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Why Your Church Isn’t Growing Spiritually

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growthA while ago, I wrote in my journal a list of reasons why it seems most churches aren’t growing spiritually. It seems, to me at least, that many churches and individual Christians have a ‘business as usual’ mindset and are not actively pursuing spiritual growth.

Why is this? Why aren’t churches causing more members to grow spiritually?

Here’s what I wrote down:

1. Your church has stopped making disciples, and is just baptizing. Fewer and fewer members are actually dying to themselves and pursuing Christ (cf. Gal. 2:20; Luke 9:27). You are creating a culture of Christians who have a ‘checklist’ mentality and think they’re okay as long as they are on the church membership roster (Last week I wrote an article on this.).

2. Your church thinks that ‘programs’ are the answer. You measure success by how many programs and events you offer, and by how well they are attended. In reality, the more of a priority you place on events (at the neglect of relationships and discipleship), the more you suffocate your congregation. Don’t misunderstand this; it’s not bad to have programs. Healthy churches typically offer a lot of events. The problem is when events become the ultimate aim, rather than a means to the end. 

3. Your church leaves new and weak Christians to fend for themselves. New Christians aren’t mentored and discipled on a personal level. Weak Christians aren’t guided, fed a special spiritual diet, and disciplined in the “way more accurately” (cf. Acts 18:26).

4. The preaching isn’t relevant and applicable. Instead of bringing God’s Word to life, showing the flock how to follow God’s Will, and illuminating the Scriptures, you have reduced the Bible to a mere collection of cold facts (and that’s how you are conditioning members to view preaching – something that’s just boring). 

5. Your church stresses only the peripheral issues, rather than the heart of the matter. The core of New Testament Christianity is learning to love God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27). We just want to be more like Jesus. But at the neglect of focusing on these internal principles, you only talk about the externals (i.e. involvement, attendance, giving, &c).

6. Your church has lost its identity. You’re no longer all about the noble pursuit of restoring simple, 1st century, New Testament Christianity. Instead, you’ve started ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and compromising fundamentals of the Faith under the guise of “outreach.”

7. You aren’t challenging members. They aren’t challenged to study their Bibles (at least not in specific ways), to step up and serve, and to lead.

8. Members compartmentalize the Church. Many view the Church as something that happens on Sunday, rather than a way of life. They view the pulpit as the primary source of spiritual knowledge and application (rather than a supplement to daily growth), and therefore their spiritual growth is stunted. 

I know that spiritual growth is ultimately the responsibility of the individual (cf. Phil. 2:12; 1 Pet. 2:2). I get that. But it is the job of every congregation to foster spiritual growth. 

These are just my thoughts. What would you add? Why aren’t more churches causing members to grow spiritually? 

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3 Responses to Why Your Church Isn’t Growing Spiritually

  1. Steven July 16, 2013 at 7:45 PM #

    Nice Job! Truth is refreshing in a world publishing syrup regarding church growth.

  2. Butch Adams July 17, 2013 at 10:18 AM #

    Ben,

    While you have a pretty good analysis here, some of the points might need a deeper study. I think I understand where you were going with numbers 2 & 5 but I’m not sure they harmonize with the rest of the points as written.

    Romans 10:17 won’t happen if we are not having programs as an important feature of a congregation. I agree that attendance should not be an ultimate aim of extra events, but it is about sowing the seeds of the kingdom – even if only one sprouts. Getting people off their couch and doing something spiritual IS a challenge to them. (#7) The church was growing at its quickest pace back when we had full week gospel meetings and VBS was three hours long for seven days.

    I also wonder how the internals are expected to grow when we are not emphasizing the externals. The sacrifice of those things are a path to growing in our love. Usually the people that want to concentrate on the greatest commandment want to do so at expense of not talking about basic sins we have a lot of “first century Christians” running around doing. (Social drinking, dancing, skimpy clothes, etc.)

    Faith and Love are a lot alike in that there is something external to do before they are valid. I can’t just decide I believe and not do something about it. I can’t just say i love God and not keep his commandments. Giving, involvement and attending and obeying are the ways of making the heart grow.

    • Ben July 17, 2013 at 11:26 AM #

      AMEN! I don’t think I could possibly agree with you any more!

      You have confirmed my fear with this post: Because I was trying to be as brief as possible (I think blogs should be concise), some of the things I was trying to communicate may be misunderstood.

      Events are very important. In fact, show me a church that doesn’t have events, and I’ll show you a dead church. However, if events are the ultimate aim, then a church will soon start experiencing burnout. I know a lot of churches that have been drained of energy and are spiritually stagnant because they measure ‘success’ by events, rather than using events to drive spiritual growth.

      I also, by no means, wished to communicate that externals shouldn’t be stressed. I’m just saying it is wrong to stress the externals at the expense of talking about the internals. Social drinking is wrong – yes; but why? Immodesty is wrong – yes; but why? Aiming for 100% faithfulness in attendance is essential – yes; but why? In fact, churches will realize that it is easier to talk about the externals when our purpose – loving an serving God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength – is front and center. I only brought this up because I’ve seen too many churches that have turned the externals into the most important things.

      Thanks for your comments, and thanks for clarifying some things that were evidently ambiguous and misleading.

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