WHY AREN'T WE GROWING?
There was a time in the '50s and '60s when we were the fastest growing religious group in America.
According to Flavil Yeakley's studies on church growth in the '70s and '80s, we started a declining growth pattern. In the '90s we leveled off and have stayed about the same now for the last 10 years.
What is the difference in our movement now than what it was in the '50s and '60s?
When our growth was at its highest, we were known as people of the Bible. Our people were daily Bible readers. We were a praying people, totally dependent on God. We were people who did Bible things in Bible ways. Our worship, lifestyles and focus were on Jesus Christ and His commands. We were unique. We offered a pure religion based on the New Testament teachings of Jesus Christ. We were different from the rest of the religious world.
Then we went through a period of feel-good religion. Our older, more knoweldgeable shepherds, who had grown up in the Book started dying off. Over a period of the next 20 to 30 years we developed shepherds raised on television, movies adn the entertainment world. Our ministers went to seminars on church growth that emphasized giving people what they wanted instead of what they needed. We were bombarded with reprimands like, "You guys think you're the only ones going to heaven." So we started trying to make ourselves look like homogenized milk. We started chasing the denominational world. Instead of offering a unique religion, one pure and Bible-based, we tried to look like just another denomination among many. We tried to change our woship styles. Our Bible classes focused on worldly topics and how to fit in socially. What we were offering every Sunday in our buildings looked like every other brand of religion. We became just another denomination, vying for a country club faith based on what people liked and wanted. "Meet my needs" became this generation's cry, and we bought into that man-made philosophy.
That brings us to where we are today. We now have a congregation of people who are biblecally illiterate because our sermons, classes and lifestyles are based on what makes people feel good instead of the biblical truth of God's commandments. Our people don't know why we don't use mechanical instruments of music in our worship.
They don't know why women cannot be elders or other public leaders in the congregation. They don't understand the connection between baptism and salvation. They don't understand biblical worship. They don't know why abortion is wrong. They don't know why the homosexual lifestyle is wrong. They question everything; there are no absolutes. They don't know why we are not just another denomination. We want to look and act like everybody else religiously. We want to fellowship anybody who says they believe in Jesus Christ regardless of what they practice.
We don't want to be different from the world. We want to be just like the world around us. We want to do whatever the majority wants to do.
As long as we follow the majority, as the Bible plainly teaches, we are on a winding path to destruction. And everybody who follows will end up in eternal damnation.
The real questions we have to answer in our minds are: When are we going to stop trying to be just like every other religious group in town? When are we going to turn back to the Bible as our only guide? When will we start doing Bible things in Bible ways? When will we start preaching biblical truths about marriage and divorce? When will our classes deal with the text of the Bible and not social issues of the day? When will we again become people who are daily Bible readers concerned more with what Jesus has to say about the subject than our next-door neighbor? Only when we return to being a pure undenominational body of people who are unique in everything we do and when we have elders, deacons, and preachers who are willing to be what God wants us to be.
When we do things the way God wants them to be done, we will grow and lead people to a life of integrity, a life where we can make the statement, as Paul did, "Follow me as I follow Christ."
Let's be bold enough to do things the way God commands. Let's be the unique church taught in Ephesians, a church full of love for one another, a church known as God's children. Let's be a church where Jesus Christ is Lord, where this community can see the one Lord, one faith, one body, one spirit, one hope, one baptism, the one God who is truly our guide in all we do.
We need to stand for something or we will fall for every wind of change that is leading many of our brothers and sisters into a man-made religion.
By Kent Houck in The Sower, Vol. 49, No. 4, July/August 2004.
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