How does a church die?

I was in my family church today in their anniversary celebration and thanksgiving service. Grace Notes was invited to sing and so we were there. I call it my "family" church because this was where my grandparents attended church when they accepted Christ. Here was where I grew up in, where I spent my youth and young adult days and where I served as an adult. This is where most of my extended family members still go to church. Except I don't anymore.

During service today, when it was the church leader's turn to give some words to the church as part of the anniversary celebration, he began with some scathing remarks about the absence of one of the church's pastors for the anniversary event and launched a series of admonishment to the church leaders and members for their lack of interest in the church and its activities. He ended the speech with his resignation.

Whilst I feel that it was not the right time or place to say such things, I can see how far the church has deteriorated.

This got me to thinking why and how a church would die. This church is not dead yet. And I do not think it will stop operating, except it will be sad to see it drag on and on with the few dedicated but drained leaders and workers, and mind you, the only full time paid workers of the moderate sized church are 3 pastors and 1 church administrative clerk. The rest are working adults.

So why and how would a church die. From what I've seen, I think these are valid reasons:

1. Prolonged focus on church activities rather than on Christ, his Gospel and the people's relationship with their Saviour.

2. Running too many programmes with a focus on attendance and involvement.

3. Lack of love between people in the church, both in the leadership team and members at large. Most exist only for themselves and their own interests.

4. Too much focus on building the church as a building but less on the building and discipling of the real church, the people.

5. Depending too much on working church members to serve and not hiring any full time workers except for the pastors.

I understand that for now, while we are still here on earth in anticipation of the one true church of Christ, no churches here are perfect. But we do need to be holy as he is holy (1 Pet 1:16), be prefect for her is perfect (Matt 5:48). And we can only be so in Christ and in the power the Holy Spirit.

I feel that the only way out of the dismal downward spiral is for the church to strip itself bare of everything--all its committees, all events, all programmes and all groups--gather the few still faithful and fervent to the Lord and pray and pray and pray, coming back to the presence and holiness of God alone.



  1. I do not think much is sadder than a "dead" church. When Mickey and I were traveling those years in our RV we would visit a different church each Sunday. We were shocked at so many dead churches. We would drive around prior deciding where we were going to attend. We would locate a church that looked appealing, on the outside, and decide that was the one. So often, in fact MOST often, we would leave the service saying to each other, "They are dead, or dying, and do not even know it." I am so thankful to be part of an alive, active, growing body of believers who are endeavoring to be ALL that God has called us to be, individually and collectively to our community. Our church body is truly "family" and that is what I treasure so much. But, we are also being stirred at every service to be more Christ like.

  2. I agree Susan, a dead church is indeed very sad. It's like the church written to in Revelation - Church of Sardis - "you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead" (Rev 3:1). Not only is it sad, it is scary too, in regards to what will happen to the church, and it is a warning to us as well.


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