September Update from Dr. Ron Stewart, Interim Pastor
Thom Ranier is the President of Lifeway Christian Resources of the SBC. In a recent podcast he shared his research regarding dying churches. His research revealed that 65% of the churches in America are plateaued or declining in attendance. He discovered six common reasons why these dying churches refuse to do something dramatic and bold to change the direction of the church.
- “They refuse to admit they are very sick.”
Even though attendance has declined over 80%. They have not seen a person come to Christ in two decades. They have no gospel witness in the community. They say the church is fine. They say nothing is wrong.
- “They are still waiting on the “magic bullet” pastor.”
They reason, if only we could find the right pastor, we would be fine. Pastors come and go but nothing changes.
- “They fail to accept responsibility.”
They tend to blame the last pastors for the decline of the church. Or it is the fault of our changing social culture. Those people should be coming to their church.
- “They are not willing to change…at all.”
Dr. Ranier told the story of a dying church that called him to help them. As he spoke about the need to change somethings, one man asked if they would have to look at the words of a hymn on a screen instead of a hymnal if they made changes. He said, “I stood there in stunned silence.” The church closed its doors six months later. The 7 last words of a dying church, “We’ve never done it that way before.”
- “Their “solutions” are all inwardly focused.”
They don’t want to talk about reaching a changing community. They want to know how they can make church more comfortable and palatable for the remnant of members.
- “They desire to return to 1955.”
Or 1965, or 1975, or 1985. Those were the good old days. If we could just do church like we did then, everything would be fine.
Grace Baptist Church had gone from an attendance of over 600 in 1966 to less than 300 in 1988. They had fallen into the six patterns Dr. Rainer shared. But God still had a vision for the church. Many people resisted the changes brought in by their new pastor, but a faithful few caught the vision of what the church could become. God blessed their faithfulness and breathed new life into a dying church. I believe God is ready to do that with any church that is willing to follow him and become “fishers of men.”