Five Sure Signs of a Dying Church by Shane Idleman
Due to the state of many churches today, I’m re-publishing this article from 2015. It’s more significant now than ever before.
Church is boring for most because the power of God has vanished from many congregations…there is a lack of desire to pursue Him in the pulpit as well as in the pew. Like Samson, they “know not that the Spirit of the Lord has departed” (cf. Judge 16:20). High attendance is not the gauge of success, faithfulness is. Granted, a healthy church should experience seasons of growth, but even cults generate large numbers of followers. Here are 5 simple ways to gauge the health of a church, and a believer:
1. Is Prayer an after-thought or a priority? Nights of prayer and worship are often replaced with Bingo and fundraisers. We’re in a hurry to burn through a sermon, scurry through worship, and head to the nearest restaurant. This is a sure sign of a dying church. If churches are too busy to pray—they’re too busy. “When faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live” (E.M. Bounds). We should never allow our relationship with God to suffer because we’re too busy. “We must spend much time on our knees before God if we are to continue in the power of the Holy Spirit” (R.A. Torrey). Spiritual life and prayer go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other.
2. Is the church known for either emotionalism or dead formalism? Unfortunately, Christians often embrace one of two extremes when it comes to the topic of revival and the Holy Spirit. At one extreme are those who embrace pure emotionalism and hysteria—“if it’s odd it’s God” is often their motto. All weird behavior is excused. The other extreme resembles a cemetery. There’s no living, vibrant spiritual life taking place. The church is dead, cold, and lifeless; talk of revival is either dismissed or ridiculed. Both extremes are characteristics of a dying church.
3. Is sin excused and holiness minimized? In short, has the fear of the Lord vanished? Some time ago, a pastor of a large church in my area made an unforgettable statement, “We should avoid mentioning the fear of the Lord. It makes people feel uncomfortable.” Just writing that sentence makes me feel uncomfortable. The fear of the Lord is mentioned frequently throughout the Bible as the beginning of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. “The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him…” (Psalm 147:11).