Skip to comments.Why Churches Die
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. Brunsons two books, The God Youve Been Searching For and The Miracle Youve Been Searching For were released last year and Caners award-winning Unveiling Islam: An Insiders Look at Muslim Life and Belief was co-authored with brother Emir Caner. Hes 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 modeljoyous 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 pagansin 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 todays 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 wideand 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 Pauls 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.
Oh to be called Faithful as the Bride of Christ.
(its hard to type holding a two year old in one hand)
Maybe more praying in our prayer closet during the week would help Sunday go a lot better?
Ugh - that is just painful. I fear very much that too many churches are doing just that. Most of the time it is done in all innocence.
The root problem is spiritual, but I often wonder if decades of public schooling also play a part as well, making church members less able to comprehend the Bible, and less willing to sit still for meat rather than milk.
I am no master here - I have trouble "finding time" to read the Bible.
In each of the Seven Churches of the Book of Revelation there is a core, a remnant of solid believers whose hearts are committed to serving the a Lord whether or not the rest of the church is going along with God's program and heeding the admonitions of the Lord Jesus. It is easy to be critical of "the church" these days. The important matter is for those of us who "have ears to hear" is for us as individuals to pay attention to the special words of Jesus addressed to the overcomers in each of the churches. In the case of Laodicea--the church at the end of age--Jesus says,
Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'" (Revelation 3:18-22)
Ray Stedman comments on Laodicea as follows:
"What a sad condition! There is a big difference between "you say," and "you are." Our Lord points this difference out. This is the "Faithful and True witness" speaking, the one who tells the whole truth, even though it hurts. This church at Laodicea was, to use a popular expression, "fat, dumb and happy." It was smug. It was self-sufficient. It was complacent. They had plenty of money. Perhaps they had beautiful buildings, gifted preachers, a great choir, a great organ, and the respect of the community. They thought they were doing well. But when Jesus looks at it, he says, "You are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." Why such a difference in these two views? It is because they were being measured by two different standards.
I might say to you, "What is the temperature today?" and you would look at a thermometer and say, "It is 32 above zero." But I might check another thermometer and say, "No, you are wrong. It is zero." The truth is, we would both be right because one thermometer was Fahrenheit and the other was Centigrade. Zero in Centigrade is 32 above on Fahrenheit. If you use two different standards of measurement, you will never be able to agree on what the true temperature is. That is what was happening here. They were being measured by two different standards. Laodicea was using the standards of the world. It was pleasant, comfortable, approved by the community around, and they thought they were doing well. But Jesus is using the standard of what he intended his church to be like. It is definitely not to be a Country Club, run for the benefit of the members. It is not a Performing Arts Center either, where one is entertained with wonderful music. It is not to be a Political Action Group, taking sides on the issues of the day, nor is it to be a protest movement. Elements of all these may, at times, be legitimately expressed in the church, but none is to be its raison d'etre, the purpose for which it exists.
Jesus tells us plainly what his church is to be like. It is to be salt -- and not just plain salt, but salty salt! He said, "Salt that loses its saltiness is good for nothing," (Matthew 5:13, Mark 9:50, Luke 14:34). It will only be cast out and trodden under the feet of men. But a church that is salt should be salty. He means that, like salt in food, it should be spread throughout the whole area, flavoring whatever it touches. The church is to function not only when it meets on Sunday, but out where you people are during the week -- in business offices, in the marketplace, in shops, in your home, wherever you are. That is where the church does its work. That is where it is to tell the good news and to be salt, flavoring life with a different flavor, a different attitude toward circumstances, which does not go along with the willful, wicked, and wanton ways of the world but which chooses to walk in truth, righteousness, love and honesty. That is how the church becomes salt, filled with good works.
And it is also to be light. "You are like a city set on a hill," said Jesus. "You are the light of the world," (Matthew 5:14 NIV). Light is a symbol of truth. The church is to be a source of truth and of vision. It is the church that is charged with the task of making people understand the program of God throughout history, and of interpreting the events of the day so that men see what God is doing, not what man intends to do. That is the work of the church: To declare the truth about humanity's lost condition and the good news that a Savior has been born who will save us from our sin. Judged by that standard, Laodicea had nothing. They were as though stripped naked, poor, pitiful, wretched, and blind.
Disease in the Body of Christ. Hardly. Some leaders mistake the mega-church social club building they "attend" for Christ's people which compose the real Christ's Church wherever in the world they are. I stand amazed at the huge number of *stars* and *authors* making scads of money in what appears to me to be little more than a religious organization - sanctioned merchandising of the Gospel for personal and organizational financial gain in a style reminiscent of the money-changers in the temple which Christ evicted in a most forceful way.
Just out of curiosity, who are the "stars and authors" that are making scads of money? And how much money is a "scad"?
***Often it seems that the majority of people who profess to be Christians do not act as Christians.***
Maybe many in the modern church are not truly converted.
You may likely, and sadly, be correct.
When an on-fire minister of the Gospel gives a message with a bunch of TRUTH in it, see how many in the congregation start sneering or squirming. See also how fast that minister is suddenly voted out by the deacon board.
I think that may be the problem and it may be a lot bigger than we think.
There is more truth to that statement than you would ever know.
~~~Salt and Light.~~~
Since we as Christians are the Church then we get together on Sunday's and Wednesday's then is there strength in numbers? Are we more salty and a brighter light?
Please don't turn this into a large church bashing thread.
ROTFLM*O!! Rick Warren's, T.D. Jakes', or Joel Osteen's churches sure aren't dying, fool =-).
By tuning into TBN [Trinity Broadcasting Network] one can go to church anywhere in the world 24/7/365, without the gossip-mongers competing to rise in the pecking order of some boring, run-down church!
It is interesting. Thanks for posting.
Look around at the everyday church.
Read the whole article as well.......
And don't call me no fool ;^) looser
---Maybe many in the modern church are not truly converted.
I think that may be the problem and it may be a lot bigger than we think.----
This has been a problem since the first century. It will no doubt be a problem til Jesus comes.
"Many will call Me Lord, Lord and I will say depart from Me I never knew 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 =-)
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 :>
;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 :>
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"?
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.
I don't think its possible to be too deep. But one can be too narrow.
I'll goa step further - many standing in the pulpit today are not truly converted.
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.