How I Feel About Declining Churches

Very rarely do movies affect me deeply.  You know, I’m a guy.  “Let’s blow stuff up for two hours and then move on” I say! 

However, I cannot get the movie Moneyball out of my mind.  I sat riveted this past weekend watching Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, and Peter Brand, played by Jonah Hill, turn around a terrible baseball franchise using new thinking, finding new solutions, and leading others in a completely unconventional yet innovative manner.

I actually became a little angry during the movie.  I was thinking, “If a new, creative, out-of-the-box approach can work for the Oakland A’s, certainly it could work at a local church with plateaued or declining attendance.”  Then as my wife fell asleep half-way through the movie, my mind went into overdrive!

  1. “Why did Beane make that decision?”
  2. “Why didn’t Art Howe buy-in early on?”
  3. “How did a recent college graduate get so much influence?”
  4. “How in the world did that team set a record by winning 20 games in a row?”
  5. “Why did Beane and his wife get divorced?”

But here was the big question I asked - “Did God leave any lessons in this movie that if applied by churches could regain lost momentum?”  You can read my initial findings by clicking here.

Now, I know what you must be thinking – “Brian, it’s baseball.  Can you not just enjoy the movie for what it is?”  Well sadly, “No.”

You see, I simply cannot accept the concept of plateaued or declining churches.  We all know they are a reality.  I just can’t accept it.

  • Churches that are not prevailing are not a picture of who God is.
  • The Kingdom of God is always moving.  Always advancing.  Always reaching out.
  • I am an idealist and at best it is simply not the way things should be.  At worst, it is embarrassing.

I pass seven declining churches on the way to my church each Sunday morning.  And each Sunday I think:

  • Do they have any level of expectation this morning?
  • What are they wanting Jesus to do?
  • What are their services like?
  • Is anything memorable going to happen today that people will talk about all week?
  • What leadership decisions were made 10 years, 20 years, or 25 years ago that led them to this point?  Could my church be making some of the same?
  • What are their current leaders like?
  • Was someone’s life changed in that building last week?  Last month?  Last year?
  • Do they care about unchurched people at all?
  • Would they ever change their methodology?
  • Did they ever make hard decisions?
  • Would they even attempt anything uncomfortable if it meant expanding the Kingdom?
  • When is the last time they took a risk?
  • Did they ever hire the right people?  Did they stay?  If not, why?
  • Are they willing to reach out to another generation or race?
  • I’m now also going to be thinking if the Oakland A’s can be turned around with a little innovation, why can’t that church on the corner who carries the name the Bride of Christ?!

In addition to tearing apart the movie Moneyball looking for leadership principles, I also spent time today in the book of Acts and Mark Dricoll’s book Doctrine looking for key learnings I have not seen before that could ignite our church(es).

I wish I could fix the seven churches I pass each week but I can’t.  But maybe, just maybe, God may use me to help ensure our church continues to prevail.

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About briand@injoystewardship.com

3 Responses to “How I Feel About Declining Churches”

  1. Derwin L. Gray on 28/04/2012 #

    Wow! Come on!

  2. Pastor Steve on 01/05/2012 #

    Pretty arrogant on your part! You have the answers right? You have declared these churches are in decline because they don’t look and act like yours? Check your ego…you might find the real problem. No different then other Mega Church Pastors that think they are ranchers but forgot (or never knew!) what it as like to be a real Shepherd!

    • briandodd on 01/05/2012 #

      Pastor Steve,

      I am very sorry you feel that way. However, it is tough for me to accept declining churches that have less and less impact on a world that is dying without Christ as the way things should be.

      If you could help me with something, that would be great. I don’t claim to have all the answers. I am in continual learning mode. So help me. Can you tell me how you feel as a pastor watching churches decline? And when you see it, what actions do you take? Your thoughts would be appreciated.

      Thanks,
      Brian

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