Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The fall and rise of churches

Why do churches decline and die out?

Is it due to a failure to transition from one culture to the next, shedding what is culturally obsolete and retaining what is theologically permanent?

Is this a law, an observable principle that makes church growth and decline predictable?

How important are forms of church life (small groups, worship styles in relation to culture etc.)? Are these indicators of how a church will flourish or ossify?

How do our answers to the questions above relate to the presence, gospel preserving and life giving power of the Holy Spirit?

What is the relationship between church growth and divine sovereignty?

What difference does the view of divine sovereignty that we take, make to our cultural analysis and perspective on "means" when it comes to church health and growth?

What is the relationship between church decline and the judgment of the church by its Head?

Do churches decline on a predictable, observable pattern, or because of the disciplinary action of Christ? If the latter than what are the biblical indicators of being under the Lord's displeasure?

What precisely are the right biblical categories in assessing the fall and rise of churches? Are they the ones that bring clarity and focus to our thinking and practice on these matters?

What difference does this make to our assessment of church growth?


Anonymous said...

All good questions, but perhaps too many to comment on individually ..

'Why do churches decline and die out?'

Very relevant to us in the UK, where in contrast to the rise in interest in reformed things in the US ... we are in trouble ... personally I do think we are under a measure of judgement / discipline. Our lack of love for the lost of all classes and colours has been horrendous and this has been reinforced by lots of unhelpful cultures which have developed (and continue to thrive) in our circles.


Anonymous said...

OK. I am going to guess. This is just a guess. But, it is such a good question that I should at least guess.

I think it helps to answer this question to view the local church, in addition to the universal church, as a body.

Sometimes, there is no effective group of elders to lead the church, and the church will eventually die, particularly if the senior minister leaves or there is some controversy surrounding the senior minister which the elders do not sufficiently confront and resolve.

Sometimes, the members themselves do not have sufficient contact with each other to support each other. They may come to church on Sunday, but there is no or little contact outside of the Sunday service, between different members or parts of the body. The church will then die.

Sometimes, there is insufficient doctrinal unity within the body. That doctrinal unity is like blood. If each member has their own doctrine (blood supply), and there is no common blood or life flowing through the body, the church will also die.

Most importantly, if Christ is not the head of the church, the church will die.

a guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
a guy said...

While perhaps some here may disagree, I'm against Presbyterianism on the grounds of the part of the previous comment, that about the elder leading the Church or else it'll, but not in everything (we need doctrinal unity, etc.: but remember the Holy Spirit leads the Church into all truth, and Christ is its head, as you said, not the elders!).

I'm an American, and I love much of Reformed Doctrine, so long as it's biblical and continuously subject and checked against scripture, making sure that is its source, and that to that it conform and be subject.

I comment on this, though, because in the Westminster Confession it is taught that nobody may preach or "administer" sacraments if not "lawfully ordained"; however there is a problem here; one a "minister" is just a servant, and all believers in the NT are ministers; they also, we are told, have gifts; it's the elder-teacher's duty to equip them in and with the word, that they may undertake those gifts in the body; some teachers, some discerning (usually teachers necessarily need to be this, but little ones can be just as discerning by God's mercy for His Church), some hospitable, some...etc.

If the Church relies on the brilliance of one teacher, and he leaves...it'll be in trouble; if the diligent work is given to equip the members in all their need, and toward the well-being of the Church: if hell robs them of every elder or teacher by jail or death or whatever, the Word of God richly dwelling in the members can raise up another, and another, and another, and keep them safe even in the meantime.

God bless you, and grace in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; may God's Holy Spirit lead us into all truth, and trust, diligent and enduring till the end.