Why Churches Stop Growing by Eddie Foster

Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

It’s hard to get lost people to church. Back in the day, on Sunday there was not much going. No shopping. No sports. People came to church. Now they don’t.  We can still reach them for Christ. The Holy Spirit can still bring conviction. I was miserable when I was convicted. I didn’t eat or sleep much. It showed me my need for the Savior. We need to pray for conviction.  Some don’t want to pray for conviction.  They don’t want people to feel uncomfortable or miserable. I’d rather them be miserable a little while here than for eternity in hell.

Jesus is the head of the church and its foundation. Without him there is no church. At one point in every church’s history it was a growing church. It has been up and down for most. Eighty per cent have seen a decline. There is basically one reason churches stop growing. But before I discuss that, I want to give you some reasons that it hasn’t.  (1) It’s not a knowledge issue. Most preachers know how to do it. There are books and seminars all over the place, so it’s not about knowledge. (2) It’s not a denomination issue.  The magazine Church Growth Today put out information years ago. It listed basically all denominations have seen a decline. People are not just flooding to certain ones; all have been affected. (3) It’s not a location issue. Churches are everywhere; no reason not to find one. (4) Formal education is not an issue. Most preachers do not have a degree. (5) It’s not a spiritual issue. Some of the most spiritual preachers still can’t build a church. If it was a spiritual issue, pastors of large churches would be considered spiritual while pastors of small churches would not. We know that’s not the case.

Churches stop growing when the cost for making it happen becomes too high.  People are no longer willing to pay the price for continued growth.  You cannot beat the power of prayer and if God’s people would put legs on their prayers, it would go a long way.  We’ve just got kind of lazy. We don’t want to put forth the effort. There is easy growth, really non-growth, or there is expensive growth. I remember when this church was full. You’ve lost a lot of people to death, but God could grow it again.  There is no victory at bargain prices. It costs something. We’re unwilling to pay that price.  When we knock on doors not everyone comes to church, but it lets them know you care.  Then some people would come if they were just invited.

Ask yourself “what price am I willing to pay for success in the church?”  Money is easy. It takes it. God has provided that avenue through his people. All we have to do is give. Remember all we have is a gift from God; when we give we are simply giving back to him.  The best thing a church can do is be mission minded. I’m glad this church pays tithes on the tithes it receives by giving to missions.  Change.  Sometimes resistance to change isn’t all that bad.  Otherwise, we’d chase after everything that comes along. But when change is necessary, we need to do it.  Never compromise the gospel.  There is comfort in always doing things the same way. The older we get the more we feel that. But sometimes we do need to change.  Sunday school was the result of change. Sunday night services were the result of change. Jack Hyles was the one who started bus ministries. Many churches do that now. Be willing to change when change is good.

Easy growth requires little commitment. Expensive growth requires a lot of commitment. There is a difference between a crowd and a congregation. If we had some famous singing group come in, would there be a crowd or a congregation?  It would be a crowd. You don’t expect much from a crowd except to show up. You expect a lot from a congregation.

A congregation needs commitment for sustained growth.  Decision making is easy in easy growth, but expensive growth requires making difficult decisions.  Easy growth is doing what you do based on what you know. That’s what I do with computers, just enough to get by.  I could have learned more if I had just applied myself.  Easy growth is emotional based.  Someone said once “I’m not interested in how high you jump when you shout; it’s how you walk after you come down.”  I’m not being critical, but I’ve seen people on TV just get stirred emotionally. That will leave as soon as it comes. Something that stirs you spiritually can be taken home. Emotional based is doing something if you feel like doing it. Expensive growth is character based. You do what you’re supposed to even when you don’t feel like it.  Do I pray everyday? We should. But I’ll admit it; I’ve missed some days. We all have. We should pray everyday, even if we don’t feel like it. Character based will cause you to read your Bible even when you don’t feel like it. Do you read it at night? Sometimes it’s the best sleeping pill you’ll have. The devil will see that you fall asleep. If we just attend church when we want, we’ll stay home when we shouldn’t. We’ve all heard that old song “Excuses.” Character says it’s the right thing to do. God’s people ought to go to church. If you just give when you feel like it, you won’t. Do we sing only because we’re happy?  Character based says sing anyway. Character based says do it through thick or thin.  Writer Louis L’Amour is famous for his novels. When asked how he wrote them he said “water doesn’t flow till the faucet is turned on.”  Do something. You may mess up once in a while. Don’t be one who plays it safe, never doing anything. Do something.

When the time comes to pay the price, I trust you will.  Growth costs something.

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