Home Pastors Articles for Pastors 10 Reasons Why Small Churches Stay Small (Part 2)

10 Reasons Why Small Churches Stay Small (Part 2)

10. No prayer.

It’s tempting to make a little joke here and say, “Such small churches do not have a prayer,” but they could if they chose to.

When King Saul was bemoaning the woes that had descended upon him as a result of his rebellion against God, one of his chief complaints was that God no longer heard his prayer. “He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer….” (I Samuel 28:6)

Luke tells us, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1)

Pray or quit. Those seem to be the alternatives.

Want to give your congregation a little test, pastor? Next Sunday, call for your people to meet you at the altar for a time of prayer. Do not beg them or cajole them. Just announce it, then walk there yourself, kneel and begin praying. See if anyone joins you. Notice who comes and pay close attention to who does not.

It won’t tell you everything you’d like to know about your church, but it will say a lot.

A friend on Facebook requested prayer for his new ministry. When I asked what he was doing, he responded privately that in addition to pastoring his church, he is working for the state convention in his region. He said, “Almost all our churches in this part of the state are dying. We have buildings that were constructed for hundreds now running 15 or 20.”

The plan, he said, is to get things in place to re-evangelize those regions as these oldline churches die off.

I hope they don’t wait until those small churches actually close their doors. A lifeless church can take a long time to give up the ghost.

The best approach would be for that stagnant, dying congregation to awaken and get dead serious about becoming vibrant again. This would mean taking the unprecedented step of doing anything it takes to re-establish their witness and presence in the community.

In almost every case I know personally, that is not going to happen. The leaders would rather see small churches disappear from the earth than to do anything new and different. That is as sad a sentence as I’ve written in a long time.

That’s why the only approach most of us have ever seen work is to bring in church planters from outside and start afresh.

The leadership of the dying small churches will resent it. “Why are you spending money on starting new churches when we already have churches here? You could invest a fraction of that to help bring our church back, if you were thinking straight.”

Stay the course, church planters. Not only will you do a good work in your own new congregation, but you might just build a fire under that old bunch. Their resentment may awaken them to fan the flames of the dying embers of their own faith.

The pastors who arrive to begin new congregations will use innovative methods, almost always leave the suits and ties in the closet, set up guitars and drums and install screens and projectors, and come up with names for their churches that seem unchurchlike: Sojourn, Mosaic, Praiseworthy, Koinoia, Maranatha, Celebration, Vintage, and River.

God bless ’em.

But know this, church planter. A generation or two from now, if Koinonia and Sojourn and River and Celebration have not changed their methods and have become set in their ways, they, too, will be left behind as the ever-creating Holy Spirit seeks those who want to be new wineskins for the new things He is always up to.

Now, let us pray:

“Father, we do like our routines and ruts. Forgive us for limiting you by asking you to adapt to us instead of the other way around. Lord, in the words of the old hymn and the older Psalm, ‘Wilt thou not revive us again that thy people may rejoice in Thee? We ask this for Jesus sake. Amen.” (Psalm 85:6)