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Ten Deadly Sins Of A Dying Church

Just finishing up essential Church? by Thom and Sam Rainer. I highly recommend you take the time to read this book.

Why are our young people leaving the Church and how can we regain their attention? Can we, as Christ followers, help the younger generation rediscover an essential quality to the Church? Those pressing questions were the catalyst behind the research revealed in this book. According to the authors, more than two-thirds of young adults drop out of church between the ages of 18 and 22. The church is only retaining one-third of our young adults. Most simply leave, lose contact and relegate the church to ineffective and non-essential.

Why does this happen? Rainer offers seven primary reasons the church is losing the battle for the hearts and souls of our youth. He calls them the “Seven Deadly Sins”. I have added three of my own to his seven. Each of these sins, to varying degrees, can be seen in stagnant and dying churches.

1. Doctrinal Drift
In a desire to reach more people, churches have often watered-down doctrinal truths believing that they are creating a more inviting environment for seekers. I dislike the term “Seeker Sensitive” the scripture isn’t very sensitive in many ways. Rather, we should think in terms of “seeker intelligibility”. The Word of God may not be very sensitive to an unbeliever, but it should be intelligible. Make o mistake, the younger generation likes straight-talk. They are tired of the mush.

2. Evangelism Atrophy
Most churches in America aspire to have evangelism as a driving force but they have lost their passion. Ask every one of them, however, and they will proclaim it as a core value. Yet, a quick look at their checkbook, annual budget and programs will tell the truth. For most churches in America evangelism is a great thought and desire, but in all actuality very little in the way of evangelism is done.

3. Failure To Be Relevant
I know, many in the church hate this word. But don’t forget, the Gospel was not written in a cultural vacuum. The words we read today were written thousands of years ago. They still apply today, but we must learn to understand them in their cultural context and then find ways to help 21st century people understand.
Church is no different. We have to do church in a way that connects with this culture otherwise the church simply becomes a huddled mass of cloistered believers hiding from a sin-sick world.

4. Inwardly Focused
The new2, unspoken mantra of the modern American church is; “It’s all about me.” While no one will readily admit it, all one has to do is look at the ministries and programs. What can be quickly discovered is that most churches build ministries to satisfy the already fed. These programs are good to keep the flock happy. Not necessarily a bad thing, but too much of a good thing ends up being a bad thing.

5. Personal Conflict
Not sure I need to explain this too much. Church people have found a way to make an argument out of almost anything. Political power struggles rule the day.

6. A Priority Of Comfort
Dying churches refuse to reach out beyond their own comfort-zones. When any real ministry does happen and dirty, sinful people walk in among the righteous, it upsets the apple cart. It simply isn’t comfortable.

7. Biblical Illiteracy
The latest research by Gallup and other pollsters reveal that most long time members of churches don’t really know what they Bible says. Phrases like; “God helps those who help themselves” are regularly quoted as scripture.

8. Hording
It amazes me the amount of money many dying churches have in their saving accounts. The thought is that they are saving it for a rainy day, but I wonder what God thinks about this? Will he be happy if we, like the man with one talent, have not invested his Kingdom resources in the Great co-mission work when returns. Which would be best; Die rich, having saved our resources and done as little as we can get by with, or Die broke with the knowledge that we have done all we can.

9. Failure to Follow
Too many cooks in the kitchen. Too often pastors are treated like hirelings and not called, anointed people of God. The pastor is forced to walk on eggshells to avoid losing their job. Those who are in positions of authority are unwilling to let go of the reigns and follow the leader called to serve them.

10. Idolatry
You may think this is absent from today’s Church, but it is very alive. Beloved programs, versions of the Bible, furniture, paintings on the wall and the placement of objects have caused more quarrels than I care to mention. We have taken these items to god-like levels in the church and forgotten the main thing.
User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Andy Mcadams
    Thanks Stephen. Great article. I added a few of my own, yet without comment. They speak for themself. The toleration of known sin. Extreme form of church government. Lack of functional goals and objectives. Not making disciples that make other disciples.
  • Clarke Ryder
    Nice article. There are some typos and misspellings that should be fixed, but a lot of good observations.
  • Mac Capello
    How would this apply to an Elder Lead Church?
  • Uriel avalos
    I'd say three is the biggest problem. The fact is that starting with generation x, there has been a paradigm shift in culture. For example, we hate the traditional corporate structure. Unfortunately, it is exactly that structure that we see in the church. So the real problem is the unwillingness to change... Does the church have the guts to make it self relevant?
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