Friends at christianity.com have posted my, “When You Sense Your Church is Dying.” Here is an excerpt:
One of the most wonderful experiences believers can share is being part of a strong, growing church. What a joy it is to share in a congregation that has unity, love, holiness, a sense of the Spirit in worship, Christ-centered preaching, God-fearing leaders, members of all age groups and ministries towards all members, and a passion for reaching the lost. In contrast, it is burdensome to be part of a dying congregation: Worship is mundane, large age group segments are absent, there is strife among members and coldness toward visitors, and there is no purposeful preaching of the gospel to the lost or the baptized.
Having been part of both thriving and dying churches, I have witnessed believers make choices that have either blessed or harmed the recovery of their congregations. Here are some humble suggestions on how to live godly when you are facing a dying church.
My true concern is that we do not think long and hard about the Gospel when church becomes uncomfortable to us. Instead, we simply look for greener grass, not thinking about the possible ways the Lord can use us to be part of his work to sanctify his Bride, which includes one’s own, individual sanctification.
Recently I spoke with three young adult believers between 25 and 35 years of age, each from different congregations, about staying in their churches of aging membership(s) and/or mediocre preaching and/or traditional corporate worship style(s). I appealed to them to consider the growth in their lives that could come from learning to endure and serve in imperfect settings. I attempted to explain that the substance of worship music is more important than the style, and that much could be learned from less contemporary styles. I spoke with urgency about the need to see the value of continuing in one place for a long time in order to see disciples formed and in order to maintain relationships saturated in the love of Christ. I wished for them to gather with other members in their churches to pray for the hearts of their older congregants, pastors, and leaders to be open to changes that would glorify the Lord and bring signs of life and health back into the church — and that for the sake of the local and international mission fields each of their churches could reach.
I think of the three that one heart was won to stay. One-third is not a bad bating average. However, I wish more saints would learn to remain in tough situations, pursuing the glory of God through prayer, meekness, and faithfulness. I am not suggesting that anyone accept false doctrine, ongoing infighting, or sub-Gospel lifestyles. Yet I am saying that where churches are seeking to honor the Lord but have lost their way slightly, it is better not to abandon such assemblies.
I am grateful for the ministry of christianity.com. I was glad to meet some of the faithful staff at TGC13.