No matter where you look you’re likely to see distressing trends concerning the decline of churches in the United States.
We see attendance dropping and churches even closing. There are movements afoot trying to turn the tide. “Church Revitalization” is one of the catch phrases that permeates the church world right now. It is something that is needed. That’s not the question. Many believe a majority of existing churches need revitalization. The question is – who decides which churches get to be “revitalized”?
American denominations are offering “revitalization training”. There are blogs and podcasts and books dedicated to finding ways to turn declining churches around. Much of what is being written and taught is good – but we’re not seeing the results we want. Why? What’s the problem?
I believe the crux of the issue lies with the vetting process for deciding which churches receive revitalization assistance. Most churches I’ve worked with agree they want things to change. They all say they’re willing to do “whatever it takes” to reach those far from God. The problem, in my experience, is that most of these churches aren’t being completely truthful. Change is very painful for many churches and though they express a desire to change and to grow and to reach people far from God – it just proves too much of an adjustment for them. And so they continue to languish.
That’s why I advocate a much tougher vetting process for churches who seek revitalization. While I would love to see great effort and resources put into every single church that says they want to stop their slide – I know we have limited resources. So it is incredibly important for us to ask the right questions and carefully consider the responses.
If we don’t do a better job of vetting – we will continue to waste precious resources on churches who will never turn their fortunes around. We must do better.