Why Churches Fail

Are you willing to take an honest look at some of the reasons why people are not coming to your church?

1,103 churches surveyed and tracked for 12-plus years

These are raw data scores given for each criterion as communicated by the satisfaction of the personal spiritual growth of the surveyor versus their disaffection of intimacy in Christ. The churches surveyed and tracked include reports from 23 denominations on how they felt connected and fed spiritually or unaccepted in their church stemming from the modeling and teaching of the pastors and leaders. These results were compared with similar research by other organizations and website opinion polls. Why such a small sampling? Because this is a ten-year intense study; a larger sampling is not practical. However, when larger samples from polls and inventories were used for comparison, there was no significant variance.

Questions asked of congregational members were as follows:

a. Is your church a healthy place to be for your spiritual growth and relationships?

b. Is your church healthy so you feel connected there?

c. How important is good biblical teaching to you?

d. How important is growing in Christ to you?

e. How much time are you wiling to put into your faith development?

f. What is most important to you about a church?

g. What is most important to you about a pastor?

h. Why did you leave your last church?

i. What would cause you to leave your current church?

j. What can this church do to motivate you to grow more in Christ?

k. What can this church do to improve?

Questions asked to pastors and leadership:

a. Do you think your church is a healthy place to be for your members and their spiritual growth and relationships?

b. Do you think your church is healthy so that new people as well as those who have been there long term can feel connected?

c. How important is good biblical teaching to you?

d. How important is growing in Christ to you?

e. How much time are you willing to put into your own faith development?

f. What is most important to you about a church?

g. What is most important to you about being a pastor?

h. Why did you leave your last church?

i. What would cause you to leave your current church?

j. What can this church do to motivate you to grow more in Christ?

k. What can you do to motivate your people to grow more in Christ?

l. What can this church do to improve?

Then, an observational comparison study was done over ten years to see how these churches were healthy or not healthy. The baseline was how they exhibited biblical precepts; then, the successes and failures were examined and compiled as to the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the people surveyed. After this, the root causes thereof were sought such as, if one church closed, why? and if one church grew, why?… The results of the 1,103 churches randomly picked and then surveyed were these:

1. Is your church a healthy place for people’s spiritual growth and relationships? 761 of church people reported yes; 603 said on occasion, and the rest were varying degrees of infectiveness.

2. Is your church healthy so you feel connected there? 645 of church people reported yes, 709 said on occasion, and the rest were varying degrees of infectiveness.

3. Do the pastor(s) and leaders preach and teach the Word of God in a way that helps the members grow spiritually? 510 churches reported effectively; 467 said occasionally, and the rest were varying degrees of infectiveness.

4. Did the pastor(s) and leaders disciple, motivate, and develop the members for effective ministry? 144 churches reported did so effectively; 201 said occasionally, and the rest were varying degrees of infectiveness.

5. Did the pastor(s) and leaders model spiritual maturity in their personal lives as well as publicly? 421 churches reported did so effectively, 518 said occasionally, and the rest were varying degrees of infectiveness.

6. Did the pastor(s) and leaders help facilitate the members in evangelism and outreach? 108 churches reported did so effectively, 189 said occasionally, and the rest were varying degrees of infectiveness.

7. Did the pastor(s) and leaders help members feel welcomed and connected to this church? 316 churches reported did so effectively, 713 said occasionally, and the rest were varying degrees of infectiveness.

8. Questions were asked to people who left their church. Why did you leave the church? Of 894 people surveyed personally and an additional 2,909 online, totaling 3,803, 88% of people had left their church because they felt “forced to;” 19% of first group and 22% of second group of people had to leave because of work or school changes.

Of those 3,348 who felt forced to leave:

a. Sixty-one percent (61 %) of people (2,039) left their last church because of a conflict with another member resulting from gossip or strife that would not stop, was not true, or was not properly dealt with. They also marked a lack of hospitality and a lack of Bible teaching second or third, making this category 91% of significance!

b. Nineteen percent, (19%) or 640 people, felt not being connected; the lack of hospitality was the number one reason. They also marked a lack of teaching second or third, and gossip also as the second or third reason. The significant factor in this category is 66%!

c. Eighteen percent (18%) or 613 people said it was because of a lack of solid Bible teaching; they also marked gossip and strife and lack of hospitality as second or third.

d. Four point five percent (4.5 %) or 140 people left for reasons of inconvenience; the church was too far, parking too difficult, services too long, preaching was boring, or some minor theological disagreement. It is interesting to note that this is the least of the categories for why people leave, but are what most people in church leadership and consulting spend their time and energies trying to connect with!

