Six Reasons Your Church Welcome Ministry Is More Important Than Ever

By Thom Rainer

“We are the friendliest church in town.”

That sentence or something very similar is the most common statement we’ve heard in interviews we conducted with church members during consultations. Most people active in a church really do think their church is friendly. These members have relationships and interactions that give them that perceived reality.

But when we interview guests of the same churches, we hear a different story. These guests often think the members are “unfriendly” or “cliquish.” They don’t have the established relationships members have. They are not familiar with the church facilities. They don’t know what to expect.

The church welcome ministry (or whatever your church calls it) has always been important. But the ministry is more important today than it’s ever been. Look at six reasons this level of importance has risen.

1. Church members are returning to church after a long absence. The pandemic kept them away. Many have returned, but not all have. Some are easing back into church cautiously and slowly. It is critical for the welcome ministry to encourage these returning members to get back into a rhythm and habit of gathering regularly.

2. More new guests are arriving. During the quarantine, a number of new residents moved into your community. They have not had an opportunity to visit a church, but they are ready now. For some unchurched people, the angst of the COVID era has them asking questions about God, church, and faith. Some will show up at your church.

3. Context has changed. Yes, the world has changed. The local church is a microcosm of some of the contextual changes of our society. Specifically, the ways we greet people in many contexts have changed. Hugs are mostly out. Handshakes are in some places and out in others. The availability of visible sanitizers is necessary in most churches. Those who participate in the welcome ministry are aware of the best ways to greet guests.

4. First impressions are more important than ever. Because some of the guests have not been in a church for months, perhaps even a few years, the first few moments they arrive on the church property are critical. They could return repeatedly, or they could decide it’s not worth the risk and effort.

5. Few church members are naturally welcoming to guests. They naturally gravitate to people they know. They may be uncertain if a person is a guest or a member they don’t know. Leaders can exhort church members to be friendly, but the challenge for it to happen will always be there. The welcome ministry fills this void, and the void has been exacerbated during the pandemic.

6. It is biblical. While we don’t see a formal welcome ministry per se in the Bible, the importance of hospitality is clear and powerful. For example, “When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13). Additionally, Paul’s qualifications for church leaders include hospitality (see 1 Timothy 3:2-3).

Your church’s welcome ministry has always been important. But it is likely it is more important than ever.

What is your church doing for its welcome ministry? I would love to hear from you.


This article was originally published at Thom S. Rainer serves as founder and CEO of Church Answers. Dr. Rainer publishes a daily blog and podcast at and can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at

Pastor Talk: Becoming a Vital Part of Your Community


Pastor2Pastor — Am I Responsible for Church Growth?


  • I am happy to come across your site. Church growth is very essential in the church administration, and it is good to have you to share your experience with me.

  • Rev Kenneth Franklin

    Thank you for reminding me! We do get caught up in growing numbers and forget God has called us to be faithful and He will provide the success!

  • Thank you for your practical comments. Very encouraging to remember that we are called to be faithful and God brings growth!

  • Carl Meyer

    Very timely message, Barry. I do not take it as a minister’s cop out but encouragement when things do not go as we would like them to. God is ultimately in control….we would do well to remember that.

  • Very sincere message Pastor Barry. I agree with all you have said. Salvation is off the Lord. A Pastor or Shepherd is called to feed and look after the sheep, but Sheep gives birth to sheep. In other words The labourers are few. Take Care Pastor Barry.

  • Thank Pastor, you explanation of the scripture had not only illuminated my spiritual mind ,but had lifted a great burden away from my humble shoulder. May God Bless You.

    Pastor Heart

  • Thank you Pastor Barry.
    A great reminder and a great encouragement.

  • A Most useful and educational resource for any Minister / Priest to listen and inwardly digest. The role of the Priest is defined firstly by a calling that is led by The Holy Spirit. It is this Spirit and the guidance of the Shepherd that Pastor Barry is trying to fire up within all. Let each of us called by God support each other, assisting all our Brothers and Sisters in Christ as true shepherds to gain all and return all to the flock. Pastor Barry’s presentation once again is a reminder for all to undertake God’s will, and it is His will which will ultimately be done. May the dear Lord Jesus, Bless us all and accompany each of us on our daily journey in achieving this goal with all whom we meet.

    • Dear Brother,

      Praise God Pastor Barry, Thank you for the Bible verses. God bless you in everything you do. Thank you for the encrougement through Pastor to pastor. God’s grace and his
      Justice, his omnipresence and his holiness, his majesty and his glory will work to develop this .

      With regards

      PHONE NO 91-80-25478286 CELL—7204488112.

  • Maxine Taylor

    Thank you pastor Barry for your encouragement, very interesting and that is so true there was a time I use to feel discouraged, but not any more , I just try doing exactly what you said to do , and trust God to do His part. Again thank you very very much.


    Amen!!.thank you so much for the word of blessed!

  • Mel Janzen

    This really ministers to me, because I am a pastor of a very small congregation,and every Sunday i see before me so few attending and this feeling of failure comes on me.I shudder when even one of them is away.But I will remember that it is the Lords church and not mine.Thanks pastor for your encouraging word.

