|Characteristics of a Thriving Church|
|Written by Benjamin C. Winslett|
|Thursday, 28 November 2013 18:57|
The past 100 years have not been kind to the Primitive Baptists in regards to total membership and number of churches. Rather than growing, or even holding our own, churches have often declined in number, some even to death, and the average age of those in our congregations has steadily increased leaving few to replace departing saints at the end of their respective lives. Supposedly, in an era in which the population of our country increased by over 300 million, our numbers decreased by half.
This is not exclusively a PB problem. In the largest denomination in North Alabama, the Southern Baptists, nearly 9 out of 10 youths (88%) leave the church as they enter college.i While some mega-churches seem to go against this trend, average attendance in the nation's largest denominations is on the decline. ii Spirituality in America is greatly shifting for the worse.
I am reminded of the words of a friend who once remarked “Never show me the statistics!” Indeed. But, but rather than be the proverbial ostrich with my head firmly placed in the sand, I hope I will heed the words of Haggai the prophet and “consider my ways.” iii
There are many ways to have a dying church. If you want a dying church, these are probably a good idea:
The good news! Jesus promised to be with us always - even until the end of the world. He alone has all power in Heaven and in Earth.iv God can and will revive us IF we are found following the pattern laid down for us in Acts. Our churches can thrive. In fact, over the past decade there have been some movements of God in reviving churches that had once declined to a very small number. In one case, a church which had declined down to one lone member over the past decades was revived and now has a thriving congregation. In a few locations, college aged men have been extremely evangelistic among their peers resulting in new converts to the truth of Grace. It is so very exciting!
When such revivals have happened, I made an effort to observe and study the workings of such churches. Why are blessings present in some places but not others? One might say because God is Sovereign. Indeed He is, but the scriptures do not set forth fatalism. In fact, God does indeed reward those who diligently seek Himv. We are beggars at His table, but He will in no wise reward laziness. God's Sovereignty shouldn't be used as an excuse for slackness in a congregation.
The following are characteristics I have observed among thriving churches and also on the pages of the books of Acts during a recent, 10 month study on Acts at Flint River Church.
Not what you might think
Among reviving or thriving churches, it wasn't that they had the newest or nicest facility, best location, a young, exciting or articulate pastor, programs, a flashy website, or even the largest congregation (not that all of those were bad). We sometimes place importance on the superficial. Remember, however, that our faith does not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.vi
A final note
This should not be construed as a “7 Step Program” for a thriving Church. It isn't intended to be such. Rather, these are “personality traits” of church bodies who went against the trend of decline.
Characteristic 1 – A Christ-Centered Church
Characteristic 2 – Obsessed with the Gospel!
Characteristic 3 – Fervent and Zealous in Worship
Characteristic 4 – A Close Congregation
Characteristic 5 – A Body of Different Members
Characteristic 6 – A Loving, Forgiving Congregation
Characteristic 7 – Being Intensely Evangelistic
You already knew all of this. Didn't you? It is so obvious one might consider it insulting. Frankly, this isn't a matter of reinventing the wheel, but reclaiming what God has given us. The pursuit of Christ and primitive Christianity, the Christianity of Acts, is the solution to the problems of decline and stagnancy facing believers in our pagan, philosophical America of 2013.
vi1 Corinthians 2:5
vii1 Corinthians 2:2
viii1 Corinthians 3:11
ix1 Corinthians 15:1-4
xiNehemiah 13:24, speaking half in the language of Ashdod.
xvActs 20:20, 20:27
xx1 Peter 2:5
xxi1 Timothy 3:15
xxivCondensed from the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historic Principles, CT Onions
xxv1 Corinthians 3:5-9
xxviJohn 10, Matthew 25:31
xxvii1 Corinthians 6:11
|Last Updated on Thursday, 12 December 2013 11:05|