A number of churches are shrinking and/or closing. Why?
First, we should know that the church was in God’s eternal purpose. (Ephesians 1:4, 5, 9, 11; 3:10, 11).
Second, Jesus promised to build His Church or kingdom (Matthew 16:13-19) shortly after His promise (Matthew 4:17), during the lives of some then alive. (Mark 9:1).
Third, Acts 2 shows that Jesus established His Church/Kingdom as promised, and that some were in it. (Acts 2:41, 47; Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:9).
Fourth, The Kingdom/Church will be delivered up, not set up, at the end. (1 Corinthians 15:24). It will stand as Daniel prophesied. (Daniel 2, especially, verse 44). The Church/Kingdom is described as “the everlasting kingdom” in heaven. (2 Peter 1:11).
How can a Church/Kingdom shrink or close if it cannot be destroyed? There are a number of reasons.
First, God had John tell the seven churches of Asia that the candlestick or church would be removed if there were no repentance. (Revelation 1:1-4; 2 and 3; 1:20; 2:5).
Second, preachers may be responsible for churches dwindling or shutting. Many preachers thru the years have told their members that the church is unimportant, that church membership was unnecessary, that Jesus only matters. Some may now be believing this and leaving something they have been told was unneeded.
Third, some preachers may have run people off by becoming hobby riders. Sermons may have become unbalanced, not proclaiming all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:27). Some may be like the preacher who preached on baptism exclusively. Baptism is important, but there are other subjects needing addressing. The preacher was told that he could preach at a church, but he had to limit his subject to Genesis 1, which he agreed to do. He read verses 1, 6, 9, 10, 20, and 21. Finishing these verses, he looked up at the audience, and said, just as water had a great part in the beginning, so does water have a great part in the beginning of one’s journey to heaven. He then preached a sermon on baptism. Our preaching needs to be balanced. Never run anyone off by preaching the same thing week after week after week…..
Fourth, members may run people away by speaking before thinking. How many churches have lost precious souls because some member used unkind, unthoughtful, hurtful words, however honest and/or sincere? Cf. Colossians 4:6; Galatians 6:1; Ecclesiastes 10:12-14; Matthew 10:16; Proverbs.
Fifth, some churches may close due to little or no evangelism. Good reader, families grow by new births, and swell by adoptions. The church is no different. Churches grow when there are new births, and but swell by stealing sheep. Jesus did not send the church forth to steal sheep or to seek others to place membership. He sent His people forth to go…teach…baptize…teach. (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; 2 Timothy 2:2). Too, when members, including the leading people, are more interested in this world and its goods than Matthew 6:33, churches will dwindle and/or close.
Sixth, some areas may not be interested in hearing the word of God. Jesus sent His disciples, apostles forth (Matthew 10:1, 2) to preach, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Verse 7). He told them that some cities and houses would not receive them, and when they found this to be the case, to “depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” (Matthew 10:11-14). This may be the reason there are no churches in some places, and why some will not hear us. However, let’s make sure we try to teach before we console ourselves. W. A. Bradfield, the late beloved evangelist and F-HC, now F-HU, teacher used to tell all not to decide who would/would not obey God, to let them make that decision. He was right, and that is the way he did it.
Seventh, mega churches and their preachers may be squashing some churches by stealing sheep. One preacher said, “I made this church what it is.” Some thought he might have written a book, entitled, HUMILITY, AND THE BROTHERHOOD’S GREATEST SERMONS. Some said of another that he could be dropped down in a mission field, and he would have a multiple thousand church in a short time. One wonders why they did not drop him off somewhere in such a field?
Eighth, false doctrine could be a reason for a church shrinking or closing. John said some do not have God, then said, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (2 John 9-11). Some will teach false gospels, that is, doctrines and commandments of men, even in the church (Galatians 1:2, 6-9; Matthew 15:7-9). We, as Paul, should warn against such, seeking to correct the matter. Like Aquila and Priscilla taught Apollos perfectly, we should seek to show others the right way. (Acts 18:24-28). We need to judge and try people, seeking to make sure people are teaching properly. (1 John 4:1-6; John 7:24). However, unrepentant brethren, whether false teachers or unrighteous in life, should be noted, when they will not repent. (Romans 16:17, 18). Some need to be told to cease dividing and/or limiting practices. (Acts 15:1, 19-31). When it becomes evident that some will not cease to do wrong, that they are determined to continue their sinful ways, fellowship must be broken, even if they or we have to leave the church in a smaller state. (2 John 9-11).
Ninth, some churches have become no more that recreational groups, catering to many of the physical needs of their members. Some may have concluded that they can get this from the local gyms and other places, and no longer see the need for the church. Is this a cause of some leaving churches?
Beloved, Jesus promised to and established His Church to be made up of a fellowship of believers. We should do all within our power to maintain “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3). It is sad to see churches dwindle. It is tragic to see vacant buildings. May we do all within our power to keep this from happening!