Why Churches Stop Growing

As we walked up to the front of the church there hung a big sign above the front door. It read,
“Incubation Center, Releasing Gods Potential in You!”
Wow, that is certainly different. I commented to Debra, have you ever seen anything like that before? She had seen it too, nodded yes, but became distracted by the two people standing inside the door greeting people as they walked in. They seemed friendly enough. As we approached, one of them stretched out his hand to me and greeted me with a big smile and said, hi I am Charles, thank you for coming today! I shook Charles hand, smiled back and answered, glad to be here. Charles looked to be about 38, wore a pair of Dockers and a short sleeve dress shirt that hung outside his pants. He and the other greeter were both wearing a button that read, “You Are God’s Gift to the World!” We must have had that deer in the headlight look because the next thing Charles asked was, is this your first time here? We affirmed that we were and he handed us a special visitor card and told us to fill it out to receive a free gift. Just drop it in the offering plate when it comes by during the service Charles said with a smile.

Both Debra and I both grew up in a traditional Christian home. Debra went to Pentecostal holiness church and I grew up in an Assembly of God church led by Marilyn and Wally Hickey. As we grew up we both witnessed traditional mindsets of the church become challenged with the younger generation. The early 70’s were marked by an influx of new music from groups like the Maranatha, 2nd chapter of Acts, Larry Norman and Barry Mcguire. The younger generation wanted contemporary music while the older claimed anything with a beat was of the devil. Marilyn Hickey was breaking old traditions too as the Catholic Church began to embrace the Charismatic movement. She found many open doors and went from teaching in small home groups filled with eager Catholics to large conferences.

Some Church’s accepted the new and compromised by singing a mixture of traditional music and contemporary while others resisted. In the end, those who embraced the new grew while church’s like the one Debra grew up in struggled with shrinking numbers. What we were about to experience that morning was anything but traditional. Our old worn out concepts about what church was suppose to look like was about to be stretched and challenged in new ways we never thought possible.

As we entered the auditorium that morning to find a seat


We knew that we were in for a surprise. We had been told that this church was different in that they were breaking new ground where it concerned being a relevant voice to this generation. This excited both of us because for years we had seen firsthand many churches lose their ability to release members into relevant expression to the world.

Instead they became self-focused in attracting congregations to a pulpit centered service rather than people focused where it concerned helping them find and express their faith and voice to others outside the church. That morning the minister shared the words of Jesus when he talked about being salt and light to the world. He read out of the book of Matthew from the Amplified version of the Bible.

The minister that morning opened up by stating; Let me tell you why you are here. He then looked down at his Bible and read, “You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors to the earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.”

After reading the passage he continued.   .

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16

The point that morning was that salt has purpose the same as light has purpose. We were individually set on this earth to display our unique “God flavor” and “God Color” to others. He said that humanity has lost the true strength and quality of their saltiness because they are disconnected from God, out of harmony as it were.

This was the purpose of Jesus, to realign and bring humanity back to what was lost, our true blueprint and identity. He went on to say that we now have the opportunity to be the forerunners in this glorious new life-style! I looked over at Debra with excitement in my eyes, I could hardly believe what I what my ears were hearing. This was a message that had been in our hearts for years. We have always had a desire to make a difference with our lives and that is one reason we came to check out this new church.
I first meant Debra in a church we both attended as teens I was attending a two year Bible School that they had started and the both of us were in choir together where I caught her looking my way flirting from the other side of the room. I discovered later, she couldn’t see that far because of her eyesight and was only squinting in my direction.
We dreamed and talked about becoming missionaries and traveling Asia and the world together. Debra had a vision at a camp meeting as a young girl. There under the tent a missionary spoke about the call of God to make a difference in foreign cultures. An altar call was given that evening to those who felt God was calling them and Debra went up to the front. There she saw a vision of the faces of thousands of Chinese standing before here calling out to her to come to them and bring Jesus. Her life was changed from that day forward as she pursued God’s call upon her life.
We married a few years later and headed off to attend a three year Bible college in Sacramento, California. Those will always be special days for the both of us as we sat together in class and served in a local church. We worked with children using puppets telling stories about God. We would travel as a class to do outreach ministry of all types, we traveled to other cities in California where we could go door to door to promote nightly revival meetings. We even helped run a 24 hour prayer line were we would talk with people with every imaginable need. We interned as youth pastors and led the Christian Education department at a local Assembly of God church. We jumped at any opportunity we could find to serve. We took our first two missionary trips in our third year, one to the Indians in Nevada and another to minister at a Bible School in Ensenada, Old Mexico.
In those three years of school our love grew as we looked forward to future of ministry together. As the years progressed, we learned what it met to trust God for provision, watched as we experienced many miracles in our lives. We also changed many of our old definitions about what ministry was all about and how our generation is to impact our world.
As I sat there that morning listening to the message about what it meant to be salt and light I wondered if the church would ever discover its true meaning beyond the traditions we had become familiar with. After years of ministry our perceptions and understanding had taken on a whole new meaning from many of the disappointments we ourselves had experienced and seen. Not only did we experience our own disappointments in our expectations in church, we had seen the disenfranchisement of many of our Christian friends through the years where they had lost faith not in God but the church. To them the church had lost its meaning and relevance in their lives because it did not speak to real life issues.

What we were hearing that morning was an explosion of truth that would
surely have significant impact in the lives of many people.


 written by: Scott Johnson


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.