Urgent Church: Nine Changes We Must Make Or Die

March 27, 2017

It broke my heart.

Another church closed. This church had unbelievable potential. Indeed, it had its own “glory days,” but only for a season. But, 10 years ago, few would have predicted this church’s closure. Today, it is but another statistic in the ecclesiastical graveyard.

I know. We don’t compromise doctrine. I know. We must never say we will change God’s Word.

But many of our congregations must change. They must change or they will die.

I call these churches “the urgent church.” Time is of the essence. If changes do not happen soon, very soon, these churches will die. The pace of congregational death is accelerating.

What, then, are some of the key changes churches must make? Allow me to give you a fair warning. None of them are easy. Indeed, they are only possible in God’s power. Here are nine of them:

  1. We must stop bemoaning the death of cultural Christianity. Such whining does us no good. Easy growth is simply not a reality for many churches. People no longer come to a church because they believe they must do so to be culturally accepted. The next time a church member says, “They know where we are; they can come here if they want to,” rebuke him. Great Commission Christianity is about going; it’s not “y’all come.”
  2. We must cease seeing the church as a place of comfort and stability in the midst of rapid change. Certainly, God’s truth is unchanging. So we do find comfort and stability in that reality. But don’t look to your church not to change methods, approaches, and human-made traditions. Indeed, we must learn to be uncomfortable in the world if we are to make a difference. “We’ve never done it that way before,” is a death declaration.
  3. We must abandon the entitlement mentality. Your church is not a country club where you pay dues to get your perks and privileges. It is a gospel outpost where you are to put yourself last. Don’t seek to get your way with the music, temperature, and length of sermons. Here is a simple guideline: Be willing to die for the sake of the gospel. That’s the opposite of the entitlement mentality.
  4. We must start doing.  Most of us like the idea of evangelism more than we like doing evangelism. Try a simple prayer and ask God to give you gospel opportunities. You may be surprised how He will use you.
  5. We must stop using biblical words in unbiblical ways. “Discipleship” does not mean caretaking. “Fellowship” does not mean entertainment.
  6. We must stop focusing on minors. Satan must delight when a church spends six months wrangling over a bylaw change. That’s six months of gospel negligence.
  7. We must stop shooting our own. This tragedy is related to the entitlement mentality. If we don’t get our way, we will go after the pastor, the staff member, or the church member who has a different perspective than our own. We will even go after their families. Don’t let bullies and perpetual critics control the church. Don’t shoot our own. It’s not friendly fire.
  8. We must stop wasting time in unproductive meetings, committees, and business sessions. Wouldn’t it be nice if every church member could only ask one question or make one comment in a meeting for every time he or she has shared his or her faith the past week?
  9. We must become houses of prayer. Stated simply, we are doing too much in our own power. We are really busy, but we are not doing the business of God.

Around 200 churches will close this week, maybe more. The pace will accelerate unless our congregations make some dramatic changes. The need is urgent.

Hear me well, church leaders and church members. For many of your churches the choice is simple: change or die.

Time is running out. Please, for the sake of the gospel, forsake yourself and make the changes in God’s power.

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172 Comments

  • Paul Johnson says on

    Thom,
    Powerful “wake-up call!” Hope many Pastors and Lay-leaders are listening and praying and moving to address the facts you poiniently
    present.
    Serving the Church for 55 years in New England. Seeing some positive
    works even with the darkness.

  • I am very interested in knowing the source and data accountability of the number of 200+ churches closing weekly you cited. Please send any resources that will help to define and establish this quote of yours. Thank You!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      William –

      Between 17 and 20 churches are closing a week in my denomination. My denomination represents about 11% of all churches in North America, thus the 200 number is extrapolated for the total of all churches.

      • Jason Nichols says on

        While I don’t doubt that your numbers are close, some denominations are faring better than others. It is hard for some people to get a grip on the numbers involved. They forget we are a nation of 300+ million people. 200 churches a week is a believable figure, given what is happening.

      • That’s true, Jason. And many denomination are faring much worse.

  • Great posts as usual Dr.
    I have a question.what must I do when leaders refuse change?
    Thanks.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Edward –

      At the risk of self promotion, I recommend my book, Who Moved My Pulpit?, as a resource for you.

  • Craig Giddens says on

    10. Have a Bible centered preaching and teaching ministry
    “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

    • Tim Aagard says on

      In the beginning of this chapter Paul tells Timothy that his “teaching” is to be reproductive, “entrusted” to other “faithful men” who will be teaching “others also”, and more reproduction after that. When “preaching and teaching” is forced into the form of one man lecturing the Bible for the whole time, no one is entrusted to “teach others”. After a man has lectured the Bible for 20 years and leaves, another must be hired to do everything he did because nothing was “entrusted” to the “faithful men” in the fellowship. It was perpetual dependency teaching. That is the result in 300,000 churches from coast to coast in every denomination. When you leave out reproduction of the preaching and teaching ministry to business men, it ceases to be “Bible centered”. Accurate Bible information is not what the Bible is about. Do you think it’s possible to preach and teach so that businessmen can join you in that ministry?

      • You have a woefully simplistic understanding of the role of pastors in American churches.

        “Accurate Bible information is not what the Bible is about.”

        Say WHAT???

