Church

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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Church Shouldn’t Mirror the Nightclub

Secular Music in Church

(Photo Credit: GH Music Nation)

In many churches, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish them from nightclubs. The Apostle Paul delivered a New Covenant of Grace command to Believers: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). When preachers allow elements of the nightclub to become regular parts of their services, they engender a milieu within their Sanctuaries that becomes confused. At one moment, many preachers are passionately advocating holy living; however, at another moment, they’re permitting young and old congregants to participate in worldliness inside of the church. There should be a clear distinction between what’s sacred and what’s secular—those borders shouldn’t be blurred. To attract young people to church and engage them once they arrive, it’s unnecessary to dilute authentic spirituality and Christian worship to make this possible. Jesus should never be lost in anything we do in the church.

Secular music concatenated with some references to God or Jesus here and there is still secular music. Lipstick on a pig is still lipstick on pig—no matter how sophisticated you attempt to portray it.

You cannot put “Christian” in front of any music genre and try to present it as appropriate for church services. Although genuine Christian rap of the type Lecrae offers is appropriate for church services, everyone purporting to be “Christian rappers” aren’t. They’re secular rappers wanting to use churches as spaces to expand their recognition and spheres of influence. When you allow secular rappers masquerading as Christian rappers to perform constantly in your churches, you’re inviting those unclean spirits to reside in your churches as well. After they perform, don’t expect to come behind them and have powerful, life-changing sermons. Don’t expect people to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit after you’ve endorsed all of those evil spirits to come into the church. Many preachers simply aren’t consulting the Lord about the decisions they make and aren’t seeking divine wisdom.

When the House of God becomes the nightclub, God is not pleased and He will hold the pastor of each church that does this accountable.

Young people don’t have to be moved simply by secular beats to come to church and be involved in it. They’re more complex than that. If church leaders would simply offer these young people Jesus, they will drink from the cup of Grace Christ extends to them. You can attract young people to church by offering them opportunities to honor God in ways truly pleasing to Him. Give young people opportunities to sing traditional and contemporary gospel songs. Let them give inspirational messages about their love for Jesus and what He means in their life. Have them to create and recite Christ-centered poetry. Use the diverse talents and skills the young people in your church and community have to glorify Christ by encouraging them to make Jesus the true focus of everything they present during church services.

God’s Altar is sacred and should never be desecrated—neither should His Sanctuary.

When leading the unsaved to Salvation through the Prayer of Salvation, preachers commonly conclude the Prayer of Salvation by asking, “According to what you’ve just prayed, where is Jesus?” Unfortunately, too many of those same preachers aren’t asking the same query when it comes to allowing secular music to be performed in their churches.

Keep what’s holy, holy; keep what’s sacred, sacred. If the shoe fits, wear it. Period.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

It’s Time for Catholic Priests to End Celibacy Vows

Pope

It’s becoming increasingly clear that many Catholic priests aren’t able to abstain from desiring and having sexual intercourse.  Unfortunately, a number of them have elected to have sex with children, which, of course, is child molestation.  For those Catholic priests who want to marry and have sex, they should be allowed.  A change in the celibacy doctrine for Catholic priests will improve the image, mission and purpose of the Catholic Church.  While it’s certainly possible to remain faithful to a lifelong commitment to celibacy, those Catholic priests who cannot persist to honor this vow are attempting to hide their inability to keep this vow.  By having sex with innocent children, they think their misdeeds will go unrecognized.  Fortunately, their unlawful actions are being exposed.

During the current election process of a new Pope, Catholic leaders need to select someone who will help the Catholic Church to take a serious stand against child molestation.  It’s also vital for the next Pope to begin a candid global discourse about allowing priests to marry and have sex if they desire.  Although many will be resistant to giving priests the authority to marry and have sex, this is the right thing for the Catholic Church to do.  If the Catholic Church does not take meaningful steps to end child molestation from within its borders, then the Catholic Church will inevitably become associated with evil instead of good.

Why continue a practice that causes more harm than good?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Toward A New Christian Approach

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Last week on Facebook, I engaged in a prolonged discussion with a young White male student who attends University of Wisconsin-Madison on the subject of Christianity. We had a passionate discussion about the existence of God and the usefulness of the bible. I am a devout and unapologetic Christian and he is an atheist. During our discussion, the guy tried to undermine the usefulness of the bible and the existence of God by selecting random scriptures and making interpretations about those scriptures that were totally out of context. During that discussion, an epiphany that I had when I was at the University of Arkansas in 2004 resurfaced: Do not wear yourself out with trying to convince people who do not believe in God that he is real and that the bible is right. While I have had some pretty sophisticated discourses with atheists in the past at Albany State University, Emory University, University of Oklahoma, University of Texas, University of Toronto, Harvard University, and the University of Arkansas, this discussion with this young first-year student at University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed to me that I was talking to a fool. You should never consume too much of your time arguing with fools because they are more skilled than you are with doing what they do best: engage in foolishness. The purpose of this article is to offer Christians a new approach to responding to non-believers who want to challenge the bible and the existence of God.

Instead of trying to defend the existence of God and what the bible says to non-believers who attempt to undermine both, change the discourse into a discourse that forces them to prove evolution or that there is not a God. As Christians, we often waste a significant amount of our time trying to make people think that God exists and that the bible is right. If people are not willing to hear you out about the existence of God and about your explanation of biblical scriptures, then devote your time and attention to someone else or something else. If people want to go to Hell, please learn to just pray for them, but you have to ultimately be willing to just let them go to Hell. Salvation is a personal choice; therefore, people have to make up in their own minds to get it. Some Christians will get all angry with people who challenge them about the existence of God and problems they have with what scriptures say. Again, I have to let you know that you should not be getting angry over people like this. Just let them go to Hell! Hell was created for a purpose. God already knew that some people were not going to make the decision to love and acknowledge him. Hell was created for those people who elect not to acknowledge, love, and serve God.

When I challenged the University of Wisconsin-Madison atheist student about proving to me that evolution is real and to disprove the existence of God, he started to get all angry and called me “the typical Christian.” I would like to inform this young White man that “the typical Christian” is not like me. The typical Christian is not willing to take the kinds of risks I do, he or she is not willing to break with tradition as I am, and he or she is not willing to have discourses about the topics that I do, so I’m not “the typical Christian.” I would love to see a day when more Christians are more challenging, bigger risk takers, and willing to break with tradition more. Fortunately, I cannot be accurately called “the typical Christian.” If you do not believe me, just read the articles on my blog and you will see that I am not “the typical Christian” and do not want to be.

I want Christians to put more of the burden on non-believers to justify why they believe what they believe. The burden has always been put on the believers to justify why we believe what we believe. It is time for us to change this reality. People think Christians, especially many professors in academia, are simple and unsophisticated thinkers just because we believe in what the bible says and because we believe in the existence of God. It is time for Christians to start to challenge this position. I contend that it is highly unsophisticated to believe in nothing. It does not take much intellectual thought to believe in nothing. For me, it’s simple and unsophisticated to believe in nothing. I am not saying that all atheists do not believe in nothing, but I am saying that some of them do believe in nothing. Christians need to rise up and challenge the belief in nothing that seems to consume so many non-believers.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison