Ritual without spontaneity
When a young man was asked why he didn’t go to church, he replied, “I’ve been.” Church services are too often boring, irrelevant and predictable. We speak a different language on Sunday than the rest of the week. We’re saying the same things, singing the same songs and voicing the same prayers.
Prosperity without generosity
Most congregants are employed and making decent money, yet this good fortune isn’t spilling over into the offering plate. Tithers are dying and tippers are taking their place. “Donations are on course to drop by 70 percent within 25 to 30 years—due to the deaths of the most generous generations,” says John Dickerson in The Great Evangelical Recession.
Addition without reproduction
Much of what we call church growth is actually sheep swapping. We play musical pews, as Christians hop from church to church. Some churches may be adding to their membership, yet how many of these constitute a net gain for the Kingdom?
Birth without growth
It’s wonderful when the nursery is full of newborns, yet not so good when they make up a sizable portion of the congregation each Sunday. If your first grade child or grandchild made an A on a test of one-digit addition and subtraction problems, you’d beam with pride. However, would you feel the same way if your high school calculus student aced that same set of problems?
Membership without conversion
According to Christian author and researcher George Barna “half of all adults who attend Protestant churches on a typical Sunday morning are not Christian.” Having spent 14 years as an unsaved church member, I’m especially sensitive to this sad situation. A name on the church roll doesn’t forward to the Lamb’s book of life.
Duty without love
Too many 21st-century congregations are modeling the first-century church at Ephesus (Rev 2:1-7). Calendars are full but hearts are empty. Love for Jesus, fellow saints and one another is growing cold in these later days (Matthew 24:12).
I wish I had simple solutions to these critical issues. It’ll take widespread revival to reverse these trends. In the meantime, while we pray for and anticipate such a move from God, we can strive to make sure the people we shepherd and churches we serve buck the trend.
Are there other poisons you’ve seen kill churches? If so, mention them in the comments.