It’s no secret that in recent times, the church has nosedived statistically. Today, fewer than 17.7% of Americans find their way to a house of worship in any given week according to one research project. Though Gallup and Pew research centers often soften the statistical impact, the bold and ugly truth remains: By and large, we are a God-forsaking country. Yet the statistical decline pales in comparison with the spiritual decline. Within the very churches occupied by the scant 17.7%, there exists the serious condition of stagnation.
The very word “stagnation” sounds nasty — a cross between “stink” and “gag” — like some crawling, vermin-infested, germ-ridden rottenness. The definition of “stagnation” isn’t much better — “a state of inactivity.” When applied to the church, this definition is depressing. The church, in its very essence, should be a center of activity, life, and vibrance. When a church stagnates, it basically dies. It ceases to do what a church is supposed to do.
Stagnation is not…
- Lower offerings
- Lower attendance or cessation of growth
- Boring preaching
- Lack of creativity
- Worship wars
- Deacon brawls
Although these things may by symptoms of stagnation, they are not themselves stagnation. Stagnation is far more nuanced and subtle.
What Stagnation Is…
Stagnation can occur when offerings are up, attendance is on the rise, and the deacons joyously fellowship over barbecue every Friday night. Church stagnation occurs when an assembly is not active.
But what kind of activity are we talking about here? Is this the Christianized version of the suburban rat race activity — MOPS meetings, church softball team practice, choir rehearsal, church play practice, Sunday school planning meeting, men’s Bible study, women’s Bible study, teen’s Bible study, the-busy-life Bible study… Is that the kind of activity we’re talking about?
No, and no.
Church Website and Full Access to 50,000 Church Media Only $49/m!
What is the church’s true activity?
There are so many potential Christian “activities.” With the glut of activities, programs, meetings, and things to do, we can easily get lost in so much busyness, forsaking the central and most important activity of all! So let’s ask ourselves a simple, yet important question. What is the most important activity of the church?
It’s worship. As one pastor-theologian has written — “worship is ultimate.”
Yet this simple answer brings up an even more complex question — what is worship? Worship is not just a worship service with people singing, raising their hands and praying. That is awesome, and that is one expression of worship, but worship is deeper. Worship is a way of life that exalts God as supreme above all else, a life that is fueled by passion for him, and inflamed by love for him. Worship is the desperate thirst to make God famous, and to exert all of one’s life, effort, joy, fulfillment, work, passion, and energy into making his name great. Worship is an all-consuming passion with God. It is a passion that eclipses all other passions, checks every sin, and aligns every other love.
Worship is ultimate.
When worship ends in a church, the church begins to stagnate. Sure, the songs may go on, the guitars keep strumming, the people keep singing, and the pastor keeps preaching, but true worship hisses away like a drop of water on a hot frying pan.
Worship is not just a “me and God” kind of experience. Worship is so much more. Worship fuels outreach. If we are so consumed with God, there will inevitably develop in our hearts a passion to proclaim God’s name to all the nations. Worship is the catalyst for mission.
Here is where we begin to see another component of the activity of the church — mission.
Stop Stagnation with Mission
A church that is aflame with the worship-fueled passion of missions is a church that will not stagnate. Outreach is the outflow of worship.
A church is only healthy when it is actively reaching out, loving others, helping others, and making God’s name known. This is not to say that there won’t be problems. As long as the church is comprised of humans, even redeemed ones, there will be problems. A church can remain healthy despite its problems by remaining active in outreach and evangelism.
If you sense the stagnation of your assembly, tolerate it no longer. Stagnation is death. What wouldn’t you do to spare a church from death? Perhaps it is time for you to stand up, to share your passion for worship, and to inspire the church to activity. This is not something that we can do merely by digging deep and finding that spark of inspiration. This is something we can only do when we humble ourselves before the God we worship, seek him, plead with him, and experience his infinite power in our lives.
This Blog is Sponsored by Sweetwater Sound. We’re here to help you meet the audio needs of your congregation while maintaining a careful eye on your financial resources. With over 30 years of working with houses of worship, we’re ready to put our experience to work for you!