      • Tim Aagard says on

        Ken – I’m not attempting to address every element of the pastoral role. I am responding to the current practice of “Biblical preaching and teaching” mentioned by Craig. Everything that God made living will reproduce. His word is living and must be reproduced fully so God’s people become teachers also. Luke 6:40; 2 Tim. 2:1,2 When hired Bible lecturers expect to lecture God’s people every week of their life with zero intention that his teaching be “entrusted” for others to do, then there is no reproduction. The people are perpetually dependent on one hired man their whole life. Dependency oriented “teaching” is merely delivering information. There is not even any interest in knowing whether there is any retention of what is lectured. As I read what pastors write, there is little to no expectation that believers remember what they say from one Sunday to the next. This current form of “teaching” from a pulpit is the lowest version of teaching in the whole world. Nobody is expected to “graduate”. Everyone is expected to need a weekly lecture dose of the Bible from a hired man every week till they die. This is severe corruption of the full re-productivity God designed into his church. Paul spent 3 years in Ephesus. When he left he had a full crew of businessmen elders who could do everything he had done. Acts 20.

      • Gus Nelson says on

        Tim: I am a seminarian who works a full time job, teaches part time, and preaches at a local retirement home every Sunday. I came to seminary understanding my role would be to work with smaller congregations while continuing to work full time to support my family I don’t say this to be self-congratulatory nor do I say it because I agree with you. There is a role for pastors who devote themselves full time to the gospel ministry and there is a role for guys like me. It’s not an either/or but a both/and situation. Moreover, my experience is not that pastors don’t expect people to remember things from week to week; rather, pastors recognize people won’t be disciplined because they’re fallen creatures in a fallen world. Even going to church each week and hearing a sermon is a form of discipline. More, the pastors whom I’ve observed have always sought to bring other men under them in order provide opportunities for them to preach and teach with the ultimate goal of sending them out to spread the gospel. Maybe my experience is different than yours. Probably the reason you are getting so much blow back from people is because you are making blanket statements as if what you describe is the entirety of Christianity in the United States. I’ve heard too much really sound theology and doctrine preached and taught by really good men who are full time pastors to succumb to your view. The middle road here works without necessarily compromising anything.

      • Tim Aagard says on

        Gus – I commend you for your courage to step outside the entitlement of “full time ministry” as meaning never working in the marketplace. I work in the marketplace and it’s ALL ministry. It’s often a dirty job but it’s ALL “serving Christ”. Col. 2:23; 1 Cor. 15:58. The “higher calling” orientation is a gross corruption of God’s design for ministry. If there was just one NT example of a man who never worked in the marketplace, delivering weekly Bible lectures to believers who have already heard 1000+, wearing a special title, etc, I would have nothing to say. If there was just one instruction for men to do this, I could say nothing. What I have found are scriptures twisted to mean this. Example: ” In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” 1 Cor. 9:14
        1. It is assumed that Jesus means and Paul means “proclaim the gospel” means lecture the Bible to believers every week for 30-45 minutes in perpetual dependency.
        2. You must assume that “get their living from the gospel” represents what the Greek actually says. It does not state this. The translation is stretched to mean this. Young’s Literal gets much closer. “of the good news to live.” There can be no question that speaking the gospel and living the gospel that is in sync is a command Jesus would make. To suggest Jesus would command certain people to “devote” their lives to speaking the gospel and never work in the marketplace, not have it recorded as being said by Jesus in the gospels, and have it only recorded in one text outside the gospels is a corruption of exegesis that requires multiple corroborating texts to teach a concept. It just so happens when we assume the current form of church practice into this text, providing a weekly Bible lecture to American believers in the last 100 years is the most highly funded ministry in the history of the church covering 2000 years. Getting the gospel to those who have no one to tell them gets a tiny fraction if you follow the money in normal church budgeting.
        3. You must ignore the context of the chapter where Paul is confronting the Corinthian believers rejection of his example and teaching to them on always combing marketplace work and spiritual leadership. It starts in Acts 18:1 as Paul enters Corinth. The first half of 1 Cor 9 is Paul putting on the table every element of Corinthian logic the saints were using to fault Paul for not taking their money. He asks 16 questions. None of them are easy answers, but Bible experts say they are rhetorical questions. They want what the Corinthian church preferred, not what Paul practiced and taught to “imitate”. The second half of the chapter Paul declares his reasons for what he did, going to the end of the chapter. I found Bible expert commentaries ignoring the last part of the chapter as having no connection to the first or the middle, even though the simple grammar connects them all.
        I understand why you think the way you do. No “full time pastor” you have ever heard or read can look at the text without justifying his salary and calling from the text. I know you know they are not perfect. Here is one of their imperfections you need to “test” and “re-examine”. I mean go directly to the text. I did just that and found Bible experts dropping their finely tuned rules of exegesis in many ways.
        God’s grace is big and can accomplish some of what he wants in spite of our sin, but grace is never a reason to pander to sin and corruption. I have heard a lot of sound theology also, but I have seen a lot of corrupted function and leadership practice at the same time. Very nice, friendly, institutionally skilled men can practice gross arrogance. Not simply because they are fallen, but because the system calls for them to do it. They think it’s godly. Arrogance is systematized into corporation oriented church. The steps you are taking demonstrate a fresh humility and mutuality. Keep learning and keep testing what you have been told. Churches have died. Many more are dying. Many more are stagnant. 99% of the rest are consuming 84% of their giving to buy services to benefit mostly those who are “giving”. That’s pooling, not giving. That’s entitlement embedded in the system. The NT teaches a clear path to devote 100% of the giving to go beyond the givers. It comes in following Paul’s example.

  • My wife and I attended the Orange Conference in Atlanta a few years ago. She attended a session led by a Disney Executive who is also a Christian. He said in their meetings at Disney there is a rule that basically states, “You cannot say that an idea is bad or won’t work unless you have a better option to replace it.” Our Churches would fare much better in this generation and culture if we were more positive, than negative. Thanks again for a great post! We’re trying to pay much more attention to #9 as we see it as essential; the others will take strong, corrective Biblical Teaching. Blessings from Newfoundland, Canada where we are still buried in snow!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Great thoughts, Greg. And enjoy the snow. I want to tell you that I spent the past week in Florida.

      • Another 18 inches forecasted between now and Saturday … but we’re headed to Orlando for two weeks on April 25, there’s always something better on the other side, right?! Enjoy your posts!!! Thanks for being real, wise, and encouraging!

  • Steve Lytle says on

    Thank you. Deeply challenging.

  • I would certainly agree with them all. However I would add one more, and that would be to stop telling everyone its all free, when Jesus actually said “count the cost!” We have confused the line that exists between what He has done for us, and what we are personally called to do in return. We have left the impression in a welfare world that all that God offers is free, when in reality that is only true in what has been made available to us in the cross, should we qualify through genuine repentance to receive it. The truth is that the one who offers up nothing, receives nothing, something that has been lost in communicating the Gospel. We need to start emphasizing that unless you take up your cross, forsake all you have, deny yourself daily, you cannot follow Christ!

    • Bob Myers says on

      Joel,
      You are spot on. Instead of whining (#1), we need a rigorous theology of conversion that is more than saying a prayer so we’ll go to heaven when we die. It is about following and obeying Jesus, otherwise our faith isn’t real and it isn’t saving. At least that’s how I read James and the Gospels.

      Thom,
      I read your blog daily and listen to the podcasts if I have time and the topic is compelling to me. Great stuff, and I keep recommending this site. But THIS POST is one of the best ever. Clear, compelling, urgent…I’d even call it prophetic.

      Thanks much! Keep being faithful to this task that God has called you.

      • Craig Giddens says on

        Understood that getting someone to just say a prayer does not equate to salvation, but the Bible is perfectly clear that salvation is offered as a gift to those who believe.

        “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:12-14)

        “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

      • Thom Rainer says on

        Bob –

        Your words are incredibly encouraging. Thank you.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Your last sentence is gold, Joel.

  • MILDRED SIMMONS says on

    THANK YOU WE ARE DIE THERE IS ONLY HAND FULL OF PEOPLE IN CHURCH WHAT THE MATTER WITH US?

  • Ray Tilstra says on

    Have been a pastor for 42 years, and now am a regional leader in the church. Your thoughts are spot on. Will require a transformation of persons and churches. We have our work cut out for us. Let’s do it.

  • We must stop running off the next generation. By criticizing them for having some doubts or because they don’t want to do the things the way they were done in the 1970s, they get the feeling that they just aren’t wanted unless they conform to what people want, not to what Jesus taught. There is also the feeling that they get of being an “undesirable” when they aren’t married, have no children, are female, or are anything other than the traditional 1950s family.

    • Yes, I work with single and young adults and all of what you have said is true.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Well said, Mark and Kate.

    • Daughter of the King says on

      Thank you, Mark, for talking about the church’s “undesirables”. I hope ypu keep bringing up this issue, because for the church to continue to reject these people will doom the church. God will not tolerate it. Statistic: Percent of U.S. children raised by single parents (80% mom), 1 in 4 children are being raised without a father (78%). During the 1960-2016 period, the percentage of children living with only their mother nearly tripled from 8 to 23 percent and the percentage of children living with only their father increased from 1 to 4 percent. The percentage of children not living with any parent increased slightly from 3 to 4 percent. 70% of single moms do not attend church. To address Joel’s comment below regarding “you have to pay to play” mentality in the church. Where has the church been for the last 65 years?! If the church actually understood who Christ was/is and followed his commands we wouldn’t be living in a welfare state. The church has rebuked and ignored these so-called undesirables. Yet, Jesus embraced them! The church really needs MEN to preach/teach/walk alongside young men who have been being raised without fathers for generations! These young men are being raised by women who cannot, by themselves, slave at two full time jobs just to barely pay the bills, and are solely responsible for the raising of the children! And when she has a break-down, gets sick, or has an unexpected expense…where should they go if not the Church? You demand they give you money to pay for luxury and forsake Gods command to take care of your family first? Knowing the character of Christ, WWJD? Where are the fathers?! Women cannot teach a boy how to be a man! Instead, boys grow into slacking, jobless, self-centered, effeminate, irresponsible, ME ME ME, babymaking “adults” who live at home with mom or jail or addiction…wearing Jordans while their children go hungry…but wait, what about the father who makes $200,000 a year and still refuses to pay support and abandons his children? This is 75 years in the making…girls? Well, they are learning to do what their moms do to survive living in poverty and are also without their fathers love. People do what they learned. Its a cycle. So Very Sad. So, please, become informed. Seek solutions. One must ask themself, who is your God? Money? If the church made these people a priority to minister to and yes, help (career counseling, college, budgeting, car repairs, goalsetting, free haircuts, clothing, *love compassion friendship mentorship. We can turn our culture around into a properous Christ following country again where the children of the future have both parents by ministering to them instead of turning our backs on them. Maybe using “God’s” money to install a coffee bar really is Not profitable…How can it profit a man/church to die rich with a lot of things yet lose his soul? God is judging us now…if we dont turn back to Him and follow Him as a whole church body, we will become extinct. Where is the Acts 2 church? Gods blessings poured over the Acts 2 church! Thanks, Thom

      • Daughter of the King: how disappointing to see such a stereotypic barrage of statistical verbiage without anything to support or back it up it except your opinion. What were you thinking???!

