The decline and death of churches

Discussion in 'Evangelism, Missions and the Persecuted Church' started by Eoghan, Jul 10, 2019.

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  1. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Senior

    I would be interested in views on churches which seem on the way out. Our fellowship is reading a book on church renewal with the central premis that we can turn things around.

    Part of me sees the decline in the West as God's judgment on our culture. Re-read Jonathan Edwards and his predecessor had some modest success in his ministry. Edwards continued sound preaching but God gave a time of revival in the colonies.
  2. rookie

    rookie Puritan Board Sophomore

    My amateur take on it, people more and more have a digital presence. Many are remote (myself, potentially 1 hr from church, depending on how my meeting goes). Some even more for solid doctrine. Years past, they didn't have cars like we do today, so you had churches (mostly Catholic around here) every 10 km...(or so it seemed). Everyone of the were very small congregations, but faithful.

    Now with more and more scandals finding their way to social and main stream media, people are loosing their faith, in faith. Every now and then, you find one that sees his sin, and is looking for a way out. But most, are brainwashed by the left, and think they are too intelligent for church.

    So everything combined...decline. I could be wrong, but this is what I have seen...
  3. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Senior

    I think my analysis would look back to the Puritan era when people took their faith seriously. Now I fear that people treat Sunday worhip as discrete from the rest of their life. There is no serious attempt to work out our faith in the other six days at home and work.

    That is reflected in the preaching which for the most part does not apply it to everyday living. One church I was a member of wanted to trial a marriage course on us. At the end of it we the congregation told the minister that it needed to be more Biblical and less secular philosophy. He shocked us by telling us we were wrong in thinking of the Bible as a handbook to live by. I subsequently came to see that church as seeker sensitive. Really welcoming but without real Biblucal answers to lifes problems. Numerically it was healthy but was it alive ?
  4. rookie

    rookie Puritan Board Sophomore

    Voddie Baucham would agree...just because you have big numbers, doesn't mean God is blessing your church...
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  5. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    It depends.

    Some churches are geographically impaired, and the best they can do is end-of-life planning. In some cases it is just impossible to turn things around.

    In other cases, an amicable split might be more effective than trying to turn around.
  6. rookie

    rookie Puritan Board Sophomore

    This is what I'm saying. Decades ago, everyone gathered locally to a church. Especially in the country, when folks had farms and land. Now most are moving in town, so the country churches are suffering, and the city folk don't go to church.
  7. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    Plenty of city folks go to church around here. Of course some of the churches are worse than others, but to say that 'city folks don't go to church' is just not correct. About 10 years ago, First Baptist Dallas spent $100 million on a new sanctuary and expanded facilities to accommodate growth in the center of downtown. A couple of competing Presbyterian churches are spending about that much between them on current expansions, and a Methodist church just wrapped up a major expansion in the $65 million range.

    And, since you mentioned cars, 3 of the projects included underground car parks, while the 4th scrapped a planned underground facility and went with a multistory garage.

    Perhaps the lesson is that a church that wants to grow needs to put in an underground parking garage (not, however, recommended in New Orleans).
  8. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Junior

    In Part II of Charles Bridges' excellent book, The Christian Ministry, he provides five reasons for a lack of growth and success in the ministry...
    1. The Withholding of the Divine Influence—A sobering thought and one to be constantly borne in mind in these discussions—It is "God that giveth (or withholdeth) the increase." 1 Cor. 3:7.
    2. Enmity of the Natural Heart
    3. The Power of Satan
    4. Local Hindrances—cultural, geographical, and historical
    5. Ministers Who Are Not Called of God—"How shall they preach, except they be sent?"
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
  9. rookie

    rookie Puritan Board Sophomore

    Ah, but isn't Texas in the bible belt? I live in Moncton. Even Oprah called it a mini San Francisco years ago, referring to the homosexual population in our city. We have some churches in town (quite a few) but relative to the population, they are not packed. Mind you, we only have about 145000 (2016) here.
  10. RJ Spencer

    RJ Spencer Puritan Board Freshman

    Oftentimes we see the decline in our churches as negative, perhaps this shouldn't be the case. As Christian morality becomes less and less popular in our culture it is natural that we would see a decline in attendance. We don't tend to lose genuine converts, those leaving seem to be the tare rather than the wheat.
    As hard as the coming persecution of Christians in the west is going to be, a small part of me welcomes it. Time for God to purge the 'church'. When the persecution begins, most of the wolves will leave and so will the scandals.
  11. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Doesn't it seem from history that all churches have a Time to live and a Time to die. Where is Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea? Good and useful churches like the Thessalonians, and the Phillipians.

    Let's take a look at Paul. Was his ministry successful in the end by human standards? Consider even the great Apostle's words to faithful Timothy as he neared the end of his ministry and life itself. He was faithful to the end and could say that he finished his course. But the churches? That was a different story.

