Change or die: a plea to fellow churches

Pastor Abidan Shah, Clearview Baptist Church
Jan. 18, 2014 @ 10:02 AM

I’ve never been more conflicted about writing an article than this one. After much prayer and consultation with my lovely wife, I felt that I must write what God has laid on my heart.

Sometime back I did an online search of church buildings for sale. What I found was shocking! There were hundreds upon hundreds of church buildings — big and small, old and new — for sale all over the United States. The tragedy is no different even here. Not a day goes by that I don’t meet someone who laments, “People don’t come to church like they used to” or “If things don’t change, it’s a matter of time before we lock the doors for the last time.” Frankly, they’re right! The average church in America has fewer than 30 people on a given Sunday morning, most of them being senior adults. It won’t be long before they too will be on the real estate market.

When people ask me – “What can we do to get more young people in our church?” my answer to them is, “Change or die.”

Here are the 4 C’s that I suggest:

1. Convictions: Every church that wants to come alive must have solid convictions on key doctrines. If you don’t believe in the Trinity, then this article is not for you. If you have trouble with Jesus being the Only Way, Truth and Life, then we’re not on the same page. If you think the Bible has errors, then there is no faith worth contending for. A church without convictions is like a ship without a rudder. It will float around until the supplies run out or the big storm hits.

2. Concern: Do you think the church is a hotel for saints or hospital for sinners? If you think the former, then you will care about your comfort and your pleasure. If you believe that the church is here to seek and to save that which was lost, then you will do whatever it takes to win every man, woman, boy and girl to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. There will be no person too different, no music too sacred and no clothing too spiritual. Ask yourself, "Are my children and my grandchildren in church with me? Are they glad they came to the house of God?" If the answer is negative, it's high time you do whatever it takes to change the answer. If your they don’t live nearby, reach others and God will send someone to reach your family, wherever they are.

3. Think Differently: You noticed that I didn’t start with a C. Aren’t we all creatures of habit! We hate change. We like things to be predictable. Now, I’m not suggesting that we tear down every tradition. As Proverbs 22:28 reminds us, “Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set.” But we do need to set aside senseless traditions. Think about Jesus Christ — He honored His Holy Father and the Scriptures but He rejected the traditions of the scribes and the Pharisees. If you will allow the Holy Spirit the freedom to work in your church, He will open new opportunities and avenues for ministry that you never imagined! Rest assured that He will not bring confusion but always magnify Jesus Christ. It’s time you tip your hat to the past and roll up your sleeves to the future.

4. Commitment: Nothing happens overnight. Like that old saying, it takes 25 miles to turn a battleship around. But, if the pastor is committed to staying and the people are prayerfully willing to follow his leadership, then that church will rise from the ashes. Oh, before I forget, let me warn you, be prepared to be criticized, ostracized and stigmatized. People will question your motives and doubt your ability, but have faith. As Jesus promised, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it,” Matthew 16:18.

May all who come behind us find us faithful.