Many of the mainline denominations are faced with churches that have only a few elderly people whose children left the church. Now they are experiencing the “dying church syndrome.”
Years ago churches were started when a few families in the neighborhood got together to share a mutual interest in spiritual matters or social gatherings. Churches were frequently used a schools during the week. Families were quite large because the family was needed to help raise the crops and livestock necessary to support the family. As the children matured, the young people chose their spouse from a family within the community. They got married and had children. Churches grew because children were born to the congregation. However, many of the children followed Christ because that is what the family taught. It is what they were expected to do.
Over the years, families became smaller and more mobile. The young people sought jobs outside of the family business, and discovered spouses in other communities. They moved away from the community and frequently away from church. As the families grew and moved away, the churches began to decrease in size.
People began to lose interest in spiritual things. The Bible which was once the main text book in school was removed from the schools. Prayers were no longer welcome in school and at school events. The family structure began to break down. Churches were not receptive to having divorced people in their congregations, so families began leaving the church.
God intended the church to grow externally.
When Jesus gave the Great commission to his disciples in Matthew 28, He said: “Go and make disciples”. He did not say we should entice them to come so we can make them disciples.
Earlier in Jesus ministry, he illustrated to his disciples how they should make disciples. Matthew 9 is one of those illustration of how Jesus attracted church members (workers). Matthew 9:35-38(NIV) says:
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:35-38(NIV)
While Jesus was going through towns and villages, he saw people that had no hope. They were behaving like sheep that had no shepherd. When he saw the crowds of people, Jesus had compassion on them. Jesus saw people who were sinning and he loved them in spite of their sin. He loved them because they were in need of what Jesus had to offer. Today, people outside of the church are needing what Christians have to offer.
The first steps in prevention of the ‘dying church syndrome’ is go to sinners, and love them regardless of their behavior and location.
The second step in prevention of the ‘dying church syndrome’ is to pray.
Pray for people to send
In Matthew 9:38, Jesus told his disciples to ‘ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers’. Who are the workers in a church? Where do workers come from?
In this passage, workers are followers of Jesus. They are people who have denied themselves so that God would be glorified. In fact, Jesus frequently called them “fishers of men”
People cannot make workers. Programs will not make workers. While the church can provide training and encouragement to the workers, only God can make workers. God is in charge of the harvest. He is the one who provides workers. God is calling us to become workers.
Churches and locker rooms have one thing in common. They are places where people are dressed and prepared to face the opponent. How many games have been won by the team staying in the locker room? None, the only way you can defeat the opponent is to confront them on the playing field. In the same way, Christians need to get out of church and face the opponent on the playing field.
Is God calling you to be a worker or is he calling you to be unconcerned about the harvest? Is God expecting you to leave the locker room and confront our opponent, or is He expecting you to get comfortable in His locker room, the church?
NOTE: Scripture used in this blog were downloaded from: Biblegateway.com.