About 800 to 1,000 Southern Baptist congregations cease to exist annually, largely due to a stagnant vision among the leadership and lack of impact within their communities, says a church planting director. However, church leaders say the closures are often the symptom of a greater problem.
“Churches are closing in large part because they have either become disconnected from culture and, or disconnected from Scripture. When this happens, life leaves the church,” Joshua Hedger, director of Center for Church Planting at Midwestern Seminary, told The Christian Post.
Although the Baptist convention opened 1,300 new churches last year, Hedger says they are not gaining enough new ground and will rely on church planters to create a movement that will hopefully put an end to dying congregations. The church revitalization process usually involves new leadership taking over a declining church, who then implements a strategy on how to grow the congregation again.
“In some churches, a simple change in leadership and culture takes place,” Hedger said. “Some fully shut down and allow a new church to take over their facilities, assets, and people. Others find themselves anywhere between those two extremes.”
Dr. Rodney Harrison, a former revitalization pastor says part of the process is also addressing issues that the former leadership of a church did not deal with, such as “problems caused by members who embodied the works of the flesh.”
“In these restarts, church discipline has always been a part of the revitalization process. The goal of discipline is restoration, however, since the process is painful, most churches in need of revitalization have not addressed the issue of members behaving badly,” Harrison said.
I have an idea or two about how they might possibly improve their fortunes.
You know that old joke about the guy who goes to the doctor, tells him it hurts when he bends his elbow, and his doctor tells him not to bend it?
There is much wisdom in that, actually.
Hey, Southern Baptists: you know whatever you’re doing that isn’t working?
Don’t do those things. :)
Yes, discipline is important.
But it’s not the only thing.
I’m heavily biased, as an ex-evangelical, and as someone who’s Reformed, so bear that in mind.
Even so, here are my thoughts:
(a) Stop the fighting between Calvinists and non-Calvinists. How you chose to do so, is up to you – either, as I’d naturally endorse, embrace Calvinism categorically and silence any dissent against it from pastors and ruling elders (or whatever you call them) and seminarians; or, alternately, reject it categorically and silence any dissent from pastors, elders, seminarians; or, third option, embrace the ‘big tent’ approach decisively, saying you’ll have room for both perspectives, and will officially as an organization be neutral, and agree to have a truce and stop the infighting. I don’t know which is best, though I like the first option naturally, but seriously, anything but the status quo, where there’s much squabbling and infighting, even if below the surface.
(b) Stop doing whatever else it is that you have been doing, and re-embrace your roots. You have an old hymnbook, and old-fashioned liturgy? Return to it. You used to eschew megachurches? Return to small congregations only. And so on. You used to take decidedly conservative stands on virtually all political matters? Go back to doing so exclusively, and stop fretting about outreach to minorities, and work on outreach to your base – white folks. Stop embracing increased immigration, and political amnesty for illegals, to curry favour with such communities. Stop with the apologizing for the fact your denomination used to be pro-slavery. That was a century and a half ago; sheesh! On the other hand, stop being knee-jerk neo-con as regards foreign policy matters – Israelis aren’t going SBC, and Putin is not the anti-Christ. Relax. Ignore foreigners. Work on America.
(c) Stop having pastors and seminarians and other bigwigs in your organization who white-knight, and kiss women’s asses while bashing men; e.g. Russell Moore, Al Mohler, etc. Give men a reason to attend your church; care about matters of importance to them, and don’t let any pastors badmouth men, in general; none of the ‘Mother’s Day, we celebrate mothers / Father’s Day, we focus on fathers’ shortcomings’ crap.
Those are my ideas, free of charge, take them or leave them.
And I’m feeling so magnanimous tonight, I won’t even mention your stupid teetotalitarianism. (Wait; oops! :) )