Nine out of ten churches in America are either declining, or they are growing so slowly they are not keeping up with the growth rate of the community in which they are located.
It’s a long sentence. Read it again carefully. Soak it in.
Across America 90 percent of the churches are losing ground in their respective communities. Most of them are declining. Many of them will close.
As I have worked with thousands of churches over the past three decades, I have noticed something fascinating, yet disturbing, about many of these churches.
They are still acting like it’s the 1980s. The world has passed them by. They are deemed irrelevant by members of their communities. They are frozen in a time warp.
Why has this tragedy fallen on so many churches?
Though I don’t want to oversimplify the issue, I see at least eight reasons for this crisis.
1. They are trying to shelter themselves from culture.
In the 1980s, congregations were typically part of the mainstream culture. They were accepted in most places, and embraced in some. That is not the culture of today. Many church members use their churches as a getaway from the realities they don’t want to face.
2. Programs were easy answers.
The vast majority of churches in the 1980s were program-driven. If there was a perceived need, they would order a resource that best solved that need. Many churches today still think they can get quick fixes from programs.
We thus created a culture of membership that is me-driven. Many church members do not want to make the sacrifices necessary to reach our communities and culture today. They are demanding their own needs and preferences to be the priority of their churches.
4. Change was more incremental.
If your church is stuck in the 1980s, it does not have to worry about the rapid pace of change today. Members can pretend like their church does not need to change despite the massive upheavals of change in the world.
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Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.