Autopsy of a Dead Church

Autopsy of a Dead Church
Posted by in Facebook's Pentecostal Theology Group View the Original Post

Church revitalization is a popular topic today, and that is appropriate. Various writers and
researches estimate that between 70 and 90 percent of the churches in North America are plateaued or
declining. The percentage varies from writer to writer, but, certainly, the majority of churches in North
America are declining or dying. Robert Dale in his book, To Dream Again, helped church leaders
understand that churches go through a life cycle. That is, a church is born because someone or a group
of believers had a vision (dream) to start a new church. They worked hard to plant and grow the church.
Eventually, the church stopped growing, and eventually, after some years, it began to decline. Dale
pointed out that unstopped decline leads to the death of a church. Dale wrote that a church needs a
new vision or dream in order to begin a new cycle of growth.

Thom Rainer, the President of LifeWay Christian Resources, has written many books and article
on church growth. This book is about church death, and the reasons for it. He does not present an
exhaustive study on church decline and death; rather, this little book provides snapshots of dying
churches. The death of a church with which he consulted years ago prompted Rainer to write the book,
but he includes data from fourteen different churches that died. His hope is that church leaders in
declining churches will recognize their dire situation and take measures to reverse the decline.
In the book Rainer lists and discusses briefly the primary reasons for church decline and death:
(1) The church was dwelling on the past. (2) The neighborhood changed, but the church did not. (3) Few
resources were dedicated to growth. (4) The church forgot the Great Commission. (5) Older members
refused to accommodate the desires of young people. (6) Pastoral tenure grew shorter and shorter. (7)
The church neglected prayer. (8) The church had no clear purpose. (9) The church became obsessed with
maintaining its facilities.

In my personal experience and research it is clear that churches must choose between change
and death. Sadly, most churches choose to die rather than change. When I came to Memphis a year ago,
I asked about several Memphis churches I had known in the past. In every case the answer was the
same: Oh, that church no longer exists. Thom Rainer loves the church (as Jesus Christ does) and longs to
see these churches revitalized. This book is so simply written that lay leaders could read it and apply it.
God grant that they do so. Readers who wish to learn more about church revitalization might also see:
George Barna, Turnaround Churches, Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, Comeback Churches.

11 Comments

  • Isara Mo
    Reply June 17, 2019

    Isara Mo

    Church as a person? church as a gathering? or church as a building?

  • Troy Day
    Reply June 17, 2019

    Troy Day

    Isara Mo READ the article – it comes from a popular book by Rainer Michael Ellis Carter Jr. may have already read it Rainer lists and discusses briefly the primary reasons for church decline and death:

    (1) The church was dwelling on the past.

    (2) The neighborhood changed, but the church did not.

    (3) Few resources were dedicated to growth.

    (4) The church forgot the Great Commission.

    (5) Older members refused to accommodate the desires of young people.

    (6) Pastoral tenure grew shorter and shorter.

    (7) The church neglected prayer.

    (8) The church had no clear purpose.

    (9) The church became obsessed with maintaining its facilities.

    WHICH ONE is your favorite??? Alan Smith

    • Michael Ellis Carter Jr.

      Troy Day yes I loved the book actually. You know what’s most interesting to me, is that despite all the denominational differences these 9 reasons are evident in all churches. We are much more similar than we think.

    • Isara Mo
      Reply June 17, 2019

      Isara Mo

      Troy Day
      None of the above.
      The one foremost reason and only reasonable reason for church decline and death is absence of the owner who bought it with His precious blood in the first place.
      All the above factors can be in place and yet where there is no Spirit of the Lord there is no church…honestly.

    • Isara Mo
      Reply June 17, 2019

      Isara Mo

      Michael Ellis Carter Jr.
      Brother Michael I know that there are churches that year in and year out “grow steadily” especially denominational and religious based ones but these “growth” are because of their policies and doctrines: they are never in the wane.
      But when you talk of a church like the first church in the Book of Acts where the Lord “added their number” daily, then you will notice the difference..

    • Joshua Remington
      Reply June 17, 2019

      Joshua Remington

      “No clear purpose” makes sense to me, but “neglected prayer” is the most convicting!

    • Troy Day
      Reply June 17, 2019

      Troy Day

      I dont know HOW a church “neglected prayer”

    • Alan Smith
      Reply June 17, 2019

      Alan Smith

      Troy Day they are all sad for sure

  • Joe Absher
    Reply June 17, 2019

    Joe Absher

    10. When they openly deny the veracity of The Bible.
    11. When they pretend to be smarter than Jesus
    12. When they scoff at sanctification
    13. When they define repentance as “change of mind” and not a moral upheaval and without remorse.
    14. When the only groaning is for the offering
    15. When a haircut is more important than assurance of salvation
    16. When the holy ghost is laughing but no weeping
    17. When Jesus Christ serves you and you have no intention of obeying him in everything
    18. When breaking yourself before God on a regular basis is not a joy but a bridge to far
    19. When faithfully reading Bible is a burden and not bread of heaven broken and given for you

  • Troy Day
    Reply June 18, 2019

    Troy Day

    Surprised they are only 9 and not 10?

  • Louise Cummings
    Reply June 18, 2019

    Louise Cummings

    Gathering.

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