How to Save a Dying Church
October 18, 2018
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
Of the conservative Independent Baptist churches that remain today (a great many have either gone defunct or contemporary in the past 20 years), a large number appear to be dying.

As in the case of the individual, a church that is not making spiritual progress is going backwards. If there is not revival, there is backsliding. If there is not bold forward movement, there is regression.

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The churches in question are presently holding to sound doctrine, the right Biblical text, sacred music, modest dress, fairly good standards for workers, and other wholesome things, but they are dying. They are barely holding on. They aren’t growing. A large percentage of the congregation is elderly. In many cases, the pastor is elderly and there are no younger preachers in sight who are likeminded and can take over the pastorate. More people are coming than going. More are dying than are getting saved. A great many of the youth are spiritually half-hearted. They aren’t sold out to God’s will. They aren’t serious, self-denying, pilgrim disciples of Jesus Christ. Many of them don’t stay around when they reach adolescence. Most of the families aren’t aggressively godly and separated and wise in rearing children to Christ’s glory.

In such a church, the next generation is on very shaky ground, to say the least.

The Bible says the church is a body (1 Corinthians 12:13), and a body is composed of many members. If a body has some healthy members but overall it is weak and sickly, the future of that body is not encouraging.

But there is no reason why a church must die. What a poor testimony for God before a needy world! The church is God’s program. It is Christ’s plan. He said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Mt. 16:18). The church is the house of God, the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Ti. 3:15). It is the headquarters for world evangelism (Acts 13-14).

Christ has everything that a church needs to live and prosper in this wicked world. In Revelation 2-3, Christ is in the midst of the churches. He holds the angels of the churches in His right hand. He knows the church’s works and trials. A church might be “of little strength,” like that of Philadelphia, but it doesn’t have to be dead or dying.

It is God’s will that His people bear fruit (John 15:1-8), and those who do not bear fruit do not please Him. “Herein is my Father glorified, that he bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (Joh. 15:8). Christ taught that when there is no fruit, something is wrong spiritually. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (Joh. 15:1-2).

We would give the following practical recommendations to dying churches:

A dying church can be saved by strengthening membership standards, which include being as careful as possible about salvation.

A dying church can be saved by strengthening its prayer life.

A dying church can be saved by strengthening the biblical depth of the people.

A dying church can be saved by strengthening standards for workers.

A dying church can be saved by strengthening the evangelistic “program.”

A dying church can be saved by serious education of the families.

A dying church can be saved by serious discipleship, of the youth, the adults and parents, and the senior citizens.

A dying church can be saved by re-envisioning its zeal for evangelism and world missions.

A dying church can be saved, but it won’t be saved easily. It will be saved when the pastor stops pretending that things are OK and acknowledges that the situation is desperate, and he rises to the occasion to do everything that is necessary to turn the ship around.

We have dealt with these and other things in the book
The Discipling Church: The Church That Will Stand until Christ Returns, which is available in print and eBook editions from Way of Life Literature,

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