Christian music

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Dying, Sick, Status-quo, or Healthy Church?

Numerical growth alone does not mean a church is healthy. There are many publicity stunts we can employ to get seats in the pews. However, long-term plateau and decline are clear signs that a church is unhealthy and diseased.

Generally, you can track when a church became unhealthy when the church began to turn inward and church becomes “all about us.” The hymn of the sick & dying church is “serve us” rather than “service.”

According to Dr. Milfred Minatrea of the Missional Church Center, all churches can be classified in one of four categories:

1. Terminal—all focus has been lost.
The few remaining members just hope to keep the doors open and eventually, as members die off or leave, lack the resources to continue operation. In time these churches die.

2. Survival—isolated from their community.
They tend to be family oriented (member’s families only), value the past, fear the future and change, and are generally in a “hunker down” mindset. In time as members die or leave, these churches enter into the terminal stage. On occasion, churches in the late survival or terminal stage will be open to change, if the fear of the death of the church becomes greater than the pain of change.

3. Conventional—traditional family centered, program driven churches currently growing.
These churches are producers of religious goods and services of which their members are the primary consumers. They spend 75% or more of their financial resources on their members. These churches will, in time, plateau and begin to decline if they do not move to a focus on reaching those outside their immediate fellowship.

4. Missional—balance between serving the members and reaching out to the community.
These churches expend 25—30% of their financial and people resources in reaching and serving those outside their immediate fellowship. They are healthy and positioned for long-term growth and impact.

Where is your church in this classification system? Are you healthy or showing the signs of sickness and even disease? If you continue as you are, where will your church be in five, ten, fifteen years?

Think about it!



Raylu said...

Phil, I agree with your assessment of the church.Churches seem to serve self instead of the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to be more Christ-like in the church and our lives. Our mission should be to win souls to Christ and help them to grow as Christians. Lucille

TimInABottle said...

So....just how do you change a stagnant or dying church? How far do you go if a majority of the members would rather you didn't?

Preacher Phil said...

The truth is Tim, you can't change a stagnant or dying church until a majority of the members say, "We don't want our church to die. We'll do what it takes."

Until they ready to make the big changes needed to rescue their church from decline and eventual death, you must spend much time in prayer, preach the truth (including your vision) in love, and surround yourself with encouragers and those who share the vision.

If they are ready to make that decision it is suggested

1. Do an analysis of your condition. A graph of attendance over the last 10-30 years can help churches see long-term trends.

2. Discuss with the entire church, not just the leadership. Everyone needs to understand the situation and embrace the need for the change if it is to be effective. Sometimes an outsider is needed to help the church see its real situation.

3. Decide on a course of action, it won't be simple. It might require a change of style, location, leadership, or strategy.

If a majority of the church refuses to say, "We don't want our church to die. We'll do what it takes" you can either hold their hand why they die or leave so that you don't catch their disease.

Amy said...


After reading your blog, I turned to Ephesians 4:17-20. I think part of the scripture is relevant today--Paul talks about unity and maturity as goals of the church, yet it seems that some churches are taking two steps back for every step they take forward. I would just like to challenge the church family to examine their hearts and I pray that we remember what our goal grow in unity and in maturity. How simple it seems; how idealistic, yet how relevant to our times. Like I tell my students and my children...treat people like you would want them to treat you. If only we would remember what it is like to see life through the eyes of a child! Amy

Preacher Phil said...

Great challange Amy! We, the church can grow in unity and in maturity if we will unite in our purpose, vision, and mission!

Our Purpose is to impact our communities with the life-changing message of Jesus. (We exist for not other reason!)

Our Vision is to become a biblically functioning community of believers so that Christ’s redemptive purposes can be accomplished. (Biblically functioning means dropping our personal traditions and opinions and imitating the church in the New Testament.)

Our Mission is to glorify God in Jesus Christ by putting these things first: the Word, worship, outreach, commitment, and relationships. (Glorifying God, not self!)

A church united in these will be at peace and will attract many.

For Christ’s sake, for our sake, for the sake of the lost, let us make every effort to attain and maintain the unity of the Spirit.

Tim said...

I believe there is another type of church. It may go with "sick" but I think there is a little difference. I would call it the blind/deaf church. This is a church where appearance seems well. All from a distance looks good. But there is something wrong, the leadership is blind or deaf to what really needs to be done. When they are approached about it they turn "a blind eye" or a "deaf ear" to the problem and only want to concentrate on the "good they have done". Am I off base or near any intelligence?

Preacher Phil said...

You are right on target Tim! These churches are egocentric and narcissistic. They are usually sucessful in what they are doing, but fail to even begin to forsee what they could be doing if they were operating under God's power.

It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (Zechariah 4:6)