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Why Churches Die
SBT ^ | June 08, 2005 | Tammi Reed Ledbetter,

Posted on 06/15/2005 7:06:41 PM PDT by Rightly Biased

“Church would be a whole lot easier if it were not for the members.” That honest assessment introduces a new book titled “Why Churches Die: Diagnosing Lethal Poisons in the Body of Christ.” Co-authors Mac Brunson and Ergun Caner admit to being surprised when they heard a leading evangelical pastor make the comment as he admitted that he hated pastoring.

“Perhaps this statement is a bit strong,” they add. “Perhaps it is better said that he loved the calling, but the tangential bureaucracy of modern church life drove him crazy,” Brunson and Caner write. They offer common examples of things that wear down pastors:

“You get the point,” Brunson and Caner tell readers. “It is a sad secret that many pastors secretly resign every Monday. They lie in bed, debating internally whether to get up or hide under the mattress.”

With a combined experience of 50 years of pastoring, the two men recognize that many church members go through the same internal war. “They faithfully attend church but quietly rue getting up on Sunday. …The silliness and sinfulness that consumes many churches drive Christians to survive church,” the authors write.

Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, served as president of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference and president of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention. Caner began his ministry as a youth minister in Vincennes, Ind., and later pastored in North Carolina. He now serves as dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Va.

Both men have been successful writers. Brunson’s two books, “The God You’ve Been Searching For” and “The Miracle You’ve Been Searching For” were released last year and Caner’s award-winning “Unveiling Islam: An Insider’s Look at Muslim Life and Belief” was co-authored with brother Emir Caner. He’s written 10 other books.

In this new release from Broadman & Holman, the authors “identify the diseases that besiege local churches, tell how to excise the poisons and bring church back to the biblical model—joyous and encouraging.”

The authors offer a New Testament survey of specific actions members are called to take. “Looking over that list, one could easily become depressed,” the authors concede. “So many people attend church to be seen, to make connections or to attack one another. Often it seems that the majority of people who profess to be Christians do not act as Christians.”

Using the list of the ‘Holy Dozen’ as a scriptural standard for church life, Brunson and Caner diagnose the most debilitating diseases in the body of Christ. “Consider this an autopsy of churches that have died and a biopsy of churches that are seriously ill,” they tell the readers.

Both men admit that ministers often swap tales at conventions and meetings, “relaying stories of horrific business meetings, contentious committees and brutal fellowships.” And yet, the biblical description of the churches does not include any of the wars, fights and furies, they respond. Instead, the 77 references they studied reveal “an empowered people of God, left as ambassadors to the world and family to one another.”

With so many local churches that die or are paralyzed or terminally ill, Brunson and Caner propose a spiritual autopsy to examine the root causes of such untimely deaths. “Why do Christians, many of whom have been raised and trained in godly churches and under biblical preaching, end up acting like pagans—in the church?” they ask.

Although the two men have changed the names and locations to “protect the infected,” they relate astounding examples, some of them humorous, revealing the presence of spiritual disease in various churches. “These infections and poisons exist in churches across our land,” they write. “It is time to treat the illness and stop the infections.”

The “schizophrenic” fellowship described at Ephesus and the “chaotic” pattern at Corinth provide case studies from which today’s local churches can learn, the authors state.

“Scripture contains examples of men and women who were venomous. Like carnivorous animals, they prey on helpless and trusting sheep. They destroy the flock. The lives of these biblical characters are not to be emulated as good examples, but they should be studied intently,” they write.

“The purpose of this book is to expose the diseases, poisons and ailments found in almost epidemic proportions in virtually every church,” the authors write, offering a biblical treament to help cure such churches. “Rather than waiting until the death of a church, fellowship or friendship and performing an autopsy, we believe it would be better to diagnose the problem while the church still has a chance of recovery.”

Described by the publisher as “practicing a science of spiritual forensics,” the authors use a medical motif to examine, diagnose and offer treatment for a range of “toxins and terminal diseases” within the body of Christ. Spiritual atrophy is identified in Christians with a “shrunken faith” who are “coasting on the past.” The toxin of bitterness leads to the poison of jealousy and vengeance.

The two authors never hold back in their description of ailments plaguing the church. In offering what they call a classic case of spiritual manic depression, they describe a member who comes forward at the invitation every service. “The church was not cynical or hardened” toward the man, they explain. “They just understood ... he was either witnessing the incredible, miraculous wonders of God or he was within scant moments of devastating failure.”

While the authors recognize some such individuals are thought to be emotionally unstable or suffering from a chemical imbalance, they are convinced that for many “their emotional roller coaster is not a chemical or medical condition; it is a spiritual problem.” Furthermore, “they consume the time of staff and members alike. They are vocal and they are needy. They can also be dangerous.”

Brunson and Caner add, “Once they hit what seems to be an incurable depth, they are capable of the most ungodly responses. They lash out at other Christians. They respond angrily when you set limits in your relationship. They complain to anyone within earshot about your lack of Christian compassion, and if you are a church leader, they challenge your commitment to Christ and his work.”

Through the example of Simon Peter, Brunson and Caner write, “The Bible shows us that even the most unstable Christian can become a productive and vital leader in the fellowship,” calling him “the patron saint for the spiritually manic-depressive.”