  • David

    It was good

  • Pas.Jockin Fernando

    Praise the Lord Pastor,
    Thanks for this as it is very useful and encouraging for the growth of ministry. And it’s a blessing, will pray for your ministry that God should use you even more than this.
    Thank u & God bless you.
    Pas.Jockin Fernando

  • John

    We are living in the time I believe we should realize the works of Satan surrounding Christians with his trickery ….Those of us who are Pastors should encourage and lead the flock into the wolf den with the Sword of The Lord and deliver the Word of God to the sinners and lead them to Jesus Christ..ALL Christians are commanded by God to go into the highway,hedges and anywhere else souls can be found.. Some will plant the seed and others will harvest the seed after the Holy Spirit has watered and fertilized the soul…We must trust the Holy Spirit to prepare the way for acceptance of God Word for Salvation…No one can enter the Kingdom of God Accept through Jesus Christ…..All Christians are Sowers of The Word of God…refer to > Mark 4:13 thru 32..Give God All Glory…Honor…and Praise….

  • Demlun

    Praise God Pastor Barry,Thank you the Bible verses.God bless you in everything you do.

    In His Service,

What Effective Pastors Do With Their Time

What Effective Pastors Do With Their Time


Leadership gurus will tell you that a primary skill of an effective leader is the ability to manage time for maximum productivity. Out of curiosity, our research team asked over 200 pastors to provide us an hour-by-hour calendar of a typical 168-hour week for them. Keep in mind that 168 hours represent all the hours in a week, so their reports included such mundane items as sleeping and eating.

Impressed with the Effective Leaders

Our study included 101 pastors that we called effective leaders because their churches ranked in the top five percent in conversion growth in American churches. A comparison group of pastors of similar number were leading churches that did not have significant conversion growth.

Our researchers were impressed with the time management skills of the effective pastors. Perhaps the best way to show their skills is to compare their use of time with that of the leaders of the comparison churches.

Differences in Priorities

Without comment, let us highlight some of the most significant differences between the pastors of the effective churches versus the pastors of the comparison churches. You may be surprised at some of the findings.

  • Pastors of effective churches sleep slightly over six hours per day. Pastors of comparison churches sleep almost eight hours per day.
  • Pastors of effective churches spend twenty-two hours in sermon preparation each week versus four hours for pastors of comparison churches.
  • The effective church leaders spent ten hours each week in pastoral care compared to thirty-three hours for the comparison group pastors. Pastoral care included counseling, hospital visits, weddings, and funerals.
  • Effective church leaders average five hours per week in sharing the gospel with others. Most of the comparison church pastors entered “0” for their weekly time in personal evangelism.
  • Comparison church leaders spend eight hours a week – more than an hour each day – performing custodial duties at the church. The typical custodial duties included opening and closing the facilities, turning on and off the lights, and general cleaning of the building.
  • Leaders of effective churches average 22 hours a week in family activities. The comparison church leaders weren’t too far behind with 18 hours of family time each week.

Priorities and Balance

The time allocation of effective leaders seems to complement the way they describe their own leadership styles. In order to accomplish what they considered priority functions, they had to sacrifice in other areas. The leaders of effective churches spent over 40 hours per week with their families and in sermon preparation time. In order to fulfill these priorities, they obviously had to let some things go.

Thus the effective leaders cannot do many of the responsibilities often expected of them as pastors. They cannot make all the hospital visits. They cannot counsel everyone. And they cannot perform all of the custodial duties that may be expected of them. But as leaders they can see that those things get done.

Leaders of effective churches thus make certain that their family and work life is balanced. And they make certain they have time to be missional and all about the Great Commission.

They also give priority in time to prayer and to preparation in God’s Word for the sermons to follow.

They almost sound like they are following the pattern of the early church leaders: “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the preaching ministry” (Acts 6:4, HCSB).

Biblical. Missional. Evangelistic. And powerful preaching.

How are you spending your time?


This article was originally published at on July 1o, 2014. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at

One comment

    • I am a bi vocational pastor. I work a secular job and pastor. My day begins at 4:30 with prayer and getting ready for work. 10 min for reading and off I go. Listening on the way to work with Bible on CD. This is 20 min. At Work 20 min. before work begins reading in New Testament. Prayer through day. Breaks and Lunch Study some more. This is about 50 min. Home by 5:00pm Eat with family at the table and spent time with kids. Then work at church til 10 and to bed. I average about 18 to 20 hours of study and visitation a week.

Ten Troubling Statements Church Leaders and Members Make

Ten Troubling Statements Church Leaders and Members Make

Arguing-WorkersBy Thom Rainer

If you want your church to move toward a slow yet certain death, make certain your church leadership and membership affirms most of these ten statements. They are troubling statements. Indeed they are proclamations that virtually assure your church’s decline and probable demise.

What is troubling is that these statements are not uncommon. They are articulated by both staff and lay leaders at times. See if you have ever heard any of these ten.

