This morning I watched the TV broadcast, “In Search of the Lord’s Way”. This program has long been hosted my Mack Lyon who is also usually the preacher on the program. This day however, there was a guest speaker, a minister from Brentwood, Tenn. He was just exactly like a younger Mack Lyon, with the same delivery, the same awkward turns every few moments to face the different cameras, and the exact same message. The congregation sang the songs a cappella looking only at their songbooks, with solemn faces and not a hint of joy or happiness. If I knew my church helped pay to keep this program on air I would be disappointed. What struck me most was the age of the congregation. It appeared that at least 85 to 90% had hair like my own, gray. These dear folks were largely “Baby Boomers” who in 15 or 20 years will be dead or in a nursing home. My shock was to realize how few young people are in most of the traditional churches. I can view that broadcast and understand why the young couples with children are someplace else. It is bland, boring, and poorly done.
It seems to me that if something doesn’t change in the next few years that many of our oldest churches will be down to a few members when most of the boomers are gone. The lost are not being won where the church is mostly older people who have been in the church for several decades, and their children and everyone else’s children are some place else on Sunday. My guess is that they have moved on to churches with some signs of life, where folks seem glad to be saved.
Aggressive evangelistic outreach is the cure to most of the problems churches face. When we fail to do what Christ commanded, and the apostles modeled, we tend to start slowly eroding away. Not many years ago the British Isles were a hot bed for the gospel with thousands being saved in meetings that lasted for several weeks or months. Today a Bible preaching church in that part of the world is rare.
We must evangelize or our congregations will die.
Grace and Peace,Royce Ogle
Royce, before I read this post it hadn’t occured to me that you might be a CofC blogger. If so, would you like to have your blog added to the CofC blog group?
If you are out to fill the pews, why not give away superbowl tickets, or have drawings for new cars, I doubt that will help anyone to find the narrow gate, but it will fill the pews and coffers.
Mt:7:14: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
I bet Jesus would be boring today to most, unless they knew who he was, Hey what did I just say? he is boring today to those who don’t know him.
I don’t think there is a problem if congregations die. Maybe some need to be put out of their misery.
The problem would seem when people forget their purpose. Those mature believers are supposed to be mentoring the younger. In my experience the older members were just fighting to keep everything the same, we paid for it you know, with the greatest goal being to insure that their Sunshine group had a place for dominos.
I don’t think it has anything to do with Jesus or being bored, as usual it has to do with being self absorbed. All generations struggle with that one.
Brother Royce, I believe you are DEAD-ON with this post. So many decided to circle the wagons MANY years ago, and now they have no relevance to a lost world.
But I bet they would see themselves as “sound”!
🙂 Like I heard Buddy Bell say a few years ago: “When are we going to start calling ‘sound’ churches what they are……DEAD!”
Keep em coming, brother!
Some churches use the “you build it and they will come” model and churches of Christ have used “be right and they will come”. Neither of those works.
Since the only possibility of younger people hearing the gospel of Jesus is if they come to church, I am just saying that a funeral home atmosphere is not very effective to get them to come or get them to stay.
All one must do is observe a group of believers to see if they are actively talking to others about the claims of the gospel. Where they are there is growth measured by baptisms and where they are not, growth (if any) is measured in terms of people moving into fast growing areas near major population centers.
When you and I and our brothers and sisters are in the streets, the market place, and house to house presenting the claims of Jesus, only then will we be a New Testament church.
Thanks for your visit and comment.
Grace and Peace,
I have to strongly disagree with you. I thank God that there are people like brother Mack Lyon and Phil Sanders who are still preaching the same words that were preached thousands of years ago and will continue to be preached until our Lord comes back. In Search of the Lord’s Way is a benefit to Christians and we should be grateful that it continues to teach the Word. This coming from a 35 year old mother with young children.
If our churches were busy demonstrating the radical lifestyle of Jesus they would be filled with joy and be forgetting about filling the pews….we should be “taking it to the streets” like Jesus did.
Thanks for reading my blog and commenting. It is always good to see you have been here. I admire your passion for Christ and your loyalty to His church. Perhaps we will just have to disagree on this one. Please consider the following:
Charles Cook, an instructor at Sunset International Bible Institute in Lubbock, Texas, shared that concern (lack of church growth): “We primarily convert only our offspring, and only a small percentage of these are remaining active in the church as grownups. Not until the whole church again catches the evangelistic spirit … will we experience growth and retain our young people.”
This quote is from a recent issue of the Christian Chronicle and was a response to the problem of churches of Christ lagging way behind in growth compared to the growth of the population of the United States.
The link to the Chronicle article is: http://www.christianchronicle.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=611
I have read from several sources that as a movement we are growing little and the more conservative or traditional the less the growth is. I am not glad about these facts, I am saddened by them.
Trying to use the same exact methodology employed in 1950 to reach people in 2007 makes no more sense than refusing to use a fax machine or email to communicate. Here I am not addressing the message, but the method.
