3 Deadly Reasons Why My Church Is Dying?
Today is Sunday, and while I am writing this blog, there have been several hundred congregations that have closed their doors in the past few weeks. Other churches are looking into their future, and it is not looking good. As this is taking place, many people are asking a disturbing question, “Why is my church dying?”
I have spent most of my life living in the deep south of the United States, and I have been in the thick of the “Bible Belt.” For those who may not know this term, the Bible Belt is that part of the Southeast of the United States saturated with churches of just about every size.
Merriam-Webster defines the “Bible Belt” as “an area chiefly in the southern United States whose inhabitants are believed to hold uncritical allegiance to the literal accuracy of the Bible; broadly: an area characterized by ardent religious fundamentalism.”
This definition is precise due to the variation of religious beliefs here in the south along with the diversity of churches. Just the differences of Baptist churches can support this statement. In the south you will find, Primitive Baptists, Independent Baptists, Freewill Baptist, Southern Baptists and Missionary Baptists just to name a few. Although we may hold conservative beliefs, there are also some strong differences of theology.
The diversity of congregations in the south is tremendous. So, why are so many different types of churches closing the doors of their fellowships?
Here are a few points to consider.
A Lack of Passion
After World War II many American men and women came back home to see if they could put life back together. The horrors of a massive World War and the expressed evil of Adolf Hitler pushed many young American men and women to seek out something of a deeper meaning in life. When they came back home they not only wanted to build their families and their first home, they also wanted to believe that evil could be conquered. Their passion for a spiritual life was high. Therefore, the churches of the United States begin to thrive and explode. Sunday School (Sunday Bible studies) begin to grow, and new congregations were started. The United States saw a surge in new church starts in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
There was a passion for seeing new congregations started. These new congregations were not only started for the war vets, but they were also created to provide a place for the “Baby Boom” that was taking place. The desire for new life and recovery was nurtured by those affected by World War II, and it was pouring over into the church.
That type of passion is not being seen in many congregations today.
A Lack of Financial Support
Many congregations today are finding that the system of ministry that they once were able to support has become difficult if not impossible to continue. In earlier decades the U.S. economy functioned in a progressive fashion and most congregations were also able to do the same.
The principle of “tithing” (giving 10 percent of one’s earned income) to support a church, was practiced by many church members. This type of support also poured over into many other social groups and organizations. This practice has become less and less part of most congregations. Therefore, the ability to maintain a full-time minister and take care of church-owned property has become a demand that some congregations are unable to fulfill.
A Lack of Trained Clergy
Congregations in the past 20 years have been finding it more and more difficult to find trained and equipped clergy. One of the biggest reasons for this is due to the problem above the lack of financial support.
For a church to find and keep a pastor for any extended period requires that the fellowship would be willing to invest their financial resources into the life of the one they are calling to lead them.
Pastor turnover is at an all-time high. The ability for a pastor to be called to a congregation and stay for any length of time can be gauged by a churches ability to help the pastor and his family live in an area. When the cost of living increases, the demands to send children to college arises, and the preparation for retirement is around the corner, this will affect any congregation in taking care of their pastoral leadership.
A need that many congregations do not address or even think about is the schooling and training of the people they call to lead them. It would be most beneficial if every church would invest as much in the people they call to lead them as they do in taking care of their property.
The ability to withstand the demands that are placed upon many pastors have been depleting. This is showing in an epidemic of how many clergy are dropping out and completely walking away from their calling.
Why is it necessary to invest in the leaders of our congregations? Francis A. Schaeffer answers this question by pointing out these facts.
- “Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
- Fifty percent of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
- Eighty percent of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastor.
- Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could but they have no other way of making a living.
- Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
- Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
- Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.”
- Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons (Francis A. Schaeffer, Institute of Church Leadership Development)
So, Why Is My Church Dying?
Some may think that my answers to this question are simplistic. However I do believe if these basic problems would be addressed there could be a turn-around for many congregations. I do believe that the Enemy (Satan and his forces) has a strategy in destroying the local church. I believe that the aim of evil forces is first to go after the leader of the congregation. This action is strategic and spiritual warfare that the forces of evil are using in overwhelming fashion. I do believe that this is one of the main reasons many churches are dying.
If the leaders being called into our fellowship are not being loved and cared for then how do we expect to be victorious in or Kingdom’s work. Our Opponent is not stupid. In fact, I find it interesting that during the month of October, which has been set aside as “Pastor Appreciation” Month that more churches will invest more in their “Fall Festivals” than in the lives of those who have been called to lead them. Think about that!
1. Seek out and kindle the passion of God for your fellowship!
2. Financially support this passion!
As you bring on a leader to help in the process of growing your fellowship, love him and his family to such a point that they never want to leave. If you already have a great leader, let him know about your passion and willingness to support him.
I promise you that God will breathe life into your fellowship when we are faithful to his Kingdom and supportive of those who He has called to lead.
The Apostle Paul put it this way, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 ESV
NOTE: At present I am serving as Senior Pastor of Poplar Springs Baptist Church in Moore, SC. However, this article was written when I was the Director of Missions for the Moriah Baptist Association in Lancaster, SC, where I was able to work with some really great pastors. It was a privilege to work with over 50 congregations from 2006-2013. Being the son, grandson, son-in-law, brother and brother-in-law of pastors has also given me a strong appreciation for pastors. If this article sounds self-serving, so be it! However, the intention of this article being posted is for the many great men of God who are not speaking-up for themselves.