To be honest, it’s easier to ignore the numbers—that’d be easier. But they keep showing up year after year in survey after survey. The church in America is shrinking. A few denominations and church planting groups have bucked that larger trend, but the overall numbers trickle down as we zoom through the early twenty-first century.
According to the Pew Forum, for example, even 27% of those who call themselves Evangelicals in America rarely or never attend church. In mainline churches, that rate jumps to 36%. Those numbers are only expected to rise in the coming decade.
And that’s the sort of environment Dr. Ronnie Floyd finds himself. The pastor and recently elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention isn’t hiding the stats, though. He’s drawing attention to them:
“During this same five-year period [2008–2013], 44.3 percent of our churches were plateaued and 29.9 percent were declining, meaning their total membership declined by at least 10 percent between 2008 and 2013. Again, plateaued is categorized as between growing and declining.”
So, what’s the solution to our atrophying churches? Floyd offers 4 ways we can stop the decline:
1. We need to refocus our churches on evangelizing lost people.
Much of the growth in churches today revolves around “church hopping,” rather than evangelizing new believers. But that must be our focus.
2. We need to develop a strategy and culture of discipling people.
We Christians must do more than just baptize people and call it a day. We must also teach them and show them how to follow Christ (Matthew 28:19–20).
3. We need to believe again that healthy churches grow.
Sometimes, we get caught in the trap of just assuming that the church will continue shrinking no matter what. But the model in Acts is of a vibrant church that’s growing and growing. Healthy churches can and must grow.
4. We need to experience the God Factor in our churches again.
Here’s how Dr. Floyd puts it: “I believe the God Factor occurs when we preach the Gospel, strategically reach lost people, and pray to the Lord of the Harvest who is committed to building His church in this world.”
A popular article on ChurchPastor.com hits even closer to home for most churches—getting right into the problems that we may be missing within the local congregation. Rick Whitter doesn’t want you to miss the 6 subtle signs that your church may be dying:
“What about the church? How do we know if our church is sick or even worse—if it is dying? It’s not that easy to detect a potentially harmful malady in the church. Our church could be dying right in front of us, without us even realizing it. We should pay attention to the signs. Maybe we can avert an untimely church death.”
What about you? Why do you think the church in America is in decline? Do you agree with Dr. Floyd’s suggestions? What else can we do about it?