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102,000 fewer people in the pews since ’03: Churches of Christ in decline


FROM PRINT EDITION: Declining numbers, but signs of hope?
Sunday’s Super Bowl attendance: 68,658.
Decline in the number of men, women and children in the pews of Churches of Christ in the U.S. since 2003: 102,138.
That’s the big number revealed by the latest national survey by 21st Century Christian, the Nashville, Tenn.-based publisher of the directory Churches of Christ in the United States.
The total number of adherents — which includes members and their children — in the nation’s historically a cappella congregations stands at 1,554,579, according to 21st Century Christian’s new statistical data sheet.
That’s down 6.2 percent from the 1,656,717 adherents reported in 2003 — less than a decade ago.
Another striking number: 708 fewer Churches of Christ in the U.S. in the last nine years. The nation’s 12,447 congregations represent a 5.4 percent decline since 2003.
Still, Churches of Christ remain among the 15 largest church groups in America, according to the most recent Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, published by the National Council of Churches.
The latest stats underscore a trend that The Christian Chronicle has covered in depth. The 2007 “Are We Growing?” project and the 2009 “By the numbers” project both explored possible reasons for the falling numbers as well as potential solutions. A 2010 series examined the impact on Christian universities associated with the fellowship.
Meanwhile, the two-year “Global South” project showcased the growth of Churches of Christ outside the United States — in places such as Africa, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent and Latin America.
Related post: What is the future of non-denominational Christianity in the U.S.?

. . .

CHURCHES OF CHRIST IN AMERICA
2012
Churches: 12,447
Members: 1,209,259
Adherents: 1,554,579
2009
Churches: 12,629
Members: 1,224,404
Adherents: 1,578,281
2006
Churches: 12,963
Members: 1,265,844
Adherents: 1,639,495
2003
Churches: 13,155
Members: 1,276,621
Adherents: 1,656,717
2000
Churches: 13,032
Members: 1,264,152
Adherents: 1,645,645
1997
Churches: 13,080
Members: 1,255,834
Adherents: 1,647,078
1994
Churches: 13,013
Members: 1,260,838
Adherents: 1,651,103
1990
Churches: 13,174
Members: 1,284,056
Adherents: 1,684,872
1980
Churches: 12,762
Members: 1,240,820
Adherents: 1,601,661
1948
Churches: 10,089
Members: 682,172
Adherents: 886,824
1926
Churches: 6,226
Members: 433,714
Adherents: 563,828
1916
Churches: 5,598
Members: 319,211
Adherents: 414,974
1906
Churches: 2,649
Members: 159,658
Adherents: 207,555
SOURCE: Churches of Christ in the United States, published by 21st Century Christian.

  • Feedback
    Does this book account for some of the new churches being planted which do not necessarily have the name “Church of Christ” in their by-laws but are still striving to maintain a connection with the larger Churches of Christ fellowship?
    K. Rex Butts
    February, 7 2012

    Why? How many Bible studies do you have going on? That is why? The culture has changed. Our job is to sow the pure gospel seed, God gives the increase. Hebrews 3:18-19 and John 3:36 unbelief=disobedience. Read James 2:14-21. Also be doers of the word and not hearers only.
    Harley Todd
    February, 7 2012

    Relevance and Relationship….The 1st Century Church did not have a bible, budget or building yet it grew at an exponential rate…what are we missing?
    John Clemmons
    February, 7 2012

    Let us take these statistics and do something about it. We need to start showing more love and become a church of doers so that others may see Christ through our love and actions. I believe that we are becoming too comfortable with sitting back and believing that we are Christians if we come to church and do nothing else. Lets get up and take this world, shake it up, and change these statistics for the Lord. Jesus did not die on the cross so that we could close ourselves off to all the billions of souls who need his saving message.
    John Mimms
    February, 7 2012

    Are ‘we’ too focused on converting a stranger or feeding the poor and NOT on strengthening the people who sit on pews next/behind/in front of us?
    Allan ‘n Karen Javellana
    February, 7 2012

    c of C does too much compromising and it shows. Stick to the truth and the truth will set us free, and our dedication in true Bible study shows. We are letting others study and we are believing what they say instead of deciding for ourselves. May God’s Spirit be with all of us!!
    Jan Keller
    February, 7 2012

    This will continue to happen as long as we value primitivism over unity. There’s a suburb of Tulsa whose congregation continues to uncompromisingly shrink. Meanwhile, the Christian church in that town draws about 1,500…a third of whom are from the church of Christ. Thirty years ago, they would have sucked it up and stayed put.
    Brute Wolf
    February, 7 2012

    I don’t believe some of them were really converted, they get baptised and don’t come back. I see leaders that don’t even come to church and that is real sad. It saddens me to see more women than men (our leaders) coming to church
    Shirley Jean Harris-Breckenridge
    February, 7 2012

    The question you should be asking is how many Christians, not how many church of Christ. God had a call for Christians, not for a specific denomination.
    Luke
    February, 7 2012

    I think it’s lack of faith; by that I mean knowing and trusting God, so that we have a real testimony people can listen to. There’s been, unintentionally I am sure, a focus on doctrine to the detriment of core faith, and the mission. A person needs first to get connected to God, then learn to trust him, and then to study doctrines. That is a solid foundation, and with it, they have their own faith that is sharable. And if they have that solid foundation in their walk, they’ll be sharing it, in the same way that dogs always run around and bark. The only time a dog isn’t barking and chasing people and loving it, is when it is sick.
    Kenny Gilfilen
    February, 7 2012

