Nine out of ten churches in America are either declining, or they are growing so slowly they are not keeping up with the growth rate of the community in which they are located.
It’s a long sentence. Read it again carefully. Soak it in. Across America 90 percent of the churches are losing ground in their respective communities. Most of them are declining. Many of them will close.
As I have worked with thousands of churches over the past three decades, I have noticed something fascinating, yet disturbing, about many of these churches. They are still acting like it’s the 1980s. The world has passed them by. They are deemed irrelevant by members of their communities. They are frozen in a time warp.
Why has this tragedy fallen on so many churches? Though I don’t want to oversimplify the issue, I see at least eight reasons for this crisis.
They are trying to shelter themselves from culture. In the 1980s, congregations were typically part of the mainstream culture. They were accepted in most places, and embraced in some. That is not the culture of today. Many church members use their churches as a getaway from the realities they don’t want to face.
Programs were easy answers. The vast majority of churches in the 1980s were program-driven. If there was a perceived need, they would order a resource that best solved that need. Many churches today still think they can get quick fixes from programs.
Churches largely catered to the needs of church members in the 1980s.We thus created a culture of membership that is me-driven. Many church members do not want to make the sacrifices necessary to reach our communities and culture today. They are demanding their own needs and preferences to be the priority of their churches.
Change was more incremental. If your church is stuck in the 1980s, it does not have to worry about the rapid pace of change today. Members can pretend like their church does not need to change despite the massive upheavals of change in the world.
Church growth was easier. In the 1980s, a number of people would visit our churches without much effort on the members’ part. One church member told me recently, “If lost people want to come to our church, they know where we are.” Sigh.
Denominations provided solutions. Not all churches in the 1980s belonged to a denomination, but many did. And many members expected the denominational organizations to guide them and resource them. Denominations work best today in partnership with churches, but too many church members want to return to the paradigm of the 1980s.
Others did evangelism for the members in the 1980s. Evangelism was the responsibility of the pastor or the denomination or a few people in a program. Church members paid others to do the work they were supposed to do. Some church members today are more concerned about their worship style preference than lost people who need to hear the gospel.
Some churches would rather die than to get out of the comfort of their 1980’s paradigm. I feel certain they will do just that.
What do you think of these issues of time-warp churches? Let me hear from you.
As I talk with various church leaders, I am discovering a common misunderstanding about the difference between ministry and disciple making.
Describing the difference between disciple making and ministry is kind of like describing the difference between a square and a rectangle. A square can be a rectangle, but a rectangle is not necessarily a square. They both have four right angles and four sides. Which is why they are often lumped into one another. However, only the square has four sides of equal length.
Applying this to ministry and discipleship, you can do ministry without making disciples, but you can’t make disciples without doing ministry, or at least not the way Jesus made disciples.
Ministry wasn’t enough for Jesus
Think about it like this: Jesus could have taught every parable, healed the sick, raised the dead, embarrassed the Pharisees, died for our sins, rose from the dead, and ascended back to the Father, all by himself. However, if it weren’t for the 12 disciples, we probably would have never heard anything about it!
The truth of that matter is this: Jesus wanted to build more than a dynamic ministry, he wanted to build a movement. In order to build a movement that outlives the founder, a transfer has to be made from the founder to the followers. In other words, you have to make disciples. Ministry is not enough.
Some churches have dynamic ministry going on, which is great! God will move when we obediently serve people. But without disciple making, it will never be become a movement. In fact, without disciple making the scope and impact of your ministry will be limited. After all, who is going to lead those ministries? Who is going to lead the people that those ministries reach? Without making disciples, you will not be able to develop leaders, and without leaders, ministry can only go so far.
Ministry or Disciple-Making?
So how do you know if you are making disciples instead of just doing ministry? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Who in your church is making disciples? What are their names? If you can’t name the people who are making disciples, it’s probably not happening.
Do those you have named as disciple makers know that they are making disciples? If they don’t know they are making disciples, it’s probably not happening.
What are the names of the people who are being discipled by those disciple makers? If the disciple makers can’t name the people they are discipling, then discipleship is probably not happening.
Do the people who are being discipled by those disciple makers know they are being discipled by them? If not, then discipleship is probably not happening. The 12 disciples knew they were being discipled by Jesus.
How do you know when the one who is making disciples has actually made a disciple? If you don’t know how to answer this question, then discipleship is likely not happening. Jesus said in John 17 that he had finished the work the Father had given him to do. He knew when his work with the 12 was completed.
If you don’t know how to answer these questions, then you are likely not making disciples the way that Jesus made disciples.
After all Jesus, was the best disciple maker…ever. It’s hard to improve on what he did.