      • Daughter says on

        Statistics come via the Census Bureau. The rest by first hand knowledge as a single mom (only single mom) with long term membership in one church, who was raised by a single mom, who works two jobs, who has lived in the far upper mid class and in poverty, who has worked with and lived life with poverty stricken women and children single and married. Call it life experience and personal knowlegde. To deny the judgmental attitude and exclusion by some people in the church toward single moms and other undesirables extremely hypocritical and does in FACT keep them out of church! Personally, God has called me to minister to these families. This does require me to attempt to spotlight this terrible problem. Your response is sad and uninformed. My mission as given to us by Christ: To live eternally with God and to bring as many people with me as I can. I pray that you too may live out the mission got has given you. I am certain your response wasn’t it. You didnt offer anything but rebuke.

      • Scrolling through this, I came upon this set of threads. D of King made a statement containing stats and concerns. Jane then comes on board and replies with snarky criticism. I feel like I just witnessed one of the many reasons why your churches are closing down. Maybe I just witnessed why young people want nothing to do with Christianity. Humans injecting personal drama, prejudices, and politics geared towards personnel gain into the institution’s very principles.
        As an outsider who is not a Christian, an observation worth highlighting is that ego, vanity, and arrogance has replaced some of the simplest values God set forth. I’m struggling to learn where Jesus taught that “He who has the best Gotcha statement wins the argument”. Coming from a professional Human Services/Social Work background, D of King, is not far off the mark. As always, not a critique-just an observation.

      • Those are great words of wisdom!!

    • Agreed says this single 50 year old female.

    • No I think there is a growing sector of Millennials who do in fact desire a 1950s type of family structure, but see not much hope for it in this degenerate culture enabled by Baby Boomer permissiveness. Being single is not as much of a conscious choice anymore. It takes a lot more work to make relationships work these days, much less marriages.

  • Thank you! Great Article!

  • Danielle Krivda says on

    Powerfully said. A sad, sad reality.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Yes, but God is working in great ways in many of our churches. Thank you.

      • Scott Pretorius says on

        Observations from the outside looking in.
        Churches are dying all over this country at an alarming rate, this we know. I often hear the question as to why. With friends from all over the Christian spectrum answering the question always goes back to some of the items on your list. I decided to think on this for a while and came up with some interesting observations. I like humor and use it often as I will apply it here. I spent most of my youth in Europe, mostly Germany where I graduated. I was a typical military brat travelled a lot. We always managed to live on the economy calling small farm villages home. In reading this article, I was drawn to my memories of these villages. In any town you visit in Germany (as in most Western European Countries) you will only see two church steeples. Obviously in larger cities there will be more, but say a town the size of Wabash Indiana, there will be only two. A Catholic church and a Protestant church. Now this is modern Europe mind you. The Churches were huge and spacious and used everyday of the week. I remember always enjoying the sound of the mens choir in the distance as they practiced. You would always see the priests bee bopping around town on foot or on a bicycle. I will assume that nothing has changed for hundreds of years. With this memory or observation I find myself comparing what I see in my own community. I live in Wabash Indiana. It’s a medium sized town that fit’s the mold of what most would consider quaint Americana. Without jumping up and getting the phone book, I’ll estimate that we have at least twenty churches inside a ten mile radius. One Catholic church and the rest. The one on my street closed it’s doors two years ago and is now been converted into apartments. The huge stone church on the corner down the street has been abandoned for at least five years. Churches are closing down in this county left and right. As an outside observer, what I’m seeing and hearing maybe only touches on one or two of your list of nine. People simply don’t care about church anymore, save the Catholics and I don’t know how they manage it. We know that this generation and the one before it have been hard on this country with what seems like a declaration of war on christian values. I observe something deeper than that as to why churches are closing doors. Simply put, there are too many. Being an outsider, I couldn’t tell you how many denominations there are. There are even sub denominations of one denomination. While not having a degree in Theology nor even being Christian, I can say from simple observation, The Catholics have done something right to be so successful. As it pertains to all things other than Catholic, I’m completely confused. It’s like going to a bistro and the menu is six pages long and in a different language. I’ll wind up with a BigMac and a coke. Now think of that person who desires God in their life. He or she walks into the various makes and models noticing no more than fifteen people in the service on Sunday. What’s enticing about this. What’s drawing me in to one church or the other. Without jumping to deep into the weeds, why are there so many denominations and splinter groups who coincidentally all read from the same book and practice the same principles. Now insert my memory of Europe. Now before you start singing the Star Spangled Banner, I get it. A couple hundred years ago people came here for the freedom of religion thing. Has anyone every stopped to think that maybe Christianity has been over-freedom’d or Freedom’d to death? So we can say that one observation from the outside looking in is that aside from the Catholics, there are too many denominations and way too many churches. Another observation that has been made is the human factor itself. I’m told God’s word is pure and Jesus’s word is pure. I respect this and I respect the institution. Why does it take people to continuously foul this up. (back to the plethora of denominations) You can’t keep people in the church. You can’t recruit people from the outside. Why. From an outsider like me and others this is what we see. Infighting within the corporation. Yes I said corporation. It all boils down to money. It shouldn’t, but it does. how long can fifteen parishioners keep the doors open in twenty different churches in one community? How many parishioners can keep the lights on in say three churches in the same community? Another observation pertaining to the human factor is attitude. You kinda touched on it above but it goes deeper than that. Attitude. False motivation is hard to mask. Terrible attitudes are easy to spot. Most of all, hypocrites make everyone want to leave the church. Keep it real is what I’m trying to say. My favorite priest has always been portrayed on film or TV was that crusty old catholic priest sitting at the end of the bar in a pub touching on a glass of whiskey. Everyone gasp now. The priest I just described is also based off a Chaplain i met in real life on the battlefield in Afghanistan. He was just as dirty as we were and had a flask. Whether you believed in God or not, he was going to look after you. I loved that guy. An unfortunate truth based on how many outsiders view Christians is that most are weird or creepy. This is the age of social media and technology. Our kids are extremely smart and are capable of making there own observations at an early age. Being a parent and housing not only my kids but half the neighborhood i hear what they think. Utilize some humor here. When discussing the topic we hear things like: It’s fake or not real (History channel, Smithsonian Channel, Discovery Channel) you get the point. “you mean they have to wear dresses and not cut their hair? But the men can do whatever” “Who are the two sex offender looking guys walking around wearing the suits with the name tags?” “when did jesus say were not allowed to eat meat?” “I can read, if I wan’t to know about god, I’ll get a bible.” You get the point on that. Some of it gets pretty raunchy and disrespectful and I’ll spare you. From the voices of teenagers, there is nothing enticing about going to church. Here comes the argument for bad parenting. It’s not that easy. Another observation is Action vs no action. Reaching back to my memories of Europe, the clergy was active in the community. Now you say to yourself “hey, we collect canned goods for the food bank.” No, I mean action. How many of your churches manage orphans and the mentally ill? How many churches actually manage the homeless? (once again, I gotta tip my hat to the Catholics on this stuff) I see too often clergy attempting to “help” the community with quickies to check the box on the things to do list. Not going into a full history lesson, I’ll leave it at this. The Church maintained the entire community providing for all of those who could not provide for themselves. Token donations to the food bank would not and does not cut it. Be the food bank. Be the center of hope and salvation. Be the hand up. Be they who will clothe the naked. Action will draw a crowd. Ego, Arrogance, and Vanity will shut your doors faster than anything. Be the priest who will sit under a bridge with a homeless man with a drug addiction. I will toss out one more observation. Image. Labels become labels for a reason. Talking to young people about Christianity always leads to image and labels. Christian rock, Christian rap, Christian music as a whole. It’s got to have Christian in the label. Online Christian Singles dating site. Christian Sports Club, Christian Cruises. You get the idea. Whenever religious organizations sit down at conference to figure out how to reach the youth, a new “Christian” label or event is born. Your Going to get a few, as a whole, mainstream youth are not going anywhere near this label. I have so much more. Non of what I have said is meant as a critique. I consider myself as an observer. I’ve travelled and lived all over the world and retain most of what I experience. I am saddened by the closing of all the churches. As I said earlier, I respect the institution. Someday faith in something or another may claim me. People in positions of power within the realm of Christianity will continue try and understand whats happening to the institution they believe so much in. How long will the conversations stay internal? I am providing a tiny litmus of what a non Christian sees. I see how success occurs elsewhere.