    I was raised in the church & I believe the problem lies in simple hospitality. I moved to a new town & could never break through. Very few people even spoke to me. I didn’t feel welcome. That’s just our culture; I’ve seen it time & again. We are serious about the distinctives (acapella, etc) we forget about people. Therefore, I’ll be attending a Bible church here.
    James Dudley
    February, 7 2012

    I turned on the radio and a host was interviewing a Baptist Pastor and he asked him why the declining membership in churches. The Pastor said “Forty years of youth ministers.” I taught a gardening workshop in Longview TX last week in the Baptist Church Youth Center. It is a hi-tech entertainment center. Bible classes are not Bible study anymore.
    ken hargesheimer
    February, 8 2012

    Just curious if anyone has done any studies on the average of these church members? That would be interesting to see as well.
    Tommy Paul
    February, 8 2012

    I believe these numbers reflect adding back in a number of churches that have started using instrumental music (such as The Hills church) so the they would be even more devastating comparing “apples to apples” over the past few years. Losing three churches every two weeks should be a wakeup call that the direction we are presently going is not working. I wonder if anyone has considered that we might want to go back to evangelism like we were doing in the 1950’s and 60’s when we were growing rapidly?
    Larry
    February, 8 2012

    As a general proposition, these discussions should deal with terms such as “post-Christian era,” “post-modernism,” and the various generational labels applied by sociologists. I am older, and I have been a baptized Christian nearly all my life. It comes as a surprise to no one my age that the world today is not the same as 1949, when I entered the first grade; yet, our publications and our preachers keep using the terminology the church borrowed from John Locke. Our young people will continue leaving if their religious diet consists of the legalisms and the deliberate obscurantism of the mid-Twentieth Century. Teach Bible, not dogma. Develop caring attitudes towards all people. Demonstrate to our young people, particularly our own children, that our faith matters to the world. Perhaps then we can convince them of the real importance of faith, repentance, and baptism. It begins, always, at home and in the local congregation.
    Dave Spradlin
    February, 8 2012

    The primitivism historically espoused by the acapella Churches of Christ has simply lost its appeal in this generation. So also, the hermeneutic that equates biblical silence with divine prohibition has demonstrated its impracticality, divisive spirit and inconsistency. However, the appeal to be “Christians Only” and non-denominational is quite alive and well in our present culture, and this explains, in part, the phenomenal growth of the independent Christian Churches and instrumental Churches of Christ.
    Tim Carlson
    February, 8 2012

    Interesting stats. The independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ do not include “adherents” in their annual listing. The 2011 Directory of the Ministry lists 5,346 churches and 1,272,174 members.
    Victor Knowles
    February, 9 2012

    I believe it to be a lack practicing the Great Commission. Have you ever tried to get your members to spread the word?
    There are more excuses than Carter has pills!
    Ron
    February, 9 2012

    We can talk many different things here, but I think the major cause of this problem is the involvement of Satan. He is busy stealing our time that many of us don’t have time to develop a strong relationship with Jesus. He is distracting us from gaining hold of our Saviour and maintaining vital connection throughout the day. I come from Malawi in Africa and we have similar situation like here in America.
    We need to challenge Satan, most of the divisions are caused by him. Lets stop pointing fingers at small issues that divides us and fix our eyes on Jesus. We should always remember that Jesus died for this Church and we need to work hard like first century Christians.
    Be blessed
    Moses Khombe
    February, 9 2012

    The problem is not musical instruments versus a capella. The problem is congregational attitude. When a congregation exists to serve its members, it will shrink and die. When a congregation exists to serve the Lord, it will grow and prosper. Congregations today spend too much time and money focusing on themselves and not enough time and money focusing on reaching out and saving souls. The church was not built for or by man, it was built for and by Christ, and we need never forget that.
    Ask yourself this (and if you don’t know the answer, find out!): Does your congregation spend 75% of their time and money focusing on “entertaining” the folks in the pews with the latest technology and the coolest facilities and what’s left goes towards preaching, teaching, missions, benevolence, etc. or does it spend 75% of their time and money on preaching, teaching, missions, benevolence, etc. and what’s left on a place for the church to assemble in moderate comfort? For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
    Scott
    February, 9 2012

    A problem, especially in many smaller churches, is a person or group of people who want to control the church. Even though many church members may not know what groupthink is, it is practiced in some churches and causes members who act different or think different to leave churches, even though these people follow the Bible. I have attended churches and saw members, leaders and preachers lie, manipulate, and try to intimidate to get their way on issues. Those who want to serve and/or who study too much can be viewed as threats, as I have.
    Two-way, open-minded, nonjudgemental discussion centered on living a life and making decision totally using the Bible would cause the ceassation of much conflicts. It’s not doctrines, it’s egos that cause most dissension.
    Johnny Mullens
    February, 9 2012

    This has happened before.
    John 6:66
    Shawn Paden
    February, 9 2012

    Sad. Also not surprising. I hope we can channel this sober reality into new resolve for the Kingdom.
    Tim Spivey
    February, 9 2012