Seven steps to letting go of hurt and disappointment.
by Dr. Dave Currie with Glen Hoos
"Forgive and forget." It's a well-worn cliché—one that is easier to say than to practice.
If you're married, you've been there. Your spouse has said or done something that has wounded you. It may be something small, or it may be a major betrayal. Either way, your pride screams at you to take revenge. If you don't strike back immediately, you at least want to keep this "guilt card" in your pocket, to be pulled out at a later date: "Oh yeah, well what about the time when you ..."
When we've been offended, the last thing we want to do is to let it go. And yet, if our desire is to have a healthy, lasting marriage, that is exactly what we've got to do. Here are seven suggestions to keep in mind when your spouse lets you down:
1. Agree on a time to talk. If you need to talk to your spouse about something, don't just corner him or her and launch in unexpectedly. That is a recipe for hostility. Instead, agree together on a time to discuss the issue. That gives each of you a chance to think about it in advance, which will result in a more productive discussion.
2. Handle negative emotions responsibly. When we react emotionally, we often say and do things that we later regret. In many cases, it is best to delay the discussion until you've settled down, gained a proper perspective, and prayed about your attitude. This will allow you to go into it looking for a solution, rather than just being consumed with your own hurt.
As partners, you need to respect each other's need to "take five." If your spouse needs to wait a few minutes, or even a day or two, to cool down, don't press the issue. This should not be used as an excuse to avoid the discussion entirely, but it is better to take some time to clear your head than to allow your emotions to take you somewhere that you don't want to go.
3. Deal with one issue at a time. Remember that "guilt card" we mentioned earlier? Once you're into the discussion, you will be tempted to pull it out. Soon, your conversation has deteriorated into a long list of offenses, as you try to outdo one another with everything that the other person has ever done wrong. This only intensifies the conflict and deepens the divide between you. It can also be overwhelming to be presented with a massive list of things that need to change. Instead of being motivating, it's discouraging.
Instead, be content to solve one problem at a time. It is much better to make serious headway in one area of your relationship than to simply rehearse everything that needs fixing.
4. Be clear about your perspective. Give each other some uninterrupted time to share your concerns. If you are just trading barbs back and forth, neither of you will really be hearing the other—you'll be too busy thinking about your next comeback.
When it is your time to talk, try to help your mate understand your hurt or frustration. Help them to see why their actions and words had the impact that they did. Likewise, the offending spouse should have the opportunity to explain their words or behavior. It could be that you have misinterpreted their motives, and when this is cleared up it goes a long way toward solving the problem.
5. Hold your relationship more dear than this issue. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our feelings or our "rights" that we lose sight of the bigger picture. People joke about marriages breaking up over toothpaste and toilet paper disputes, but it really happens! Remember that your relationship is the primary concern. You may have some issues to sort out, but you still love one another—and loving one another often means letting the other person be right.
6. Walk in an attitude of forgiveness. If you are going to live with this person for the next 20 ... 30 ... 50 years, you are going to have to forgive one another many times. You cannot afford not to forgive. Unforgiveness not only hurts your spouse, it also hurts you! As Corrie ten Boom said, "Forgiveness is setting the prisoner free, only to find out that the prisoner was me."
This brings us back to the issue of forgiving and forgetting. In truth, there are some hurts that you will never be able to forget. What is more important is that we choose to let it go. Proverbs 17:9 says, "He who conceals a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends." Forgiveness entails giving up your right to punish your spouse—whether through direct retaliation or just letting bitterness fester.
Over the past year, I have discovered the value of "advance forgiveness." I make a conscious decision that, the next time my wife, Donalyn, offends me, I am going to forgive her. Then, when it happens, I remember that I have already decided to forgive her, so there is no point in making a big deal out of it now. This really helps to take my critical edge off.
7. Forgive as Christ forgave you. Colossians 3:13 says, "[Bear] one another, and [forgive] each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you."
And just how does the Lord forgive us? Fully. Unconditionally. Willingly. Time and time again.
This kind of forgiveness is supernatural; it is more than we can do on our own. Particularly if your spouse has betrayed you in a major way, you may need to ask God for the ability to let go of the hurt and forgive them from your heart. But as you trust God to give you His strength and love, He will help you to forgive ... even when your spouse has really let you down.
If you have never experienced God's complete, unconditional forgiveness, know this: God loves you deeply. There is no sin that is so great that He is unwilling to forgive you, if you would just come to Him. If this is the desire of your heart, pray this prayer:
Dear God, I need You in my marriage, and in my life. I acknowledge that I have sinned against You by directing my own life, and that I cannot go on any further without Your help and guidance—and above all, Your forgiveness. I thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to pay for my sins. I now accept that sacrifice and invite Jesus to take His place on the throne of my life. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and empower me to live the life You have called me to. Thank You for forgiving me. Amen.