  1. We hire our pastors and staff to do that. “That” can be evangelism. Or discipleship. Or caring for others. Or visiting people in the hospital. Some lay leaders view pastors and staff as hired hands to do ministry they should be doing themselves.
  2. We have enough churches in our community. I rarely see a community that is really “overchurched.” The number of unchurched people in any one community is typically increasing, not decreasing. This comment usually comes from church leaders who view new churches as competition.
  3. We are a discipleship church. Or an evangelism church. Or a ministry church. Church leaders who say their churches are focused on only one area of ministry are offering excuses not to be obedient in other areas.
  4. We have never done it that way before. Yes, it’s cliché. But it’s still a very pervasive attitude among change-resistant people in the church.
  5. We don’t have the money to do that. More times than not, the church does indeed have the money to focus on necessary priorities. The problem is that some church leaders don’t have the courage to reallocate funds toward those priorities.
  6. We really don’t emphasize small groups. Churches that do not give a priority to small groups or Sunday school classes can count on a big exodus of people out the back door. Those in groups are five times more likely to stay involved in a church than those in worship services alone.
  7. We have enough people in our church. This is a tragic statement by leaders of inwardly focused churches. And it is an excuse not to do evangelism and ministry.
  8. We aren’t a church for those kinds of people. Though similar to number seven, this statement is an appalling declaration made by church members who really believe people of a certain race, ethnic group, income group, or other descriptor should be excluded from the congregation.
  9. We really shouldn’t expect much of our members. Low expectation churches are far too common. Too many church leaders communicate unwisely that it’s okay for members to do nothing, give nothing, and not be concerned about growing spiritually.
  10. We focus only on our members, not guests and others. Many church leaders make this statement either explicitly or implicitly. Sometimes the facilities, the worship services, and the small groups shout “Guests not welcome!” I released a resource today that addresses this critical issue of guest friendliness.

What do you think of these ten troubling statements? Are they accurate? Are they fair? What would you add or change? [Please leave your comments below]



This article was originally published at on December 8, 2014. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam,  Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at


  • “We don’t have enough _________ to do that. ” “We’re too small”

  • Thanks for telling it like it is. Our churches need to wake up band realize it’s not about our church.’s about the kingdom agenda.

  • Francis K. Tamba

    This is amazing and most acurate especially for a dying church.
    To add also, We will preach only the word the increase will come by faith.

  • Francis K. Tamba

    Amazing and acurate.

  • Pastor Jerome

    I agree that those are statements that can ruin a church. We as church leaders should look to the father for our guidance. When we make decisions on our own 9 times out of 10 we make the wrong choices. Only God knows the direction He wants His people to go in, when we look to Him for those answers, we can’t go wrong.

  • Robert Walker

    I have been involve in my church for over 30 years ,and as a lay leader, 25 of these years. Unfortunately, I have ,and even more so, am experiencing the slow death of my church. I and my Pastor both have introduced Dr. Rainer book ,The Autopsy of a Deceased Church, to the membership, in trying to get them to understand our present state. The 10 symptoms are so prevalent in so many churches. Thanks!!! for your acknowledgement of this subject. I see it as confirmation to keep pressing onward. I believe Christ, that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His church. Thank you and Please!!! don’t stop bringing your prayerful insight of these subjects to the populations.

  • Bob

    Not accepting help when some one wants to help.

    Being judgmental and not supporting others in there walk.

  • Dr. Mark Lynch

    I agree with these statement whole heartily. I have always led smaller churches and I have found that most of the problem with smaller churches growing is the fact that they are stuck in a tradition that they are unwilling to change. In my case it is most often the unwillingness to even try to bring praise & worship music into the service to help draw younger families into the church. Most smaller churches are stuck using 250 and 300 year old music and unwilling to use any newer more spiritual praise and worship music into the church which will both bring life, spirit and joy into the service. They all to often consider it “satanic music” when in reality it is just as or more spiritual than some of the older hymns. They have sung the older hymns so long they have lost most of their meaning in the peoples lives, they simply sing the words without feeling what they are singing. Another major problem I have faced in my 27 years of ministry is the unwillingness for smaller churches to evangelize the community in which they reside. They claim “it is the Pastor’s job to do the visitation” and say “that’s what we pay you for” when the Bible is very clear that Pastor’s are called to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” If a Pastor is doing what God “called him to do” he will have a full time job and if the members would do what they are called to do then ” we would all come together in the fullness of God’s glory and our churches would grow and prosper.

  • J. R. Padgett

    Very accurate.
    If your not part of the solution,
    Then your part of the problem.

One Question You Must Never Ask in Ministry

One Question You Must Never Ask in Ministry


By Joe McKeever

“Sow your seed in the morning, and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good” (Ecclesiastes 11:6).

Was it worth it?

You do not know which will succeed.  If both will.  Or neither.

Disciples of Jesus Christ must never try to calculate the cost/benefit of some act of ministry.

Our assignment is to obey. To be faithful.

We have no idea how God will use something we do, whether He will, or to what extent He will.  We do the act and leave the matter with Him as we move on to our next assignment.

Every pastor will identify with the following scenario….