    Heaven has people in its ranks that were never Church of Christ members.
    I couldn’t have said that 20 years ago based on what I believed growing up. I proudly attend a strong, open-minded Church of Christ today that resembles nothing of what I grew up attending. We have close to 1,000 members and I consider that a success, not a compromise. It is possible to combine core biblical doctrine with today’s society and stay true to the belief structure that keeps Christians focused on the path of righteousness.
    Like a previous posting above, I agree that Satan is involved in the decrease of the faithful – across many denominations as well as the non-affiliated. He is succeeding right now b/c we turn inward and fight with each other about issues that are not salvation issues. In the end, no one’s mind is changed and more people leave the church. As long as we are caught up in mindless, repetitive arguing over one cup, music, one service, women’s roles, etc., the world takes the occasional peak at what we’re doing and gives a resounding, “No thank you”.
    Tim Nichols
    February, 9 2012

    To paraphrase comments from an earlier article concerning Lubbock Christian College:
    �The Church of Christ population is declining in many West Texas towns, and that decline changes our recruiting pool.�
    This may be true from a formal relationship with the organizations of the Church of Christ.
    It does not mean that these individuals relationship with our God and Christ is diminishing.
    That relationship could be growing as that being a Christian is simple in nature and does not require formal membership with a Church of Christ.
    We all know what is required to become a Christian and so does God and Christ.
    My point is that Christianity is not exclusively the property of a religious group founded in the early 1800s by people like Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell. To choose the name Church of Christ does not exclude others.
    Contrary to our early teachings Churches of Christ are a religious denomination that practice Christian principals as many other organizations do also.
    .
    Ken Kemp
    February, 9 2012

    One of the reasons I departed from the CoC is because of how much the CoC cares about how the CoC is doing. I had a good upbringing there, and it’s where God established my faith foundations, but the more I studied scripture, the more I felt we weren’t experiencing the freedom or the love that Jesus talked about in the Bible.
    Happily serving God in another denomination of Christians now. Don’t worry one bit when someone following Jesus in your church building leaves…to follow Jesus in (or outside of) another one. It’s all going to be ok 🙂
    Kory
    February, 9 2012

    A sober reminder that there is something missing. However, I suspect that many will look at the stats and chalk the decline up to culture and colleges instead of taking a good hard look at ourselves. It was amazing to see the reaction in 2007 when the last numbers were posted. Many of the people I shared the information with simply refused to believe them. Other blamed cultures influence and the effect of college education on the young people. Then of course there is the excuse that this is just God cleaning house! God only saved 8 though water the first time and now it appears he heading for that same number again. The rationalizations that take place when faced with the facts just astound me. There are none so blind than those that refuse to see. Thankfully there are some that do some that are trying to be Christ in this world.My prayer is that the churches of Christ become more like the Christ of the church. People need Jesus!
    Matt Raines
    February, 9 2012

    Amen to what Kory said. I can see why this is important to some people, but it’s not to me. If someone has a heritage in the Church of Christ but finds a church home in another part of the body of Christ, who cares? Are we trying to promote Christ? Or a church that’s only been around since 1906?
    Deana Nall
    February, 9 2012

    @ Deana and Kory. I totally hear what you are saying. While I cant speak for everyone, for me the numbers have less to do with individuals finding a church home in another heritage and more to do with what could be but isn’t. Numbers like this tell me that church of Christ as a movement is still a sleeping giant. Our heritage could have a substantial impact on bringing people to Christ and matters of justice issue like poverty etc but we are struggling just to have a significant impact with our young people and with the un-churched de-churched etc. We are Christians only not the only Christians, and collectively we are struggling with our witness.
    Matt Raines
    February, 9 2012

    You can find our <a href=”http://www.christianchronicle.org/blog/comment-policy/” rel=”nofollow”>comments policy</a> here.
    Basically, the policy is this: The <em>Chronicle</em> blog welcomes and encourages feedback that promotes thoughtful and respectful discussion.
    Comments that begin by calling someone else a name or making a statement in a hateful way do not meet that policy and will not be approved. Just FYI to anyone wondering why a comment has not been approved.
    Bobby Ross Jr.
    February, 9 2012

    I only skimmed the comments here, but most of what I read suggested that “size” equals “success.” That may be true, but is there no other way to interpret this trend? Isn’t it possible that the Lord is up to something among us, even in the midst of a numeric decrease?
    Ike Graul
    February, 9 2012

    I am encouraged by the conversations that I am seeing. Part of the purpose of <b><em>Churches of Christ in the United States</em></b> is to provide information for discussions and ideas on such things as reaching the lost in the world.
    For the sake of better understanding, I feel I should point out that the Churches of Christ are not the only ones experiencing stagnant or declining numbers. This is an issue that many religious bodies in America are dealing with. It was mentioned that the Christian Church/Churches of Christ were experiencing “phenomenal growth.” However, this is not exactly accurate. According to data collected for the <em>Religious Congregations and Membership Study (RCMS)</em> for 2000 and 2010, they actually saw a decline in the number of congregations and a numerical growth rate of less than 1%. In the same studies, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gained almost 300 congregations, but their adherents declined by almost 23%.
    One aspect that should truly be of concern for all Christians in America is the growth in the numbers of those that have no religious affiliation whatsoever. According to a survey conducted in 2007 by <em>The Pew Forum</em>, over 16% reported as having no religious affiliation. What is worse, for the Mosaic generation (ages 18-29), this figure was one in four. If we compare the percentages of the population for the various religious bodies in America, we find that the unaffiliated (if we may call that a religious body) are second only to Catholics (which are about 23%).
    This increasing number of “unchurched” really concerns me. I pray the Lord God Almighty will give us more wisdom, guidance, and strength to reach these lost souls for Him and His glory.
    Carl H Royster
    February, 9 2012

