CHURCH ON THE DECLINE

It’s no secret that for the last few decades most mainline churches have seen a sharp decline in attendance. Too many times in the past, the things that held churches together and kept them strong were not things Jesus would applaud: impressive buildings, doctrinal formula, worship tradition and membership loyalty.

What people are longing for is community, relationship and discipleship (Acts 2:42-47). Instead of giving them this, we’re offering discipleship as committee meetings and programs. I see people who have grown tired of church conflicts over institutional issues (order of worship), personalities, and trivial items they have to deal with in other areas of life.

Will we continue to simply be satisfied with riding out the storm thinking things will get better in time, while all around us more and more churches close their doors? Or will we heed the warning signs and look for the answer that has been there all along? So, what’s the answer? It’s the realization that the church is not the draw … Jesus is the draw.

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For more, I’ve written on the subject of “real church” click here.

For more on the subject of churches declining, Dwight Whittset has recently written an excellent post called “From Decline to Growth.”

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Article by Trey Morgan

I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast. Read 1182 articles by
12 Comments Post a Comment
  1. James says:

    I am and I am not surprised there were no comments. We avoid talking about the issue of discipleship. It challenges us.

    I was surprised a couple of times within the space of a few days to hear a man who regualrly teaches Bible class talking about the struggles he had with what to pray for and not really knowing much Bible. He was one of the leaders of the church. I had preached a number of times about personal and corporate prayer. I had taught in a men’s Bible class a series on prayer. He was part of a Men’s Bible Study Breakfast with me. We had in various settings worked on prayer and study. I was shocked he had so little a grasp of the basics of discipleship. We just some how miss the boat on prayer, fasting, study and meditation as a whole.

    I had another similar kind of surprise when, as part of preparation for a Friend’s Day, I requested people turn in a list of names of people they were going to invite so we could pray for those people. One other person came with a list to add to mine. We are just not doing the fundamental things.

    It is easy to move away from some of them. I recently fasted for the first time in probably two or three years. I used to fast every month or so. I just got out of the habit. But it is easy to excuse myself by saying, well, we don’t have to fast.

  2. Greg says:

    Good comments. When I mention that we are declining and have been for the past two decades (or longer), the typical response has been one of denial or a bit of anger. Hits too close to home, yet the people don’t seem to notice the building is half empty on a “good” Sunday!

    I listened to an excellent presentation at Lipscomb by Dr. Patrick Mead … he discussed the water to wine miracle, that is had nothing to do with turning water to wine and everything to do with rejecting all the ceremonial “laws” governing worship. In essence, Jesus took the 600+ laws of worship and reduced them to “Love the Lord, love your neighbor.” So try as we might, we don’t find much in the NT about how worship looks, but 90% of our fights are over that very thing!

  3. Monalea says:

    Good post Trey,

    I think your post and Neva’s kind of go hand in hand.

    Monalea

  4. preacherman says:

    Trey,
    I think one of the problems is we are afraid to let Christian understand that disciplship means making a commitment not only to Christ but to the Church. We need to preach more on Hebrews 10:24-26. We need preach on the body of Christ, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and commitment. We need to stress to the Church what church growth is. Go…and make more dischiple. As Bill Hybels says in is book “Contagious Christians”, “We must become Contagious Christians, in order for real Church growth to take place.” Excellent post as always brother. Keep up the great work and may God continue to bless your ministry in Childress.

  5. Dee O'Neil Andrews says:

    Good post, Trey –

    As always. Your post reminds me of Patrick Mead’s post today about the church there where he preaches in Michigan and how it IS reaching out to the disadvantaged and is really growing. Y’all all need to check it out.

    It’s named “Community Mourning” and is here.

    His second blog, called
    “Tentpegs,”
    is always just as good.

    BTW – John Dobbs interviewed me this morning for his podcast and has posted the link on his blog, so you’ll have to check it out. I talk about you, Buddy!

    Cheers! Dee

  6. Anonymous says:

    Maybe the church’s lampposts are removed on purpose because they are not doing what they are called to do…

  7. paul says:

    If we only knew Jesus better…it would change everything we think about church.

  8. Chris says:

    I think the reason there is such a decline is that so many are tired of playing church.

    Jesus came to offer life, more abundant life, not just some masquered. People need something filling, something that will change their lives and give them direction and hope. Unfortunately we have only offered superficial change, not life affecting and redirecting change.

    We have, unfortunately, been good at maintaining the status quo. We have baptized our children, possibly a few others, but have only managed to be faithful to five steps, three services, two songs, a prayer and another song. We majored in form and failed to seek substance.

    The life Jesus offered to the woman at the well was safisfying, thirst quenching, not life draining.

    Perhaps my comments are nothing more than my own experience speaking, but I honestly doubt I am the only one who has felt this way.

    Trey, you are correct, JESUS is the draw, not the church.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  9. Danny says:

    From my research growing churches today fall into two catagories.

    Some of the old mainline churches are being rediscovered by a younger generation seeking a more meaningful worship experience and have found it in the liturgical orthodoxy of some of these churches.

