I recently finished an interesting resource called “Autopsy of a Deceased Church,” where author Thom S. Rainer utilizes his many years of experience in church ministry as a pastor and consultant to write about common trends in declining churches.
Rainer divides his book into two parts: (1) The Autopsy and (2) Is There Hope for the Dying Church?
The first part begins with an introduction and then devotes the following chapters to 10 symptoms of a declining church: (1) slow erosion, (2) the past is the hero, (3) the church refused to look like the community, (4) the budget moved inwardly, (5) the great commission becomes the great omission, (6) the preference driven church, (7) pastoral tenure decreases, (8) the church rarely prayed together, (9) the church had no clear purpose, and (10) the church obsessed over facilities.
The second part focuses on what to do if your church shows symptoms of decline.
Larry Moyer, Founder and CEO of EvanTell and a regular reader of books on spiritual topics, sat down to share some of his reflections with me on Rainer’s recent book.
Who could benefit the most from reading “Autopsy of a Deceased Church?”
New pastors who want to know the pitfalls that often face the local church as well as seasoned pastors who sense something is wrong but not sure what.
Did you read anything that you found surprising?
No, traveling gives you perspective and I could think of churches that I’ve been to that fit into one of the 10 pitfalls the church often falls into.
Did any of the churches you observed with some of these pitfalls during your visits end up closing their doors?
Yes, I met those who closed the doors, and I met those who through leadership brought them out of the problem through effective leadership. And then I could think of a few churches who are still there because they have not faced the problem.
What is your biggest takeaway from the book?
That once you diagnose a problem, do something about it. I appreciate the fact that he did not end on a negative point. He showed me how to do something about it, that the damage is not irreparable.
How do you think that evangelism fits into the picture of declining churches? Did this book adequately address this or were there things you felt should have been added?
I think he could have said more about how evangelism corrects the problem. A pastor said to me one time, “Evangelism will solve every problem in the local church.” He’s right because you focus on others, not yourself. Their enthusiasm for new converts is contagious, and you even have more funds from new people to work with.
Any final thoughts?
I think his subtitle is awfully interesting, “12 ways to keep yours alive.” He is not out to accuse you, he is out to help.