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Progressive Death of a Church

The progressive death of a church is effectively described by the “Condition versus Time Curve” familiar to practitioners of asset management, risk abatement, reliability optimization and ...

The progressive death of a church is effectively described by the “Condition versus Time Curve” familiar to practitioners of asset management, risk abatement, reliability optimization and quality control.  This curve defines the health or condition of the church at any given time.  At the onset of decline, one or more of the components, resources or activities of the church begins to malfunction.  It is hardly noticeable at the time and the overall enterprise continues its activities essentially undisturbed.  A pastor retires, for example, leaving a leadership vacuum.  His successor has few leadership skills.  So a loose collection of obscure committees assumes the mantle of leadership.  Unfortunately, these committees are not structured for leadership.  They become obstacles to progress and slide into a mind-set portrayed by the slogan, “We will not lead, we will not follow and we will not get out of the way.”  The “Condition versus Time Curve” eventually reaches the “P” point.  The church continues to function but “Potential Failure” is revealed to the discerning observer by the appearance of the following types of issues: 

  • Church discord becomes more frequent.
  • Great Commandment and Great Commission activities begin to fade.  Worship, ministry, evangelism, fellowship growth and discipleship are given little more than lip service.
  • Prayers start to become ritual with little expectation that God will respond.
  • The church begins to lose its collective sense of humility and move beyond a need for confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience. 
  • The church begins to morph into an introverted, self-serving country club. 
  • The church begins to place great value on a pastor with a “master of ceremonies” or “entertainment director” skill set.
  • Staff conflicts begin to appear followed by resignations and departure of church members.
  • Financial concerns begin to appear.

A church at the “P” point can be salvaged but serious remediation is required.  A church at the “P” point would benefit greatly from a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) conducted by an Asset Management or Risk Abatement consultant.  But committee members cannot tolerate that degree of scrutiny; it would be far too painful and humiliating.  So the Condition versus Time Curve continues its downward progression.  The curve eventually reaches the “F” point.  “Functional Failure” finally occurs but is typically preceded by many red flag events such as:

  • The church experiences a “split” accompanied by the loss of 20 - 40% of the congregation.  The members who are the actual Root Cause of the decline almost never leave.  As others depart, their power is strengthened.
  • Virtually all parents under age 45 depart with their children and other family members.
  • The church has nothing to offer a young Christian family and nothing to offer “seekers” of any age.
  • Departed members are viewed as misguided and confused or perhaps just “Bible Thumping” troublemakers.
  • Well meaning “eccentrics” in the church body assume an increasingly visible role.
  • Staff turnover accelerates.  The congregation seeks a “maintenance pastor” who will keep them well fed and entertained and not burden them with talk of confession, repentance and obedience.
  •  Articles of Faith become fuzzy and unimportant.
  • The church Mission Statement is window dressing fluff.
  • Increasingly serious financial issues creep into the church.
  • Members view themselves as the long suffering, faithful remnant.  Jesus will presumably reward their faithfulness and ignore their lack of fruit.


Once a church reaches the “F” pointPsychology Articles, failure is probably inevitable even though actual death may not occur for several years depending on the financial situation.  Up to 5000 churches in America close their doors each year.  Church foreclosures are on the rise.  God does not intervene to save a disobedient church.

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