Every year thousands of churches, unfortunately and unnecessarily, have to close their doors. Why? Because they kept doing the things that did them in. To put it another way, they held some highly defective, very destructive beliefs that determined their demise. Here are the mistakes dead churches make.
Dead churches erroneously believe …
1. Growth just happens. They mistakenly believe growing churches are nothing more than the result of being in the right place at the right time. Even the perfect garden in the perfect place won’t stay perfect if you just walk away and leave it. Before long it will be overgrown with weeds. Most growing churches grow in the hardest of places in the most difficult of times and are the result of a lot of hard work. The Bible does not say, “God helps those who help themselves.” However, God does have a way of blessing those who do everything they possibly can to build His kingdom and aren’t afraid of hard work.
2. You can have evangelism without evangelists. In other words, you can reach the lost without ever having anyone in the church actually reach out to the lost. They believe you can win souls without soul winners. That’s why they die. You can’t have apples without apple trees and others can’t share our faith if we never share it with them in the first place.
3. You can have progress without change. They want to grow. They really do. They just don’t want to change. They don’t want any new people taking their parking place, seat, or place of leadership in the church. They’ll never verbalize it, but here’s what they’re thinking: “If we can grow without the hassle of new people, new problems, and any changes, wonderful.” The reality is, if we aren’t willing to change we won’t see any progress.
4. You can have success without sacrifice. They want growth and don’t mind the cost involved as long as someone else pays it. They’ve convinced themselves great things can come about without any price being paid or pain being experienced. You’ve heard it said before, “The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” That’s also true in the church.
5. God will bless in spite of sin and unholy living. They believe God will bless in spite of how they live. Obviously, there have been no in-depth studies of the lives of people like Achan, Samson, David, Ananias and Sapphira to name a few. Don’t miss this: the depth of your purity will determine the breadth of your ministry.
6. First-class facilities, grounds, printed materials, programs and activities aren’t important. In a dying church, the members too often think ripped and rumpled carpet, parking lots with cracks as wide as the Grand Canyon, burned out lights, poorly designed and typo-riddled programs, landscaping resembling a tropical rain forest, equipment from the 50’s, etc., doesn’t matter to the unchurched. The fact is, people who demand excellence in the cars they drive, homes they live in, and places where they do business, won’t accept less than the best from the church they attend. When you have no class, you literally will have no class. Read that last line slowly.
Every year thousands of churches, unfortunately and unnecessarily, have to close their doors.
7. Leaders don’t have to be tithers. Their leaders lead by the motto: “Do as we say, not as we do.” Come to think of it, it’s probably a good thing. Because, if the church gave like the majority of the leaders do (or should I say don’t?) the church would have already closed their doors. Most people would be shocked to learn how many leaders don’t tithe in dying churches. Their “weakly” giving is just that. That’s why their church is dying. We don’t reproduce what we say. We reproduce who we are. That’s why leaders must lead by example, being at least tithers in their weekly giving.
8. By-laws, budgets and board meetings are really important. They are constantly beset by the big “B’s”: By-laws, Budgets and Board meetings … as if those things somehow impart the supernatural, providential blessing of God. Growing churches focus, instead, on the Bible. Yes, they have a set of By-laws. The state requires all non-profit organizations to have some form of organizational structure. Growing churches will also have a clearly defined budget and there will be regular meetings of their leaders, although they may not call themselves a board. However, they just want to be a Bible church and don’t allow themselves to get caught up in the things that drag down dead churches.
9. The Pastor and staff work for us. They see their Pastor and staff as official employees who are paid to do the work of the church. The Bible teaches the opposite. In fact, the Pastor and staff are to equip the saints “for the work of the ministry.” Growing churches have figured this out. Dying or dead churches are still fighting it out. (Read Ephesians 4:11-16.)
10. Being traditional is spiritual. For some reason, people in dying churches think “the way we’ve always done it,” is somehow holier than attempting something new. They forget the time-tested traditions of today were cutting edge “new” things of the “good ol’ days.” Pioneers are always persecuted. We love to criticize and minimize the “wild ideas” of other guys until we see the benefits before our very eyes — like electricity, automobiles, computers, cell phones, praise choruses, and LED lights. John Maxwell says, “If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always got.” Who wants that? A dead church.
11. The world cares about our doctrine. They mistakenly believe their beliefs will bring more believers. “We’ve got the ‘right doctrine’ so everyone will eventually come to our church.” Few unchurched people even know what doctrine is. We ought to have the right doctrine for sure. However, having the right doctrine alone won’t grow a church. Jesus never said to the world, “Come to the church with the right doctrine.” He did say to the church with the right doctrine, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every living creature.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
12. There’s always next year. They have no sense of urgency. They don’t even turn on the lights with enthusiasm. That’s why they wake up one day and find themselves with a tag on their toe. Growing churches are passionate, enthusiastic and urgent about everything. They might have 5-year and 10-year plans, but they pursue ministry every day, as if they don’t have the promise of tomorrow. Because they don't.
Neither do we.
I’m thankful to be part of a church that’s ALIVE!!
© 2017. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Today, more than 8,000 people call Crossroads their church home. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.