Back in the day (I’m referring to Seminary days), much was made of “church growth.” We were taught that every church could grow if they just followed a certain formula. I wish it were that simple but frankly, it just wasn’t true! Church growth is both complicated and challenging.
I believe it is harder than ever to reach people for Christ and get them into a local church. Here are some changes that make it more difficult to “grow” a local church.
- Our culture no longer looks to the church for answers. I know this isn’t a newsflash, but we live in a post-Christian culture. Many people are not anti-church, they don’t even think about church. One research group, when classifying the church tradition of the Pacific Northwest, titled it “The None Group.” The sad thing is that, even in the most desperate times, people are more likely to seek out the local pub rather than the local church for answers. We can no longer expect the world to come to us, we must get involved in their lives.
- There’s a general distrust of organized religion. This is particularly true of the younger generation. Size and buildings do not impress them, relationships and sincerity do. That’s why we need to look at other ways to be the church. For example, the house church movement is strong in other countries and is gaining traction in the States.
- Christians are attending less frequently. Years ago, we would never think of missing Sunday Worship. Now, even the most committed believers are not attending as much. All kinds of activities compete with church (sports being number one). Some church attenders believe that “regular attendance” is being at church whenever nothing else is going on.
- People no longer attend for show. People are less likely to come to church because they are “expected to.” I read that congregations could expect to lose anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent of their attendance depending where they are located.
- The Church’s unwillingness to change. The local church often feels like the only stable place in a culture in turmoil. Sadly, we’ve mistaken old methods and traditions, rather than the gospel, for our security. The message never changes but the method must! We need fresh eyes and new approaches to point people to Jesus.
BEFORE YOU GO…
Two things. First, what would you add to this list? What have you experienced in your own church? Also, in the local conferences, I’ve been sharing the “Life Cycle” of the church. If you click here you can see an outline of my “talk” and the graph. Where would you place your church? What can we do to see more people put their faith in Christ and be part of His church?
4 Comments Add yours
Very good Randy!
Randy very good, I thought I might add:
Neglect of building relationships: Years ago there were those in our church who would invite folks over for a meal after morning services or snacks and desert and may be a game or two after the evening service. Growing up my mother almost always had a roast or other meal in the oven and dad would invite a family to join us after church, we never knew who would be coming. People do have busy lives these days, there used to be a whole lot less outside activities on Sunday’s.
Larry – folks in my area were recently recounting how they used to go for Sunday drives after church… And it was acceptable to drop in on friends unexpectedly on Sunday afternoons. These would often turn into shared meals and long afternoons together.
These stories have stirred discussion about how to regrow that type of connectedness into our church family.
Thanks Randy for encouraging thought on this.
Thanks Brother. I cannot help but think that as the church is growing in other parts of the world and other groups right here are experiencing growth, what makes the difference. I do think a can do attitude with an unquenchable amount of optimistic faith in God makes a huge difference. The other thing I see is a combination of whole gospel ministry much like the Wesleys engaged in, never compromising the message but delivering that message in a variety of societal altering ways. I also think there is an openness to dynamic worship and an expectation of miracles and deliverance. I know that when I served as a pastor, I tended to view this as excess but overseas it is normative. Then the whole emphasis on making disciples; not being satisfied with attendance but concentrating on II Timothy 2:2 and actually releasing and empowering believers for service.
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