosophy of Charles Finney - right methods or evangelistic philosophy will produce results. Sometimes (maybe a lot) the reason for lack of "results" is simply the Holy Spirit is not convicting people of sin, righteousness, & judgment (John 16:8-11). If that is the case in specific situations, no amount of evangelism will produce a saved person or church growth. The difficulty is knowing where the problem is: correcting something in our work or the Lord not convicting the unbeliever.

Concerning children/youth: Watson's comment illustrates the importance of trying to reach the entire family. Children and youth ministries by design usually focus on the children/youth. If parents not saved, then of course the majority of these children/youth will fade. If the parents are saved but openly inconsistent/hypocritical at home, then the children/youth will fade. This situation is also complicated and has many reasons as well. Let's fix what we have the power to fix. But the work in the soul is not our job.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Both Jim and Wally Morris have valid points as to why churches die.  There are multiple reasons. 

A seminary professor of mine mentioned that some pastors do a great job, in some situations, to make a church decline slowly instead of rapidly. 

Of course, we should do all the evangelism and outreach we can to prevent the death of a church.  Thom Rainer has some good books along these lines. 

But even if a church dies, it does not take away from the fact that church preached the truth through the years.  I don’t know of any New Testament churches of the first century that are still around.  But their influence continues. 

David R. Brumbelow

Ron Bean's picture

When churches die, the members don't just disappear or quit going to church. Most often they find new churches and they flourish there. (Remember, they might not have left "church"----they may have just left "your" church.) I have been part of three churches that no longer exist. In each case the vast majority of members moved to other healthier churches.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

WallyMorris's picture

Ron's use of the word "healthier": Although I'm sure Ron understands this, just because a church closes does not mean that church is not "healthy". Again, many factors contribute to churches closing. Doesn't necessarily mean that the church wasn't "healthy". Perhaps the churches he was associated with were not "healthy", but not always true.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Jim's picture

Recession and reprovisioning of capital (kind of a wonkish take on this!)

  • In economic terms, recessions pop bubbles and reprovision capital (including human capital)
  • Sears is dying because Sears sucks! 
  • Sears failed at it's "mission" and some churches fail because they too lost the vision of "the mission" (for some separation became the end-all!)
  • [I'm not the first to make this comparison - see "The Well, The Watercooler, And The Web - Staying Connected In A Changing Culture" : " I can’t help but consider the similarities between Sears and our own historic fellowship of churches, the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. Like Sears, our fellowship experienced rapid growth during the early part of the 20th century. Like Sears, our fellowship has a solid product line with a strong and unwavering commitment to Biblical teaching. But like Sears, our fellowship has struggled to stay culturally connected. ")]
  • Examples:
    • A church near me has a major focus on the women's quilting group. Fellowship around the quilting tables / sewing machines has replaced a "go out on the highways and byways" with the gospel
    • Some churches focussed resources on the Christian Day School (many in the MBA fell into this trap) 
    • Foreign missions spending (as good as this is) became a focus instead of (a church can do both) reaching one's neighbor