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Why Churches Close
By: Author Unknown
There are a number of reasons why a church may decline and confront the prospect of ministry death. Some of the causes are outside the congregation’s control. Others are a direct result of what the people are doing (or not doing) within the church.
Listed are reasons why churches close. The wise leader will recognize where his congregation is and prevent the loss of a church.
- Loss of population base within the community. A significant factor confronting many churches located in isolated rural areas is the decline within the community at large. As the children become adults, there are not enough economic bases to support them. As the population of the community decreases so do the opportunities for the church outreach and growth. New people, having no ties to the community, may travel to a larger metropolitan area to attend a church that has multiple programs.
- Demographic change within a community. Demographic changes alter the cultural setting of the community. Churches that do not adapt to these changes can find it difficult to minister to the new cultural setting. Because small churches tend to be homogeneous, they are often the last to change when transitions occur in the demographic setting. Unwilling to change, they soon become isolated from the mainstream of the community.
- Changes in society. There are several changes within society that have significantly impacted the small church and contributed to the decline of some congregations. In the past, the church was a social center of not only the people who attended, but also the whole community. People came to church to see their neighbors and friends. No longer is the church this social center; instead people have multiple social centers, which draw them away from the church. Consequently the church no longer has the influence within the community it once had. The downside of this is that people no longer attend church for social interaction, making it more difficult to attract new people. Another factor has been the mobility of people. People will drive past many churches to attend the church of their choice. No longer is there the true “community church” where everyone in the community attends because it is the only church available. Now, because distance is no longer an issue, people have multiple choices of which church to attend. A third change in society is consumerism. Previously people attended a church because of their loyalty to the congregation and community. Even if the church was not “ministering to their needs” they remained because of their sense of duty. Now people hop from church to church depending on their particular needs and availability of programs within the church to minister to those needs.
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Few people will deny the theory that a local church stops growing as the size of the church building reaches 80% capacity. The reason for this is purely human and not so spiritual. Most people simply will not tolerate feeling crowded in the pews. Using chairs instead of pews helps this problem somewhat, but eventually the congregants feel like their space is being invaded and soon become uncomfortable.
However, this is not the biggest reason for a church's lack of growth or the reaching of certain size and then growth stopping.
We use the analogy that a fish will only grow to a certain size in a small fish bowl but in a larger pond for instance, the fish can grow much larger. I’m not so sure however, that God’s church should so easily be compared to a fish. I suggest that the building however, is not necessarily the problem in most cases. In fact, we have all seen churches who were literally bursting out at the seams. In many parts of the world today, revival is happening at an unprecedented rate. Pews are packed and chairs are in the aisles. Some churches are utilizing 2-3 services per day to accommodate the crowds.
While it is true that most people don’t like to be in a crowded atmosphere, it is also true that people will come when they are being fed. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me Peter?” Peter responded in the affirmative and when he did, our Lord told him to “Feed my sheep.” He did not tell Peter to house them or get them plenty of exercise. He told him to “Feed Them."[ read more...]
I stared out of my office window. In 3 hours my congregation would be filling the auditorium to receive watering for their souls and seek direction and inspiration. The prospect used to snap my adrenaline to attention and send me bounding through the sanctuary straightening chairs, adjusting microphones, checking thermostats. Anticipation of the Holy Spirit’s ministry would stir my faith with expectation. It was my favorite time of the week – then. I managed to continue preparing messages, but careful planning of the services overloaded the limits of my emotional energy. I winged it more Sundays than I care to admit. Routine pastoral tasks were postponed or neglected. Knowing I wasn’t giving the pastorate my best effort nagged my conscience and compounded my distress. Thankfully, I survived. Ministry once again puts a bounce in my steps. My devotional life has regained its pulse. Vision and purpose flow through my veins. I’ve come through to the bright side of the “valley of the shadow of death.” Here are some things I learned about surviving when the well runs dry.
- Recognize the Adversary. According to I Peter 5:8, we have an adversary who seeks to devour us. Satan’s strategy is seen throughout the Scriptures – to strike shepherds and scatter the sheep. For instance, he assaulted Timothy with insecurity and inadequacy. I was Timothy. Satan harassed me with thoughts: You’re a failure. You’re a terrible pastor. Your aren’t gifted enough. The church would be better off without you. You’ve missed your calling. They hounded my mind continually, and I gegan to believe them. Then I had to trust that He would equip and enable me to get the job done. I went to the Scriptures that speak of endurance and perseverance. Deep down I knew I had to press on, and God would see me through. He did. I’m thankful I didn’t quit.