    Where I live there are basically two choices if you want to be a Church of Christ member. There’s the one church, several miles away, that believes that all you have to do is love each other, and there is little teaching on basic moral principals or beliefs. The other church, closer to home, meets at the “appointed” times and no one in the community knows anything about them. I have read, with some amount of jealousy, of church leaders that encourage the membership to serve the community, even if it means working with other denominations. They make a difference in their communities. These leaders don’t shy away from teaching TRUE sound doctrine, not what we have been told it is, WITHOUT being critical of others’ beliefs.
    Churches prosper because they have learned to balance love and standing on priciples. And they share that love and truth with servant hands and hearts.
    Steve
    February, 9 2012

    I am almost certain that we have loved scriptures, over the people in the pews, to a fault. Evangelism is talked about, but never experienced. In doing so we lost our ability to be real and people walk into our assemblies but don’t experience a real presence of the Holy Spirit. In continually defending our doctrines, joy has been sucked out of our people and they have no story to share with others. We blame it on the world of liberals or we blame it on the conservatives. It’s like walking into a political arena and not the body of Christ. Scripture still teaches that the world will know us by the way we love one another. It’s hard to love when we fight over everything and our traditions become our truth. We lost our freedom and lost our own personal conviction of what Jesus has done for us. Gospel might be taught, but never shared. People are walking away to seek a greater sense of the gospel. They are not turning their backs on the gospel and they are not afraid of truth. It’s the truth they are seeking. We need to honor the law in order to accept His grace. Then it will no longer be about doing, but becoming. Our churches then will have a story of salvation for the world.:(
    Dave Bendickson
    February, 9 2012

    I have attended the church of Christ fellowship all of my life. My Mother was raised there, her Mother before her, etc. etc., back to the 1800’s. Most of their relatives have gone away from the Church of Christ. I attended a church of Christ university my last two years, after junior college. I married someone from the same university. Over the past 40 years since then, we have attended churches of Christ all over. But I am now studying the origins of Christianity, and seeking a perspective independent of my traditional upbringing. It is interesting to discover that others than just our tribe are seekers too, and the standard answers we give for “what we believe” are not always supported by “the facts”, but many times just opinions that are being taught.
    We have closed our minds to everyone else, convinced that only we are right. How sad! I have seen congregations dry up and die because of this attitude. I don’t see much hope for us as long as we continue in this insular view of Christianity. The principles of Christianity are love for God and love for our fellow man. Let’s put aside our judgmentalism of others and try to practice the tenets of the Sermon on the Mount, without requiring everyone to come into our narrowly fenced yard before we will fellowship them.
    P.T.
    February, 9 2012

    I grew up in the Church of Christ and was even a Youth Minister. After being unfairly fired. I made the decision to leave and am now at a non-denomonational church. The biggest issues I see with the Church of Christ is that many of the churches are so focused on the minor issues and in building up their own flock that they never strive to reach out to those that do not know God or serve those in need in their community. There are some great churches of Christ still around but many just don’t get it and as a result they are dying off.
    Chris
    February, 10 2012

    I have to agree with what Dave Bendickson said a couple of posts back. It appears to me that the CofC has largely shut out or at least largely ignored the role of the Holy Spirit in their members lives and without the Spirit and the fruits of the Spirit, well… things dry up pretty quickly. I’m not talking about tongues or shouting but rather simply accepting that the Spirit has a major role in making Christians act and behave Christ-like. If a Church has members that truly exemplify Christ, it will grow and flourish. But that won’t happen without the Holy Spirit because the Spirit we were all born with won’t let us be Christ-like. That spirit must die and we have to do the spiritual work that will allow the Holy Spirit to transform us. I’m thinking that the spirit of man is alive and well in a lot of the CofC and that unfortunately, the Holy Spirit is not. Some of you may not understand what I am saying and if not, you need to find a church where the Holy Spirit is active and visit it. It will be growing and people will be learning about and accepting Jesus as their lord and there will be great joy there. Ask yourself if that describes your church?
    Doug
    February, 10 2012

    Amen to John 6v66.
    As GOD’s own perculiar people (christians) we should be mindfull of the Godly fact that the seed sowers(us)got nothing to do with the increase and adding of souls to HIS blood bought church,simply because that work belongs to our almighty GOD.If we continualy read our bibles, the gift we received from GOD through baptism (Holy Spirit)will set our fears aside of the christians WHO WAS once safed, has fallen from grace.GOD’s word is clear cut when HE declares “that many has been called and a few are chosen” Those of us that stays faithful to the end will inherit everlasting life with all the faithful.
    GOD bless the focused and faithful followers of HIS unadultered WORD.
    MAY THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST AND LOVE OF GOD AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BE WITH ALL GOD’s FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS.
    Mark Jones
    February, 10 2012