      • scott pretorius says on

        forgive my spelling and grammar. It was late and I was on the move.

      • Scott, thank you for sharing. I live a town over and have lived in 7
        US states. Your comments added to the above are sadly true. I pray that I lead and am being an agent of Hope, the feet and hands of Christ. Would it be ok for me to share what you wrote? For someone on the outside you have a good grasp. Thank you for encouraging on of those inside to do and be real.

      • scott pretorius says on

        Please feel free to share what I wrote ( as long as you edit it for mistakes.) As I said below, I was dead tired when I banged out the thought. Coincidentally, my son has been invited to spend the week at a Christian camp in Florida. Reading the packet about the camp, I noticed some of the rules and requirements. The camp rules stated that no tattoo’s or piercings were allowed at the retreat. Granted my 15 YO son has neither, yet. What about the young people who do? Once again, serving as an outsider looking in, I ask this question. Are we who are on the outside, maybe desiring to have God in our lives, to assume that God only accepts people who have no tattoos or piercings?

      • Very well said, Scott. I am a pastor in Macungie, PA. I have been looking at our church and trying to go where God leads. I came across these 9 thoughts of Rainer and thought I could learn from them. I have learned from then, but then I read your post and realized I just learned a ton more. What you said is something I have been wondering. Having been a believer in Jesus Christ for a long time now I do not have that “outside” perspective. I really appreciate your input and outlook on this. I have gained better understanding and what you said confirms some of the feelings I’ve been having about where God is leading us as a church. I have been talking with others and have heard from others who do not consider themselves Christian, but none have been as articulate or thorough as you. I appreciate your honesty and authenticity. Wish we could get together and chat. Would love to learn more about you. I hope other church leaders will hear you and those like you. God bless you, Scott.

      • scott pretorius says on

        I appreciate your kind words. The post I wrote was, in my opinion, terrible after re-reading it. I was dead tired and should have proofread it. I also tried to shove ten pounds of thought into a five pound bag. A concept I hear from many friends who thrive in on the word of God as pertains to the topic is: Where is God going to lead this church/congregation? Not being Christian, I ask simple questions. God is all around you. I hope the human aspect of this improves.

      • Timothy Palla says on

        Scott, Thanks for your insight. It blessed me to read it. I pastor a small church in rural southern Ohio and see churches failing all around the area. I hear people complain about the problem, but few can articulate “why” they feel the way they do (discouraged, angry, confused). They know things aren’t right, but quite often, don’t know what “right” is supposed to look like. You have done a excellent job of communicating truth. May your words help others to understand an outsider’s point of view so that something may be done to correct the situation before any more communities become churchless.

      • Craig Reynolds says on

        This was so well said. Thank you for your thoughts and as I read, my mind wondered to things I would add. I hurt so much for the lost and churches spend most times minoring in this area. Thanks for sharing your heart.

