I was asked what causes churches to die.  Is it sloppy / liberal theology?   a lack of discipleship programs?  the lack of theological education?

One cause is evangelical sloth.  RR Reno claims that “Sloth and cowardice …slink away from the urgency of conviction. Both fear the sharp edge of demand and expectation. Both have a vested interest in cynicism, irony and outward conformity. These vices, not pride, now dominate our culture.” (1)(2)

The remedy is often the professionalization of the clergy, where we leave our spiritual disciplines to our surrogates to satisfy.  And if their own theology is sloppy, all the better to attract  a society of believers having shared slothful theology.

I’ve seen healthy churches led by barely-educated farmers whose only texts were a well-worn Bible and a commentary (the man in mind used KJV and Matthew Henry). 

 Churches struggle when the leadership keeps people from exercising their spiritual giftedness, they come to believe their service is not needed (anybody could do it), and will let other volunteer work crowd out church work (especially those clubs that mimic their giftedness).   When the pastor doesn’t allow for meaningful service, he doesn’t get any.  The people forget how to serve (or never learn) and quit trying.  Lay leaders leave to serve elsewhere, leaving the sitters, and staff start drifting away as well.

And since involved volunteers are more likely to give (and usually give 4 times as much), the budget also suffers.  The staff have to do more and more on less and less.   This causes the pastor to have to work even harder doing the “professional preacher” kinds of things.  I’ve seen churches thrive without a full-time pastor.  I’ve rarely seen a healthy church without  involved deacons in active service.

The turnaround begins when a leader insists on a return to core fundamentals – discipleship, prayer, outreach/evangelism and individuals caring for one another (instead of passing it off on the pastor).   It doesn’t have to be the pastor – this works well if the leader is a deacon – but a pastor is the one person who can stop it.

I’ve seen healthy churches led by barely-educated farmers whose only texts were a well-worn Bible and a commentary (the man in mind used KJV and Matthew Henry).  I’ve seen churches thrive without a full-time pastor.  I’ve rarely seen a healthy church without  involved deacons in active service.

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sources
1. Reno, RR The Ruins of the Church: Sustaining Faith in an age of Diminished Christianity, p8
2. http://www.opensourcetheology.net/node/788

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