Let’s say a family member of someone in your church is facing critical surgery in another city.  You get up at 3 am and drive the distance, and meet with the family just before the patient is wheeled into surgery.  You sit with the family and do whatever you can (prayer, conversation, witness, sharing Scripture–or none of these things, depending on the circumstances, on the prompting of the Spirit, etc).  Then, you drive home.  You have devoted most of the day to this one act of ministry.

Invariably, someone will ask the critical question.

“Was it worth it?”

Perhaps it was your spouse who asked.  Or a staff member.  Or just as likely, your own accusing heart raised the issue.

You answer, “God knows.”  As indeed He does.  And no one else, for the moment at least.

And He’s not telling.

What follows is my story.  You’ll have your own variation of it….

For all my adult years, I’ve been a sketch artist.  I draw people wherever I go.  When I preach in churches, the host will usually encourage the people to come early and/or stay late so I can draw them.  A typical drawing takes two minutes or less, and I can go three hours without a break.  Once in a while, I will drive long distances to draw only and not to preach.  Several times a year, I draw at wedding receptions. (The first weekend in January, I’ll be in East Texas sketching at the wedding reception of the daughter of a preacher friend.)

This weekend I’ll be at a local church here in the Jackson, MS area.  After preaching in the two morning worship services, I’ll be sketching people and speaking at a luncheon banquet.  Then, the following weekend, I will be sketching nonstop at a mega-church’s Christmas presentations (before and after each of the five events), from Friday night until late Sunday night.  The following week, I will do three Christmas banquets for pastors and spouses in Louisiana.  I’ll arrive early to sketch couples, draw right on through the dinner, get up and do my talk, and go right back to drawing.  It’s an exhausting evening.

But I love it.

What am I accomplishing with all this drawing and sketching?

Honestly, I don’t know.

A family member used to observe me dragging home late at night after a full evening of driving, sketching, and speaking.  Voiced or not, the question was always there: “So, why do you do this if it makes you so tired?”

I was too tired to answer. (smiley-face here)

But I can think of some reasons: I love doing drawing people, it seems to bless people, they pay me (often, not always), and when I stand to speak, the people I’ve sketched listen well. There’s something about the personal time we’ve had at the table while I drew them that seems to bond us enough for them to want to hear what I have to share.

I do high school programs on “lessons in self-esteem from drawing 100,000 people.”  I’ll sketch the kids before and after the program (teenagers love this), then draw the principal and coach during the session and deliver my 12 minute presentation.  Often, a few classes want me to come by and sketch them or give a talk to the art students on cartooning.  Finally, after several hours, the host pastor has to take me by the hand and lead me out of the building and toward a restaurant for nourishment, I am so drained.

And what did we accomplish?

There is no way to know.  And here’s the thing: I don’t need to know.

I do it because God has gifted me with this love for people, a talent for sketching them, and a delight in using the gift.  I walk up to strangers sometimes. “May I draw you?” (A woman with a floppy hat and earrings down to her shoulders, or a man wearing a cowboy hat and a handlebar mustache are just begging to be drawn!)

Friends think I use the sketching for a ministry of evangelism, that I’m winning a lot of people to Christ by drawing them.  I’m not doing much of that as they think or I’d like.  It’s hard to talk and sketch at the same time. And, when we have a line of people waiting, there’s little time for meaningful conversation.

So, what is accomplished?  I have no idea.  Perhaps it’s nothing more than to add a smile to someone’s day.  A little joy.  Or, to build a memory into their lives, when they find the sketch years from now.  And was that worth it?  Again, I do not know.

I do not need to know.

But I will keep on doing this as long as the invitations keep coming in, the fingers keep working, and the eyes and brain don’t give out.  The occasional bout with arthritis is a problem, but thankfully it’s rare and light.

None of us know

We preachers could ask the same questions about the sermons we preach and the ministry we give.  What was accomplished? Was it worth the many hours of study and prayer and work?  The many miles driven? God knows.

And we’re good with that.  Scripture commands: “Do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

Whether we render a solo in church, serve a meal at the nursing home, preach a sermon in the jail, or sketch a few people in the mall, we do this “unto the Lord,” and leave the results with Him.

My friend Bertha bakes loaves of banana bread which she gives away throughout the year.  Jim, a deacon and a friend of 25 years, gives away chewing gum, thousands of pieces a year (the sugarless kind, he is quick to point out).  Stephanie takes her violin into nursing homes and hospital rooms and plays for people.

And when people ask, “Was it worth it?” or “Why did you do that?” we might just smile, but what we are thinking is something like “Ask the Lord who told me to do it. It was for Him.”

“When the Son of Man comes,” Jesus said, “will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)

Those who serve Him in ways large and small without knowing what He will do with their efforts know the answer.



Used with permission by Joe McKeever. Joe is a Pastor, Preacher, Author, Professor, Cartoonist, Jesus Lover, Friend.


