The words of Christ to Sardis: “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. ‘So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent” (Revelation 3:2,3)
Many churches around the world have turned inward, curled up and turned brown. They have a name that they are alive, but they are dead (Revelation 3:1). All that is needed is someone to perform the funeral. Others are content to become “magnet churches” by attracting and accumulating those who are already believers as they move into the community or become disenchanted with their former “church home.” I call this “static-cling” church growth.
Static-cling churches depend on youth programs, family programs, marriage workshops, seminars, bake sales, mission trips, ski trips, small groups, concerts, gospel meetings, revivals, Senior Saints activities, vacation Bible schools, etc. Wow! What an active church! Activity produces static electricity and people are attracted by all the sparks. Here is the danger: to think of this “static-cling” phenomenon as success.
To be sure, it’s very complimentary to any congregation when folks moving to the community choose to be a part. The obvious success of these churches attracts many non-believers and “unchurched,” especially if there is a flat line on their own congregation’s enthusiasm and involvement meter. Hopefully, such transfers will become faithful, committed Christians through this association. But here’s the rub: this is not true kingdom growth.
Relocation is not kingdom growth. Kingdom growth occurs when someone outside of the kingdom comes into it. When lost people are saved, this is growth. When those in darkness come into the light, this is growth. When sheep without a shepherd come into the fold of God, this is growth.
Do the math! If someone leaves one church to become part of another, a congregation somewhere else has lost a member. In the overall scheme of things, this is a net gain of zero for the kingdom. In this ball game with folks bouncing from church to church, people haven’t been saved, they’ve simply been traded. The real mark of success comes when we sow the gospel and God blesses our planting and watering with a harvest of rescued souls.
I don’t like using words that smack of academia simply because I am not interested in impressing academics. I am interested in talking to the people who will ultimately make the difference: rank and file Christians. So, I avoid words like Christology, ethos, soteriology, orthopraxic, and even missional where possible. I dislike using words that I immediately have to define in order to make any sense. None of this is complex. So, let’s try to get logical and simple here: if it is true that we reap what we sow and we aren’t sowing anything, what will we reap?
There is only one cure for decline and it is a simple one: “Go…and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19)
(This article is adapted from The Urgent Revolution. You can read the first three articles on this subject in the archives)