We then identified 44 factors in determining the health or the dysfunction of a church. The significant factors in why churches failed are as follows:

The raw data in what the congregation wanted or considered important in a pastor or church leader:

  • Seventy-eight percent (78%) felt that the ability to teach the Bible effectively is important.
  • Sixty-five percent (65%) felt that the ability to show the kindness of the church to children and youth is important.
  • Sixty-one percent (61%) felt that the ability to model authentic faith and character for the church is important.
  • Fifty-nine percent (59%) felt that the ability to offer caring and helpful guidance to members in need is important.
  • Forty-five percent (45%) felt that the ability to carry out good organization and programming is important.
  • Thirty-six percent (36%) felt that the ability to cast a convincing vision for the church is important.
  • Twenty-eight percent (28%) felt that ability to lead a church in a good, effective, and godly direction is important.
  • Twenty-seven percent (27%) felt that the ability to develop confidence within the church is important.
  • Twenty-three percent (23%) felt that the ability to bring harmony and contentment in the church is important.
  • Twenty-one percent (21%) felt that the quality of the services “atmosphere” was more important and would keep them there. Thus, the power points and dramas were not as important to them as the hospitality and being connected!
  • Sixteen percent (16%) felt that the ability to bring about any needed change in the church is important.
  • Fifteen percent (15%) felt that the ability to encourage the church in effective stewardship is important.

The raw data in what the pastor or significant church leaders wanted or considered important in being a pastor or church leader are as follows:

  • Eighty-two percent (82%) felt that the ability to cast a convincing vision for the church is important.
  • Seventy-eight percent (78%) felt that the ability to develop confidence within the church is important.
  • Fifty-nine percent (59%) felt that the ability to bring harmony and contentment in the church is important.
  • Fifty-seven percent (57%) felt that the ability to encourage the church in effective stewardship is important.
  • Forty-two percent (42 )% felt that the ability to lead a church in a good, effective, and godly direction is important.
  • Forty-one percent (41%) felt that the ability to offer caring and helpful guidance to members in need is important.
  • Thirty-nine percent (39%) felt that the ability to show the kindness of the church to children and youth is important.
  • Twenty-five percent (25%) felt that the ability to carry out organization and programming is important.
  • Thirty-two percent (32%) felt that the ability to bring about needed and helpful change in the church is important.
  • Twenty-six percent (26%) felt that the ability to teach the Bible effectively is important.
  • Nineteen percent (19%) felt that the ability to model authentic faith and character for the church is important.

There seemed to be a disconnect in what the people wanted and what they received from their leadership and what the Bible calls us to, which led to the dysfunctions and breakdowns, then led them to leave, and then caused the church to fail.

Is your church healthy?

Let us not fall into the trap of putting on a performance—of acting out the Christian life. Let us not play a Christian; let us be a Christian. Let our actions respond to the transformation of Christ’s grace by living honest lives. We must allow Christ’s amazing grace to root out all the evil within us, especially the hypocrisy that causes so much destruction, else our church fail—and worst of all, fail Him!

© Research from 1992- 2004, revised 2007 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org

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About Biblical Guy

Dr. Richard Joseph Krejcir lives in Southern California and is married to the beautiful MaryRuth and a precious son Ryan, a miracle from God. He is a child of God who is committed to biblical understanding, prayer, spiritual growth, and integrity. He is the Founder and Director of Into Thy Word Ministries, a missions and discipling ministry, with a call upon his heart to bring discipleship materials to pastors and everyone who needs them here and overseas. He is also a researcher at the Schaeffer Institute and spent over fifteen years on an in-depth, careful and through study on End Times. He is the author of numerous articles, curriculum's and books such as "Into Thy Word," and is also an ordained pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena California (Master of Divinity) and holds a Ph.D. (Practical Theology) from London. He has amounted over 25 years of pastoral ministry experience including serving as a church growth consultant.
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