Christianity

10 Reasons Your Church Could Be in Decline

Black Preacher Preaching

                                           (Photo Credit: America Preachers)

Mountains of debt, significantly plummeting church attendance and membership, and uninspired members: fundamental signs your church is in decline or failing. Do the members of your church have nostalgia for “the good old days” instead of enjoying the present and looking forward to the future? Unfortunately, too many church leaders are unwilling to engage honestly with serious issues and questions about their ministries. If in the past a church had great attendance, a constantly burgeoning membership, and limited to no indebtedness, and those phenomena are no longer in place, the leaders of the church must be candid in their approach to resolving these problems. Pretending like problems don’t exist in your church will further exacerbate them. The purpose of this piece is to offer 10 reasons your church could be in decline or failing.

  1. Envy present at all levels. When church leaders are envious and they refuse to address envy among their members, this leads to damaging disunity in their churches. Your church will never grow and experience success when its leaders and membership are dominated by a spirit of envy. Although you might claim that the power of the Holy Spirit is flowing powerfully in your church, you’re being dishonest when envy is highly prevalent in your church. The pastor of your church has to check his or her own envy and promote a spirit of unity among the membership. When people are more talented and anointed to do sundry tasks than you, provide loving support for them and don’t undermine them.
  1. The pastor is a manager instead of a leader. If your pastor has to have his or her fingerprints on everything, he or she is simply a tyrant. In various religious communities, we’re too quick to call someone a leader simply because he or she is occupying a position. A pastor who micromanages every aspect of the church’s affairs is a manager—not a leader. An effective pastor delegates authority and responsibility to other leaders and members of his or her church, and he or she trusts them to accomplish what needs executing; he or she does not supervise every detail of their work. People should feel comfortable operating in their gift without fear of receiving a negative critique or unnecessary requests from him or her to modify their work.
  1. Too many messy people. Messy pastors, church leaders, and members are the ultimate destruction of churches. Pastors and church leaders should be working to resolve messiness in the church and not participate in the messiness themselves. What are some of the ways in which a pastor can be messy, you ask? One way is for him or her to sit at home with members of his or her family and plot the undermining of certain individuals they don’t support. Another way a pastor can be messy is to pick and choose “favorites” in the church and believe anything those favorites run and tell him or her. Finally, one of the most damaging ways in which a pastor can be messy is to use his or her sermons as vehicles to attack those members he or she has problems with and to galvanize support from other leaders and members to join him or her in opposing those members. Too many churches have people who are committed to gossiping about members of their own churches, and this results in breakdowns in communication and relationships, envy, disengagement, and a dearth of productivity.
  1. The pastor selects “favorites.” Everyone in your church should be valued and feel valued. There shouldn’t be a class system within a church where “the favorites” rule as elites and everyone else is powerless and voiceless. What would Jesus do? Treat everyone the same.
  1. Too much emphasis on giving money. While it takes money to have a successful church and do effective ministry, members shouldn’t be bombarded with unremitting discourse about giving money. If your church really has something great to offer, then people will give liberally without relentless requests for and talks about money. Too many pastors are so focused on money that they have turned Jesus into a footnote and afterthought in their churches. Jesus should always be put in first place. When you put Jesus in first place, He will bless your church and abundantly supply you with money.
  1. A lack of focus on serious evangelism. Incessant focusing on money in many churches has led to soul-winning not being a top priority. Many church leaders will say that soul-winning is their top priority—only to turn immediately to soliciting money again. If you want your church to grow, you have to make a real commitment to winning souls for Christ. The money your church needs is found outside of the church: the lost souls who need to come to Christ are the additional sources of money. You cannot continue to ask for money from the same people already in your church; recruit new members through evangelism. Want a successful church? Have a church without borders—don’t remain stuck in the four walls of your building.
  1. The absence of the Gospel of Grace. One of the most frustrating phenomena about most churches is their pastors are still teaching, preaching, and witnessing as if the Mosaic and Levitical Laws are still in effect. Pastors, Jesus didn’t die on the Cross to grant you the right to lord your authority over people. Jesus died on the Cross to empower people with freedom and power through Him. Unfortunately, too many pastors are afraid to teach and preach about grace in a comprehensive way because they know this will mean that they will have to surrender their micro-managing control over their members. The New Covenant is not about subjecting one’s self to a bunch of rules and regulations; it’s about receiving God’s agape love and being empowered through the grace of Christ. When your pastor refuses to engage deeply with grace, he or she is simply a control-freak! The absence of the Gospel of Grace results in church members believing in their own performances instead of believing in what Jesus has already done at the Cross. Right believing produces right living—not vice versa.
  1. Not enough focus on teaching and studying the Bible. It seems that all many preachers want to do is scream, holler, and speak in tongues. What about imparting the Word of God, though? It’s a close and consistent study of the Word of God that brings deliverance, prosperity, healing, joy, peace, happiness, love, and etc. to people—not your screaming, hollering, speaking in tongues, requests for money, rules, regulations, and “good advice.” Unfortunately, too many pastors aren’t equipped to teach the bible properly. Many lack the necessary intellectual aptitude to teach the bible so they just attack those who are educated and say that “the Holy Ghost will reveal all things” as cheap cop out for their inability to rightly divide the Word of Truth. A pastor and his or her congregation can only progress successfully through the regenerating washing of the Word of God. Instead of having all of these revivals and “tarry services,” start having more Word of God revivals where a close study of the bible occurs. You can always identify a pastor does not really know much about the bible when he or she turns Bible Study into regular Sunday service—where testimony, singing, and non-scriptural focused discourse are placed at the forefront over teaching and studying the Word of God.
  1. A lack of meaningful innovation. Although all change is not good change, numerous churches across the nation are declining or failing because they refuse to discontinue their useless traditions. This does not mean that they need to fuse secular phenomena into their church services and practices, but your churches shouldn’t suffer from routinization. Church leaders should listen closely to members about new ideas, and they should observe successful practices and programs of other churches and implement them.
  1. Jesus isn’t being made the top priority. Too many churches aren’t being governed by the dominant principle of Jesus being in first place in all matters. When this governing principle is absent, churches continue to decline and inevitably fail. In every decision that one makes in your church, there should always be a focus on how the decision reflects Jesus being put in first place.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Jesus Didn’t Die to Condemn You: The Gospel of Grace

