Five Reasons Why Churches Die

After hearing from the demographics party, it is easy to think that churches die because they are doing something wrong, or failing to do something right procedurally. That is, they have lost the technique, or have never gained the skills, “to reach their generation.”

I think this is bunk. Churches die for the reasons the Bible says they die; and by “death,” I don’t mean losing their property, finances, charitable status, but death—the congregation, a people gathered in Christ’s name, is no more.

Reason 1: Abandonment of the love of Christ (Revelation 2:4-5).

Reason 2: The false teachings of Balaam and sexual immorality. Toleration of false teaching (Revelation 2:14-15).

Reason 3: Tolerating a false prophetess, also called a Jezebel (as bad as it gets), who advocates for sexual immorality (Revelation 2:20).

Reason 4: Having a reputation of being alive, but that reputation is only among men and not known to God. Therefore, it is note having the works pleasing to God. (Revelation 3:1-2).

Reason 5: Pride, smugness, self-assuredness, which to God means uselessness (Revelation 3:15-18).

The Christian church, as a group in Ontario, is but a shell of its former self. By saying this I do not mean we must yearn for a nostalgic “good old days,” but admit that we are in decline (this is a place where demographic studies might help). What is unique in our message is lost to a majority of the people in Ontario. The province is growing in population, we are not.

I think it is far too easy to assume that the reason for our decline is that we are doing the wrong things (or failing to do the right things). There is no fix, technique, model, program or church growth guru that will turn this around.

We must somehow come to see that the problem we face is one of belief and life. We must also that Christ has never tolerated false teaching and ungodly living in His church. We are no exception. No technique can grow death, and growth in false belief and ungodliness is the mark of the Mormons, Islam, the prosperity “Gospel,” and such abominations. A methodology may work but not be true and faithful.

Unfaithfulness and ungodliness always results in God’s judgement. To say that we are under the judgement of God reflects reality more than to say that the population is simply not open anymore to the gospel. The Gospel grows in closed lands, and Ontario is hardly closed. If we think we live in an impossible land, we should ask ourselves how it was that the small band of outsider disciples flipped the world over in one generation.

In summary, we are dying because God wants us dead, if we continue in our present state.

What to do? Let’s look at the five reasons again:

Reason 1: Abandonment of the love of Christ (Revelation 2:4-5).

Are we more in love with programs, worldly reputation, methods, and signs of success? Do we claim to care so much for people that we fail to realise we serve Christ first, and people as a part of that? Do we spend time in the Word of God, or is our approach, “I already read that.” Are we mining the depths of God’s wisdom in Scripture and communicating to Him in prayer? Is our first inclination to read the Bible and pray at the onset of a challenge? Are our sermons an explanation of the Bible, or our opinions with the Bible added for authority? What is our final authority, and how often do we consult it?

Solution: Repent and go back to the beginning (Revelation 2:5). We never outgrow the love of Christ.

Reason 2: The false teachings of Balaam and sexual immorality. Toleration of false teaching (Revelation 2:14-15).

The religion of Balaam, is what taught the Israelites to indulge in the pagan practises of their neighbours (Numbers 25:1-4). Do we tolerate those of unholy living to encourage others to do the same? What are our neighbours’ pagan practises? Greed, immorality, sexual immorality, shallowness, pride, lust, hatred—to name a few. Do we stand in these or against them? What do we tolerate? Answering this question will show us the danger we’re in, the danger of Christ’s judgement.

Do we tolerate false teaching? Do we welcome books like “The Shack” or “Jesus Calling” into our homes and fellowship? Do we even understand why these are problems?

Solution: Repent. Repentance in Scripture means to change our minds, and therefore our actions.

Reason 3: Tolerating a false prophetess, also called a Jezebel (as bad as it gets), who advocates for sexual immorality (Revelation 2:20).

The teaching of the false prophetess is that one can be an idolater and sexually immoral and remain a Christian (Revelation 14:8; 17:1-19:10).

It is no secret that churches have not done well holding the line against the sexual revolution of the 1960s, which is now bearing the bitter fruit of every kind of deviancy. Many once strong congregations have caved into this pressure, and, in the name of reaching people, have abandoned the truth of the Gospel and the hope it brings to those caught up in immorality!

Solution: Develop a holy intolerance of this false teaching. Prepare to take an unpopular stand, and prepare yourself to be betrayed by those you thought were Christian brothers and sisters.

Reason 4: Having a reputation of being alive, but that reputation is only among men and not known to God. Therefore, it is not having the works pleasing to God. (Revelation 3:1-2).

Are our works things that matter to God, or what brings prestige to ourselves? Do we look good to others because we have made that our aim, rather than pleasing God? Do we have an uneasy sense that we are alive on the surface, but dead inside (and if we do, that is a gift of God)?

Solution: Wake up, strengthen what you do have that’s good, remember, keep it, and repent (Revelation 3:2, 3).

Reason 5: Lukewarm: Pride, smugness, self-assuredness, which to God means uselessness (Revelation 3:15-18).

Are our churches neither healing, like the hot medicinal pools of Hierapolis (near Laodicea), or refreshing like the cold springs of Colossae (also near Laodicea), but putridly lukewarm like the water piped in to Laodicea? Are we useless to God, because we have defined usefulness according to the world’s standards and not according to Christ’s? A Laodicean Christian would recoil at the comparison!

Is our confidence in the Gospel, or in our wealth and self-confidence? Are we poor before God, or wealthy, even if only in our own eyes? Do we have a holy dependence upon Christ or do we only need Him for salvation and try to take over our lives after that?

Solution: Come back to Christ for what we need as a church; buy from Him (Isaiah 55:1ff). We renew our relationship with Him by opening the door to our churches to Christ.

Common to all of the above solutions is that we must remember the faith we once had, repent for giving it up, and returning to our First Love. Failing this, why would we linger? We may remain, but our lampstands will be removed.

Judge Yourself

watson-on-conscience

“Sin puts a child of God on self-judging;—he passes a sentence upon himself. ‘I am more brutish than any man.’ Prov. 30:2. It is dangerous to judge others, but it is good to judge ourselves. ‘If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.’ 1 Cor. 11:31. When a man has judged himself, Satan is put out of office: when he lays any thing to a saint’s charge, he is able to retort and say, ‘It is true. Satan, I am guilty of these sins, but I have judged myself already for them; and having condemned myself in the lower court of conscience, God will acquit me in the upper court of heaven.'”

Thomas Watson, 1620-1686