- Settle the Commitment Issue. Another breakthrough came by committing myself anew to the call of pasturing. Discouragement caused me to entertain ideas of quitting the ministry and pursuing other professions. Mentally I packed my bags daily. The fantasies provided brief oases in my desert, but ultimately they sucked me down into deeper depression. Indecision frustrated and complicated my state of mind. I became angry that the ministry forced me to say “No” to other options. Then Jesus’ words began to impress my thoughts, “Whosoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” (Matt. 16:25). I was trying to save my life. Leaving the ministry would be a cop-out and would cost me long-term blessings and character development. Therefore, I determined to stick with it and be faithful to the call. Even if it killed me, I would give myself to the ministry. It was a turning point. The distracting, conflicting desires faded. Contentment came, followed by genuine joy.
"In these days he went out to the mountain to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles;" (Luke 6:12-13)
Whether the church you pastor is a big, thriving church or it is a growing church with twenty members it is very important to have a great team of leaders. You may only have one other person on your team or maybe you have a hundred. However many you may have, it's important to make sure you have the right people on board and that you are all going in the same direction. Here are a few ways to choose the right people for your leadership team. Remember when you start out to build your leadership team to build a team that is based on Biblical principles and characteristics.
Note: The night before Jesus chose His twelve disciples, he continued in prayer all night. When is the last time you prayed all night before you made a decision?
Choosing the right leadership team members.
You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit. -Harry S. Truman[ read more...]
Motivating yourself to get going and gain momentum is one thing, but inspiring others is another. It starts with your own motivation and continues with strategies that speak to your people. Use the following ideas to give those around you an extra boost of motivation:
• Communicate with Clarity. Before you try to motivate others to act, be sure you know exactly what to ask for. Then communicate it as simply and clearly as you can. After all, people cannot do what they do not understand.
• Be Committed to a Purpose. The one common denominator of all great people in history is that they believed in what they were doing. They were dedicated and committed to their vision and purpose. People will always be persuaded more by the depth of your convictions than by the height of your logic. So, to motivate others, always show them your commitment.
• Give People Recognition. Few things motivate us better than praise. When you tell others that they are doing a great job, it makes them want to work even harder to continue earning your praise. We all have a desire to feel needed and important. For that reason, recognition can be the most dynamic of all motivating factors.
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As a youngster in the church I recall a phrase that my parents and grandparents used to say on occasion. The phrase was, "God's Word will not return void." I knew it was Scripture, but it was one of those that I hadn't read in a long, long time. Recently, while reading in the book of Isaiah, I came across this phrase again. It really hit me hard and spoke to me. I encourage you to read Isaiah the 55th chapter, I guarantee it will encourage and uplift you.
The verses that really hit me are;
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
It seems whenever I struggle or face a tough trial there are very few places I can find refuge and strength. Often a close friend or mentor can help. Sometimes it is my spouse or my kids. Just being around family is therapeutic to the soul. However, there is one thing that never fails me, and that is the Word of God. God's Word never ceases to amaze me. It truly is a book of life.
In this chapter, God said, "His Word will never to Him void." That simply means, It will never return empty handed or in vain. Most of us understand that everything in the Word of God is profitable. However, I draw your attention to the words, "goeth forth". The Word that doesn't return void is the Word that 'goeth forth'. The Word that is profitable is the Word that is 'spoken' out of our mouth.
God's Word doesn't help us if it stays on our bookshelves. God's Word doesn't accomplish what God wants it to if we don't speak it. I realize this article may be read by hundreds of preachers; however, I am not referring to preaching in this article. If the only spoken Word in our lives is the Word we preach, then we have miserably failed. Yes, we need to study, read, meditate, share and preach the Word. Yet, I am stating that we need to literally speak the Word out loud. We need to verbalize it over and over again. Not only from our pulpits, but over every situation in our own lives. If we can speak the Word to others, why can't we speak it unto ourselves? This is how our faith grows. This is how we make it through the fire.[ read more...]
1. Don’t live beyond your income.
2. Don’t be a stingy person.
3. Don’t preach your doubts.
4. Don’t preach so much against things but preach principles.
5. Don’t be tempted on any occasion not to preach your best.
6. Don’t be looking for a larger field or another call.
7. Don’t be a pessimist.
8. Don’t deal in off-color stories.
9. Don’t lose your temper in public.
10. Don’t overlook the Bible when looking for preaching texts.[ read more...]
Here’s a line you can use while waiting in line at the local gas station, but never at the local bank. Not too long ago while standing in line waiting to cash my check at my bank, a gentleman at the window next to me began to grow impatient with the banks teller. A bit angrily he asked her “What’s the holdup?” Needless to say, all the banks employees immediately looked alarmed and worried. They did not hear the entire question the man asked, all they heard was the word “holdup”. You can imagine why the bank’s employees became alarmed when the word holdup was used in this setting. Especially when used with a bit of anger.