    • Leon Mohammed

      I believe that this a good question to ask yourself from time to time, seeing that we do things sometimes which does not seem to be appreciated, but keep on doing it anyway

A Question for Pastors…


  • The Bible says that in the last days there will be a great falling away. This is the evidence. I don’t feel that pastors are leaving the flock, I feel that people don’t want to hear the gospel truth. A spirit of compromise and assimilation has taken over. People want to feel good about where they are at in the walk with God. If the preacher is telling them something they don’t want to hear, they go somewhere in which they can. Just my opinion.

  • Times are changing, people are changing, cultures are changing, societies are changing. If we look at some of the data that exist, this trend of closing churches and decreases in membership is not new, it’s been,happening for well of a decade.

    I believe there is one significant cofactor that affect this trend:

    1-the church has lost it’s vision.

    Before Jesus ascended, he had ONE last conversation with his disciples, those that would continue to carry out his work. We find His words in John 13: “and by this shall all men know you are my disciples that you love one another as I have LOVED you”.

    It’s really that simple. However, we are living in a day where scripture is blatantly being misused, used out of context and continues to be used as a whipping post and battering ram.

    I realize this is a hard truth!

    We are living in a day, we’re individuals have become, frankly, disgusted with all the light shows, the flashy banners, the lists of “do and don’t” and “cans and can’ts”. There’s and ole song that has a line in it: “I know the tricks behind the magic show”.

    In addition, the church should be about, simply Jesus, and unfortunately today it’s more about politics.

    We know what Jesus said about that.

  • Gene Hutter

    The Church will always be . . . it has existed for almost 2000 years . . . sometimes good, sometimes bad. Perhaps a pastor is suffering from burn-out. Rather than leave, he/she stays ending in apathy. Change is a challenge but sometimes necessary . . . and, a congregation should not be afraid to ASK for change. Also, there is the issue of “all-inclusive” churches: this is not to open up to a debate, but some denominations are closed to LGBT persons. Everyone is a child of God, whether one likes it or not. Also, some pastors interpret scripture to their own liking as a control mechanism to scare people into staying. But, the intelligent person sees through a controlling pastor and if they don’t challenge a pastor, they leave.

  • Chris

    I have been a pastor of small churches all my pastoral life and what I see is that culture is changing and church people do not know how to interpret it. Some say that the changes would cause the church to be led away from the gospel while others just don’t do well with change. So I say that the center of this decline is the churches lack of understand the world and trying to get the world inside the church so that they can hear the gospel. The churches that are growing are able to see what needs the world has and then respond to that need and as the world comes in they present a gospel that is not controlling nor damning. The gospel has always been about love and receiving the lost and loving them. We as Christians should not condone their sin nor embrace it but simple love and embrace the sinner. We love them and desire to help them find the gospel. Let the Holy Spirit convict them thatnis his job. Our job is to bring them in so that they can hear the gospel in a safe place that they don’t feel that people are judging them. The methods to accomplish this endeavor might require us church goers to change our methods of evangelism but it would never require us to change the gospel message.

  • Roger Hagan

    The church has lost its identify as the vehicle of evangelism God has chosen to save the world. We do not lack programs, we lack power. The church seems to be in competition with the world when it should be the world in competition with the church. Though our goal is not to be offensive in our nature or delivery we have become silently complacent rather than be politically or socially incorrect. Our slogans and themes are all catchy enough but I desire to see a demonstration of Acts power for my congregation. I am afraid that even in the church the flesh has overcome the Spirit. Congregations have become more concerned about “when” we get out of church than “what” we get out of church.

  • This is near and dear to my heart because we are facing the option of closing. I came to this church a little over a year ago, and now it’s down to my family and about 4 other people. Of course, it was already tiny when I came, but more left.

    But here’s the thing: I’m staying. The people who left were those who said they were willing to do anything, but it was only words. When I scheduled a month of prayer (every night in May), none of those who have or are leaving came to pray with us. That says something. So, what we are going to do now is start over, just like a new church plant. On top of that, tradition and format are going to go out the window (except what’s necessary and biblical). We are going to narrow our focus and concentrate on wearing out our shoes and making disciples.

    Ultimately, I want to see God get the glory for raising the dead.

  • Rev. Ronald E. Davis, Jr.

    People have quit believing the Bible is the unerring Word of God. They think they can pick out and choose what they want to believe. These same people think the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are only suggestions. And yes the LGBQT in tearing the church apart. It has happened to the Lutherans, The Presbyterians, The Episcopalians and now the Methodist. All are welcome in God’s church, but that does not mean we have to accept their lifestyle. As the end approaches our Lord is separating the wheat from the Chaff. In the end It is God that I have to answer to and not man.

  • Kevin K. Chapman JD,MA, DBS

    Why are Churches closing? Its an Epidemic! What happened?

    Indeed in the end times Scripture reveals a falling away; and indeed, the times are changing. Further, there is no question that we in American are no longer living in a Christian era and people have quit believing in the unerring Word of God, but you asked why churches are closing, and to get to that we must dig deeper. It is not about the LGBT sins permeating society, nor is it about the Republican/Democrat debacles of the day or even about the evolutionary and untruthful teachings of the elementary and higher education schools. It goes much further back than all that. Although some may say it goes all the way back to the thought processes which brought people to America for religious reasons and even some would say it goes back to the period of the Puritans or even to the original Methodist (both of which I honor as groups trying to do what is right at the time) I think the reason is deeper and yet simpler than all that.