    I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
    2 Timothy 4:1‭-‬3‭, ‬7‭-‬11

    What do we make of all this? I guess we should learn to work while it is day knowing that the night cometh when no man can work.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019
  12. Chad Hutson

    Chad Hutson Puritan Board Freshman

    A deacon in our church was lamenting the fact that people don't attend church like they used to. His concern was that our local church would one day be gone. I told him that the church of Jesus Christ will endure until the end, but it will probably not always look like what he was used to, and there was no guarantee that our church will always survive. That unsettled him, but yet it comforts me.
    Over the last 13 years, our church attendance had burgeoned to over 200 on Sunday mornings (in a very small town). Over the years we declined to about 100 every Lord's Day morning. Preaching on holiness, the righteousness of God, the sovereignty of God in salvation, etc. will serve to pare the numbers down, especially if there are seeker friendly churches in the area who are more than willing to preach the Purpose Driven Drivel of the American Gospel.
    Our church is stronger with fewer people attending because those who attend are more devoted to the things of God. Interestingly, our Sunday night and Wednesday night attendance numbers have never really changed through the years, nor has our finances, and there seems to be fewer conflicts within the congregation that need to be resolved.
    It's a matter of perspective, but for us, we seem to be stronger without all the goats obscuring the sheep in the fold.
  13. De Jager

    De Jager Puritan Board Freshman

    I am a member of a CRC congregation. The CRC is a formerly staunchly conservative, calvinist denomination. From the CRC has sprung the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) and the United Reformed Churches (URC).

    The PRCs left in the 1920s over the common grace issue, led by Herman Hoeksema. The URCs left in the 80s and 90s over the women in office issue, arminianism, and other liberal tendencies.

    What is left is a denomination that is a shell of its former self. The leadership is compromised and as a result the direction of the denomination is toward apostasy. When a denomination is headed toward apostasy, true believers inevitably leave and try to find congregations where there are like-minded people. Therefore over the years the percentage of true believers in these churches becomes less and less. Eventually, you are left with a group of people who only assemble out of tradition or for social reasons alone. Eventually, that group of people will leave too because they will realize that the costs of keeping up their tradition are not worth the hassle, and they will find better ways to socialize.

    In my estimation, what will turn churches like this around is robust, biblical, discriminatory preaching. Ministers and consistories must exercise the keys of the kingdom, opening to believers and just as importantly, shutting the door to unbelievers. Biblical preaching will force the goats out, while unbiblical preaching and practice will force the sheep out.
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  14. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Take a Biblically sound church, place it in one of the fastest-growing metro areas, give her officers from young (yet very mature) to older, babies to be baptized, good facilities, etc., and it seems like the congregation should be booming. Take away a number of families over a short time, and now the church is in difficult circumstances. What can you do but pray for the Lord to bring His sheep into this particular fold.
  15. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    Read the Gagging Of God by D.A. Carson. Circa 1996 .... how much worse now than then. This used to be a predominantly Christian nation. Post modernism, replaced by Pluralism is also a contributing factor. Young people, even those in the church, are influenced greatly by the culture around them.
  16. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Senior

    In some ways the continuing apostacy of some denominations puts blue water between us and them.

    I worry that the desire to maintain a church can undermine its faithfulness. A little like political parties who start out with a clear vision for the country but quickly get subverted into a mission goal of staying in power at all costs.

    As a reformed christian i think one og the distinctives is applying sound doctrine to how we live - practical theology. Any minister worth his salt should be preoccupied by this feeding of the sheep. I will take quality over quantity any day.
  17. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Senior

    This is a long term project for me. One of his observations was particularly insightful - in contrast to his original studies of the Torah, Paul focused on chronology faith was credited to Abraham before the Law.
  18. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Senior

    The particular book our church is reading is mentioned in "new acquisitions". It comes with strong recommendations. I was looking to discuss it so if you have read "Renewal" contribute there.
  19. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

    Are we talking churches or congregations?
  20. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    The Congregation is the Church. The building is just a building. Although we do get sentimentally attached to the wood, glass, and brass all too frequently.
  21. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    "An overseer must be...not violent" (1 Tim 3:2-3).
  22. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    I think the Scripture I cited speaks loud and clear for itself.
  23. BG

    BG Puritan Board Junior

    It contradicts your interpretation
  24. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    So, when it says elders "must not be violent," it really means "elders are free to be violent"? Those are the only two interpretive options.
  25. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    This thread is reopened.
  26. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Senior

    I was aware that another church (same denomination) is likely to close and assumed that the last members would join us? Seems natural as we are the closest sister church. I was shocked to hear that one of the families has young children so would drive past us to another denomination which is Arminian in outlook. The reason? That church has young children and we don't.

    I know that young kids influenced my wife in our choices, probably more than me but it seems once you have lost your Sunday School you won't get it back. It saddens me but unless we call a young minister with a few kids, then visitors will continue to look for young kids, not see them and move on.

    If you found a decent fellowship what would be a deal breaker?

    A. Pulpit supply - a hit or miss approach to systemmatic exposition
    B. No kids - an absence of a Sunday School and effectively "childless" members
    C. No informal Bible study - I mean one where everyone discusses the text and
    gets to know each other

    - for me it would be 'C'
  27. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    There is a general benefit to external Christianity. As churches shrink, the "Christian morals" of even the unsaved will disappear and we will have a general decline of society. Many folks were not saved in the 1950's, after all, but your neighborhood was a lot safer and people were more polite.
  28. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    That's the only one I'd disagree with. Our church rotates pastors in the pulpit (I believe that 5 or 6 men have preached in our current series this summer).

    I'd substitute access - parking, public transit, ADA for that one as a factor in church viability.
  29. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Senior

    Isaiah 57:1
  30. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Senior

    (Whats ADA by the way)

    Never really occured to me. Being a wee town in the Highlands we only have to contend with the Episcopaliens coming in for their 11 o'clock service. When I was at Deeside Christian Fellowship they had parking attendants that directed the cars to spaces. At Bishopbriggs and Govan there were "security guards" to protect the cars while we were in the service. Guess I kinda forgot about parking.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
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