Fact: Churches are dying faster than they are growing.
So many pastors are still looking at the numbers of people in the seats during their multiple services. Certainly this is a noble and righteous goal, right? Do we not want to fulfill Jesus’ commission of bringing all the world to him? The problem is that numbers become the motive, and the lives they represent begins to take another position.
When I talk about the “lives” it is also important to consider the stories that each one of them represent. Some may get caught up in the growing numbers of their church without realizing that another church down the block is dying and the growing numbers are not new Christians but displaced ones. We are dealing with a disease here, and the cure is not necessarily more people in the pews.
Church leader Craig Groeschel writes about his own struggle with numbers and confesses that it became a bit of an obsession for him. He also writes about “different” people. He may mean that he wants to be sure that the “more” also become “different.”
The decline of the church requires that we who are in the church are different.
Not only do the “more” need to be different, as Groeschel says, but so do the rest of us. We need to take radical steps in a completely different direction from the one we have been running to. It is true that the church is doing good at reaching people who already believe in the Bible and hell. Tim Keller writes in The Supremacy of Christ in the Postmodern World:
Certainly there have been many times in the past when the church was in serious decline, and revival revitalized the faith and society. But in those times society was still nominally Christian. There hadn’t been a wholesale erosion of the very concepts of God and truth and of the basic reliability and wisdom of the Bible. Things are different now.
This difference requires a difference. We have to be different in the way that we see ourselves in our world, the world we are so wanting to reach. We have to be different and have different eyes to be able to see the hurt and pain behind the anger and distrust. We have to be open to hearing what we disagree with and engaging what we do not understand.
We need to be different.
Everyone thinks about changing humanity but no one thinks about changing himself. -Leo Tolstoy