Now I address the message. The message we are commissioned to carry to the ends of the earth is redemptive, not corrective in scope. Telling every other Christian group what is wrong with them and emphasizing that we are right on everything is not the same as preaching Christ and Him crucified.
The proof is in the puddin’. In this case it’s baptisms. Assuming that every person who is immersed is actually saved, few new converts are being immersed. And, as I said, the more traditional the church, the fewer the baptisms of new believers we see.
The problem is widespread and Baptists and others are seeing a decline in new converts compared to former years, compared to the nation’s population figures. Far too much church ministry is focused inward and too little emphasis is on reaching the lost. Just take a look at your own church’s budget for 2007 and see where the dollars are. There you will quickly see where the emphasis of ministry of is. Meanwhile, millions perish without ever having heard a clear presentation of the gospel of Christ.
You are a dear sister and I wish you and your family God’s very best.
Grace and Peace,
Jesus sure thought those churches in the first couple chapters of revelation were important even though they got a lot messed up. Paul still thought Coringh was important even though they were really really messed up. I think the loss of any church is a sad thing.
Well said Royce. That is a troubling statistic, the growth in our churches is not on par with the growth of the worlds population. You are correct, many churches are not meeting up with the times. In our church, we have many young people, many teens. Every sunday morning we sing the same ol’ gospel hymns from the way back machine. I happen to like them. I also like the music of today. We do not sing the newer music in our church. Its too happy clappy as I was told. It may please the older folks in our community but I see the joy (or rather lack thereof) on these kids faces singing the same ol songs time after time. We are not reaching them with what they know and I am scared we will lose them if we do not look after the future of His church. I have though of walking away many times to a community that brings the church to the people vice sitting back hoping folks will come so we can hand them a tract from the traditional church of Christ tract rack.
Amen brother. Amen
I guess I was thinking of a church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area that had division and discord who sold their building to another group of believers who I believe were Korean. Now that was a group that those meeting in the building would have never impacted in the name of Jesus Christ. A church plant came from the group with the money and the rest was given to a local congregation for mission work.
With that said you make a good point and as I think about it I agree with you. I should pray for those groups that struggle whether it be that they discover what the gospel really is or that they return to their first love. I stand corrected. Thanks.
Brother Royce; your post is right on as far as it goes. The CoC as well as most churches who teach the true gospel revieled by the word are in decline in membership. But I can,t say it is totaly the fault of conservative worship service. And as most know I am not a conservative. I believe in progressive tactics to reach and convert the younger generation. But not necessarly in worship service. as has been said in many ways in many blogs I have read lately recruitment for the army of Christ is carried out on the streets and byways of our communities. And I am proud to say the congregation I attend with my family is a growing congregation. and if you were to attend our worship service you would see the same type service as you would have seen in churches of Christ years ago. we still belive in a respectful worship of the almighty God. What we do outside and even inside the building on days other than Sunday I believe is the reason for our growth. We have certian evenings where we offer support for children struggling to achieve in their school classes, we help children who otherwise could not attend religious functions to do so. and our youth minister goes on all outings. Yes we need to change the way we communicate with the youth of today without compromising worship service. It would not be the first change in such tactics. If the bible were still written in the original language there would be far less members in the Church. The work carried on outside the church is the only way to enlarge Christ’s Church and retain the youth who are already members. May God Bless
You are correct about working outside the building. Good for your church. It sounds if they are doing some things exactly they way it should be done.
What puzzles me concerns worship. How is singing songs from a book, looking as if you had just lost your best friend, better than looking at the words to a song on a screen and being joyful, actually smiling perhaps, while singing? And, why is one song leader ok but more than one is wrong? Why is the perfectly Biblical practice of raising hands in the air wrong? (I don’t myself but have no reservations about those who do.)
I am not convinced that God is nearly as impressed with the “traditional” church of Christ worship service as the folks involved are.
Real worship happens in the heart first and then is expressed by our outward actions. Jesus described it as “In Spirit and in truth”. How offensive for anyone to suppose that because everyone else does not do things in the same order and in the same way as us that they have not really worshipped.
Perhaps most all of us take liberties with the scriptures that we should not, but for sure some do more than others. One is hard pressed to give Biblical support for some of our practices that are largely traditions.
Thanks for stopping by and for your comments. God bless you and yours.
Royce; maybe you are talking about a church like ours when you suggest others change, We do read our songs from a screen, our sermon help is on screen (Power point) we have many who can lead songs, we have a few who can present a sermon as well as the preacher, I believe the screen is more help to the song leader and preacher than any other, they don’t have to wait while we shuffel throught our song book or bible. if we don’t use what we have been given we may as well have a chalk board and chalk. I haven’t been to a CoC like you describe in 30 years. I didn’t know we were commanded to stay in the backwoods, it wouldn’t bother me to attend your church but I prefer mine. May God bring about the light. I believe I have a link to “Southside Church of Christ” on my blog if anyone is interested.
