Seven Reasons Why Churches Don’t Grow
In a province of northern Mexico, the peasants lived in poverty. Corn was their main crop, but between the ravages of disease that attacked the corn and the depleted soil, the average yield was only 10 bushels an acre. Then American experts decided to see what they could do to help the situation. They analyzed the soil to determine what was lacking. They developed a strain of disease-resisting corn particularly suited to that area. As a result the corn harvest increased 11 times — to 110 bushels per acre.
Perhaps a church that finds itself in a low production cycle should engage in an analysis of the soil to see how the situation might be improved. Here are some areas of difficulty that deserve watching:
A church fails to grow when its leaders become victims of defeatism.
When a fatalistic attitude of unbelief prevails, faith for revival and growth dies, and in discouragement pastor and people say, “It can’t be done!” Some find support for this attitude in their interpretation of Scripture : “There shall be a falling away”; “The love of many shall wax cold.” To them church growth is impossible because the times are against it.
Some say America has had her chance and now can only expect judgment. But what about the whole new generation of young Americans, many of whom have never seen revival? They need a chance.
While some prophecies foretell the great apostasy, others proclaim a last-day outpouring of Gods Spirit. Both events are going to take place. Perhaps they will occur side-by-side. While we are in the earth, God is glorified in our producing much fruit. A positive stand of faith is essential for church growth.
Some churches fail to grow because they have lost their mobility and have become prisoners of their buildings.
These churches have reduced their activities to those things they do within the four walls of the sanctuary.
Many churches have withdrawn from areas where they can have contact with the unchurched; they no longer have any kind of outreach ministries and have become isolated from the world they should be reaching. In some instances the only effort to reach the outside world is in the evangelistic campaign with a guest speaker. If the people come, fine. But if not, what more can they do?
The Early Church carried on without any particular emphasis on church buildings. The early disciples preached in the temple, on the streets, in the houses, in schools, and wherever opportunity afforded. This was also the scene in the early days of the Pentecostal outpouring. Services were held in homes, in storefront buildings, in vacant church buildings, in schools — anywhere an opening could be obtained. We have sometimes allowed our church buildings to seal us off from the world we must reach! For the church to grow, it must regain its mobility.
A third situation that hinders church growth might be called a family-clan mentality.
This was illustrated in one Central American church made up entirely of Indian people. The society in that area was built around the family-clan principle. The church grew rapidly for a while, then growth leveled off and there were no new converts. All the converts were members of one family clan.
When membership reached the limits of the clan, growth stopped. In fact, it is possible that the members would not have welcomed additions from other families because it would have disturbed the security of those in control. The same thing has happened to a lesser degree in other places where the church membership is made up of three or four families. These families may become sealed off from the rest of the community. Then there are no more “bridges of God,” as Dr. Donald McGavran says.
A church needs new material. Revival, like a fire, burns low if it has no new material to feed on. God expects us to find ways to move out of our isolation and into contact with the world. We are the salt of the earth. God is not calling US to isolation but to contagion. We must expose the world to the gospel.
A fourth hindrance to church growth is the pastor-do-it-all mentality.
Pastors sometimes make the common mistake of thinking the all important aspect of the ministry is the sermon. But one of the pastor’s most important tasks is to put his church to work. Ephesians 4: 11,12 bears this out. We are told God has placed in the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
Some have mistakenly believed this referred to three parallel purposes. But this verse should be read without commas. There is only one thing in focus: the edifying of the body of Christ. To this end pastors, evangelists, and teachers are to prepare the saints for the work of their ministry — for this is not just a pastor’s ministry but the ministry of the entire body of Christ. As the pastor understands that an important part of his ministry is to help the members fulfill their own divine calling as members of the body of Christ, he will surely have a growing church.
The church fails to grow when it is self-centered.
A certain tension has always existed between evangelism, which is reaching the world for Christ, and the perfecting of the saints in Christian graces. Spiritually inclined people face a very real temptation to withdraw from the rugged task of winning the world and retreat into the enjoyment of spiritual gifts and graces for their own sakes. Some are so concerned about deepening their own spiritual lives and enjoying the exercise of spiritual gifts that they have lost their practical usefulness to the kingdom of God.
God wants the two poles of evangelism and Christian perfection to be kept in proper tension. We must never lose sight of the fact the ministry of the Holy Spirit is not only in us, but also through us, as witnesses to a lost world.
Some churches fail to grow because of a weak spiritual incentive
The spiritual dynamics of prayer, intercession, and waiting on God have been lost. The tendency then is to substitute the natural for the spiritual and to carry on the work of God on a natural plane. Some engage in a round of activities throughout the year with one program after another until there is no time left, and perhaps no real desire, to seek God for a move of His Holy Spirit. We cannot have true church growth if we settle for second best.
A church may be in bondage to traditions and religious habits.
Somewhere along the line we may lose our sense of expectancy that God will break in upon us in a fresh way and reveal himself to us. We begin to follow a routine of spiritual exercises. Our worship and spiritual activity lose their freshness. Where is the old-fashioned burden for the lost? Where is the weeping and wrestling with God in fervent prayer? Does the desire for God’s work to prosper take priority over our own interests and comfort?
God can break through in any church again. Faith can be revived and the church loosed from its indifference and formality. God intends for the church to grow. Ask Him to renew your faith so you can approach your task with courage.