Declining church attendance - what to do?

Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by Matt Black, Jan 23, 2004.

  1. Matt Black

    Matt Black
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    First off, I'm keen to point out some figures for your perusal (obviously UK based, so I'm not sure how applicable this is on the other side of the Pond).

    Some 10% of the population are classed as "regular" churchgoers.

    40% have "left" the church. Eg. once in their lifetime they were regular churchgoers but now aren't.

    50% have never gone to church regularly.

    Let us consider that middle 40% - of which there is apparently roughly a 50/50 split with 20% having 'drifted away' as life has changed, and most tellingly 20% have left disillusioned, hurt or angry.

    That's 20% of the UK population !!

    A couple of consequential points to be made:-

    Point #1. The percentage of regular church goers attending church here is shrinking. Thus those leaving is rising - this shows us there is a problem. If people are preferring to do 'church' without actually going to an established church, we should take heed and look at where we are going wrong - and I think we are getting it wrong.

    Point #2. Perhaps we should be seeking to take church to the churchless (as per the spirit of Hebrews 10:24-25 - eg. in order to stir up love and good works), rather than just quoting a passage to them and waiting for them to return (or not, in the very obvious case). Or is the Christian thing to do, to wait for them to return, or cut them loose?

    Point #3.From my meagre and humble experience (7 years in a Pentecostal church, 8years in a restorationist house-church, and two in a Baptist church ) and a reasonable knowledge of what goes on elsewhere, I've concluded that attempts to reinvent the ecclesiological wheel end up with a wheel that somebody or other dislikes and wants to reinvent all over again.

    Any solutions/ suggestions?

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  2. Pastor Larry

    Pastor Larry
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    I thought Paul had a good suggestion in 2 Tim 4 when he said "But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." This immediately follows the context of chapter 3 where he outlines the kind of things that characterize the last days. However long those last days might be, we are certainly living in them.

    When I was flying, my instructor told me a little thing about "chasing the needle." When using radios for navigation there is a little needle in the cockpit that tells you what direction to fly to stay on course. Instructors teach you to make gentle corrections rather than severe ones because severe ones will make you fly past the needle (line of intended flight) and then you have to correct back the other way. If you keep your mind set on the ultimate goal (not the needle but the destination) then you get where you want much better.

    Too many churches today are "chasing the needle." They see declining attendance and try think the needle (attendance/people) needs to be chased. We need to keep our eyes on the goal of fervent, God-centered evangelism. WE need to call people to biblical discipleship. And we need to realize that most people won't want it.
     
  3. Precepts

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    I have found that when people sense the genuine spirit of God on the Throne of our hearts and we have that unmistakingly compassion for people they know all too well whether we're genuine or not. If we will learn that people have been disassociated by less than committed members who may or even may not have a callous attitude towards the things of God, it should prompt us to be real.

    Letting the Lord work in us and through us works. I'm afraid we like to say the Lord is using us but the results indicate more than we like to admit.

    I know there are those who say,"If the Lord doesn't bring them in, they just won't come." (What a sorry,flippant attitude rooted in the heart of disobedience.) The Lord told us to go out and compel them to come in, but instead, though we're out there trying to drag them to church, we should acknowledge the sense of "compelling" is to have earnest desire for them to know Who we know and why they too should come to such a festive occasion as the House of God, to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

    If we'd learn to just be ourselves and quit putting on the act of trying to be somebody we're not they see the real us, but the thing is, do we want them to see what we really are?

    Warren Wiersbe has a book of a series called "Be Real". Suggested reading for any Christian.

    When people do come to our churches, do they find God's people in the spirit of worship? Or do they just find us in thye "same old song and dance routine"?

    I like it when I get to church and God's there! And people whether they are saved or lost know it too!

    A good report of the "meeting" will attract others, but a dead and callous attitude won't attract even the most aware of their need, but God has drawn them in spite of the deadness and dryness of our services.

    Just a note for you that think I'm going charismatic on you, You're nuts! The Baptist were shouting, praising, and lifting up holy hands to our King Supernal long before the charismatic crowd crawled out from under their rock and if we're going to let them steal our worship practice away from us then go ahead and roll over and die. You might keep the doors open through family members and friends, but God wants us to compel them all to come.

    It does every Christian unbelievable good to humble himself and pray by getting down on his knees and pleading with the Lord to use them "for" His honour and Glory!(I know weverybody may not be physically able to get on their knees, (and get back up), but spiritually we can, even if we're bed ridden and laying flat on our backs)

    Makes the difference at our church and no we're not growing into two services a day and packing them out for SS, but God meets us there!

    Bring people to a program, and they'll come till the program gets old and tiresome, bring people to God, He never grows old and is NEVER tiresome!
     
  4. Matt Black

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    Good answer, Pastor Larry! I certainly think that far too many churches aim at quantity (rears on pews) at the expense of quality (people being effectively discipled into maturity and release into ministry to disciple others) - we need to get back to the Narrow Gate idea and recognise that numbers do not equate to success.

    What then of the statistics in my OP? - are they the result of a 'weeding-out' of poor soil (if you'll pardon the mixing of horticultural metaphors!) or should we be worried?