      • The Churches are growing in Greer, SC. There are at least five Churches within walking distance of my house. A Calvary Chapel moved out of a little old building into a new larger sized property and a Summit Church moved into this before mentioned little run down old Church building. I assumed no church would ever use that spot again. This is not even a major hub of the town.

        I do hear some locals (mostly Bob Jones people) complaining about the Church numbers are stagnant in their Churches, but they must be in the wrong congregations for that.

      • Yes there are new startup churches in Greer, SC. My hope and prayer is that they are full gospel and not entertainment feel good based.

      • Thom, I believe in my heart that great revival is coming. What we will see is a further seperation between those going to church and those being the church. The Christians being the church are having to learn all over again, as leaders we have failed, telling others to go and do is not enough. Going and doing with them is what discipleship is, its hard, messy and requires a lot of soul and time. It does not look like a three step process. I am thankful for your willingness to say what is not popular, to try to lead us back to our original calling as Christians. I am also thankful in your replies that you point out there is Hope and those working toward being healthy and offering that Hope and health that comes from above.. presented in many flavors , but bottled at the source. Too bad we could not just bring direct from the source… but that is another topic for another day. Instead of muking around and complaining, myself included, working harder at be thankful for the tools and vehicle to accomplish the Great Commision. Posting from my phone, hope this reply is clearer than mud.

      • A church dies Spiritually first. While those fathers are turning over in their graves, the stench from Lazarus tomb rises. Will Christ intervene while non- repentant hearts sit in silence? Or will they recall the Glori(eta) days and flee.

    • Tim Aagard says on

      I don’t think this list is all that powerful. Nothing here touches the core of church practice. I’ll take point 3 and go to the core. ”
      3. We must abandon the entitlement mentality. Your church is not a country club where you pay dues to get your perks and privileges.”
      The current form of church is set to demand that the believers consume 84% of their giving (Leadership Journals article on normal church budgeting). The two dominant pieces of that 84% are hiring staff and maintaining a facility for a crowd to be in one room. The core “entitlement” is that every believer needs a professionally prepared Bible lecture every week of their life. “Preach the word, in season and out…” has been forced into a strict mold of one man lecturing for the whole time. The Bible says no such thing. You cannot exposit this form out of “kerysso”. It is assumed into the word by the power of tradition – every Bible expert wants a pay check from his “ministry”. That’s the clergy “perk and privilege”. The saints get a spectator “perk and privilege”. Everyone likes their entitlement in this arrangement. Jesus gave us an axiom of the heart – “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. It should be no surprise both clergy and laity are self-absorbed with this entitlement. You think God “called” you to this entitlement. “Be willing to die for the sake of the gospel.” Pastors aren’t even willing to work in the marketplace for the sake of the gospel, so 100% of believers giving can go to send the gospel to those who have never heard it once. (Rom. 10:13-15) Only 16% of their giving can fund this “sake of the gospel”. Every believer is designed to “proclaim” the gospel if you believe in the priesthood of the believer. 1 Peter 2:9. They should practice a little every week. If you want to “equip” them to proclaim, you must get out of the way. I’m not saying anything here to be rude. I’m just delivering the word, free of charge. You are welcome to interact. I know there are many texts that are warped in their use to justify this entitlement, and you think they are straight. Perhaps you thinks it’s a waste of time to look at the Word from outside your bubble of tradition. I’m a student of the word, just like you but have no intention of lecturing it. I know how hard it is to “test everything” and only “hold on” to that which is “good”. You can see the “sad, sad reality”. Join me in “testing” the core “entitlement”.

      • William Sebastian says on

        Amen, Tim! The typical twenty-first century western “visible” church has evolved into something Paul nor our Lord ever intended. The effects of the necessary changes would be so great, and affect so many sacred entrenchments, that few would survive the shock if they made the changes. So the death of most is inevitable. But that may not be a bad thing because true worshippers will re-form into smaller congregations more in line with the early church, the church we see in Scripture. We can take comfort knowing that the church of Jesus will not fail.

      • Iron Head says on

        We need to stop sounding like the Archbishop of Canterbury when we speak to the younger generations… they have a hard enough time with today’s language and don’t have a clue what you’re saying in the King’s english.

      • Teri Sheddy says on

        I agree, Bill. The “body of Christ” was not meant to worship on that mountain or in that building, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in Spirit and in Truth.” John 4:24 I’m not saying we can’t worship in a building, but so, so many are built on the ideas of this or that denomination that rarely cross the boundaries into the world around them. Because I live in a rural area, I see good men and women from seminaries that use these small congregations as stepping stones to attain a better job with a larger congregation, better benefits where they can better care for their families. Nothing wrong with that, and there are, of course, those who give their all to do what the Lord has called them to do. They are there to answer HIS call. But most of these small congregations know that their new minister is driving in on Sunday for services and will be gone when they graduate or are “called” to a larger congregation with better salary, benefits, and a retirement. There’s no commitment, and they know it. I know everyone is not that way, but there is so little power of God in our “made up” churches as evidenced by the dying congregations and the fact that “summer has almost ended, and we are not yet saved.” I know many say those with an attitude like mine is a big part of the problem. We blame those who refuse to accept the “way things are.” So the churches continue to close their doors and we wander around like sheep without a shepherd looking for a true place of worship. [He’s in us and in each other in the Body of Christ.] However, because the foundational principals of Faith in Jesus Christ have not taken root, it is quite easy for the enemy to “uproot” the tender plants. Lord, help us! Our Father’s house is to be a place of prayer and communication with the one and only God and to build each other up in HIM. In Jesus Name

      • Jumping Dog says on

        Are you saying that professional pastors are unbiblical? That all pastors should work for free while having other jobs?