    Wither we like it or not Jesus died for only one church – His Church!
    When we hear the prayer of Jesus in John 17 we learn many things.
    1. The relationship between the Father and the Son is the same relationship that we need to have with the Father and the Son (20-21).
    2. Part of the reason that Jesus prayed for this unity is so that the “world may believe…”(21). (evangelism problem?)
    3. We need to remember this prayer is also an example. We see Jesus praying for an intimacy with God and how our oneness with the Father and the Son are so important. But the question that comes to mind is are we following His example and sincerely praying a similar prayer?
    For us to be a church of Christ we must have a love for Him and desire to do all things according to His will.
    If I compromise in what Christ wants for me, do I really love Him? God wants a people who really love Him and trust Him fully. Let’s not forget that He is the Creator and we are the created. When I think about what is said in Hebrews 11:6, I need to remember that the way that I please God and draw near to Him is through my faith or trust.
    What do I trust in? I must trust that He rewards those who seek Him. In other words even if God tells me something that seems ridiculous, I say, “Yes LORD.” Why? I love and trust Him that He is true to His word and He will bless whatever.
    Could it be that God is testing our faith to see if we really do love Him? Are we willing to follow Him even if it sounds unpopular or is uncomfortable to us?
    Just imagine if we were to all be one with the Father and the Son as Jesus was with the Father… What would happen to the church and denominations?
    Finally we must remember that if we are not one with each other it is because of one thing: Either one of us or both of us are not truly connected to the Head.
    Mark Sharp
    February, 10 2012

    We left the church of Christ after being members for 50 years and going to a church of Christ college. It was very hard to leave, but we had to be honest with ourselves. We just didn’t believe in the church of Christ any more. We believe in Christ.
    The church of Christ that we went to had gone through 10 preachers and 10 splits in the 50 years that we were there. We were always having to pick a side to be on. This elders wasn’t qualified… this preacher left and started his own church…. playing a video with instrumental music to kids during Bible hour….playing a taped IM song for some ones wedding…. The list goes on and on. Why would some one want to spend their life fighting over stupid things?
    How can the church of Christ grow again? Unless they get over fighting about the things that don’t matter I think they are doomed to keep losing members. People don’t go to church to fight.
    JMHO
    Steve Wiely
    February, 10 2012

    In nearly 50 years of travel and ministry within the churches of Christ I would just add to the frustrations above that my heart also breaks as I think of the sweet young people who were baptized or just became adults and left our group to become members of another group. “Brand Loyalty” is just not what it used to be. Most of my friends who left ‘the church’ did not leave Christ, but they had good reasons to worship in another building. I treasure the memories of those friends as well as those who are ‘brand loyal’. Of course the ‘church of Christ’ is not perfect. How silly to think we would not have the same problems other groups have. I am sure we will be surprised in heaven to see lots of ‘other groups’ represented, but I will NEVER compromise what I believe the scripture says and I will teach what I believe in love and with as much patience as I can muster. Let’s listen to one another and work to keep our fellowship together, but we should not think we have all the Truth. Only God has ALL the truth. Trying to be like Jesus and all that means is more than enough to lead the lost to Jesus.
    Don Yelton
    February, 10 2012

    The church where I attend is also trending this way. We’ve tried our best to stem the tide of those leaving by community outreach programs, personal interaction outside of church, etc., but nothing seems to be working. We’re still preaching and teaching the pure truth of the gospel, but it seems that those leaving are doing so because they want to be entertained–not try to transform their minds to be more Christ-like. It also seems to be a popularity contest with our surrounding denomination churches, i.e., “I’m going here because so-and-so goes there.”
    Tammy Scott
    February, 10 2012

    Dear Brothers and sisters IN CHRIST, It saddens my heart when I hear of not only “members” of the church but even a youth minister and preachers who would “leave” the church. But it is even more tragic that we do not fully grasp the magnificence of this GREAT establishment which was planned by God before the world began!!(Read Ephesians)To be part of this Majestic body should be a privelege, and to be able to enter the throne room of the ALMIGHTY GOD, should be a humbling experience, to the point of coming before HIM on our knees for accepting us.Where have we failed? yes many of the writers have expressed opinions, But! is’nt it a lack of Biblical education? instead of rote teaching, Book chapter verse memorizing,and uneducated or unqualified leaderships?I have visited churches across this country and I praise God for Crosspoint in Florence AL, League City in TX and Scenic View in FL, These are but a few congregations in the US, who exemplify Christianity till it hurts and they are growing all the time. A Mature study of the Bible should be motivated and encouraged of every Christian. Preachers should endeavor to study Biblical languages for more clarity on what they teach. Study equals more than just reading by every Christian it means research,examine and explain the meanings.Example read Nehemiah 8:8 our example of teaching. We can learn from the O.T.(Thanks Kippy Meyers!!ex HCU)Let us Pray for the church and those who have left because they dont have a clue of their folly. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!
    John Jansen
    February, 10 2012