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  5. Pastor Larry

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    I am inclined to think it is weeding out of those not truly converted. I would appeal to 1 John 2:19 for that. There could be some who drop out for a while and come back. When people drop out, we do need to go after tham and call them to repentance and find out where they are an how we can help them.
     
  6. Matt Black

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    At the risk of sounding judgmental, I am inclined to agree with you: I think that is part at least what we are witnessing is a winnowing of the Christian church (eg: John 6:60-69); as the idea of 'Christendom' or a 'Christian nation' alluded to by be elsewhere in this forum recedes further into the past and the 'nominals' fall away, we can perceive a clearer delineation of the boundaries or 'battle-lines' between Christian and non-Christian; the flip side to this coin is that our nations' laws will reflect less and less the LORD's standards, but at least we will know where we - and they - stand.

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  7. Deacon

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  8. Ps104_33

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    I read somewhere that more people are attending mosque (Islam) in the uk than are attending Christian churches. Any truth to this statement?
     
  9. Johnv

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    Declining church attendance - what to do?
    That's easy: The churches should attend to the needs of the people. That is sadly lacking in much of Europe.
     
  10. David Mark

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    If I am faithful to the few or with little, then I can be trusted with more.

    If I am not even faithful with few or with little, then I can't be trusted with more.

    I don't mind having little and I do have little. There is promise if I can just be faithful with the little that I have been given. I'm not going to fly over my mission field to get to someone else's mission field.

    Dave.
     
  11. Ben W

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    It is surprising that many churches are not all that aware of why it is that people have left them, much less do anything about it. I would think that at least having discussion on the subject would be a good start.

    Consider the visitor's point of view. I once went to a very nice Baptist Church here. Yet I was handed a hymn book and that was my contact with them. Nobody came and said hello or made any attempt to make me feel welcome, needless to say I never went back. The scary thing is that that same scenario is repeated every Sunday in many many churches.

    It is all good for us being that we have our circle of friends and stuff, but often we are not all that concerned about others.

    I know one lady who comes to my church who telephoned several churches in the area and asked if one of them could have a member pick her up as she had no transport. Various groups actually refused, simply because they could not be bothered. She came to this church and is really involved in it now and a valued member.

    I am sure that the list of how churches treat people could go on and on. Yet for all of us if we are serious about having more people in our churches, it starts by ensuring that your church is a place where friendship is offered and people are at the very least made to feel welcome. If the church coud just do that one thing, I am sure that we could come close to doubling our numbers overnight.
     
  12. dclark14

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    Meeting the needs of the people begs the question:"What are their real needs?" The secular secular unbeliever today want's his "felt" needs met-- but doesn't "feel" that he needs the gospel or the God of the gospel.So- what should we give them? A gospel that meets "felt needs"? Who'se at the center of that?In this day of the great "falling away" we must stick to the gospel message and trust God to draw in those who will hear.(He might just use personal relationships and invitations, tho').If we believe that Ruth is a type of the church, we must realize that she was gleaning, not harvesting.Tough days we live in, but we still have the "Blessed Hope".
     
  13. Matt Black

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    Tricky one...depends what one means by 'meeting needs'. Obviously the chief need is to hear and respond to the Gospel; the Christian message is not and should not be populist or even popular otherwise we risk preaching 'easy believism' - salvation without true repentance, which is oxymoronic as well as being moronic! Having said that, that is not an excuse for not being welcoming and friendly to newcomers or not being supportive pastorally generally...

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  14. NaasPreacher (C4K)

    NaasPreacher (C4K)
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    I appreciate this thread and the thoughts in it. We are in a church plant work in Ireland and it has been a roller coaster ministry. Right now we are at a down point in the work. We had a bunch leave one time because we did not meet their "needs" but their needs were a totally different worship style than I feel is right or biblical.

    What people really "need" is the Word of God. Sadly, so few realise that as a need and have a lat of wants. I don't know how one can hold the line with the Word of God and meet everyone's wants. This group who left said that we were too focused on the written word and they needed the freedom to allow the Holy Spirit to work beyond the written Word.
     
  15. Tim

    Tim
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    Christ-centered preaching.

    Others-centered living.

    It's a hard combination to find in most churches today. I imagine that accounts for the loss of the "disillusioned".

    Tim
     
  16. Dr. Bob

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    Big attendance? Bread and circuses. IFB'dumb did that in the 60-80's with busing, clowns, etc to be the biggest.

    Willow Creek does it now with "seeker sensitive" rock and polo shirts.

    Big crowds come and big crowds go. They followed Jesus for a while, hoping for another feeding of the 5k. Finally there were just a handful of faithful left and Jesus asked, "Will you also go away?"

    THESE were the few that turned the world upside down. They found out that the answer was not in mass evangelism, crowds, bread or circuses. It was one-to-one discipleship based on a real, vibrant, living faith.

    Missing today methinks.
     
  17. David Mark

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    Maybe not totally missing, but maybe easily overlooked as not big or "massive" enough, not advertised enough, not on TV enough, not controversial enough, not political enough, or any other not ______ enough to matter (to man).

    In search of the Kingdom,

    Dave.
     

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