      • Rick in AZ says on

        I believe that IS what Tim is saying. Unfortunately, a workman is NOT worthy of his hire in his world. I am a full time pastor, and I do not collect a paycheck from the church. All of the offerings go back into the church and ministries. There are no paid staff in our church. That means I have to work a full time job to support my family. Would I leave my job if the church were able to support my family? Sure, because I want to devote ALL of my time to care for the flock God has entrusted to me. At the same time, where God guides, God provides. He provided my job to support my family. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit the church is spiritually fed, not by the pastor’s best efforts. It requires a very narrow reading of the scripture to support the idea Tim is advocating.

      • Tim Aagard says on

        Rich, thanks for engaging. There are 3 texts that are used to justify the professionalized pastorate entitlement. We have all heard them all our life and how they are used. There are 8 texts where Paul specifically teaches by word and example for spiritual leadership to always be combined with marketplace work. You may have never heard of these. If you have, they are nullified by the three you know. Most “scholars” accept a “conflict” and just say take your pick. This is very bad exegesis, but it is all excused because EVERY Bible expert wants a full pay check from their “ministry”, whatever it may be. So there is a direct conflict of interest in getting to the truth of the NT in it’s singular message and design for spiritual leadership. There are NO books written on intentional ministry “free of charge”. I have written one, It’s free. Every book I have read on “tent making” does not acknowledge Paul’s conventionality and powerful reasons for free leadership. Just like you, as soon as there is enough cash in the plate, it should be used to pay to professionalize leadership. Paul proved that shepherding does not require full time. Mostly because Paul never said believers need a weekly Bible lecture in order to be “equipped” or “taught” or “fed”, or anything else. Paul reproduced shepherding into businessmen – see Acts 20 on the Ephesian elders. Businessmen can teach and preach in short, shared, interactive dynamic. The most important part of leadership is that it is REPRODUCTIVE, “entrusted to faithful men who will teach others…” This does not happen when “teaching” is strictly a 30 – 45 minute lecture with zero participation from anyone else.

        Is it really more important for American believers to get a weekly Bible lecture than for those who have no one to tell them and have never heard, to have someone sent to them? When it comes to “reaching all nations”, the American form of church is SOOOOOQ ethnocentric. We come first. Our weekly Bible lecture comes before the gospel is delivered to those who have no one to tell them.

        Most believers around the world will NEVER have a professional Bible lecture every week. They can’t afford it, or there is persecution. Your three proof texts must be only for wealthy Americans and believers in free countries. Is it a shame for God to allow these believers to struggle in faith without a hired shepherd? These believers will be much stronger in faith than any lecture fed American. They will witness and disciple far more than any American. The gospel is spreading faster.

        With the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on weekly Bible lectures every year, billions in the last decade, the American church should be on fire with the gospel. The opposite is happening. This should be an obvious visual to help you look outside the bubble of this deeply seeded tradition of men to “walk in the truth”.

        Leadership “free of charge” is very different than the professionalized version. If you are trying to do the professionalized routine, that is part of your struggle to guide the flock of God. Step one: Give up the one man lecture routine. Add in the “new and living way” that culminates in believers “stirring up one another on to love and good works and encouraging one another”. This is the “habit of meeting” believers are not to “forsake”. Heb. 10:19-25. Help the saints in your fellowship practice their identity as priests. Help them do some “proclaiming” every Sunday. The children can do it. I’ve seen it. According to Jesus, they are the “greatest” in the kingdom.

      • Tim, it sounds to me like you’re doing plenty of “proof-texting” of your own.

      • Tim Aagard says on

        Ken – Prooftext. … is the practice of using isolated, out-of-context quotations from a document to establish a proposition in eisegesis.” Thanks for bringing that up. To take 3 texts and use them justify professionalized leadership which requires you to nullify 8 texts that teach specifically the opposite is exactly proof texting. You think I’m doing it. Give a basis for your accessment. I’ve given several scriptures. Which one is out of context? It would be good to clear up this massive entitlement system where everyone likes the “perks and preferences”.

      • Give a basis for YOUR assessment (and while you’re at it, learn how to spell). Do you think the case can be decided on sheer numbers? You seem two basic rules of exegesis: (1) Your opinion is the only valid one, and (2) if anyone offers you reasons why you might be wrong, see rule #1.

      • Drew Bernard says on

        Beloved Ndugus na “fellow followers” in Christ, Please do not take this comment as a quip answer. I not be of any formal education either secular or religious. Full tyme Pastor and full tyme secular employment. Just technical wording? Can one be both? Also in Luke 10 : 7 tiz stated ; “Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages.
        Are not we; “followers” workers in His harvest fields?
        I am retired and am humbled that me Lord has chosen, commanded and is using a forgiven sinner in the harvest fields of my current 3rd. World Nation. am blessed to have fair health, a small SS check and a very loving National Pastor, his familia as my host. I receive not nor accept any offers for carrying out His commands. I have yet to see any of the dying church syndrome here; yet; and pray it keeps its ugly head away. I can only affirm the points mentioned as from my years of serving / attending “church’ in USA. Keep the faith and walk in His shadow and indeed, HIS church will survive. Mulungu akuhasi Ndugus katika Yesu Christo……..LUKE 9 : 23