Black Preacher

(Photo Credit: Rap Genius)

One of the primary reasons why many churches are doing an ineffective job of evangelizing is they fail to reverence the Gospel of Grace in their teaching (if any teaching is going on at all) and preaching.  When Jesus died on the Cross for all (past, present and future) sins, we were given a chance to live in the freedom of His Grace (Romans 6:14).  For those who repent of all their known and unknown sins (Romans 10:9-10), they’re given Salvation and eternal life in Heaven (John 3:16).  With the gift of Salvation comes freedom from condemnation for past, present and future sins (Romans 8:1-2).  When you accept Jesus as your Lord and personal Savior, you’ve been set free from condemnation.  You no longer should be sin conscious; that is, you no longer should live in fear about sin and/or feel guilty about any sins (Hebrews 10:2).  When one does sin, he or she can be forgiven by repenting of the sin (I John 2:1).  At the moment you receive Salvation, you’re no longer under the Law of Moses; you’re now going to be led by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:18).  The Holy Spirit will now teach you all things (John 14:26), and you will no longer need human beings to teach you everything you need to do, think and say (Galatians 3:25).

Grace is Jesus Christ.  Grace is unmerited (undeserved) favor.  Grace is the peace, power, and love of Christ working in the life of the Believer (a person who has received Salvation).

