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Why Churches Close
By: Author Unknown
There are a number of reasons why a church may decline and confront the prospect of ministry death. Some of the causes are outside the congregation’s control. Others are a direct result of what the people are doing (or not doing) within the church.
Listed are reasons why churches close. The wise leader will recognize where his congregation is and prevent the loss of a church.
- Loss of population base within the community. A significant factor confronting many churches located in isolated rural areas is the decline within the community at large. As the children become adults, there are not enough economic bases to support them. As the population of the community decreases so do the opportunities for the church outreach and growth. New people, having no ties to the community, may travel to a larger metropolitan area to attend a church that has multiple programs.
- Demographic change within a community. Demographic changes alter the cultural setting of the community. Churches that do not adapt to these changes can find it difficult to minister to the new cultural setting. Because small churches tend to be homogeneous, they are often the last to change when transitions occur in the demographic setting. Unwilling to change, they soon become isolated from the mainstream of the community.
- Changes in society. There are several changes within society that have significantly impacted the small church and contributed to the decline of some congregations. In the past, the church was a social center of not only the people who attended, but also the whole community. People came to church to see their neighbors and friends. No longer is the church this social center; instead people have multiple social centers, which draw them away from the church. Consequently the church no longer has the influence within the community it once had. The downside of this is that people no longer attend church for social interaction, making it more difficult to attract new people. Another factor has been the mobility of people. People will drive past many churches to attend the church of their choice. No longer is there the true “community church” where everyone in the community attends because it is the only church available. Now, because distance is no longer an issue, people have multiple choices of which church to attend. A third change in society is consumerism. Previously people attended a church because of their loyalty to the congregation and community. Even if the church was not “ministering to their needs” they remained because of their sense of duty. Now people hop from church to church depending on their particular needs and availability of programs within the church to minister to those needs.
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I Sam 17: 19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle.
Can you imagine all the hundreds or even thousands of warriors that were in the field that day? There were both Israeli and also the Philistine seasoned men of combat. Archers. Chariot riders. Foot soldiers. Champions of wars past. Huge, scarred, muscular men of combat.
And along comes this ruddy, stubbly faced, nosy kid who upon hearing the Philistine champion's challenge, calls out…. “Is It My Turn Yet?”
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What would an ineffective pastor look like? Here are seven habits of highly ineffective pastors and how you can avoid them.
- Be reactive. Effective people are proactive. They take responsibility for their lives and aren't swayed by their physical or social environments. Being proactive means responding by choices and values, not by emotions or circumstances.
- Focus only on short-term results. A good habit says, "Begin with the end in mind." This attitude will help you keep a heavenly perspective throughout your day-to-day work.
- Do the least important thing first. An effective pastor will look at all the things in his or her life and prioritize them. The people or items at the top of that list will receive the pastor's first and best attention.
- Think win/lose. Truly effective pastors will look for win/win solutions. They find agreements that benefit and satisfy everyone involved. This principle is especially valuable with staff and volunteers.
Fundamental principles underlie the thinking and conduct of all true leaders, and these principles are even sharply defined for leaders within the kingdom of God. From time to time those whom the Lord has chosen for leadership need to examine themselves in the mirror of thought- provoking maxims. These proverbs are designed to help Christian leaders move forward in administrative excellence.
Responsible leaders do not make irresponsible statements.
A godly leader speaks out of the presence of God.
A humble leader never makes light of eternal truths, but esteems them with reverence.
A wise leader resolves conflicts peacefully, not forcefully.
An enduring leader withstands insult without anger.
A wholesome leader is characterized by tolerance, which saves him from hasty decisions in crisis, and retaliations in the face of contrariness.
The good leader attempts to make friends, not enemies.
Dealing harshly with opponents causes more aggravation and hostility. A polite leader uses gentleness and kindness.[ read more...]
There are two essential elements of community. 1) interpersonal commitments and 2) a sense of belonging. True community needs both of these elements in operation. Without interpersonal commitments, a sense of belonging would soon be lost as a sense of belonging is derived from and is a result of the interpersonal commitments. Did I loose you there? Ok, let me break it down.
