A reason why great churches die…


Great Churches Die

A reason why great churches die…

I understand this is really complicated.  The reality is most churches out there have a great heart.  They are passionate about missions globally and locally, yet many of these same churches have done nothing but atrophy for the last decade.  They will fervently tell you they love missions and any of their members would open their home to any missionary from Africa.  So how in the world can these churches with good people continue to die?

People see the needs they want to see, not what is truly there.  Let me explain.

The other night my family sat in a restaurant.  It was a fish market down in Florida.  Butcher paper covered the table and crayons were in abundance.  This is the kind of restaurant my kids love, where they can draw on everything.  So we all did.  Believe it or not I took art all the way through high school.  I actually was in AP (advanced placement) art.  I drew a picture of Emma’s face and my boys were in amazement.  Honestly I am not all that good, but compared to a 9-year-old I am amazing.  My son asked me how I did it so I told him something my art teacher told me.  Draw what you REALLY see, not what you THINK you see.  My son started in without taking the time to gaze up at my face and it didn’t take long before it looked like many other amateur visage portraits.  The eyes were near the top of the head, my hair was a slim line, and my mouth was huge!  Now the huge mouth may have been accurate metaphorically, but that’s for another time.  I asked him to look up, pay attention to what my face REALLY looks like.  He finally looked at me then looked at his drawing and realized he, like many young artists, drew what he THOUGHT he remembered seeing instead of the proportions of my face as they really are.

The key to great art is great observation. 

This is true in churches too!  Countless churches create ministries for a culture they THINK exists outside of the four walls of the church.  Like a delicious steak house in a vegetarian community, they may serve a great meal but they are going out of business because they aren’t meeting the needs of the culture around them.  All too often they frantically try to refine their steak menu so to speak, giving their all as they numerically decline into history.   One thing church leaders ought to be constantly doing is helping the people they work with truly observe the culture around them.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

(John 1:14 ESV)

I love this verse!  The concept is so powerful. The phrase “dwelt among us” could be translated as he “set up his tent” in our presence.  God didn’t just stay on his throne, remaining distant from us.  He came and dwelt among us.

Great ministry comes from great observation, both of God and his people. 


Published by

Mike & Leslie Colaw

Husband, father, pastor. I work here www.encountertrinity.com. Wrestle through ideas here www.luke117.com. I don't have all the answers, but I love the journey searching for them!

8 thoughts on “A reason why great churches die…

  1. Mike, I LOVE this! And I love it on two levels. 1. I love the ART “story”. That was the only school subject I did well. I did artwork for our Jr High school newspaper, and “majored” in Art in high school…oh yeah, I won an award in 4th or 5th grade for the 500 Festival (a public school/Indy 500 deal). I am not surprised that you are artistic. As long as I have known you, you have “painted” with words. When I changed my major in college from Bible to Art, my art professor tried to get me to NOT paint what I REALLY saw. He said I was “too tight”, but he was a watercolor artist and his artwork was always too loose for “my eye”. 2. I currently feel like I am in a battle, and I shouldn’t! I am trying to stretch and grow Disciples at church…helping them see that THEY can make a difference. My big word lately in my heart and on my lips is EMPOWER. Missions is just not for the missionaries. A disciple just doesn’t GO to church, they ARE the church. If the Holy Spirit dwells in us, then we are empowered. I am so frustrated that it seems our church wants to keep everyone on the same level. Some members are ready to go off the milk, as well as the fast food, and are ready for some steak!! Mike, on a very person note…pray for me, please. I am very discouraged…when I thought I might receive some encouragement from someone, the rug was yanked out from under me. If you are back home, I hope you are safe and warm. OK, so I won’t say that it is currently 84 degrees here today, but you know North Texas could have an ice storm next week.Praying for you, your family and your church!Blessings!Ken Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2013 20:48:20 +0000 To: krp500@msn.com

  2. Didn’t the church leaders of those great churches that died ALSO suffer from creating ministries that they thought were needed but were not? If these churches are self deceived then how can you tell when you are NOT self deceived as a church or church leader? It sounds like a conundrum.

    1. Good thought Dan. My intention wasn’t to deem laity or leader as having the answer. It was to just point out that we need to look up and out. I do think it most wise to reiterate that Christ and His truth should be the primary point of focus… always.

      1. I want to also say… I know I have been guilty! There have been times when I was sure a course of action was going to be effective and it wasn’t. The attribute I am more and more sure I want to possess is humility. I want to stay humble and teachable. I know I don’t have the answers, yet I desperately want to continue to attempt to make a difference.

  3. Mike, a brilliant study to perform on why churches fail is the Letters to the Churches in Rev. 2 & 3. The Title, Commendation, Criticism, Admonition and Call Jesus gives to each cuts to the core of all that is right and wrong with churches today. Each church actually existed but is also prototypical of what we see today. Embodied therein are clear descriptions of Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Evangelical and Apostate congregations. There is even criticism for churches that started off right and lost their way. And Jesus will remove a church if they fail to heed his call and repent. (Rev. 2:5) Since all believers are instructed to read the letters, Jesus intended them to edify everyone. “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Preach Christ and he will draw the least and the lost.

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