Why Have We Not Grown?

The Christian Chronicle reported this month that churches of Christ declined 2.1 percent nationwide during the final decade of the twentieth century. This marks the only decade during the last century churches of Christ failed to grow. We ask why.
I don?t believe we can attribute the problem to just one thing. Several things have hindered the cause of Christ.
(1) We are losing preachers. Each year we lose nearly 300 preachers more than we gain from our universities and schools of preaching. In the last decade we have lost 3,000 preachers, who could have served the 13,000 congregations among us. Let us beseech the Lord of Harvest to send forth workers (Matt. 9:36-38).
(2) We began fussing more. The radical right and radical left constantly criticize and condemn the mainstream middle. If we continue to bite and devour one another, we should not be surprised that we are consumed by one another (Gal. 5:15).
(3) When the Boston movement was no longer counted among us in 1994, we lost 46 churches and 18,816 members.
(4) Our churches began ?graying.? When the average age of the members of a congregation exceeds 70, it is very hard to keep them growing. Older congregations of 50 or less often decline, because they are not able to care for the needs of young families.
(5) We stopped training soul winners. We don?t hear much about evangelism today, though we hear much about ?church growth.? They are not always the same thing.
(6) With the onslaught of postmodern thinking, we have lost our ?theology of lostness.? When large and prominent churches support teachers of false doctrine, give a false sense of security, and fellowship those outside the body of Christ, our people no longer see the need for evangelism. When we don?t see others as lost, we don?t see a need to take the gospel to them.
We should not be pessimistic, however, for the Lord will restore and bless those who are His. I find many, many congregations thriving and growing. Those who are working hard may not be able to overcome the numerical losses of those who are dying, but they will survive and prosper as they hold to the Word of God.

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Phil Sanders

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