    Why are churches closing all over America (and I am one who has had to close one, putting all the assets in a church planting trust and using the resources to plant 5 new churches)? It is because the pastors of what appears to be the early second half of the last century, failed in a major way as they led their churches, no matter what denomination they were. (It’s only my opinion that it must have happened in a big way about this time.)

    What didn’t they do? They failed to “equip the Saints for the work of the ministry.” Paul writes to the Ephesians “11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV)

    If this one instruction had been fulfilled, we would not have the epidemic of church closings we are seeing. Oh, I of all people I know there are times, due to sin (usually) but sometimes because of population shifts, where it is best, if not necessary for a church to close. However, if the people had been properly taught and equipped to do the ‘work of the ministry’ (and the pastors/employees were not the only ones working) there would be enough equipped people in the next generation(s) to sustain the ‘work of the ministry’ which should be lodged in and focused in the local church and fewer if not most would not be closed and/or abandoned.

    I am looking to pastor such a church which is willing to be the ‘church’ and be so equipped.


      Iam indeed inspired by your comment.There is always a need for a visionary plan into the future of any denomination.Foundation work to ensure future challenges are overcome and sustainability ensured.The Disciples were fully prepared for missionary work that would follow.They were rigorously trained for ministry and they succeeded.This is what we need in the church ,ensuring that we have a compliment of Christians as explained in Ephesians 4:11 who will carry out God’s work to the end. Thank you so much ,iam inspired.

  • Arthur Courchesne

    I retired from a church in which I was the Assoc. Pastor (By-Vocational Pastor). The church did close it’s doors about a year after I left. I don’t believe it closed it’s doors because of me leaving,( just a tired leadership with no replacements.).
    Our two oldest sons are members of a CMA church in western Mass. of which my wife and I attend on occasion. My oldest son is an Elder there. They seem to be a growing church providing the physical and spiritual needs of the congregation. They are also actively involved with Campus Crusade at the nearby UMass campus.
    I believe that in order for a church to thrive it has to go beyond a meeting on Sunday. There needs to be weekly prayer groups and weekly bible study groups as well as Pot Luck dinners and church socials. In other words, the congregation should be consumed in church activity.
    My wife and I are “snow birds” we spend our winters in Florida. On Sundays we attend the Hernando Church of the Nazarene in Hernando Florida. Over 90% of the congregation are seniors and yet they have a thriving youth ministry.Many of the youth’s parents don’t attend church, so volunteers take a mini church bus and pick up the kids for Sunday School & church. On an Easter Sunday, there can be as many as 400 in attendants. They also have an outreach program for those who struggle with drug addition. This is a vibrant church!!!.

  • John Peeling

    For one, Churches are not preaching the Full Gospel. They are not preaching Salvation. Also, The flock sees much hypocrisy in the church and just throws up there their hands and walks away. Convicting messages are not being preached. Everyone wants to be politically correct. Whatever became of SIN, the author once asked. The Bible Belts of the country have become “Bible Suspenders”. Christians need to hang in and contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints. AMEN and Thank you.

  • Margerita Murib

    Yes that is also true and l also wonder could it be that the Church was not build on the proper foundation of God’s word as in Biblical teaching and expository preaching.?

The Church of Unbridled Orthodoxy

The Church of Unbridled Orthodoxy

unbridledBy Barry L. Davis

[Excerpted from Barry’s book God-Driven Leadership: A Call to Seeing, Believing, and Living in Accordance with Scriptural Principles] All Scripture quoted from the English Standard Version.


Let’s begin by examining what Jesus said to the church at Ephesus:

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ – Revelation 2:1-7

From this text we learn several things about truth in the church:


Like her television show, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” actress Sarah Michelle Gellar’s personal spirituality borrows from a hodgepodge of religions. She said, “I consider myself a spiritual person. I believe in an idea of God, although it’s my own personal ideal. I find most religions interesting, and I’ve been to every kind of denomination: Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist. I’ve taken bits from everything and customized it.”

The fact that Sarah doesn’t know the difference between Buddhism and Christianity gives us some idea of her knowledge in this area, but the sad fact is that what she states is common in this day and age. There is a disregard for any one truth — any absolute — anything that says, “this is the way that it is and there are no other options.” But absolute truth is a necessity, especially when it comes to our faith in God.

Jesus said: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32

There is a power to truth itself, finding its foundation in the God who is always true, that liberates us to be the people we were created to be. And there are certain truths that we must believe as a church and as individuals if we are going to function in such a way that is pleasing to God.

Truth Drives Us

“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance…” – Revelation 2:2a

Like the church in Ephesus, we have many people across Christendom who work long and hard on behalf of the church. Many people give up personal time, time when they could be doing other things, to come to worship rehearsal, to come to classes, to prepare to teach, to serve on ministry teams, and to witness to others about Christ.

