There is a crisis in the church.
People are leaving.
And we want them to come back.
But before we ask how to get them back, we need to ask why they’re leaving in the first place.
It’s not because our churches aren’t big enough, cool enough, relevant enough, or convenient enough.
Increasingly, it’s a question of character.
The church’s character issues need to be addressed. Not as a means to reverse our loss of numbers. But because it’s the right thing to do, no matter what our numbers are.
Size Isn’t The Issue
For many years, the biggest problem many of us have been able to see with the church is a lack of growth.
And if numerical decrease is seen as the church’s biggest problem, what’s seen as the solution? Church growth, of course.
Numerical congregational growth is so baked in to our expectations for church health and recovery that it’s not just expected that a healthy church will grow, it’s also assumed that a non-growing church (by Sunday morning attendance figures) is not healthy.
We’ve convinced ourselves that small churches are stuck, and stuck churches are the problem.
It’s getting harder to make that case any more.
A Crisis Of Confidence
Small or stuck congregations can no longer be blamed for what’s wrong with the church.
First of all, there’s a long, sad list of big- and megachurch pastors flaming out after hidden sins have been exposed. A list that seems to grow by the week.
This is causing a crisis of confidence, of faith and of trust. Even though there’s no evidence to indicate that megachurch pastors have more moral failures than small church pastors do, their higher profile means a bigger negative impact.
Second, there are far too many cases of the institutional church refusing to adequately address those moral failures. Not only do we not hold people accountable for their actions, we’re often covering them up, even when those actions include abuse.
The biggest crisis in the church is not a loss of numbers, it’s a loss of integrity.
Third, there’s a new generation (and a lot of folks in the current generation) who want nothing to do with the corporate feel of a larger church crowd. And our insistence on it is causing them to doubt our sincerity.