The Growing vs. The Dying church

The "machine mentality" is the idea that bigger is better and that machines are more efficient than manpower. We depend on machines (programs and organizations) to be the key to success and neglect the value of individual effort. Every church needs to use both individuals and machines to reach the lost in today's world. We need to have eggs in both baskets. However, the problem is that we have almost all our eggs in the wrong basket! We need to completely rethink our approaches to evangelism. We don't need any new programs or ideas: we just need to adjust our attitudes when we employ the old ones.

Evangelism by proxy:

members supply money, preacher supplies program

  1. It replaces men with machines & programs
  2. It is inherently impersonal
  3. It de-activates the common membership
  4. It deceives the heart & salves conscience

It appears that the church puts its faith in clever advertising campaigns, word processors, and fancy correspondence courses to reach the lost rather than putting its faith in people. When we search out every little scheme which has the latest bells and whistles, are we not really searching for a way to abdicate our personal responsibility of reaching the lost?

The problem is not the fancy program itself but our attitude toward the program. We end up with people helping machines to reach the lost rather than machines helping people. Let's use the machines (programs) but keep them secondary in our mind. Church growth depends on people who depend on God not on machines!

Much evidence of this attitude exists in the church today. When we hold a gospel meeting, we rely mainly on the mass media to draw visitors rather than personal invitation by the members. A second example happens when we use a correspondence course. Our heart places more confidence in the design of the course than in the personal follow-up effort put forth by individuals. So, we search high and low for that perfect course and then sit back and let it do all the converting for us. When results are dismal, we conclude that correspondence courses don't work. Yet, they work very hard! We are the lazy ones!

The key to church growth is to activate the general membership to be seekers of the lost. But this is a difficult tradition to overturn. Disinterest in reaching the lost is not the only problem we are battling today. We are also faced with general apathy, poor attendance, compromising of moral standards, and morgue-like worship services. Actually, all these little problems are merely symptoms of one large central problem: a superficial relationship with God. So, rather than cracking the whip or laying guilt trips on members to reach the lost, deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ through a daily Bible reading and prayer program. Then they will volunteer to work at saving the lost! Couple this with some leadership in soul-winning by example rather than pep talks from the pulpit and you will have a winning combination. Evangelism is not something we do it is a lifestyle we learn to live.

Our traditional method of reaching the lost has two basic components fancy programs and money. The preacher supplies the fancy programs and the members supply the money to run them. Yet, nobody is really doing anything personally to reach the lost. We have evangelism by proxy. We hire the preacher to do all the work of soul-winning while the members pursue other interest.

Then, the preacher hires the media to invite the lost to our elaborate programs and meetings while personally inviting no one. When we think about being evangelistic, the first thing that pops into our mind is newspaper advertising for a gospel meeting or a correspondence course. We will never be effective in reaching the lost until each member is convicted of their individual obligation to personally share their faith. Any program will be effective when the bulk of the membership is actively involved.

All churches can be divided into two basic categories: those that are growing and those that are not. Circle the characteristic that best describes the church you attend.

Growing church

Dying church

Reaching the lost is of central importance

The need for reaching the lost merely proves a good sermon subject twice a year.

All members recognize their personal responsibility to be active, in some way, in the work.

The sentiment prevails: "Why do I have to teach the lost; isn't that the work of the preacher?"

Many members are involved in giving personal invitations.

Members rely on the "newspaper boy" to do the inviting for them.

Members do not rely on the "church building" to attract the lost.

Member's efforts to reach the lost focus on "appearing prosperous" and having a "nice" building.

Members are personally involved in teaching the gospel to the lost.

Members look to the preacher to teach the lost the gospel.

Church tries to develop the talents of the individual members to effectively teach the lost by providing the necessary material and training.

Church does not provide teaching materials or training to aid members in reaching the lost.

Bring Bibles & Take Notes

Do Not open Bibles in meetings

Focus On Lord's Work

Focus On Problems or doctrinal controversy

Noise Of Small Children encouraged

Quiet As Tombs

Love And Forgiveness

Gossip, Suspicion & Bickering

Sacrificial money Givers

Merely Tip The Lord with leftovers

Emphasize Moral Purity

Sin, Adultery, Compromise rampant

Men & Women Soul-winners

Pastor System

Never Forsake Assembly

Attendance Is An Option

Outreach to community

In-drag to church

Outreach Home Centered

Outreach Building Centered

Fishers Of Men

Keepers Of Aquarium

Sound In The Faith

Sound Asleep

Actual numeric growth

Declining as old members die

Low dropout rate of new converts

High drop out rate of new converts

New marriage opportunities within body for young

Lose children through mixed marriages

In summation:

Note that our traditional method of outreach to the lost has four serious problems:

  1. It replaces men with machines and money.
  2. It is inherently impersonal
  3. It tends to deactivate the memberships and promotes apathy

It deceives the heart and salves the conscience into thinking that an advertising budget of $50 month discharges the Christian from any personal responsibility to reach the lost.

Steve Rudd

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