Seven Factors the church must face
American churches are experiencing a crisis brought about by seven general factors:
Someone said, “The one constant is change.” Change is not necessarily bad, but it is a fact of life. By and large, many church members are not connecting in a meaningful way with a younger generation who generally have no religious preference.
A “stained-glass barrier” is a religious symbol keeping out the light. Anything that hinders the message of the gospel and the mission of making disciples must be removed if the gospel is to spread and disciples are to multiply.
Only God knows the number of church members who have been hurt by someone professing to be a brother or sister in Christ. True, biblical unity is almost extinct in many churches. Because of pride, preferences, politics, and power struggles many churches are dysfunctional. Gathering for worship doesn’t result in members being repentant and renewed, but actually worse than when they started (1 Cor. 11:17-18)! Churches are torn apart with gossip, fighting, and passive-aggressive behavior. Far too often Pastors are attacked, undermined, and broken by members. Their families pray for strength as they suffer unnecessary stress.
According to Jesus, our highest priority is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mk. 12:30). As our passion for Christ wanes our selfish nature rules. American church members sound more like consumers and customers rather than committed followers of Christ. The common mindset is judging the church, pastor, music, and fellowship by how much it met the person’s expectations. Rather than humbly coming to worship and serve, many come as consumers to receive. Like the church of Laodicea, many church members feel they “do not need a thing” (Rev. 3:17a).
Mission Creep is the tendency for a task to become unintentionally wider in scope than its initial objectives.[i]The church that tries to do everything doesn’t do anything well. Far too often, the church’s resources are diluted by being spread too far and too thin. When everything is important, nothing is important. Many good things are draining the energy and finances of churches while the main mission of the church is neglected.
For many, the success of the church is determined by attendance, activities, happiness of members, and outward appearance. Over the years, churches have begun to believe “bigger is better” and “the more the merrier.” These church members and their pastors have forgotten how many godly people in the Old and New Testaments, as well as throughout history, have followed faithfully, even suffering persecution and death, without seeing results that the world would consider “successful.” Jesus came to build His church, not a crowd. A church has the greatest impact and brings the most glory to God when it multiplies disciples.
Faith and Formula
The term, “church growth” has a negative connotation in many places because of an apparent dependence upon mechanical methods and a reliance upon social science solutions. It can be argued the church growth movement initially sought to understand the climates and conditions whereby God’s church grew best and learn how to apply its findings to bring about genuine church growth. Somewhere between understanding how God’s Spirit works to bring about repentance and faith in fallen man and how God made us lies wisdom. Clearly and unmistakably, without God we can do nothing (Ps. 127:1; Jn. 15:5). At the same time, Spirit-led wisdom to apply knowledge is a God-given resource not to be neglected (Pr. 24:3; Luke 16:8b; Acts 6:3). The church must desperately seek God in prayer (2 Ch. 7:14), not rely on her own strength, take steps to know the times and seasons (Eccl. 3:1; 1 Ch. 12:32a; Jn. 7:3-6), and make the most of every opportunity (Jn. 4:1-26; Eph. 5:16).