    Tammy, how do you support your assumption that those who are leaving (and I take it going in to other church groups) “… are doing so because they want to be entertained�not try to transform their minds to be more Christ-like.” Your assumption may be correct for some (have you had someone express this as their reason?), but, doesn’t this kind of broad brush approach (placing the blame on the departing as being only interested in entertainment)keep us from asking hard questions about our churches and perhaps what we might be missing in our teaching, practice and emphasis?
    Ron
    February, 11 2012

    I have been a faithful member for the past 30 years and have seen members more concerned about their cultural doctrines than actuel spiritual love.For a month now I have been teaching at a lunch hour service where members from different denominations are in attendance and they hunger for the word.The shock I am receiving from fellow CoC members is that I stop to teach these souls since they are not our members otherwise these will use the bread in their denominations and not CoC.
    My question is where do we show our love to the lost? Are we in a cult that we dont have to teach those that dont come to our group?Should we blame others then for the diminishing numbers?
    Let us wake up.
    Boniface M
    February, 13 2012

    I wish to compliment you, Boniface M., for your outreach. I seem to be, because of my health, unable to do something similar, but I admire those who do. Sometimes I am hesitant to have others come to our service, because I am afraid they will meet some of our members who have zero tolerance for anyone who does not agree with their beliefs. In doing independent study on my own, I am not necessarily being swayed to leave my fellowship, but I am struck with the fact that, in the very early church, there were many divergent opinions about almost everything, and, even in the scriptures which I was raised to believe were literal and inerrant, there are many examples of stories being told by biblical authors which just don’t jive with each other. I am still trying to figure out how to deal with these differences, in light of the teachings of our church of inerrancy and literal truth. I pray you will strengthen those who you teach, and in so doing will strengthen your faith in Jesus as Lord.
    P.T.
    February, 13 2012

    All religious bodies in the US are down in numbers, and most of it is because of American’s worldliness and independance-not wanting to be told what to do. People are too occupied with their worldly things for religion anymore. This is the main reason for the acceptance of the gay community and athiesm in latter years. Lot and his family were the only righteous in Sodom when it was destroyed; and Noah and his family, 8 people were the only righteous in the whole world. The churches of Christ go by the scriptures regardless of numbers. That turns people away. Those words that Christ spoke will judge us in the last day. There is no reason to fool ourselves by adding instruments or the other modern things of the day to get more people. In reality, a church that people are beating the doors down to get in would be the first indication that something is not right about that church. People walked away from Christ when they heard His teaching. They weren’t standing in line to accept Him, and they don’t today either.
    Gary Hatmaker
    February, 13 2012

    Paul said, “So naturally we proclaim Christ, we warn everyone we meet and we teach everyone we can all that we know about him so that if possible we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. This is what I am doing all the time with all the strength that God gives me’ (Col. 1:28-29 J. B. Phillips translation). He also said, “For we must all appear before he judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others” (2 Cor. 5:11). While the Apostle Paul made some efforts to help his brothers and sisters with physical needs, he did not run soup kitchens or food/clothing banks. When we get back to doing what the first century Christians did (teach others) we will start growing like the first century church did.
    Larry
    February, 13 2012

    I hate to throw a blanket on the fire, but I must ask the question:
    Are these numbers really that bad? If so, compared to what?
    Consider that the last eight surveys have produced an average “membership” total of 1,255,126. And given the range of the results over the last 22 years, to say for sure that there is “growth” or “decline,” you need a data point more than 51,000 above or below that average. Any fluctuation, up or down, that is less than that fails to rise to the level of statistical significance, and can be attributed (mostly) to randomness (rounding errors, inaccurate data, etc.).
    Sure, in 2012 we’re on the low side of normal. But the numbers are within the margin of error. We are what we are, and what we have been for 2 decades.
    I wish we were seeing growth. But I can’t honestly look at the numbers and say I’m seeing decline.
    Ben Wiles
    February, 13 2012

    In the 1960’s we were the fastest growing religious body in the nation because of our emphasis on teaching the word. Many congregations had ministers of personal evangelism that trained members to teach the word. Mid McKnight and many other preachers traveled the country teaching personal evangelism workshops. Now many congregations have ministers of involvment, ministers of music/worship, children’s ministers, youth ministers, senior ministers, women’s ministers, etc. etc. I am not condemning any of these, but what is the emphasis of all these ministeries? I think we have to conclude that the emphasis is not training the members to teach the word. I do not know of a single congregation that has a minister of personal evangelism today. Hopefully, there are some. I know of very few congregations that have any ministery that emphasizes personal evangelism. Growth will come when we teach the word. Isn’t the mission of the church to save the lost? How can we save the lost without teaching the word? Maybe the problem is that we have learned to look at the lost through dry eyes!
    Frank Wheeler
    February, 13 2012

    Our dilemma is the same one facing many groups today. It comes from several different sources. Years of evolutionary and scientific theory that requires faith when you really look at the proof or lack of proof and little to no education for our youth has created a generation with great doubt and little faith. Certainly, it is the Gospel that saves, but many obstacles are in the way. Like Lot, we are used to letting the world and its filth come into our homes and diminish our faith. Too many see the church as just serving them instead of reciprocating with their efforts and talents for the body. The only way to overcome the world is through well-rounded efforts that leave no gaps in how we approach those within our walls and outside of them. We must learn to answer the difficult questions about evolution, science, atheism and popular culture that destroy faith. Getting someone to listen to the Gospel requires him or her to believe in the Creator in the first place. They must understand that the world’s condition is not the result of cruel or uncaring God, but the result of separation from God that was the result of our sin starting with the Garden of Eden. They must understand that early Christians went to their death because they witnessed Jesus, His teachings and miracles, His resurrection and the miracles of the first century. Persecuted almost to extinction yet they did not deny Christ and went to their deaths because of it. Christianity did not grow by the sword or by a lie, but by the witness of the first. No other religion or faith has ever grown in such opposition.
    Kenneth Morvant Author of “The Destruction of Faith” and minister
    Kenneth Morvant
    February, 13 2012

