From Decline to Growth – 4

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Static-cling Churches

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)

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1 Comment

Filed under Change Agent, Missions/Evangelism, Preaching/Teaching, Religion

One response to “From Decline to Growth – 4

  1. Bob Chapman

    Hi Dwight,

    Johnny Appleseed and I must have been related somewhere in history as we both have the same surname; Chapman.

    I guess I must have inherited a little of his programmology (to use a big word you mentioned you don’t use. Maybe I have created a new word!).

    On my recenty trip to teach and preach in Nepal, I took the Johnny Appleseed approach to kingdom growth. While on the plane from Perth to Bangkok in Thailand I got to share the gospel with a Thai businessman. Then from Bangkok to Kathmandu I got to share with a Japanese man. Then while in Nepal for 10 days I not only taught 200 disciples who walked in from the mountains and jungles and went back with their spiritual seed bags replenised, but I also got to share with disciples and non-disciples from Nigeria and Japan who are living there.

    Then on the way back to Bangkok I was approached by the Asian/Pacific regional director of Gideons International; a resident of Taiwan. He saw me reading my Bible in the Kathmandu airport and asked if I was a preacher. He then sat down and we discussed his recent placement of 40,000 Bibles in Nepal hotels and guest houses and his recent placement of 350,000 Bibles in Beijing China in time for the Olympics. He also told me that Gideons spent over USD100,000,000 last year placing Bibles in accessible places around the world.

    Then on my flight from Bangkok back to Perth I planted some more gospel seed in the heart of a young 19 year old girl.

    Like Johnny Appleseed, I may way never see any of those folk again, or get to see if the seed planted grows into a fruit producing tree, but that is God’s business. He gives the increase. He adds to His church. He grows the kingdom and we are called to work with Him.

    So I leave them in God’s good hands to water, fertilize and give the increase. But as a good seed sower, like Johnny, I can only pray John 16:8, that the Holy Spirit convicts these folk of sin, righteousness and judgement and that the Lord puts other disciples into the pathways of these folk.

    Farmers prepare soil, sow and harvest every year. Churches too often work to achieve one harvest and reminisce about it from generation to generation. Sure is bad farming practice and doesn’t fit John 4:27-42!

    We’ve been called to go and sow; not come in and stow!

    Blessings
    Bob Chapman

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