800-900 Southern Baptist churches die in our country every year! Over 77% of these churches are in communities larger than 100,000 people, according to NAMB. Over 90% of these churches are in population centers that have grown over the past decade. The problem is real. But to whom does this problem belong? It belongs to us. It’s mine and yours, and we need to own it. The integrity of the gospel demands that we pray, that we work together to plant new churches, and that we work together to replant dying churches. We can do this! We can change the trajectory of our convention by refusing to die, and within a few short years we can totally transform the spiritual climate of Montana. Pastor, church planter, you are not alone. We are in this fight together across Montana for Montana. Check out the following article by Mark Clifton that helps us to identify characteristics of death in the local church.
The Traits of a Dying Church
By Mark Clifton
1 Care more about comfort than the lost
The only time Jonah was happy in that entire book of the Bible was when a vine covered his head. And then, Scripture says he was mad when somebody took it away. Sometimes, in dying and declining churches, the only thing that makes us happy is when we have things the way we want them, and we get mad when people take those things away.
2 Busy with activities
“As long as we’re staying busy, we’re doing something for God,” is a common attitude. Sometimes the hardest thing to do in a dying church is quit doing what you’re doing when what you’re doing isn’t doing any good.
3 Refuse to pass leadership
I’ve had many occasions when churches have said to me, “Can you help us find a young pastor? We don’t have any young people, so we want a young pastor.” I’ve never had a church say to me, “We have to repent because we have no young people. We’ve obviously made some decisions that have made this church a place where young people don’t feel welcome or we’ve failed to make some decisions that we should have to make young people feel important.” We need to pass leadership to the next generation.
4 Value decision process over outcome
They know more about the bylaws than they know about the epistles. If they knew as much about the New Testament as they knew about the bylaws, they wouldn’t have the trouble that they have now, but process is everything.
5 Focus on what they don’t have rather than what they do
So you don’t have any youth or children. You don’t have a good music program. Don’t have, don’t have, don’t have. Those may be true things, but what you do have is the risen Christ in all His resurrected glory in your midst every time you gather. What you pray is, “Lord, we may be small in number, but that doesn’t matter. The resurrected Christ in all of His glory is here among us.”
Bonus Resent the community
“These people just don’t like us.” They didn’t like Jesus either. Did you remember that? We act as though there’s something wrong with the community rather than something is wrong with us. Oftentimes, resenting the community is really the death wheeze of a church.
Mark Clifton is the Senior Director of replanting at NAMB.
You may or may not identify with these 5 traits, but this does not change the fact that churches across North America are dying at an alarming rate. Churches are dying right here in our backyard, in Montana, and I believe there is much we can do about it. We can plant new churches and we can replant dying churches. Will you be a part of a collaborative effort to reverse the downward spiral of a large percentage of churches? While not trying to over spiritualize the situation, I must say that I truly believe that souls are at stake, and we have a great responsibility. The following is a podcast with Mark Clifton entitled The Need for Church Replanting. In the podcast he mentions resources available to local churches. Please let me know if you’d like to have a conversation about planting or replanting churches in areas of Montana where God has given you spiritual responsibility. I’d love to come visit you and let you show me where you believe God wants to do another great work.