    Re: Ben Wiles comments – I would think that these numbers do reflect something, especially when one sees the decline of the Churches of Christ outside the Bible belt (although we’re smaller there as well). From an anecdotal perspective I’ll say that having visited and kept up with the status of our fellowship in places like the West and East Coast, our churches in those places (California a great example) seem much smaller than twenty years ago and many have or are on the brink of shutting their doors. There ought to be, in my view, some alarm. And, what’s not reflected in these stats is the aging of our churches, with little growth among young adults, and the numbers, I think, representing a grayer population in our congregations. This would at least seem to be an important part of future research to determine if that’s accurate.
    RK
    February, 15 2012

    There are just too many splinter churches within the Churches of Christ. It’s as if we take joy in our picky differences rather than praise the Lord in what we believe that are simliar. Yes, we have our own places of worship but work together for the good of the Christian. What has happened to Love in our church? Just visit small towns in Texas and note the small churches that are hanging by their fingertips. Christians under thirty are what will save us. Music, instrument music, Biblical teachings but with new voices, in a new way. For our sake read, “What Must the Church of Christ Do To Be Saved.” by Leroy Garrett. It is so.
    David
    February, 18 2012

    Our churches are in decline because people are not being what Jesus called them to be. They want to go to church and are much more hung up on having “of Christ” on the sign than actually following Jesus. I am very conservative and hold firmly to doctrine. I believe that we should not compromise what the word of God says but we must also live it. Churches will continue to decline because we are not bearing the fruit of disciples because most people are not being disciples.
    Kerry
    March, 12 2012

    Jim Mettenbrink
    The comments are all very interesting, reflecting that all of us are very concerned about the future of the Lord�s church. AMEN! Large or small it will survive. The Lord Himself said only a few would find the truth way of salvation (Mt 7:13-14). There are those who believe they are saved, but are lost (Mt7:21-23).
    Some have weighed in that we are more concerned about God�s word than about people. If we are genuinely concerned about God�s word, we will be concerned about people. Jesus said that (Mt 4:4; 13:23; Jn 8:31; 8:47; 12:48; Luke 19:10, Mt 28:19-20).
    Some say we are more concerned about doctrine than love. Love is THE core doctrine of the Bible (Jn 3:16; 1 Jn 2:10-11; 3:16-17; 4:8; 1 Cor 13:1-7).
    One brother posted his concern about Post-Modernist influence. I will add to his comment. I am a first year boomer, with pre-boomer attitudes. After a presentation in 1992 by F. Yeakley on generational attitudes, I told him that I was not a true boomer, but a mix of boomer (age) and pre-boomer (attitude). He said �There a few guys like you around.� I have two brothers who are considerably younger than I. One is a last year boomer. Their way of approaching life is entirely different than mine. My son is 45 – Gen X. His thinking is also different than mine, but because of his rearing, he is not a true Gen X either. Why these differences.
    Secular Humanism has had an increasing influence, especially through the public school system in the last five decades. I fought the influence when my son was in school, some 35 years ago. The notion that we can shed �doctrine,� such as acappella singing, simply because there is not an express command against instrumental music reflects an misunderstanding of worship � from the heart, not the fingers or blowing a horn. (Eph 5:19) No prohibition against peanut butter on the bread in the Lord�s supper! In fact all of the Christian�s life must be from the heart, but in accordance with God�s word (Rom 10:17; 6:17). Because of this, only Jesus knows who is genuinely a Christian (Acts 2:47) and who is living according to His word.
    In my nearly 40 years as a Christian and 35 years of preaching, there are several very disconcerting observations that we must correct. (1) Unqualified elders. Why? Selected by biblically ignorant congregations. (2) No one-on-one followup teaching of new Christians. Thus, weak and biblically ignorant Christians. Recently, I studied with a man for two hours a week for four years. When we began, he said, �I want to know everything in the Bible.� He was like a walking Bible and his family called him �the preacher.� He had a thirst for the truth and a zeal to save the lost. (3) In recent decades many have looked inward instead being the light to the world and salt of the earth). Call it entertainment. (4) American individualism which has been the cornerstone of American success, hinders the sense of community that congregations must have. (5) No boldness, either to defend the truth when error rises, nor to withstand persecution, nor or to evangelize (Acts 4:29).
    If we have true faith, we will love one another (Jn13:35), we will love the lost and we will love God and His word. If we have the right attitude toward God, Jesus and God�s word, we fail to grow in love nor will not lose our first love (Rev 2:4).
    Jim Mettenbrink
    March, 17 2012