Why do so many people do that? They do it because they believe in the truth of Jesus Christ and this drives them to sacrifice of themselves to fulfill His mission. This is something Jesus commends them for.

As church leaders we are driven by this same truth. It is what makes us move forward, even when we don’t feel like it. It is what causes us to continue in ministry when sometimes a secular field seems more appealing.

Truth Inspires Us

The truth of Christ not only drives us to work for the kingdom, but gives us the inspiration necessary to endure and triumph in a world that opposes us. We are not just working for a sterile, generic type of truth, but one that we believe will change the lives of those who surrender to it. We’re not here wasting our breath, or spinning in circles — we have a mandate from Christ Himself to share the most significant truths that have ever existed in the history of the world.

Truth Alerts Us

This is a function of the truth of Christ that I think has been lax in the churches for several decades. It is using the standard of truth, not just to lead people to Christ, but also to filter out those who distort the truth, yet who still claim to be a part of Christ’s kingdom. While most of us don’t want to be accused of being on a witch hunt, and we all know of some in the “discernment ministry” that find wrongdoing under every bush, we also cannot ignore that there are those, perhaps even within our own church, who are teaching things and living in such a way that distorts the truth, rather than promoting it.

“I know…you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.” – Revelation 2:2-3

The church has the responsibility to discern between truth and error. The Ephesian church was faced with people claiming to be apostles but they really weren’t. Amazingly, we now have a current crop of people claiming to be Apostles in our own day who come nowhere close to meeting the biblical qualifications . How could the Ephesians (and how can we) know who lives up to the biblical standard if they aren’t champions of truth? In our day and age when we have charlatans claiming the authority of Christ who deny the basic truths of Christianity – what do we do with them? We must decide that we will not tolerate them at all.

Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. – Revelation 2:6

We see this group, the Nicolaitans, come up several times as we look at the seven churches of Revelation. We will meet them again when we look at Pergamum where we read about those who follow Balaam, and then again in Thyatira with those following Jezebel. I am confident that all of these accounts are talking about the same people. What we really need to notice is that this is a threat against the truth of Christ from within the church, not outside of it. These people are trying to infiltrate the church, and Jesus commends the Ephesians for opposing them. In this day and age, when so many are calling for unity, even when we disagree on fundamental issues of the faith, this should be a wake-up call.

The standard of truth is the Word of God, and if anyone opposes the Word of God by trying to distort it or by denying it is in reality working in opposition to the church of Jesus Christ. And Jesus says, we are commended if we do not allow that to happen.


After what I just said, this point might sound a little off in left field, but let me explain. Sometimes we can take the truth Christ has given us and actually begin worshiping the truth rather than the one who has given us the truth. In other words, we become so zealous in our understanding that Jesus gets lost somewhere in the process. This is what I mean by the title of this article, “Unbridled Orthodoxy” — it is taking truth — Orthodoxy — and using it in a way it was not intended.

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. – Revelation 2:4-5

There are two potential dangers here:


Legalism is when we take God’s truth and use it as a club to beat other people over the head with it. It is when we begin to come up with a system of dos and don’ts that are never found in the Scripture and use that system to decide who is and who isn’t a real Christian. For instance, Jesus commends us for using discernment when someone denies He is God in the flesh, or when they speak against a foundational truth of Christianity. But legalism is setting up rules of fellowship and acceptance based on other criteria.

For example, a legalist might decide that you couldn’t possibly be a Christian because you have a worship style they don’t like, or use a translation of the Bible different from theirs, or because your women wear pants and make-up, or some other criteria the Bible never uses. In reality, this is not following the truth of Christ at all, but instead following a counterfeit truth disguised as conservative Christianity.

Loss of Love

Jesus said this type of church has lost both their love for Him and for each other. And that is exactly what happens to every church that misuses truth. They become so focused on what everyone looks like, and whether they agree with them on every little issue to the nth degree that they forget all about their purpose for being a Christian. And in the quest for doctrinal purity, they forget about the need to love, even those who disagree and who do things differently than they do. Worst of all, they lose their capacity to love Christ as they once did.

Jesus told them if they didn’t get their act together He would “come to you and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent.” He is saying that He will remove their light-giving capability, their testimony, and their ability to reach out to a lost world. And if you know any churches like this you also know that is exactly what happens to them over time when they misuse the truth of Christ.


Obviously there has to be some balance here — we want to live by the truth, we want to have truth as our standard, and we do not want to compromise where the truth is concerned. So what do we do?


There is a truth that supersedes all other truth — it is the commandment to love.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. – Matthew 22:37-39

Truth, in its purest form, is a balance between the facts Christ has given to us and the expression of those truths through love for God and our fellow man. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if I am not loving God and those around me, I don’t really understand what truth is — the two go hand in hand.

In our text Jesus is speaking to a church that had allowed this balance to get all out of whack — and so He tells them how to pull it back together. Now I honestly don’t know if this is an area where your church has a problem. It is important for you to sit down before God in prayer and examine the situation you find yourself in. If you are in the same or a similar situation as the church at Ephesus, Jesus gives three basic instructions that must be followed to turn this thing around.


