A Post By Thom Rainer

(I thought this one was worth sharing with all of you…certainly is thought provoking….)

 

EIGHT SIGNS YOUR CHURCH MAY BE CLOSING SOON

We call it the death spiral.  I know. It’s not a pleasant term. I can understand if it causes you to cringe.  By the time I am contacted about a serious problem in a church, it is often too late. The problems are deeply rooted, but the remaining members have been blind to them, or they chose to ignore them.

There are eight clear signs evident in many churches on the precipice of closing. If a church has four or more of these signs present, it is likely in deep trouble. Indeed, it could be closing sooner than almost anyone in the church would anticipate.

  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.

Churches with four or more of these signs have three choices. They can embark on a process of change and revitalization. Or they can close the doors for a season and re-open with a new name, a new vision, and some new people.

Of course, the third choice is to do nothing. That is the choice to die.

Thousands of churches will unfortunately do just that the next twelve months.

Which Are You?

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Earlier this week I had this thought in the above picture.  Call it inspiration, perspiration, desperation, or exasperation–I simply could not shake this thought.  So I made me a jpg and posted in on my FB page hoping it would go away.  And I still cannot shake this thought.  So here this left-handed, right-brained Kingdom Pastor goes again with these unusual musings.  By the way, I am glad to have unusual thoughts such as these.  I admit I am not normal and so very glad.  I tried to be normal once and it became the worst 3 minutes of my life.  If you want to really insult me and gut-punch me, call me normal!  But alas, I digress again; forgiveness please.

Recently someone said something to me that I have heard many times.  “Preacher,” (amazing, I have a title, but not a name; thankfully God knows my name), “if we could just be like the very first churches then we wouldn’t be having all these problems at church.”  Some think I have absolutely no self-control, but when I hear these words, I have an amazing amount of self-control.  I fight with every resource inside me to resist tilting my head to the left with that expression that says, “Don’t you read your Bible?”  I have to resist the urge to go back to my firefighter days and pull out my smart phone, bring up my flashlight app and shine it in their eyes to see if they have some kind of head trauma, the kind of head trauma that comes from falling out of the stupid tree and hitting the branches on the way down.

Whenever and wherever I am driving or riding, I love to look at church signs.  No, not the messages they put on them only, but to see what name was selected for that church.  One of my favorites is “The Original Church of God #2”.  Another was “An Independent, Fundamental, Bible Believing, Charismatic Baptist Church” (did they miss anything important?).  How about “The Church of God Sanctified, Incorporated”?  And I’ve seen in nearly every community there is a church named “Corinth”.  Do you really want your church named after a group that had divided loyalties, a member involved in an incestuous relationship, who had members show up early for the Agape feast so they could eat all the best foods and get drunk, and who had members who thought they were spiritually better simply because they had one particular spiritual gift (I could go on but I won’t)?

But church problems go back even further, all the back to Jerusalem where the church originated.   We read in Acts 6:1-4 (The Message)

1-4 During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers—“Hellenists”—toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines.  So the Twelve called a meeting of the disciples.  They said, “It wouldn’t be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God to help with the care of the poor.  So, friends, choose seven men from among you whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense, and we’ll assign them this task.  Meanwhile, we’ll stick to our assigned tasks of prayer and speaking God’s Word.”

Oh?  So, the early church had its problems?  What many fail to recognize, and what I failed to recognize for too long in my life, is that problems not only exist, but they speak volumes about where we are spiritually in our relationship with God, or even if such a relationship exists at all.  Ever since Adam said and did nothing when the serpent was tempting Eve, problems have existed in the realm of human relationships; be they community, neighborhood, friends, family and even church.  And here is something I have learned:  having problems is not, in and of themselves, a bad thing though we often treat them that way.  It is in how we respond to problems that is either the great thing or a bad thing.

How we respond to the problems that happen in life will be one of these 3 responses.  If you are just an average person you will talk about problems the way you talk about the weather, college football and politics.  Problems are simply a subject matter to talk about while occupying time.  If you are a petty person (meaning small-minded) then it behooves you to find a person who you feel like must have caused the problem.  Then you attack and belittle that person as if that alone will make the problem go away.  Usually their only achievement is just getting that person to go away; the problem is still there but with that person gone it’s easy to assume that the problem will cease to be a problem.  Where’s my flashlight?  They must have serious head trauma!

Or, we could follow the example of these early leaders.  They didn’t blame the Greek Jews for being a bunch of cry babies.  They didn’t blame the Hebrew Jews for being selfish bigots.  They sought the path of greatness.  They became great people because they focused on the solution instead of being locked in on the problem.  Every problem in the realm of relationships has a solution that both honors God and helps build up others.  Pointing your crooked finger at a person to blame or talking to others Ad Nauseum never works.  To your average people who only talk about the problems, you are fueling the petty, small-minded people and you simply need to stop it!  Be a great person instead!

Greatness does exist in you and in every other person.  You can go ahead and be wrong by disagreeing with me.  You may even have some good arguments why greatness does not exist in certain people, or maybe even you.  Again, feel free to be wrong.  Here is why I say greatness exists in you and in every other person:  We Are Made In And Bear Within The Image Of God.  Granted, it may be crusted over by years of sin and gazillions of bad choices, but it is still there.  It may have been crushed beneath the blows of petty people.

But greatness is there simply waiting to be released through redemption.  Redemption is more than being forgiven of our sins.  It is about restoring The Image of God in you and me, being set back right to where God intends for us to be all along.  Forget what others say about you.  Ignore your own thoughts about yourself.  Listen to what Papa said as He added the crowning touch to His creation.  At the end of every day of creation up to that point, Papa looked at it and said, “Oh, my, this is good.”  But on that last day He said, “Let’s make humanity, and make them in Our image.”  So they did, and when they were finished, Papa stepped back and said something different from the other 5 days.  He said, “My, oh, my!  Now this, this is very good.”

Jesus suffered unimaginable pain and humiliation.  Jesus went to the Cross and died.  He was carried to a borrowed tomb because He wasn’t going to be there very long. (You average people and Pointed-Crooked-Finger people pay attention.)  Jesus did all this so that your sins and past would be wiped away in order that HIS Image can be restored in you, and even in me.

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him, by becoming great!

My name is Randy…and I’m a recovering “Average”…

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