    To clarify � Secular Humanism has spawned the �New Tolerance.� That is, since Humanism essentially teaches that each person is his own god, makes his own standard in every sphere of life, thus we must tolerate each other�s beliefs, meaning we must accept them as true because they are true for the other person. So To say that person is wrong in his belief is to be intolerant.
    Occasionally, a young person makes a comment that we should not mention anything that would offend a person, thereby being intolerant. A Christian acquaintance left the faith, because he was taught in a world religion class that all religions are equal, because all have some good in them. Seeing the Humanist influence, in young people, it is understandable that some leave the faith because adherence to �doctrine� is seen as intolerant because it is to rigid, rather does not fit the mold of being tolerant and accepting of what ever one wants to believe is right � for them.
    Jim Mettenbrink
    March, 17 2012

    I agree with Bro. Mettenbrink.As for the tolerant ones preceding him I would ask ,wasn’t the compromiser the Pharisee in Mark 7:7 ?
    Tim Gibson
    April, 23 2012

    […] Add to this declining membership trends in Churches of Christ and the news becomes concerning. Churches of Christ have seen a 6.2% decline in membership between 2003-2012. That�s a staggering l…. These are dramatic numbers that can�t be ignored and there are no signs that numbers are […]
    The Next President Harding Needs | Imago Dei
    October, 18 2012

    I believe the church of Christ is on the decline. Because we as followers of Christ, stop following Christ.We’re looking for comfort instead of being converted.We are married to Christ and Christ to the church. Every time a problem rises we are not to want a divorce from the church. We have never calmed to be perfect or we have all the answers (well, not the Christians I know). We just believe in God’s word and try to teach it to the best of our human ability. If your looking for a church besides the church Christ died for your search is in vain. I trust what Jesus said. Now, if God wants to save people who are not in the body. God has all the right to do that. But I wouldn’t put soul on the line for my own belief. The devil is good at flipping the word of God and getting us to believe what we want. He knows it will cause distant between believers. We are on the decline simply off our own desire to serve God instead of serving God the way he said in word.
    Roderick B
    January, 13 2013

    Dear brothers and sisters,
    We keep seeing the facts of decline and pondering what to do so we can relive the ‘good old days.’ People love to grab a book, learn the facts, feel confidently qualified, and act out what they think is the fix that will sort the problem. Whenever in scripture we see this approach, we see more mess develop. People are blessed when they go to God, humbly seeking His counsel and direction. Can we ask God brave questions, such as, ‘What are we doing wrong, God?’ ‘Have we lost our first love?’ ‘Have we made a church, called it exclusive, regarded others evil and refused them fellowship if they do not agree with everything we think is the correct way?’ ‘Has our church become like an idol to us, keeping us at a distance to you our God?’
    Do we walk and talk with God as our closest friend, Father, and mentor, or do we say that God doesn’t do that anymore? I look at the questions and the solutions suggested, and I see a people who need a shepherd, the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd knows our name, do we know his voice? If we offer people a church, that sounds like we are only doing church, and that gets boring and meaningless, but if we lead people into close and intimate relationship and fellowship with the living God, that is exciting and a growing lifelong relationship, like the best and closest marriage. If we only know about God, but do not know God, what do we have more than a book. If all we have is a very good book, did Christ finish his work at the cross, toss his followers the New Testament and say, “Here kids, reads this. I’ll be back!” Thankfully our God does not just promise us eternal life, but also promises to take every step with us, along life’s road to heaven. The promised one who is sent to do this for us, is the Holy Spirit. We are wise if we seek his counsel, and wait upon him for knowledge, answers, and direction. The believers were changed people after the Holy Spirit was given, and the church grew. The gospel is not just words, but the power of God, and it is the power of God that changes our lives. If we want a declining church to change and grow, we ask God. Bottom line is, God transforming, changing, and growing individuals, but when a church says it has everything perfectly correct, then there is no individual changing to do, and individual change and corporate change, become feared, suspect, and sin. Meanwhile, many other Christ believers, are leading others to walk closely with God, and many churches are growing forcefully and powerfully, and lots of the preaching is tough truth and is not ‘tickling the ears.’ Perhaps God is trying to remind us, that it is not all about perfection and getting everything right, but more about knowing and loving God himself, and the scriptures are full of many examples of such. We all have much to learn. God gives us the choice to turn back to him for the answers, or we can choose to keep the churches of Christ in decline. Either way, eternal life is ours in Christ, but God offers us the opportunity to thrive spiritually in his kingdom right now on earth, not just in heaven. If we do not want that, others do, and the kingdom of God is advancing through God’s power in many other churches. Like a declining marriage, it is not too late to turn back to the one who loves us and who has given his heart and his life away to us. His heart has the sweet taste all our hearts crave! Lots of love to all. In Christ, David Dellit
    David Dellit
    January, 21 2013

    I really think we are losing our focus. We have let fear paralyze our efforts. We are afraid of everything. Afraid of other opinions, afraid of our culture, afraid of losing our historic identity and focus and because of that we try to isolate and insulate. We keep drawing our circle tighter and tighter until there are very few that fit inside.
    We are not to be fearful people. Fear produces fight or flight. Those that stay fight over little things and others just take flight. This has to change. Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against His church. I believe that. I believe that if we plant and water, God will give the increase. Planting and watering require going out to the garden. We cannot be agoraphobic Christians. We have to go outside.
    Robin
    March, 4 2013

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