Stopping Church Decline

From Mark Powers, Director, Worship & Music Office SC Baptist Convention:

There is good news and bad news for the modern Evangelical church. The bad news is that we are in a rapid statistical decline in almost every category of evangelical life: 80% of our churches have plateaued or declining and church growth experts say that one of every three churches in America may close their doors if this decline continues over the next 10 to 20 years.

The good news, however, is that the same methods that the early church used to grow from 4,000 at Pentecost to 4 million by 200 AD are still available to us today.

As worship pastors we dare not put our head in the sand and assume that the task of church revitalization is another staff member’s responsibility. God is calling worship leaders to focus our worship totally on Him, to become intentional about making disciples who make disciples, then lead our worship teams to join God on mission in our communities. Here are four things to consider:

1. God created worship for Himself. The Biblical words for worship portray falling prostrate at God’s feet and giving up our right to ourselves. Jesus gave us the formula for true worship when He said. “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me.” Regardless of our style of worship, the heart of worship is totally focused on God and the gospel of our Lord Jesus and understood as a daily lifestyle for all Christians. Why? Because God knows that worship is the context of relationship, and relationship with us is His ultimate aim. Let’s call our people back to worship that lays our lives before Him.

2. God is calling His people to make disciples who make disciples. Too often, our goal is to build the institutional church. Self-centered people build self-serving institutions. But worship leaders, too, must engage in an intentional process to make disciples who make disciples. Jesus did not build His Kingdom on the crowd, He built it on disciples. He raised disciples by doing life together in a small group, building accountability from relationships, and teaching through storying. Have you ever been truly discipled? Are you discipling anyone?

3. Culture is a gift from God to connect people with Him. In this world, as we follow God’s mandate to have dominion over the world (Genesis 1:28), people produce many different cultures. Culture includes style, language, social patterns, etc. Missionaries understand that they must learn the culture to which they are sent and use it to connect people with God. But we often want to put our own culture on the throne in place of God. Disciples are called to join God in His mission to redeem the world by using culture as a tool to connect people with Him. Discern the heart language of your church and use it to grow them as disciples and send them on mission. Our target is to use your church’s indigenous cultural language to grow “worshiping disciples on mission”. Then we lead our church to learn other cultural languages to go reach our communities for Christ.

4. Where in the Bible does it say we will win the world by getting the world into church? It doesn’t. The Bible says we will win the world by getting the church into the world! My definition of missions is: “Meeting people at their point of need, in your community, on a regular basis, to build relationships, which lead to witnessing opportunities.” I believe that our worship ministries can lead a church to discover how God grew the early church into a powerful force in the world. Will you dare to consider adopting that process in your ministry?

My book GOING FULL CIRCLE: Worship that Leads Us to Discipleship and Missions (Resource Publications, an imprint of Wipf & Stock, Eugene Oregon, ISBN 13: 978-1-62032-994-8) will help you renew your understanding of worship then develop a process to lead your worship ministry to grow disciples and lead them to exciting missions in your own community. It is available from Amazon in paperback or on Kindle or can be ordered from the publisher’s website here.

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