Unfortunately, too many preachers lack the proper teaching about Grace, and continue to “lord” (Mark 10:42; II Corinthians 1:24 [New International Version]) their authority over their congregants and those outside of the Church.  Because many churches are still teaching and preaching the Law of Moses, they’re unintentionally serving Moses instead of Jesus, and they end up offering the world Moses instead of Jesus. For those of us who are serious about the mission of Christ (Luke 19:10), we have to teach and preach the Gospel of Grace throughout the entire world.  We also have to encourage Christian teachers and preachers across the world to learn and spread the Gospel of Grace.

The Apostle Paul writes, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.”  The “gospel of Christ” is the Gospel of Grace.  Paul is astonished that people are so quick to turn away from the Gospel of Grace and teach and preach other things.  He informed the Galatians and us that there’s no other gospel except the Gospel of Grace.  Paul divulged that there are false teachers present who “pervert the gospel of Christ.”  Therefore, when someone is teaching and/or preaching something other than the Gospel of Grace, he or she is teaching you something diametrically opposed to what Jesus taught and preached and diametrically opposed to what He commands His followers to teach and preach.

The only way you can receive Salvation is through your Faith in Grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Church leaders, if you’re serious about the mission of Christ, which is to win lost souls, then you must teach and preach the Gospel of Grace. Your evangelism will continue to be ineffective without an emphasis on the Gospel of Grace.  Stop teaching and preaching the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses was brought to bring about your death (Romans 7:5), but Jesus has come to give you abundant life (John 10:10).    

Don’t let another person condemn you to Hell.  Repent from all of your known and unknown sins today and Jesus will give you Salvation immediately.  Again, stop teaching and preaching Moses and teach and preach Jesus.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

5 Reasons Why Many Black Churches Are Failing

Black Church

(Photo Credit: Tampa Bay)

Historically, the Black Church has served as a powerful political, social, and spiritual institution.  Unfortunately, too many postmodern Black churches are becoming fundamentally immaterial.  This is an especially sad reality when one considers how central the work of Black churches was to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.  The purpose of this piece is to offer 5 reasons why many Black churches have basically lost their relevancy.

1.      Money.  Too many Black preachers place more focus on filling the offering plates than on responding to the comprehensive needs of the members of their congregations.  Instead of engendering a potent economic agenda offering serious solutions for their congregants, many Black preachers are more concerned with how they can fatten their wallets and ameliorate their personal dwellings and automobiles.  Although some people in the faith community are governed by a false consciousness that preachers aren’t capable of being venal people, this type of thought is divorced from reality.  Even with Bishop Eddie Long being publicly proven to be a corrupt man, some in the faith community still don’t believe that some preachers are corruptible.  Many Black churches are being dominated by the profit-motive, and their pastors are viewing the congregants as commodities.  The absence of economic uplift in numerous Black church members has contributed significantly to the waning of these churches’ importance.

 2.      Envy.  In many Black churches, envy is such a prevailing force that it not only threatens the effectiveness of the churches, but also will lead to their untimely demises.  Numerous Black preachers are unwilling to address envy within their churches because they’re afraid of losing church members, which, of course, leads to decreases in dollars in the offering plates.  Although you’ll have countless people tell you that they’re Christians in these churches, so many of them will be the first people to try to bring you down.  Too many people Black churchgoers aren’t committed to solidarity; they’re more committed to finding ways to attack one of their fellow members simply because he or she has something they desire.  Much of the extant envy in the Black Church emerges from deep racial self-loathing.  Black preachers, therefore, need to address self-esteem problems and racial self-hatred.  Envious people don’t want to face their funk—they attempt to deodorize and sanitize their funk.  Beware of those envious snakes who destroy you behind your back.

3.      Fragmentary Teaching and Preaching.  Too many Black churches cherry-pick the sins they discuss.  Countless Black churches have an incessant focus on homosexuality, but they refuse to address the unsettling number of aborted Black babies, the alarming divorce rate in the Black community, and many other sins that will upset the greater majority of the members.  To avoid infuriating the majority of the church members, many Black preachers pick phenomena that will incense only a minority of their congregants.  When teaching about a specific sin, it’s vital for churches to link that sin to the sin nature and offer hope, redemption, and salvation to those who have and/or are committing the discussed sin.  Overly focusing on a specific sin alienates people, and it causes church members to lose sight of the larger number of sins they’re committing and/or need to devote more concern to examining.

