Why is the Church in North America Plateauing or Declining?

In a recent Pastor’s Weekly Briefing, H.B. London asked the question: “Why is the church in North America plateauing or declining?” Here are some samples of what pastors said:

* One reason for the decline is much of the “church” has become more concerned with growth in numbers than growth of spiritual maturity. In trying to be politically correct, much of the church has become irrelevant. What causes true growth is a refocusing on Christ as the only way of salvation, loving God, loving others, and remembering we are here to advance the kingdom, not “cleanup” the world. — G.K.

* Church has become a place where people sit once a week and say, “What is in it for me?” The Corinthian church faced this—they were being invaded by the culture instead of invading their culture with the Gospel. … Sometimes, I get discouraged over the lack of involvement in the church I pastor and then my wife reminds me that Jesus only needed 12 people to turn the world upside down. … Once people realize that it isn’t about the programs, but it’s about praying for a lost and dying world, we’ll see the church growing healthier again! — M.W.

* We Americans, overall, are so busy and fill ourselves up with so much that is not from the Lord that we are never hungry for Him. Our schedules would not even allow a move of God in many of our lives! — A.V.

* A clarion call of return to sanctification is needed today like no other. Until we return, we can be slick and professional, but we will be powerless. — L.B.

* We (ministers) too often try to do the work of the Spirit in the energy of the flesh — we are wearing ourselves out in record numbers. Until we truly humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face, repent and turn from our wicked ways, we will not see the move of God’s Holy Spirit among us that, in my view, is our only hope. Genuine repentance and a pure-hearted pursuit of God, it seems to me, is the only thing that will help us. Church growth is now a science — but it is “not by might nor by power but by my spirit saith the Lord of hosts.” “Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” — T.L.

* People in the U.S. are too busy trying to be entertained. They don’t want to “work out their own salvation” but to be entertained by fancy speakers, music groups, and big buildings. … Not enough persecution to weed out the tares.
— D.M.

* I believe the problem is that many or most Christians have no idea of the role or the power of the Holy Spirit and take no thought about letting Him lead them in their spiritual lives. You can’t run a light if the cord is unplugged! The majority of the lost of this nation and this world will never get saved until the saved get obedient to the Holy Spirit of God. — R.R.

* We have come to rely on putting together a “quality program” and fail to rely on the Holy Spirit’s anointing. (Someone said if the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from earth, most churches could continue doing everything they have been doing and would never miss Him.) We have become good at “doing church” while failing to “be the church.” — S.C.

* Why is the church in American failing? Pastors with no guts. Pastors who have made ministry a career. Pastors who are afraid of the deacons, the women’s auxiliary, the tithers, their wives, the public opinion of their life and words. We “do church” just fine — and people have become religious as a result. As long as pastors continue to refuse to talk about sin, hell, repentance and blood, and balance it with grace and mercy, people will continue to see the obvious irrelevance to their lives. There is power in the blood of Jesus Christ and the Word of God is alive, but people are unaware of this because pastors have become great moral lecturers rather than loving tellers of the Truth. Pastors must step up and be willing to risk it all to simply teach the Word, rather than try to draw a crowd. They must become more concerned with personal holiness than attendance records and the new building project. They need to read the book of Acts; they need to have guts. — D.J.

* The problem today is not unlike the problem from the Garden [of Eden] onward. Who is number one and who counts the most in your life? If the answer is “me,” then everything that is done (including church) must have that focus to it. Therefore, the essential problem with the church today is a heart problem that only God can fix. — K.P.

* In wanting to be “tolerant” of other faith systems, we have allowed Christianity to be lumped in with all the rest, so that the excesses of one tars us as well. If one is as good as the other, in the popular mind, one can be as bad as the others. While certainly not resorting to persecution and mindless bad-mouthing of other faith systems, we must be more forceful in pressing the superiority of the faith “once delivered unto the saints.” — E.B.

* Many people only want “uplifting” sermons. They want to “feel good’ after church. Their goal is not growth, nor maturity in Christ. As a result, pastors can get somewhat gun-shy. We are sometimes left with a choice between becoming people-pleasers or unemployed. When preachers fail to “preach the word … in season and out of season; reproving, rebuking, and exhorting, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2), then the church is in big trouble. The more preachers there are who go for the “lite” version of the Word, the more “out of season” it is for those who preach the Word. — S.S.

* I believe the biggest problem in the church in general is the lack of holiness within the leadership of the church. … In America, too many pastors are trying to be people pleasers rather than God pleasers. — C.H.S.

* Could it be that, in our post-modern zeal to find “new and innovative” ways to worship, we have managed to obscure the only thing that truly makes a difference, namely the Gospel of Jesus Christ? In 1 Corinthians, St. Paul was criticized because he was not an “eloquent” preacher, nor was he “entertaining” the people. He said, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1). The modern Church is guilty of making the same error as the congregation at Corinth. It, too, places the “personalities” above the Person of Christ, who alone can save, and to whom alone our Christian loyalties belong. The simplicity of this wonderful gift has been lost. — D.R.

* Primarily, I believe it is because we are a consumer-driven church in a consumer-driven culture. — T.N.

* Give me a sermon delivered by an uneducated man in love with the Lord and His Word than one from a highly polished, highly honed “personality” any day. — K.M.

* The “lost world” has been watching that we don’t have the “real thing!” They (the world) have pushed us to compromise on a daily basis and we have! We have conformed to the world so much that we don’t look, walk, talk, sing … any differently! — B.P.

* We must pray because there is no other way. We must pray, because we can do nothing else. We must pray until God sends revival and renewal. We must pray.
— R.Z.

* Religion has replaced relationship, self-centeredness has replaced God-centeredness. And we have even begun to create God in our own image (openness theology). — M.B.

* We are salt and light through Jesus Christ. Lacking Him, we can only attract people to our own good deeds. — R.S.

* Because our pulpits are so weak, the sheep are suffering with malnutrition. They don’t know how to defend themselves, their personal theology is deficient, and they are easy prey for cults and aberrant doctrines. If Christians were properly taught from the pulpits of America, the cults would not be able to survive. — B.H.

* One of the main reasons is that the “religion” of the public in the USA is not founded on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is founded on a casual acquaintance with “religion.” — C.N.

* The church in the USA is weak because the pulpit is weak. The flock of God is bored and listless because the pastorate is filled with shallow men. The Body of Christ appears ineffectual because its blood is anemic for lack of red-blooded men of God who lead it courageously. They’d rather play it safe and keep their health insurance than play the role of prophet and defy convention. Yes, we have “personalities,” but not nearly enough Elijahs! — L.R.

* Basically, our problem is that “church” is a place our members go to fulfill their duty to God rather than being their very identity. … The dichotomy which is created allows individuals to have a “church life” and a separate “work” or “secular” life. — F.C.

* Most churches try to be a smorgasbord to their congregation and community, offering anything and everything. Often, this results in not doing anything well. — P.V.

* Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have against evil — and the most neglected. — D.V.

* I have met people that moved to my city and visited 10, 15, 20 and 25 churches looking for solid Biblical preaching and teaching and instead found Bibles unused in the pulpits and in the pew, pop psychology, Tonight Show entertainment, feel good messages, and little or no reference to Jesus or the cross. A wise foreign philosopher was once quoted as saying, “I sought for the greatness and genius of America. … Not until I went into the church of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” I am afraid the flame God intended in our pulpits has become smoldering wicks. — B.K.