Bob joins a new church. He is warmly welcomed. He soon receives salvation. Bob likes the people and enjoys what he feels in the church. However, as time goes on, Bob soon realizes that since his only real commitment is to come to church, worship and give in the offerings, his commitment level is not very deep. In fact, if Bob only develops a deep relationship with the pastor there, then the Pastor is Bob’s only real reason for staying there. What happens however, when Bob gets upset at the pastor? What happens if the pastor resigns? You and I know what happens, Bob soon leaves. However, what would happen if Bob were was interconnected in a deep level of community or fellowship with 10-12 other people within the church? (Small Group) What if it were possible that Bob could get upset with the Pastor, yet his love for and interconnectedness with these other 10-12 were so deep that he would stay?
Relationships are powerful. A good relationship will build a person up and a bad relationship has the potential to destroy someone. We often fail to realize the value of relationships within the church. We exhaust ourselves with evangelistic efforts and get so excited over the sudden growth or influx of visitors. Yet we then often fail to get those new people into bonding relationships within the church and soon lose them. What we end up with is a person who is easily offended and will have nothing or nobody to stand in their way of an exodus.[ read more...]
There is no limit to what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit. It is important to cast a vision of servanthood to lay leaders and those in the church who serve the body of Christ.
Preach servanthood. There can be no greater example of servanthood than Jesus Christ. He was someone who could have expected everyone to serve Him. However he continually offered himself as the servant of all. You get what you preach. If the church needs to be reminded to serve one another, Preach servanthood.
Live servanthood. If Jesus can do it, so can the preacher. People live by our example more than what we preach. If we preach servanthood but live lordship, people will become confused and view it as hypocrisy.
Reward servanthood. Praise those who put others first. Openly applaud those who go out of their way to put others needs before their own. Jesus said, “When you’ve done it to the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.” He wanted us to know how important servanthood was as[ read more...]
Here is a question every leader of people asks himself/herself at one time or another.
When Jesus looked out over the masses who followed him, I wonder if He asked himself this same question. As He counted, in His mind, the healings and considered all who he helped, I wonder if he pondered how many would come after him.
Of course they would follow him to the next miracle. They would follow Him to the next free dinner. They would be there to hear him preach again, but would they follow him all the way to the cross.
People are fickle. Have you noticed this? It doesn't take much to turn their heads. You can spend all your energy helping them and teaching them, but when something/someone flashier comes along, off they go
It's no wonder we are likened to sheep in the scriptures. Sheep are wanderers. If the shepherd is not watchful, his sheep will simply wander off. They don't mean to leave the shepherd really. They just found a patch of grass that is greener and so off they go.
I look at the ministry of Jesus and I am dumfounded at the throngs of people he could gather. So many on the sea shore that he would have to launch out on a boat to talk to them. Thousands were there the day he multiplied the little boys lunch. They pressed against him. They cried out to him from the edges of the crowds. They climbed into trees to see him. They tore the roof off of houses to get to where He was at. Yet I believe he had one question in His mind every time he saw them press in. "How many will follow?"
Each time you get in front of the group you minister to, do you ask yourself this question? How many will follow me? How many will live the way I teach? How many will stay strong to the faith? How many will be saved?[ read more...]
As technological progress continues, it axiomatically leads to increasing rates of stress, overload, complexity, and change, speed, debt, and meaninglessness. Yet how can we protect ourselves, or families and our churches from the exhaustion and burnout of our age? The following suggestions may provide some relief, both for you and for those you minister to.
- Put more control in your life.
- Learn to laugh.
- Generate good will. The greatest thing we can do to buffer ourselves against the ravages of stress is to continually spread good will to those around us.
- Limit negatives. Stop negative self- criticism. Limit your time with negative people.
- Stop digging. If you're in a hole, the first rule is to quit digging. If you're overloaded, start saying "NO!"
- Accept your limitations. God is the author of limitations, and He gave them to us for our protection. We violate them at our peril.
- Defend your boundaries. Establish appropriate boundaries and defend them against the onslaught of an extraordinarily demanding world.
- Prune the activity branches. Like new branches on a fruit tree, additional activities and commitments add themselves to our lives every year, often without our permission.
