Congregational Growth/Decline

The Comeback Church Conferencewas hosted at my church this past Tuesday.  The conference was presented by the NC Southern Baptist State Convention.  It addressed the reality of decline in many of our denomination’s congregations.  Ed SetzerandJ.D. Greearwere the featured teachers/leaders of this much needed dialogue among pastors and church leaders.

The conference provided opportunity for reflection on an important challenge facing many congregations.  As I read the article linked above, I thought about the recent changes made in our services at HGBC-North.  I also thought of the “prayer request cards” that I occassionally receive from worshippers primarily focused on their personal worship needs versus the congregational worship experience.  I thought over my past 14 years in the music ministry and I reflected upon the various and numerous changes I have experienced in churches as far back as my childhood church.

I have found one thing to be consistent in my experiences.  Church people are going to exert effort somewhere.  They will either exert effort to avoid change or they will exert effort to bring about change.  I have not attended or served a church yet that did not fit into one of those categories.

I have served three churches in my 14 years of full-time ministry.  Prior to that, I attended three churches as a faithful member.  There are distinct differences between each of the six congregations and between the communities in which they find themselves.  All six congregations are located within areas that are growing.  But only three of the six congregations are reflecting the growth found in their communities.

Why is that?  Why is it that all six of these congregations are in areas that are increasing in population size but only some of the six are experiencing their own growth?  Maybe the question needs to be asked, “Should congregations be growing?”  If they should be, and it is determined that they are not, is it reasonable to seek answers?  If they are growing, is it healthy, Kingdom growth?

The Gospel message is as effective today as it was during the days of the Apostle Paul.  But instead of engaging the world and preaching a message of repentance and transformation, have we instead allowed our churches to become like Noah’s Ark?  Do we see our buildings, programs, ministries, and schedules as being for our famlies’ and friends’ enjoyment and benefit?  Have we stocked our ark with the things we like and closed the door on our communities?

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