    And- churches who emphasize hands-on discipleship and ministry are seeing surges in their numbers.

    Both have a common thread- that you mentioned- they feel like real church as opposed to the production-based megachurch praise model. Some of those are still going big guns, but as a whole people seem to seeking opportunities to experience church in ways that make a difference to thier lives and others.

    Thanks for the post.

    BTW- Listing has hit my blog! :)

  10. Alan Gable says:

    If the things that have traditionally held us together are not exactly things Jesus would applaud, should we be sad that these things seem to be deteriorating? Maybe this recent decline is a good thing…

    I agree. Folks, especially in my generation (and I’m sure in most others but I can’t exactly speak for them), crave community and relationship. The problem is that numerical growth tends to detract from community. Is growth even a good thing? Even the cemetary is growing…

  11. merry says:

    Not wanting to sound critical at all of the previous commenters, so apologizing in advance if I do.

    I find it interesting that in responding to a post about how Jesus should be the draw, not other things, that people offer opinions on differing church styles. Again, not criticizing for that, just observing.

    Trey, right on.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hello, I’m 17 years old…I know weird to have a youngster posting…I have noticed a huge decline in Church goers as well even for my few years on this earth. Personally, I think that the main reason for this decline is because the people of the world, expecially America have stepped away from the main reason of going to Church, the morals and traditions!!! WE have been picking and choosing how and what we believe since Martin Luther screamed for Church reform.

    Jesus set up a Church on this earth…and not to be mean at all to all those protestants out there because the last thing that I want to do is change what you believe, I just want you to know the truth and what I see going on in my on school everyday…when the Church (called the Roman Catholic Church now) was going threw a rough patch of coruption in the Renasance time, I will have to Agree with Martin Luther when he said the church was going corupt and need to be put back on it’s wheels agian, but when that asking for change turned into lets change the whole meaning of the church that Jesus created is when the problems started. From Luther’s cry for change came many break offs from the church (Lutheran, Baptist, Church of England, ect.) because the world wanted to be “Cafateria Christians” and choose the way we worship. I STRONGLY believe that if we go back to our roots and worship in the church that Jesus Christ himself created with St. Peter as his Head. “Jesus said to him [Simon Peter son of Jonah], ‘Blesed are you Simon, son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my heavenly father. And so I say to you , you are Peter [Latin for Rock or foundation] and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail agianst it. I will give you the keys the the kingdom of heaven. [In a Monarcy, which was the main Government of that time, when A king left his kingdom for whatever reason…battle, to visit anoter land, ect….he would leave his power in the hands of a steward, which is what the Roman Catholic Pope is, and he shall make all the decisions of the kingdom until the king returns] What ever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'” Matthew 15:17-19

    When Saint Peter died [Saint means those the Steward of God, the Pope, say are in heaven because of their myricals or great works on earth] the deciples elected a new Pope to take Peter’s place and from that time on the cardenals [who are leaders of the Church representing all places of the world] elect the new Pope to take the previous Pope’s place…as we saw reasontly with the death of Blessed John Paul II and the election of Pope Benidict XVI.

    I know and believe that if our american people would turn back to their roots in Catholicism , back to the scripture, tradition and Church of Jesus Christ himself, not ever Hell itself can tear us down!!! And if you don’t believe Jesus’ own words in Matthew 15 then believe in the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is still the biggest Church in the world!!!

    If anything the Protestant Churches need to start teaching their people about Abstanace and not incourageing premerital sex with condums and birth control…this will stop the spreading of aids, this will stop the amount of devorses in this world, this will stop the mistreating of how boys look at girls as objects and not sacred beings of God, and vise versa, this will stop the amount of unborn children in this world, this will make families stronger…We need to start teaching our children and parents about adictions to drugs and alchol…this will stop the number of drunk drivers, this will teach people disapline and self control, this will strengthen the family bonds when parents aren’t fighting because the are drunk…WE need to start teaching the people of this world the true moral values that JESUS HIMSELF TAUGHT US!!!

    And this can all start with you as parents as adults as leaders of the house hold…YOU NEED TO BE THE ROLE MODELS FOR US!!! THAT WILL MAKE THIS WORLD BETTER! IF YOUR CHILDREN SEE YOU GOING TO CHURCH AND ENJOYING EVERY MINUTE OF IT, THEY WILL LEARN BY YOUR EXAMPLE AND START TO ENJOY IT AS WELL!

    Your children look up to you more than you realize….I know I look up to my parents for spiritual guidance!!

    The only way we can get more people to get back into the church…whatever church it is…we need to set our standards and be example to the generations to come!!! I am only suggesting the Catholic Church because we already have these moral values in place, plus as an added bonus It is Jesus’ own Church!!! How beter to teach our Kid than threw the Church he created….

    Thank you for reading my extreme view on this, but I stumbled on this blog while doing some reseach for school and I had to throw in my opinion.

    Thanks agian and please at least think about what I have said!

    God Bless from a determined 17 year old Catholic!
    Lilly

About Me

Trey Morgan Here are my thoughts about marriage, family, raising children, humor, faith and the life God intended for us all. I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast.

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