Although Jesus has sent every believer to fulfill the Great Commission, many Christians are failing to make disciples. “The church in
The number of churches in the
In 1900, there were 28 churches for every 10,000 Americans.
In 1950, there were 17 churches for every 10,000 Americans.
In 2000, there were 12 churches for every 10,000 Americans.
In 2004, there were 11 churches for every 10,000 Americans.4
Too many churches are closing their doors.
The North American Church is in trouble. Eighty percent of Americans are unchurched. Of those who do attend a church, only fifty-two percent are committed believers. Eighty percent of churches have either plateaued or are in decline. Over four thousand American churches close their doors every year.5
Recently I returned home from being out of town for five days. As I walked toward the front door late that night, the grass in our front yard appeared to be dying. A few days later, I took a closer look and discovered it was dying and in some places it was already dead. I immediately checked the sprinkler system, replaced a few heads, and got out the hose to soak the worst areas. The Church in
The problem is getting worse. “Church attendance has dropped from 49 percent in 1991 to 43 percent in 2002.”6 While many reports from around the world reflect the rise of global Christianity,7 “the Western world is the only major segment of the world’s population in which Christianity is not growing … The unchurched population of the
Churches are going out of business. Why? Because they refuse to change. They do not want to change or see the need to change. Certainly churches are failing to align with Jesus’ mission:
Any church that doesn’t shift from “ministry as status quo” to “ministry as mission field” will die or it becomes hopelessly irrelevant to the people its charter document—the Bible—calls it to love, serve, reach, and even die for.9
Even among churches that appear to be growing, if they examine that growth, it is largely coming from transfer growth rather than conversion growth.
In the average church only 15 percent of those who are attending were not active constituents of another church before coming to their present church. While some of the transfer growth could still be called conversion growth (if the church they previously attended did not lead people to a personal commitment to Christ), the fact is that conversion growth is steadily declining.10
What can be done to revitalize the Church in
Certainly we must pray! Also, Christians need to align themselves with Jesus’ heart for the world. Every believer must incarnationally display the gospel to others where they work and where they live.
We must seize Jesus’ mission as our own!
1 Malfurs, Planting Growing Churches for the 21st Century, 32.
2 Arn, The Pastor’s Manual for Effective Ministry, 41.
3 Malfurs, Planting Growing Churches for the 21st Century, 35.
4 Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches, 9.
5 Ogne and Roehl, “Coaching: A New Paradigm” (doctoral diss., The
6 Rusaw and Swanson, The Externally Focused Church, 27.
7 See Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity,
8 Clegg and Bird, Lost in
9 Ibid., 35.
10 Klopp, The Ministry Playbook, 58.