Well, it turns out that we agree! I am happy about that. If you re-read my original post, what I am making a case for is abandoning methodology popular in 1950 and moving up to 2007.
Laymond, you are my brother and I love you in the Lord. Lets just not talk politics!!
Provacative, as always.
Congregations are like people. They’re born. If they survive infancy, they grow and mature. They get older. A minority of them have successful second and third careers. Eventually they die.
Sometimes a dying congregation, like a dying person, needs to die. For example, sometimes a church building is the only structure left standing where there was once a community. In such cases, the die hards should agree to succumb to “population abandonmentosis” (Peter Wagner’s phrase).
The attitude that says, “Just let it die as it will, when it will” overlooks the fact that inevitable death often needs to be navigated and negotiated. Who would let their mother “just die” with nothing to ease the process, without trying to make it a “good death” so to speak? The same should be done for congregations. It should be prayerful and deliberate, not something ugly with people wrangling over real estate and the checkbook (I imagine). What if dying congregations attempted to bridge themselves to a place where there were people, receptive people? What if dying congregations used their financial resources to sponsor mission efforts in places that were ready to be harvested?
Closer to your topic, Royce, when we see congregations as outposts of the kingdom of God, it helps to keep us from a congregational-maintenance mentality. And I agree that much of what is produced by Churches of Christ for mass consumption smacks of the dry religiosity that seems to be gaining the attention of no one these days. It doesn’t taste like life to me.
Good thoughts Royce. I am not a huge fan of “Search” myself and have only seen one or two episodes. The one good thing about it is that Mac never asks for any money from a viewer. That is nearly unheard of in the TV church world.
I share your concern about the grey hair. Grey hair is not bad … good in fact. But we need to be “aggressive” in our reaching a generation that has pink, purple and even blue hair.
I was a part of a very traditional church that attempted to make the more “modern” switch. It was eventually deadly for that church. Recently it sold to another church and the pastor whom we had served under for the first 12 years of our marriage is on sabbatical. The problem for that church came because outward things were being changed – style of worship, lifting of hands, different preaching style, clothes that the preacher wore… but there was no leading of the Spirit. That was five years ago – it jumped on the bandwagon of a certain “plan” that was supposed to bring about church growth. My family and I stayed for two years into the plan. God gently whispered, “Get out…” We didn’t listen – we thought we were being supportive. Finally, He yelled “GET OUT!” And we did. So much was wrong at that church and we were told that we were resisting change. The truth is – we were. We were resisting the change instituted by man, not by God. I truly mourn the loss of that church, my church where I was saved and baptized and learned to serve the Lord.
Many of these churches are trying to serve the seeker – the lost person who is supposedly seeking God. I believe the Bible is plain in saying that there is none that seeketh after God. They may be seeking something, but it is not God. Jesus himself says that we did not choose him, but he chose us.
At first we were tempted to think that casual clothing, modern music, and lifting of hands were inherently bad and wanted nothing to do with that.
BUT GOD! He led us to a church where the Spirit of God is alive and we have learned about true worship, and listening to the leading of the Spirit in all aspects of life. We wound up at a church that met none of the “criteria” of our church shopping list. A church that neither of us thought we would be at. Non traditional music, casual atmosphere, but in no way a “seeker” church. We do serve the seeker -The one who seeks us and finds us; the seeker of lost sheep.
Our pastor preaches the full counsel of God – hard to hear, comforting, convicting, encouraging, change-promoting. It’s hard for many to take. It is not soft on the ears. But it glorifies the God that we serve. It is all about the redeeming power of Jesus Christ.
The problem is not necessarily modern versus old timey. I believe the problem is what is being lifted up… We need to lift up Jesus – He will draw men to himself. We had a lot of flesh on display at that old church. Lost people have enough display of flesh in their lives. They are not looking for a cheap counterfeit of God – they are looking for a change! They know how the world operates and when they are looking for relief they need us to love them with the love with which we were loved. They need to see people sold out to the Lord, serving him, worshipping Him in Spirit and truth. They need to see transformed lives.
God has matured us, and is using us in ways I never knew He could.
Sorry so long!
Good for you and your family Laura. I am glad you have found a place where Christ is lifted up. I have the same opinion of the “seeker” movement as you do. God is doing the looking, the seeking.
Thanks for your visit and your comment.
Grace and Peace,
What a great post and super discussion following. Thanks, Royce.
Royce I am a late comer to this discussion, but have a few thoughts. I know you are not a prophet nor the son of one, (at least I don’t think so (-:), but time will tell the truthfulness of your post. Churches will continue to live in denial, legalism and fly the flag of the 50’s and 60’s…and die. It will not be because they stood for the truth, it will be because they held on to tradition and not truth. Preach on brother. The truth hurts…but it is nevertheless the truth.
One problem churches face that they are just going to have to get over is what they do when the community around them changes. I say problem – it is really an opportunity. I have seen several churches who prided themselves on being the people of God who refused to reach out to the community surrounding their building because their neighbors were ethnic minorities. Really, really sad. They dwindled to almost nothing.