The Cracks Are Showing In American Christianity (10 things to do)

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If you found an antique car in a barn and purchased it for an amazing price, would you rather pour time and countless amounts of money restoring it or would you rather sell it, take the profit, and get something new? The restoration process wouldn’t guarantee that it would be successful.

You can try and try to restore a failing church but there comes a point in time where the effort is directed at something new.

There are many churches that would need an incredible amount of resources poured into them to get them turned around (with no guarantee of success). There are churches of 25 people sitting in 500 person auditorium occupying $15 million+ properties. Is that what God would want? I am not God but I am not so sure it is.

It might make more sense in some instances (not all) to sell the facilities, take the assets and start a new work while possibly taking the extra money and blessing ministries that are doing kingdom work effectively.

It seems to me the traditional model of the American church is struggling mightily.

Countless churches have closed.
Very few churches are making disciples.
Attractional church failed to show changed lives.
Nearly 100 seminaries have closed in the last 7 years.
COVID accelerated it all.

I don’t think this gets turned around by trying harder at what we have already been doing.

We are being forced to deal with a new reality. And that’s good. American Christianity needs a reboot. We need to get serious about what God is serious about. The problem is, who gets to define what makes that list?

The criteria I use is that we should emphasize what scripture emphasizes and be on the mission Jesus and the apostles were on. If we major in minors and fail to be on mission then we have missed the point.

So let the cracks show and let us have the courage to try something new.

In my mind, we need to:

  • Bring the church home – located amongst neighbors
  • Stop leaning on hired staff and equip volunteers, exponentially increasing our number of “ministers”
  • Equip elders to be spiritual leaders and shepherds
  • Be on the move – go out, meet people, and engage with the good news
  • Make sure love is our motivator rather than fear
  • Operate out of a generosity perspective rather than a scarcity perspective with our time, money and talents
  • Repent of our control issues and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus and His kingdom
  • Teach our children to be disciples who make disciples and stop relying on a third party to do this
  • Get back to funding and personal involvement in mission and benevolence.
  • Downsize our facilities to the size of the church body and use the excess resources to fund mission. Read this to catch that vision.

PS – to be clear, I am not against the traditional church paradigm. God is doing a lot of good there. We need to recognize that. AND we need to recognize that for a growing number of congregations in massive decline, it is making less and less sense.

For more on this check out my video on YouTube

10 Responses

  1. Matt, I can really resonate with this post. I don’t believe it will be well received yet, because change is really hard for some folks to accept until things get so bad that they have no choice. I’ve thought for some time now that the Institutional Church is not sustainable in its current form. It will have to restructure or face obsolescence. My rationale is this: The IC was formed post-Constantine, therefore it came into being and thrived during a period when the culture was supportive of it. At least here in America, beginning in the mid sixties, the culture has been less supportive with each subsequent generation. And this isn’t even considering how ill prepared the IC is if true persecution breaks out against it. And I agree that the local church should provide the training for individual’s personal ministries as per Ephesians 4:11-13. Keep sounding the alarm. Sooner or later, folks will wake-up to what’s happening.

    1. Thank you Bob! Change is inevitable. We need to keep loving the bride…she is just going to assemble a bit differently in the future…which is actually a lot more ancient of an approach depending on how it is handled.

  2. Good comment by Bob and, I think, an accurate observation by you, Matt. Unfortunately, church growth of discipleship needs some persecution to help people focus on what Scripture says about a Christian’s daily walk.

    1. Unfortunately, Alan, I fear that you are correct. I also fear that when, not if, persecution does eventually come, and it will if this current cultural trajectory continues, many will fall away rather than align with God’s will. I believe we are experiencing a Matthew 24:12 season right now.

  3. In Houston, the Heights Church was unloving. The property fell into the hands of people that showed up. It’s now instrumental. Heights was full of strife, preacher wars, failing leadership and a refusal to minister to a changing neighborhood. When I was there, a team of real disciples with me had 29 responses in 18 months. 13 were baptisms. However, the above problems caused my departure.

  4. Great post!

    My only concern is that the theological training given to bi-vocational leaders is high quality. I would hate to see our tribe return to the poor theology that has plagued many of our churches over the years. I think the current models in Christian Universities where all students take a minimum and (imo) “dumbed down” Bible curriculum that really only reconfirms biases rather than challenge students. Granted some of this has been changing with some universities no longer allowing adjunct professors who have less than an M Div.

    It could be useful if our universities would offer meaningful and in-depth minors in Bibles that would perhaps provide an additional 24-36 hours of exegesis & language studies while avoiding topical studies (e.g., life & work of the preacher, “Life of Christ”, etc.–ok, just my opinion– I lean more toward exegetical than topical).

    I would be interested to see partnerships between local Christian groups, house churches, etc. and Universities that provided ongoing education either in quarterly weekend seminars or once-per-year short courses for local leaders.

    Just my two cents worth.

    For what it’s worth, I think your bullet point plan of action is spot on.

  5. And yet… how many theologically trained “ministers” did the early church have? They grew apparently without the need for those…

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