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Reversing The Decline #1

In response to the article Questioning The Decline, regarding the recent rapid decline in the church, I thought it would be helpful to address potential solutions in a spirit of love and cooperation. After all, the church was born at the price of the blood of God’s Son – – sealing her value as inestimable.  I have decided to reference your comments and continue our dialog with your prayerful contributions. Let’s examine several topics in this series over the coming days, with the hope of arriving at a better understanding of God’s answers.  I was deeply moved by your stories and was reminded of how we need to revisit the mission of Jesus. So. let’s start there. Shouldn’t the mission of the church match her Founder and Head? Are we “majoring in minor things” and “minoring in major things?”

Here’s an example that has impressed me lately. Does your congregation have a “Celebrate Recovery” ministry? Our home congregation has a vibrant CR ministry and I’ve been blessed every time I’ve attended. In fact, my repeated impressions have been, “This is how church is supposed to be,” and “This is how all of us should worship.” One cannot help but be moved by the passion and expression of Christians praising God with a total dependence and abandon — reminding me of the woman with the alabaster jar at the feet of Jesus — Authentic, transparent, heart-felt worship is difficult to miss.  I bring up Celebrate Recovery because, much more than a tired cliche’, I believe that the church is to be a “hospital for sinners,” not a “country club for saints.” The CR assemblies (and ministries like CR) are regularly accompanied with serious sessions and effective strategies to deal with spiritual healing.

Our hearts break to hear of precious people who have been rejected and abandoned by the church. I thought we’d start with this topic in our series of discussions.  Are churches effectively ministering to the broken-hearted and to those with special challenges? Why do so many feel abandoned and neglected?

16 He (Jesus) went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f]

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  Luke 4:16-20

Here’s an article by Bobby Valentine that articulates what all disciples need to hear: http://stoned-campbelldisciple.blogspot.com/2010/10/jesus-mission-our-mission-and-logic-of.html

Are we helping people connect with truly “Good News?” Are seekers finding healing and freedom? In short, do our ministries resemble the ministry of Jesus? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Short URL: http://keithlancaster.com/?p=5500

6 Comments for “Reversing The Decline #1”

  1. Personal observation: One failure I have noticed is that some congregations often use programs as substitutes for actual evangelism. It does no good to have a crowded room when you have nothing to offer but an opportunity to have fun. I am not saying that having fun is wrong but, as a primary focus, it’s rather superficial. We should focus on souls (not neglecting our primary focus on the Lord) and realize that, despite any material blessings that may exist, we are all spiritually poor in some way.

  2. We have a Celebrate Recovery program and
    I love it. I only wish more people participated
    in it. I first signed up for it to help others and
    became amazed at how it has helped ME!
    Have also been thrilled to see how it has made
    major changes in others lives. SO thankful our
    elders saw the wisdom in adding this program.
    It’s one of those “back to the Bible” where we
    confess our sins to one another as we have been
    commanded to do, pray for specific situations and
    learn to truly turn our lives over to God & let Him
    take control. Thanks, Keith, for bringing up CR.
    It’s really an awesome program!

  3. Honored by the link Keith. I am always blessed by your ministry. Thank you for your service to the family of God. Blessings, Bobby V

  4. Statistics say fewer and fewer people are going to any kind of church these days (http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/mar/09/survey-finds-fewer-christians-in-us/), especially young people (http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2010-04-27-1Amillfaith27_ST_N.htm). I believe Satan is at work here.

    The recent trend towards Mega churches is alarming. These churches offer little substance in my opinion. They cater to the spiritually weak. They have a “come as you are” mentality. If you build it they will come. They appeal to people. They attract people with their big fancy buildings and large numbers. They entertain people. Some churches of Christ attempt to attract people in the same manner. In addition the Mega churches are not accounting for any higher a percentage of “saves” than traditional congregations. The get their members from the already “saved” leaving their traditional congregations (http://hirr.hartsem.edu/megachurch/National%20Survey%20of%20Megachurch%20Attenders%20-final.pdf). Sad really. I believe Satan is at work here too.

    We can debate contemporary vs. traditional, but I don’t think there should be both at one congregation. Either be one or the other. Being both is being lukewarm IMO. Contemporary=liberal Traditional=conservative  There can be and is good and bad aspects of both.

    Attract them with the truth (Eph 4). Have a scriptural basis for everything you do or don’t do (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:20-21). For far too long the coC has converted people, then left them as is. We need to continue to study with these people, to teach them what they need to fight off Satan. Teach them what is acceptable and right according to the Bible. We need to give them a firm foundation (Eph 4:17-24, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). I’ve seen it far too often. New Christians still doing the same things they did prior to their conversion. They have not been taught by the brethren that their old ways are not in line with scripture. I have also seen people baptized on the first day of the month and gone for good by the end of the month. Sad really. Satan is at work here too.

    Let’s talk about the young people for a moment. Why are there so many young leaving the church for good? I have talked to many of them. One thing I hear quite often, is that they can see right through the facade. The can spot a phony. See through the shallowness of so many Christians. That is their perception. They see people going to church on Sundays and maybe Wednesdays and living their lives differently the rest of the week. Satan is at work here.

    Now I get defensive sometimes about this issue. I tell people I am not perfect. I sin. Don’t judge me as a Sunday/Wednesday Christian just because you’ve see me mess up a time or two. But no, I’m not talking about people who are Faithful Christians that sin. I am talking about those Christians who are going through the motions. Those Christians who really do lead different lives the other days of the week. Too many people these days are casual Christians. They want to have their cake and eat it too. These are the ones who don’t work. They show up for church and hardly anything else. They are not engaged or involved. I think 90% of the work is being done by 5% of the people. I do not mean to sound as if I am painting with a wide brush, but I do think this is a problem more prevalent than people want to believe.

    What needs to change to get people back?

    It starts with the leadership. The Elders. 
    These men need to ready to confront sin. This is one area I think that has been lacking in the Lord’s church for quite some time. They need to get to know their members. After all, they accepted that responsibility when they became Elders. It’s easy to use the excuse that you didn’t know this or that was going on with brother or sister so and so, but we all need to hold each other accountable. Elders need to be bold and stand together. Quite simply, they need to lead. 

    Get back to the basic fundamentals.
    When was the last time you heard a sermon on why the coC does not have instrumental musical accompaniment? Or Abortion? Or women’s roles in the church, what is acceptable or not acceptable? Or Divorce/Remarriage. Or Homosexuality? Or is it okay or wrong to have choir or “worship leaders”? Or drinking? Or dancing? These are all things we feels strongly about, but why? Perhaps we have studied these issues on our own, but wouldn’t it be nice to hear it from the pulpit from time to time? Some of these issues are “controversial in nature”. We need to attack controversy head on, not run and hide from it.

    There are others things we could do better, but those are two good places to start.

  5. Unless we relinquish the throne of our life to Jesus with a humble pentitent heart we will not have the supernatural indwelling of the Holy Spirit which means no salvation. leaving only a man made, man operated religion going nowhere.
    this is meant to be a positve response and yes I did say supernatural presence and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
    Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain.
    Thank you for listening.

  6. keith,
    I listened to your group sing ” Awesome God “.. it’s the best. Thank you.

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