      • Tim Aagard says on

        Ken – I did give a visual basis. Numbers tell a story of results of practice. I told you the proof is in the word. I didn’t want to insult your intelligence by telling you what you might already know. i know what every Bible expert will do with the scriptures that teach ministry “free of charge”, spiritual leaders not being a “burden” on God’s people, apostolic example that should be “imitated” and “followed”, or spiritual leaders not forcing the less mature to fund the more mature (children funding their parents), and strategic reasons for always combining marketplace work with spiritual leadership. But here they are. Acts 18:1-5 ; 1 Cor. 4:11 – 20 ; 1 Corinthians 9: 15 – 27; 2 Corinthians 11: 7 – 13 ; 2 Corinthians 12:11 – 19 ; 1 Thessalonians 2: 9-12 ; 2 Thessalonians. 3:6-15 ; Acts 20:31-35. I should also include 1 Cor. 9: 1-14 where Paul puts on the table every logic driven reason that came from the Corinth church to justify their mocking of Paul’s example of being self-supporting.

        I understand your defensiveness to a brother challenging ministry pay checks, titles, callings, and dominating patterns. The Roman Catholics did not respond well to Luther or any other reformer 500 years ago. I am not offended. More reformation is needed.

      • Tim Aagard says on

        Drew – Thank you for adding your example. You don’t need formal education. You only need the word and the Holy Spirit, which you have. “Can one be both?” Yes, one should be both because “secular employment” is not “secular” to God. Col 3:23 says “whatever we do” is “serving Christ, not man”. The same in 1 Cor. 15:58 where “giving yourself full to the work of the Lord” is instructed to all believers so their “work is not in vain”. The power of the resurrection goes into the marketplace.

        You are correct with Luke 10:7. The second part says “…for the laborer deserves his wages.”. This phrase is used by Paul in 1 Tim. 5:18 and is twisted by professionalized pastors to mean they should get a full pay check from the offering plate. Paul is quoting Jesus where it means to merely receive hospitality, eating food from “men of peace”. The same in Mathew 10. This is very different than expecting a full pay check, a special title, office, and dominating expression of truth. This is a corrupted use of God’s word to maintain traditions of men. Everyone in America can see in every church that when one man is paid, many will do nothing, others will do next to nothing, and very few will do much to compensate for the others. Bad results flow from bad traditions. Carnality is built into the professionalized form of church so carnality is increased rather than “walking in the Spirit” where every gifting is manifested every gathering.

      • Jumping Dog said,

        “Are you saying that professional pastors are unbiblical? That all pastors should work for free while having other jobs?”

        The answer to this is, “YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

      • I’m sorry Tim but the list is powerful in that it points out the problem and offers a solution. I agree that we have gotten off track and spend too much on ourselves, however, to heal we must be confronted in a manner that will allow us listen and not shut out the criticism. Thanks Thom for approaching this in gentleness and love.

      • Tim Aagard says on

        Buddy – What percent of the “giving” is okay for believers to consume to benefit mostly themselves in your evaluation? What scripture do you use to draw your line? I’ve added scripture to the post above for Ken. Look them up and meditate. I am shutting down no one’s criticism. I am inviting it and respond to it, even when it is shallow. Being direct does not demonstrate a lack of love and gentleness. The solution to church failure is in resolving systemic corruption, not merely tweaking a few externals.

      • Maybe this is one big reason that home churches are seeing an uptick?

      • Tim Aagard says on

        Reinald – If there is an uptick, it is very small. Many churches in a home are merely a pulpit and pew relocation to a home. I just read an article on church planting where meeting in a home is merely the first step to getting lots of people in a separate building for pulpit driven meetings. There is a deep bondage of wealthy Americans to the 500 year routine of consuming most of the giving to create a spectating ceremony called “worship service”. There is a deep co-dependency between clergy and laity. The Bible is twisted to justify it, just like it is used to justify the papacy or praying to Mary. No evangelical hired Bible expert will question the current use of scripture. I am free to question it and proclaim it.

      • You are precisely correct Tim. For every Tim out there, there seems to be 1000 professional pastors who function just like professional politicians. Our institutional church “leaders” treat the church as a business and just seem to pretend to be biblical. I’ve met a few sincere believers who have given up on “church” attendance due to the selfishness and corrupt professional “leaders” of the institutional churches. I wonder what the professional pastor mills that provide masters degrees in Theology teach if the institutional church is messed up.

      • Tim Aagard says on

        I think hired pastors are not the enemy. They are sincere, they think they are right, but they are wrong in their sincerity. Part of the corruption is their claim to “authority” – “obey those that have the rule over you”. With this power, they can label anyone who challenges them with scripture as “divisive”, and kick them out. Both “obey” and “rule” are corrupt translations driven by traditions of men. Bible experts can see the corruption of the original but they like a little power to protect their “leadership”, which is now the opposite of “…and you are all brothers… The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matt 23. The pastor mills must maintain the status quo, in their perception. If they were to recognize every believer is called and enabled by God to be a disciple-maker, leader, church planter, then every believer would have an interest in deeper levels of learning God’s word, not just the few that we can afford to hire to “lead”. God has made “church leadership” so simple and so dependent on his direct resources, believers in remote village with no education can make disciples and plant fellowships of believers. Amazing!!! God is in charge of bringing correction to his church. I am just a messenger who works a dirty job that is full time ministry.

    • Phil Schultz says on

      From one who has preached in over 300 churches- 150 SBC churches and 50 in the Long Run Baptist Association I say let them close. These are often churches that have resisted change, prone to fighting, and haven’t had a baptism in years. Dr Akin once said “25% of SBC churches could burn down tonight and we would be a stronger denomination this time tomorrow”- amen! Tell beans I said hi, your former DMin student

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