A further word of warning is offered to churches that grow mainly due to emotions and feelings. “A church that is averaging two hundred in attendance calls a new pastor and a new worship leader. Both are charismatic men with personalities that drip with enthusiasm. Both have the capacity to excite the church and draw them closer to God.”

Both writers fully expect such a church will grow. “Yet what if the pastor does not really feed the people the Word of God but preaches sermons filled with clichés and positive thinking? What if he uses illustrations that cause people to weep and laugh, even though they may not be biblical? What if the worship pastor leads each worship service to a crescendo of emotion and feeling?” they ask.

Even then the church often keeps growing, they predict. “Sadly, this is often the picture of the modern church. It is a mile wide—and about an inch deep.” Brunson and Caner warn such leaders, “What it takes to get them there, it will take to keep them there” as people search for a new place that equals the emotional plateaus to which they were drawn initially.”

In Moses’ sister, Miriam is found an example of sowing seeds of discord from the biblical account in Numbers 12:1-15. Spiritual myopia typified by nearsighted and short-sided Christians is illustrated in the life of Samson from Judges 13-16. Demas provides a spiritual illustration of hypochondria through his ministry of misery in 2 Timothy 4:9-13.

In the closing chapter Brunson and Caner admit that the solutions offered in their brief study are neither simple, nor easy. Reminding readers “there is a right way to do things, a right time to do things and a right spirit in which they must be enacted,” the authors say skipping any of these factors can be as dangerous as the disease itself.

Having “tested” their analysis on many pastors, staff members and members of local churches, their reviewers shared similar experiences that sparked further discussion. “They would share stories of heartbreak, firings and seemingly incurable churches where pastors and members alike were equally afflicted. They told of small lesions that became big ulcers in their churches. They spoke of the devastating effects one member, one leader or one teacher can have on a fellowship that otherwise would be a warm and godly community of believers.”

By returning to Paul’s emphasis on familial support in the local church, Brunson and Caner relate how churches recover from devastating spiritual toxins to realize their calling in Christ. “As long as we are alive and he postpones his coming, our purpose is clear: We are called to be his ambassadors,” the authors state.

“As ambassadors, we do not have a right to fight over our particular embassies or argue over which liaison we like best. We are to carry out the wishes of our regent who established us as a pilgrim band.”

TOPICS: Evangelical Christian; Religion & Culture; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: bookreview; whychurchesdie
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To: Knitting A Conundrum

"Many will call Me Lord, Lord and I will say depart from Me I never knew you!"

21 posted on 06/16/2005 6:21:53 AM PDT by Rightly Biased (<><)
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To: Rightly Biased
Calling the authoress the fool, not you.

As far as the everyday church, as you call it, it is time for that to "die," being replaced by the resurrected Real Church =-)

22 posted on 06/16/2005 6:53:42 AM PDT by Ff--150 (Being Enriched in Everything, to All Bountifulness)
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To: Ff--150

Define "Real Church"

23 posted on 06/16/2005 7:23:09 AM PDT by Rightly Biased (<><)
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To: Rightly Biased
'Define "Real Church"'

;o) You'll know It, when It finds you. Jesus isn't a mythical Guy from way back.

Then folks will start asking YOU to "define 'Real Church.'" Good Luck :>

24 posted on 06/16/2005 7:36:10 AM PDT by Ff--150 (Being Enriched in Everything, to All Bountifulness)
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To: Rightly Biased
'Define "Real Church"'

;o) You'll know It, when It finds you. Jesus isn't a mythical Guy from way back.

Then folks will start asking YOU to "define 'Real Church.'" Good Luck :>

25 posted on 06/16/2005 7:36:52 AM PDT by Ff--150 (Being Enriched in Everything, to All Bountifulness)
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To: Ff--150; Rightly Biased

I think Rightly Biased asked a legitimate question. How do you define the "Real Church" and what distinctives does it have to distinguish it from some "un-Real Church"?

26 posted on 06/16/2005 7:44:09 AM PDT by P-Marlowe
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To: Ff--150
So you don't know what a "Real Church" would be by your standard or definition.

I am not questioning whether Jesus is the Alpha and Omega and Alive forevermore; but your definition of "Real Church"

Define "Real Church"? again I ask.
27 posted on 06/16/2005 8:21:54 AM PDT by Rightly Biased (<><)
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To: Zack Nguyen; All
"Sadly, this is often the picture of the modern church. It is a mile wide - and about an inch deep."

I think there are many Churches that are too narrow and too deep also. Though you won't find many here at FR that would agree with me.

28 posted on 06/16/2005 7:16:33 PM PDT by Between the Lines (We are enabled to see the Lord at work if our eyes and our hearts are open." - George W. Bush)
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To: Between the Lines

I don't think its possible to be too deep. But one can be too narrow.

29 posted on 06/16/2005 7:30:14 PM PDT by Zack Nguyen
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To: PetroniusMaximus; Rightly Biased

I'll goa step further - many standing in the pulpit today are not truly converted.

30 posted on 06/16/2005 7:44:55 PM PDT by Zack Nguyen
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To: Zack Nguyen

Yes I agree with that statement.

But how does one measure conversion?

We are told you will know them by their works?

Not that works get you there but thats how we'll know them.

31 posted on 06/17/2005 4:47:59 AM PDT by Rightly Biased (<><)
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