Skip to content

What can be done about declining church numbers?

When it comes to reviving churches, “It is easier to give birth than raise the dead”. I guess that is why there seems to be a focus on church plantings. Start a church from the beginning and there is no baggage from the past.

Part of the problem and reason for the church’s decline over the years is that the church has become increasingly irrelevant for its own members. How well has the church discussed the idea of a life with meaning, and how shall we respond to the societal drift from a Christain ethical framework?

To address that challenge the church needs to send the message: Life has been given to us as a challenge. Can we stay on the path that God has given for us, the path of order. On either side we are constantly being pulled off by chaos. Can I pay my bills, my future, my children’s future. Can I get a job, keep a job, I hate my job. Can I find a partner, keep my partner, am I a good partner, am I good enough? Am I healthy, should I do more, when will I die, is that all there is?
If I lose my way how do I get back on the path? I want to be on the path because when I live in truth and in the way Jesus instructs, life gets better, a lot better. Stray of the path and into chaos I create my own hell, a hell that has a depth without end, I can always make my life worse.
The bible tells us how to find the path, if we sin, it tells us how to return, if we suffer, how to continue and most of all, our life is worthwhile. It is up to churches to help their congregations to find those answers.

I would add, that an important element of people being shaped by the bible, and ‘staying on the path that God has given for us is having a healthy connection to a church. That is, to a group of Christians. The text in Acts 2:42-47 is very informative on this point. “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

People will be drawn to the church when they see a healthy community developing. Not just turning up once a week for a Sunday service and a cup of tea afterwards but a true community where each is supporting each other in love and charity. “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship”. Here the word is continually, continually studying the bible and continually forming strong ties of fellowship. In the church that I go to, in their glory days they had a tennis club, put on dances, had a choir, a womans group and a mens. Not only the spiritual side of the congregation was nourished but the social side as well. Those glory days are gone now, the congregation is aging. The tennis, dances, choir are gone. There is a fellowship but it finishes when the tea has been drunk and it is time to go home.

Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. In their spiritual and community development the early christians saw and felt the positive effects of finding GOD’s path and shared that testimony with each other. When we give testimony we give honour and glory to GOD, we uplift and strengthen the faith in our brothers and sisters. We also learn from each other how GOD can save us from sin, show us a glimpse of his character and how our lives can changed by him. It also reminds us that we are not alone on the path but we are surrounded by people that love us and will help us stay on the path.

And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. A critical aspect to Christian living is charity. Not an abstract charity of giving money to mission but personal charity of helping those in our community. When someone struggles or falls from the path the community pulls together to help with the actions co-ordinated by the Church. The focus becomes helping those that in the community and the community becomes a light to draw others to GOD and so the expanding the reach of its charity.

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. There is no better way to build community than in the sharing of meals together. The early church had what was called the Love-feast or Agape. Dinner was part of the early church service, they ate, prayed, sung, gave testimonials and read scripture. As the church grew, became formalised the Agape was lost and it is a sad loss. The passages where Jesus is giving instruction to his disciples are often around the dinner table. It is time to bring back this tradition.

“And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” The lord gave us an example of how to grow the church in Acts. Focus on fellowship, charity within that fellowship, spiritual growth and encouragement through the fellowship, and growing closer together through shared meals. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp-stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:1-16. We are not to be a secret society or a closed one but one that advertises ourselves as a community that builds fellowship through love, charity and faith. We want people to join in and walk the Lord’s Path together. The natural outworking and product of these things is an increase in numbers.

“You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works, and give glory to your Father in heaven”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *