Why do good churches die?
I’m not talking about churches who have an apparent fatal flaw like mean or nasty people, terrible location, clergy sexual misconduct,
uninspiring worship or the like. Churches can and do recover from all of those things.
Theories abound, including changing demographics, young people leaving the church or not being raised in church at all, the rise in the spiritual but not religious crowd, the appearance of “nones” and “dones”–those that have no religious affiliation or once did but have now retired from church, and the changing culture around us. Yes, these factors all play a part. But churches can and do transcend these factors too.
4. You are waiting for someone else to come up with a vision. If you are leading in any capacity–whether you’re in charge of the Rugrats Ministry or you lead a team of 20 denominational executives, it is your responsibility to come up with a vision. That’s what leaders do. Waiting for someone else may be a sign that it’s time to retire or to re-tool your understanding of leadership.
You can tell when you are in the presence of a visionary leader, congregation or denomination. It’s exciting, invigorating and a little bit scary. You sense purposeful movement, forward direction, and perhaps more faith than you yourself currently possess.
I had this experience when I attended the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations international conference last summer. This is a group that is basically inventing a new branch of Judaism which bridges traditional Judaism and classical Christianity. They’re fully identified as Jews AND as followers of Yeshua/Jesus. Don’t tell them it can’t be done. Because they are doing it!
I didn’t sniff a whiff of decline among them! And I’m trained to detect that.
Here’s the point: if they can do it, you can do it! Good churches don’t need to die. And good leaders don’t need to let them! Envision a future that expands assumptions about what is possible, get back to asking the right questions, take risks, and be the one to get the ball rolling. This has the power to unify even the most disparate group.
Then, new life is not only possible, it’s inevitable!
This article first appeared on January 6, 2015.