4.      Lack of Community Involvement.  Many Black churches are simply not involved enough in the communities in which they are situated for people to see why the churches even matter.  Quality and consistent community service was one of the hallmarks of the Black Church during the Civil Rights Movement, but numerous Black churches aren’t giving any time to community service, or they’re devoting an insignificant amount of time to community service.  An effective church stays active in the lives of the people in its service area.

5.      Lack of a Social Justice Agenda.  The Black Church, as a whole, must return to advocating for social justice as it did during the Civil Rights Movement.  Too many Black churches have been silent about senseless murders of Black people (e.g. Trayvon Martin), high Black unemployment, Black male academic underachievement, and etc.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Gospel of Yes by Mike Glenn

The Gospel of Yes

In The Gospel of Yes, Mike Glenn offers readers an inspiring look at how a personal relationship with Jesus is heavily centered on the word “yes.”  Glenn highlights how the beginning of our personal relationship with Jesus begins with us saying “yes” to Him, and His willingness to say “yes” to a personal relationship with us and “yes” to forgiving us for all of our sins.  The author illuminates how we often allow ourselves to be divided about what Jesus does not allow us to do, but we fail to place a strong emphasis on what he tells us we can do.  For Glenn, the numerous times Jesus says “yes” is undervalued.  This book desires for Christians to engage to characterize themselves more by what Jesus says “yes” to instead of what he forbids.  The author contends that Christianity becomes more attractive and reaches more lost souls when we appeal to the more positive and important things Jesus says “yes” about rather than defeating people with all the things He does not permit.

Mike Glenn writes, “If we understand who we are created to be in Christ, we realize we have an all-consuming calling.  Our calling–our ‘yes’ in Christ–is what focuses our lives and determines how we invest our lives” (p. 24).  What the book wants us to recognize is we will know who we are “created to be in Christ” when we are willing to surrender to the will of Christ.  Although the author could have made it clearer that it’s essential to embrace the things Jesus says “no” to, he captures the power of a life that concentrates on adopting a heart and mind like Jesus.  If you’re really determined to be a true Christian, you’re willing to submit yourself to the totality of the will of Jesus.  Glenn’s book does a great job of elucidating how essential it is to surrender to God’s complete will.

While the book is not super sophisticated and does not attempt to be, it gives the reader a new perspective on mundane things about Christian living.  What I found most interesting was the author’s treatment of the word “yes” in relation to the bible and our relationship with Jesus.  We may not often think about how significant the word “yes” is to having a proper understanding of God’s Word, but Glenn does not allow us to lose sight of this word’s importance.  I highly recommend that you read this book.  It will inspire you to live a better life in the will of God and challenge you to become the best you can be.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group to compose this review.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Just Like Jesus: A Heart Like His by Max Lucado

Just Like Jesus by Max Lucado

Just Like Jesus: A Heart Like His ( by Max Lucado, the popular author of numerous Christian books, presents the dominant thesis that God loves you the way you are but He does not intend to leave you the way you are.  Lucado contends that God wants you to develop a heart like Jesus and He wants to make you just like Jesus.  The author asserts that the central focus of a true Christian’s life is patterning his or her thoughts, words, and actions after Jesus.

I found Lucado’s book to provide a substantive understanding of how God will assist you in becoming what He wants you to be.  At the end of the book, there is a “Study Guide” for each chapter that enables the reader to engage in critical thought about each chapter.  By including this “Study Guide,” the writer evinces his serious desire for the reader to grasp the importance of each chapter’s primary messages.  I agree with Lucado’s overriding thesis that God loves you just the way you are but He does not intend for you to remain the way you are.

