Many churches are plateaued, declining, and aging. Why? After thirty-five years and a few thousand churches, we see some key issues. Some will make sense, others may surprise you.

  1. Great fellowship in the absence of effective outreach. People love one another but don’t have enough energy to reach out.

  2. Focus on taking people to church, rather than taking church to people. In a secular society, it might be better to take an interested person to coffee and share what God has done in your life.

  3. Failing to translate into contemporary language. Like most people, many Christians like the “warm and fuzzy” feeling of language they learned from their youth. When the world doesn’t use it anymore, we make God sound old and out of date. God is neither.

  4. A decision-making process (church government) influenced by secular approaches. Many churches are led by boards. Conflicts discourage many, and they leave. The biblical model is low control, balanced by high accountability. Changing to a biblical approach is liberating for important decisions about outreach.

  5. Some staff members are great servants, but in the wrong spot for their gifts. Some are using ineffective strategies. They can be very dedicated. But, their training (or lack of it) or mismatched positions reduce their effectiveness to motivate others.

  6. A subtle drift from the culture (values, beliefs, attitudes, priorities and worldviews) that Jesus taught. Jesus taught, over and again, “The Kingdom of God is like….” Secularism causes a subconscious drift away from biblical culture. This results in “unhealthy” culture, especially in the area of effective outreach.

  7. While teaching about “making disciples,” some churches put emphasis on recruiting “volunteers,” for organizational programs. Discipling is more like raising a child than recruiting a volunteer. Volunteerism perpetuates programs. Discipleship multiplies people. Volunteerism is a “corporate model.” Discipling reflects a movement.

  8. Many church leaders are busy “doing” ministry, but not discipling Christians through one-on-one equipping. This changes the expansion of Christianity from multiplication growth to growth by addition.

  9. Making disciples among those who are unchurched is limited to the work of pastors, church staff or a committee. Biblical outreach is when all Christians, as they go about their everyday lives, witness what God has meant to them.

  10. Many Christians avoid sharing their faith because they think about knocking on doors, talking to strangers. But the best outreach is when believers share their “God stories” with those in their social networks. Churches should define their primary “mission field” as the sum total of those who are not yet Christ followers, in the social networks of all their members. That makes you a “missionary” and a trip to Walmart a short-term mission trip.

Don’t despair: many churches, with soft redirection, become more effective! There’s nothing more exciting in life than a growing church!

Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by emailTwitter, Facebook, or visit

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