What’s the holdup? What’s stopping your church from having revival? What’s keeping your ministry from fulfilling its vision? What obstacles stand in your way?
We oftentimes say we're waiting on God in certain situations. We say things like, “It will happen in God’s timing.” or “We’re just waiting on God.” In reality however, God is most often waiting on us. He is not a God who is late or tardy. He’s not so busy that He barely has enough time to get everything done that He needs to do in the course of a day. His calendar is not so full that He has to cancel appointments at the last minute or push your needs off to another day in order to meet somebody else’s needs.
He is all sufficient. He’s always on time. His resources never run out. He created time, so time is not a problem for Him. He created the heavens and the earth, so resources are never an issue for Him. His ways are above our ways. His understanding goes beyond human reason.
God is not the source of delay. It’s important for us to understand that at no point since His death on the cross has God delayed any good thing. He is not the reason your church is not having revival today. He is not the reason visitors do not attend your church. It is not His desire that any in your city, town, hamlet, village, neighborhood, or family should perish. It is His complete desire that they would come to the knowledge of full Truth. He wants them to join your church. His complete desire is that every man woman boy and girl in your city would be in church worshiping Him and hearing His Word this Sunday morning.
If God’s perfect will were performed this Sunday morning, there is no way possible that your church could contain the kind of growth that God would give it. The exponential explosion of growth that your church would experience if God’s will were accomplished, would blow the minds of every evangelist, visionary, and revivalist.[ read more...]
John Bunyan’s book The Holy War describes the capture and re-taking of Mansoul. The gates were taken advantage of by Diabolus and his armies because they were not guarded properly. When King Shaddai decided that he was going to gain control of it again, he chose to assault the gates also. The Eye Gate and the Ear Gate were the primary ways of going back into the city. So he determined that he would have his best men to attack the Ear Gate. It literally shook while these men assaulted it. While the allegory is best understood as preaching that is being used to reason with the Ear Gate, Bunyan does an excellent job in describing the ways that it falls back to the control of King Shaddai.
The first to assault the Ear Gate was Captain Boanerges and his first assistant, Mr. Thunder. The second man to assault the gate was Captain Conviction and his first assistant, Mr. Sorrow. The third man sent in is Captain Judgment and Mr. Terror. Obviously Bunyan is describing the most effective tones of evangelistic preaching. Although all of these techniques, authority, passion, conviction, godly sorrow, judgment, and a fear of the judgment awaiting every man, it appears that much of this kind of preaching has fallen by the wayside.
Captain Judgment and Mr. Terror (knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; 2 Cor. 5:11) are dressed in red uniforms with an insignia of a burning furnace. When he stepped up to speak immediately after Captain Conviction, his words rang out.
‘O ye, the inhabitants of the town of Mansoul, that have lived so long in rebellion and acts of treason against the King Shaddai, know that we come not today to this place, in this manner, with our message of our own minds, or to revenge our own quarrel; it is the King, my Master, that hath sent us to reduce you to your obedience to him; the which if you refuse in a peaceable way to yield, we have commission to compel you thereto. And never think of yourselves, nor yet suffer the tyrant Diabolus to persuade you to think, that our King, by his power, is not able to bring you down, and to lay you under his feet; for he is the former of all things, and if he touches the mountains, they smoke. Nor will the gate of the King’s clemency stand always open; for the day that shall burn like an oven is before him; yea, it hasteth greatly, it slumbereth not.[ read more...]
God gives leaders gifts and talents that fit the mission to which they were called. What raises men above their fellows is the degree to which they developed those gifts through devotion and discipline.
Discipline - Without this essential quality, all other gifts remain as dwarfs; they cannot grow. Before we can conquer the world, we must first conquer self.
Vision - Those who have most powerfully and permanently influenced their generation have been "seers" - people who ha e seen more and father than others - persons of faith, for faith is vision.
Wisdom - If knowledge is the accumulation of facts, and intelligence the development of reason, wisdom is heavenly discernment. It is insight into the heart of things. Wisdom involves knowing God and the subtleties of the human heart. More than knowledge, it is the right application of knowledge in moral and spiritual matters, in handling dilemmas, in negotiating complex relationships.
Decision - When all the facts are in, swift and clear decision is the mark of a true leader. A visionary may see, but a leader must decide. An impulsive person may be quick to declare a preference; but a leader must weigh evidence and make his decision on sound premises.[ read more...]