Too often religious leaders don’t let people know they have greatness already within them.  When Jesus comes into their lives, He activates the greatness that lies within them.  Lucado’s book is vital reminder to readers that God can use them for His glory as He transforms them into the people He needs them to be.  I found his argument that God longs for total control of humans’ lives to be at the core of what it means to be a Christian and a significant message for postmodern Christians to contemplate and embrace.

I highly recommend you purchase this book today!  The book can be purchased here: http://www.thomasnelson.com/just-like-jesus-5.html and you can read other reviews of this book here: http://www.booksneeze.com/reviews/bybook/9780849947438.  I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson to compose this review.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

God is More than Enough by Tony Evans: A Review

God is More Than Enough

In God is More than Enough (2004), Tony Evans, president of The Urban Alternative and Senior Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, offers readers a powerful explication of Psalm 23.  The book is published by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers.  Although the book is only 90 pages, it unpacks Psalm 23 in such a sophisticated manner while still being able to be easily understood by the average reader.  Many readers will be fascinated at how much meaning is packed into the six verses that compose Psalm 23, and one is sure to gain a new appreciation for it or reaffirm its significance to the Christian’s spiritual walk with Jesus.  In the troubling times in which we live, this book extends to the reader comfort and hope to face these disquieting times.

In the Introduction, Tony Evans does not waste time in evincing how he conceptualizes Psalm 23: he sees it as an “attack.”  He writes, “Beautiful as it is, this psalm is an attack.  It’s an attack on our debilitating lack of trust in God and the great trauma of insecurity that’s brought on by such doubts and disbelief.  Most Christians do not actually believe that God is more than enough” (8).  By reading Psalm 23 through the lens of an “attack,” Evans makes a valuable contribution to the discourse about Psalm 23.  Psalm 23 has not been traditionally viewed as an “attack.”  The author contends that the psalm had to be penned to respond to our proclivity to look for our needs and wants from everybody and everything except Christ.  The book aims to have Christians to eradicate their desire for and reliance on self-sufficiency.  This longing and dependency on self-sufficiency removes the believer away from his or her responsibility to trust God for everything.  Evans wants to remind the reader God is the source of everything we need and want—everything we have, need and desire comes from Him, and we should not look to ourselves for these things but only to God.

If I were writing the book, I would not have selected the word “attack” and would not have interpreted Psalm 23 as an “attack.”  Do not allow this to prevent you from reading and purchasing the book, however.  This particular lens enables you to see Psalm 23 in a new light and to understand the totality of what Christ can for do for you—no matter what problems you face.  The author gives excellent personal experiences, examples, and relevant scriptures to buttress the reader’s understanding of each verse of the psalm.

I highly recommend that you purchase this book.  Your comprehension and interpretation of Psalm 23 will be ameliorated after reading this book.  It can be purchased here: God is More Than Enough.  WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers provided this book to me for free to compose this review.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Read and Follow Everyday Street Bible

My best friend, Santresa L. Glass, and I have created a new project, Everyday Street Bible, which is a blog we use to offer practical and real-world commentary about Christianity, mundane life realities, controversial social, political, and cultural issues, challenges, and problems, and so much more.  The site is located at http://everydaystreetbible.blogspot.com.  I encourage you to become a follower of the site.  We let you know how two real Christians live a real life in this real world.  We truly keep it real.

On the site, we have and will continue to address most of the things that your pastors won’t dare address, but things you need to have some guidance about, considering you don’t spend every day in church.  Santresa and I understand that every day is not Sunday.  We know that you’re going to confront many challenges and problems that are not discussed in your church.  Our site, Everyday Street Bible, is committed to filling the gaps on many issues that preachers across the nation don’t want to address.

Santresa recently composed Sensitive Mean People and I penned Black Megachurch Preachers and Teenage Pregnancy for our site.  Be sure to check those two pieces out and leave a comment on both pieces to let us know what you think.  Show your support by reading and leaving a comment.

Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/thestreetbible and “Like” Everyday Street Bible on Facebook.  Santresa and I will greatly appreciate your support.

Thank you in advance,

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison