Can you recognize the characteristics of dying churches?
I have the awesome privilege of serving a church that has been around for over 80 years. In those 80 years, the church has only had four senior pastors. While our congregation has had its share of struggles over the years, we are pleased that we have survived!
Considering the staggering statistics on church mortality in America, we are grateful to God for still standing strong. Some researchers suggest that between 3,500-4,500 churches close their doors (or die) each year. That means that in the time since our congregation was founded over 80 years ago, over 300,000 churches have died!
I suspect that most church “deaths” occur for a few simple (and oftentimes avoidable) reasons.
Recently, one of the senior members of our congregation—who has been there for all 80 plus years—handed me a church newsletter that was written in 1959. As I delicately flipped through the tattered pages of this precious document, one article in the newsletter pricked my attention. The title, which I have borrowed for this blog post, was simply “10 Ways to Kill a Church.”
The thing that interested me the most is how this list of “church killers” written in 1959 looks so much like the usual suspects in many church deaths today.
Characteristics of Dying Churches
Here is my slightly paraphrased version of the 1959 list of “10 Ways to Kill a Church”:
Creating Dying Churches #1. Don’t come.
One of the biggest church killers is waning attendance. Many people simply can’t find the time to spend an hour or two in the Lord’s house. We find excuse after excuse as to why we can’t come to church.
I wonder what our lives would look like if God only showed up at our house as often as we showed up at His. The Bible is clear about the importance of assembling or coming together (Hebrews 10:25).
I believe in the importance of going to church, which is why I do a weekly Twitter hashtag called #Go2Church. If we don’t go to church, we just might be playing a part in killing the church.
Creating Dying Churches #2. If you do come, make sure it’s late.
So many of today’s worshipers (and apparently those of 1959) have a lackadaisical attitude toward worship. We have an “I’ll get there when I get there” attitude when it comes to church attendance.
I wonder, however, if we showed up to our job the way we show up to our church…how many of us would still be employed?
We say that God is an “on time” God, but can He say the same about us? A lack of punctuality when it comes to worship is a microcosm of our overall view of God. It says that whatever else we are doing is more important, and God can just wait until we get there. This type of attitude is a major church killer.
Creating Dying Churches #3. Only show up when the weather is good.
Ever been to church in a driving rainstorm? Neither have most of the other people in your church! Some people only go to church when the sun is out and there are no clouds in the sky.