If you Google “why are churches dying?’ you will get a variety of links to websites that have lists of reasons churches are dying. 10 reasons why, 5 reasons why, and lists of why churches are experiencing low attendance and participation. I read a couple of them and instantly related back to my church. Scary to say the least. Let’s see, if you get 8 out of 10 right does that mean you church is ok, but what if you only get 2 out of 10 right?
So what’s the real reason why church attendance is declining in mainline churches? People don’t believe in God anymore so there is no need to come to church? Doubt it! They might not call it God but most folks believe something started this whole universe. I think I have heard every reason in the world why they don’t come to church, from “I don’t need to go to church to believe in God” or “my kid has soccer games on Sunday morning ,“ “slept in, over slept, watched a service on TV” and I’ve heard everything in between. My list is short, it’s only 3 reasons why churches are dying.
First, the truth is they don’t come to church because they don’t get what they are looking for or they don’t like what they got when they did come. It’s the same reason I don’t go to Kentucky fried chicken anymore, their chicken upsets my stomach! Sorry Colonel!
So why don’t preachers understand this and do something about it? Well, some do and are growing their churches. Those preachers that don’t understand are saying they are giving their congregation what they need, but maybe that’s not what they want. Maybe the congregations are getting what they really need but they feel it isn’t helping them much. Do preachers help me find answers to my problems of the day? Or at least aren’t preachers suppose to inspire, or at least motive me?
I’ve heard pastors say “it’s not my job to inspire the folks, that’s the job of the Holy Spirit.” Well maybe not but maybe at least help wake up the Holy Spirit in me. It is their job to inspire but here comes the rub. What’s inspirational to me may not be inspirational to you. So that’s the hard part. How do they preach to everyone in the pews? The good ones attempt to inspire us all.
Some days I wonder how much emphasis is placed on teaching homiletics these days at seminaries, as good preachers are really hard to find.
Let’s face it part of the reason we go to church is to listen to, be inspired by, relate to what is being preached to us. The better the preacher’s skill to communicate to us, inspire us, motivate us, the better the church’s growth.
It’s a fact of church life.
I am either an early riser, or I just wake up early, so when I wake up at 4 am in the morning I try to listen to great preachers around the country. For a while I was listening to Rev. Mark Craig at Highland Park UMC in Dallas. Great preacher but he retired last summer, but you can still listen to him at www.hpumc.org
Recently I stumbled on another great preacher in New York. Dr. Tim Keller can be heard at http://sermons2.redeemer.com/ . Dr. Keller has great communication skills. Both Keller and Craig are great preachers in my mind.
Second, churches lack leadership. Lead and I will follow, don’t lead and I will just sit in the pew and maybe listen. Now leadership begins with trust, I need to know you, as the pastor, that you know what you are talking about by either having experienced yourself or are willing to lead and grow along side of me as I follow. Show me the way, guide me, make it crystal clear what you expect of me and what you are willing to do yourself. Show me your passion. Show me your love. Show me your heartaches. Then I will follow.
Third, congregations need to take their involvement in church seriously. Most don’t especially in those dying churches. Personally I think churches mission statements should be short, simple and to the point, more on the order of:
“Know God, believe in Jesus Christ, act like it.”
We know God by not just reading the Bible but by studying it.
We believe that Jesus Christ, is God, came to us in human form, died for our sins, taught us how to love our neighbor and then make disciples.
We then need to act on that love, in every situation, in every church, in every community, in every nation.