- Value simplicity. No one ever lived a simpler, more unencumbered than Jesus.
- De-accumulate. Everything we own also owns us. Each possession must be cared for, maintained and paid for.
- Control the "paper tumor." Every year the amount of paper and information it contains seems to metastasize without pity. When at all possible, use the "OHIO" rule - "Only Handle It Once."
- Restrain technology. Maintain a healthy skepticism of any new technology and don't buy it unless you can control it.
- Value traditions. Identify the traditions in your personal, family and church life that have special significance and protect them vigorously.
- Establish stability zones. People generally benefit from having certain areas in their lives where change is kept to a minimum, and stability and reliability are assured.
- Move less often. Church leaders are often called on to relocate frequently. But at a time when the rest of the world continues to change so wildly, leaders who have a choice may want to consider the benefits of greater longevity in one position.
What I increasingly discovered was in these dark spiritually abusive environments, it serves as excellent and fertile conditions for hypocrisy to prevail. As you dig deeper into these environments you soon discover dark, deviant sins and moral corruption simmering beneath the surface. I believe that the huge level of repression that takes place in these “churches” does nothing except bring out the worst sins of the flesh. Although when someone finally does decide to speak up concerning the matter of these dark sins, the leader usually resorts to efforts of damage control so that the leadership and the church do not have a soiling of “reputation.” Man hasn’t really learned any new tricks about covering sin; he still resorts to insufficient fig leaves just as Adam and Eve did at the beginning of the state of man.
What I also found to be very surprising is that most of the time the wife of the leader will also work toward damage control. She will do everything within her power to live up to the social pressures of maintaining some semblance of normalcy in the various relationships she has within the church. She apparently has come to understand that the dark side of her mate can shift on her as much as it does with those people he is taking advantage of. So instead of dealing with the moral and spiritual failure that is present things are left to follow the course of gravity. Gravity leads the person to maintain an environment of manipulation and absolute mind control on those people he is supposed to serve.
While I have written about the traits and characteristics of those who are involved in a spiritually abusive environment, I have not been specific with practices of spiritual abuse. I will list some of the practices while leaving some of the most extreme situations out as some would probably be absolutely shocked to know this kind of thing takes place under the guise of religion. So here are some actual practices of spiritual abuse:
• A member having to submit financial records to the church leader and the leader determines how and when they are to spend their money.
• A member having to sell various things on a constant basis to feed the coffers of the church so that it entirely benefits the leader.
• A wide disparity between the lifestyle of the leader and the members. He lives like a king while the members appear to live at a level of poverty or barely just able to get by.
• The leader using a “word of knowledge” or “word of wisdom” to pick a spouse for those who are in the congregation.
• Members being absolutely forbidden to question the direction the leader takes or question the decisions he is making.[ read more...]
1. Clutter can slow you down by distracting you from what you want to do. To take control, begin in one corner of one room and straighten up. (No cheating! Don't just move the clutter to another corner!) Afterward, give yourself a reward for your good work. If you continue this pattern over time, you'll get the job done.
2. Do you arrive at your office most mornings frazzled from too much rushing around before leaving the house? Prepare for your departure the night before: put your coat, car keys, and briefcase by the door, ready to grab, and set your alarm fifteen minutes earlier. You'll start the day feeling more in command.
3. The next time you pass a card store, stock up on a supply of "thank you," "congratulations," and "great job" cards. Keep a supply at the office and some at home. Remember how you feel when a good word is sent your way and be generous in your compliments to others.
4. Do you keep "to do" lists that run on for pages? If you often feel discouraged by what's not crossed off your lists, make them shorter. The most effective managers identify only three top priorities each day. And their self-esteem is stroked repeatedly when they cross off all three tasks, day after day.
5. In today's world of so-called advanced telecommunications, more people identify "telephone tag" as their biggest time waster. When you leave a phone message on someone's voice mail or answering machine, remember to cover the four W's: who called, why you called, what you'd like the receiver to do, and when you're available to receive a return call. A specific request with detailed information increases your chances of a reply. Furthermore, on the incoming message of your answering machine, direct callers to leave you answers to the four W's.[ read more...]