Check the Pulse

According to Aubrey Malphurs, Dave Olson, and others who track such trends, between 3,000 and 4,000 churches die and close their doors every year. These are old churches and new churches. These are traditional churches and contemporary churches. These are rural churches and metro churches. While this certainly reveals the need to strategically plant new churches, it should also reveal the need to take an honest look at the condition, focus, and vision of our existing churches.

I came to be the Pastor of Wyatte Baptist Church in February of 2002. What I encountered here were the perfect conditions to see an old church, (est. 1892), become vibrant and relevant once again. As with many churches, Wyatte had experienced decline in every area that can be measured. Attendance was down, baptisms were down, and giving was down. Some might see these vital signs as an indication that rigamortis had set in. However, there were some very strong signs of life. Along with these pulses of life, steps were taken to see this church once again have impact for the kingdom.

 

1) Humility: The first thing I noticed about the people of Wyatte was their genuine humility. The turmoil and strife they had experienced had stripped them of any pride and pretense. I always say “The worst thing that ever happened at Wyatte was the best thing that ever happened at Wyatte”. Many churches today need the wind knocked out of them.

 

2) The Word of God: They were used to and hungry for solid Biblical preaching and teaching. They have no taste or patience for a diluted Gospel message. There are many churches today with large crowds and very little preaching. Well, big crowds show up for professional wrestling, but that doesn’t mean they are having church.

 

3) Structure: WBC caught the vision of the importance of small groups early on. Southern Baptists became a powerful force for God riding on the wheels of Sunday School.  I challenge you to reexamine the Great Commission of Matthew 28. When you do, you will find that we are first commanded to teach. When we begin to build our churches around a worship environment, we have to ask the question, “Do people know anything about this God they are raising their hands to?” Sunday school is where people develop relationships. Sunday School is where people dig deep into God’s word. Sunday School is where people can better be aware of and minister to each other’s needs. Sunday School is where we assimilate new members. Sunday School is a little Seminary where we train leaders. I cannot figure out why some are abandoning the greatest tool of the church: Sunday School!

 

4) Outreach: I have never understood the phrase “Evangelical Christian”. Is there any other kind? If your church does not have an ongoing outreach program you are failing the community you are living in.

 

4) Leadership: I personally hold to Dr. Adrian Rogers’ philosophy of “Doing Church”.

a) Pastor Led

b) Deacon Served

c) Congregation Approved

d) Committee Operated

In twenty years of ministry I have never seen anything like my Deacons. They actually take the servant model given in scripture and they do it. They are table waiters. They are servants. They have no interest in “running the church”.  This point may make some reading this uncomfortable. The fact is, many of our churches are dying because the hands of a governing body are choking it to death.

 

5) Vision: Finally, the biggest reason we are losing some of our historic and precious churches is the lack of vision. We have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten why we are. The silly things we put our energy, our time, and our finances into reveal our vision. When we take our eyes off of the cross of Jesus, we are doomed. Like Fred Smith of Federal Express says, “Keep the Main thing the Main thing”.

 

Today, Wyatte Baptist Church is very much alive and well! My first Sunday as Pastor we had 77 people present. There have been times recently where we have gone over 400. We have seen well over 200 people baptized, marriages healed, and lives surrendered to ministry. WBC is on mission all over the world as well as Tate County. It is an awesome experience to see what can happen when we surrender our will and let God have his.

 

I write this not to boast but to encourage. My passion is to see our old churches that carried the standard for generations once again thrive and reach people for Christ. There is no excuse for a church to die; none. So look for a pulse. Check the vital signs. Don’t be too proud to dial 911 and get some help. Don’t let you church become another statistic in the ever growing obituary of churches.

 

 

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About Scott Rogers

Scott Rogers is Senior Pastor at Wyatte Baptist Church in Senatobia, MS.