“Remember therefore from where you have fallen…” – Revelation 2:5a

He’s saying, “Look back to how it used to be. Remember how it was when you were first called to ministry. Regain that feeling of love that you once had.” Unless you are the founding minister of the church you serve, you probably don’t know a lot about its history. Look back into the records, or talk to members who were there at the start, and find out what the drive of the church was at its founding. Get out all of the Board Meeting Minutes that are available and read them from the oldest to the most recent entry. Most likely you will find that, at least at the beginning, there was a heart-felt need and desire to evangelize, grow, and disciple.

Do you remember that time when you first came into a relationship with Christ? Do you remember the excitement, the joy, and the expressions of love you felt for Christ and all those around you. We need to remember and focus on that time to turn things around. The excitement and other feelings you felt at conversion are the same types of feelings that should be emanating from your church.


“…repent, and do the works you did at first…” – Revelation 2:5b

It’s interesting that Jesus ties this behavior together with a turning away from Him. Misusing truth and our love for Christ isn’t just some small problem we can ignore. It is in reality turning away from Jesus Himself and setting out on our own path. Whenever we turn away from Christ there is a need to turn back to Him — the Bible calls this “repentance” — it is doing a U-Turn with your life and following God’s ways instead of your own. But repentance is not just for the individual; the Church is called to repent when it finds itself drifting away from its first love.

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? – 1 Peter 4:17


“…repent, and do the works you did at first…” – Revelation 2:5c

Here is the same verse with a different point of emphasis. When we remember and repent, it is with the purpose in mind of returning to a place in our spiritual lives and in our church where Christ is placed first. “Go back to work” Jesus says. “Go back to loving and being loved. Go back to following truth.” “Go back to being the kind of Christ Follower and Church Fellowship you were created to be.”

At the end of His message to each of the seven churches Jesus gives a promise —it’s a promise that can be applied to all of us. Here is His promise to the Church at Ephesus as well as to your church today:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. – Revelation 2:7

Have you been listening to what the Spirit has been saying to you in this article? If so, the time is coming when you have been promised victory in paradise. May you and your church strive to be the Church Jesus is calling you to be!

Barry L. Davis


Having been a pastor for two decades, Barry knows what it is like to be on the front lines of ministry, in the pulpit, out in the community, in board meetings, doing evangelism, and all the rest that comes with an active church ministry. Bringing that experience to the Pastor’s Helper, he is in a unique position to lead other pastors to be successful in God’s calling upon their lives.

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Eight Reasons Many Churches Are Living in the 1980s

Eight Reasons Many Churches Are Living in the 1980s


By Thom Rainer

Nine out of ten churches in America are either declining, or they are growing so slowly they are not keeping up with the growth rate of the community in which they are located.

It’s a long sentence. Read it again carefully. Soak it in. Across America 90 percent of the churches are losing ground in their respective communities. Most of them are declining. Many of them will close.

As I have worked with thousands of churches over the past three decades, I have noticed something fascinating, yet disturbing, about many of these churches. They are still acting like it’s the 1980s. The world has passed them by. They are deemed irrelevant by members of their communities. They are frozen in a time warp.

Why has this tragedy fallen on so many churches? Though I don’t want to oversimplify the issue, I see at least eight reasons for this crisis.

  1. They are trying to shelter themselves from culture. In the 1980s, congregations were typically part of the mainstream culture. They were accepted in most places, and embraced in some. That is not the culture of today. Many church members use their churches as a getaway from the realities they don’t want to face.
  2. Programs were easy answers. The vast majority of churches in the 1980s were program-driven. If there was a perceived need, they would order a resource that best solved that need. Many churches today still think they can get quick fixes from programs.
  3. Churches largely catered to the needs of church members in the 1980s. We thus created a culture of membership that is me-driven. Many church members do not want to make the sacrifices necessary to reach our communities and culture today. They are demanding their own needs and preferences to be the priority of their churches.
  4. Change was more incremental. If your church is stuck in the 1980s, it does not have to worry about the rapid pace of change today. Members can pretend like their church does not need to change despite the massive upheavals of change in the world.
  5. Church growth was easier. In the 1980s, a number of people would visit our churches without much effort on the members’ part. One church member told me recently, “If lost people want to come to our church, they know where we are.” Sigh.
  6. Denominations provided solutions. Not all churches in the 1980s belonged to a denomination, but many did. And many members expected the denominational organizations to guide them and resource them. Denominations work best today in partnership with churches, but too many church members want to return to the paradigm of the 1980s.
  7. Others did evangelism for the members in the 1980s. Evangelism was the responsibility of the pastor or the denomination or a few people in a program. Church members paid others to do the work they were supposed to do. Some church members today are more concerned about their worship style preference than lost people who need to hear the gospel.
  8. Some churches would rather die than to get out of the comfort of their 1980’s paradigm. I feel certain they will do just that.

What do you think of these issues of time-warp churches? Let me hear from you.



This article was originally published at on October 5, 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at

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