5 Things You Can Do With A Sick Church

The church is weak and struggling. It’s growth has all been negative, and only a few members are alert enough to even care. Rather than arrange for pre-needs (interesting euphemism) with your local funeral home, try these steps first. And, by the way, none need to be voted on. If you are the pastor, just do this. If anyone should object that you are acting without proper authorization, tell them the Owner of the Church ordered this. Or, you could say what a pastor friend said when he turned his church’s fellowship hall into a supply house for the needy following a hurricane down here in the bayou country: “Who gave me the authority? This is a no-brainer!”

A sick church, if it’s really really sick, will probably let you say anything from the pulpit, pastor. Only if there are still signs of life about will you get a negative reaction from what you do or say. So, if someone does protest, take that as a good sign.

Here then are 5 non-threatening actions you the pastor can take to fan the flames of life back into those dying embers sitting before you on Sundays.

1. You can get the people to praying.

Prayer doesn’t burden the budget and no one has to pray who doesn’t want to or see the need.

As with anything, some will respond and some will ignore you. So, do not expect 100 percent participation before you go ahead. If you do, you are putting a requirement on them they’re not able to fulfill and setting yourself up for disappointment.

Go with the few who want to pray. And by “pray,” we mean to bring yourself to the living God, seek His heart from your heart, submit your will to His, ask for His guidance in all that is before you, and desire only His glory.

There are numerous ways to get a small struggling congregation to pray. Here are a few.

a) Include prayer as a prominent part of every worship service. And, pastor, you should not do all the praying, or they will soon tune you out.

b) Make the altar area a place of regular prayer. During a particular segment of the worship service (pastoral prayer time, public invitation, etc) invite members to join you there. Speak to individuals privately ahead of time, encouraging them to respond. Make the church a house of prayer, as the Lord intended (Matthew 21:13).

You might need to move furniture or clutter from the altar area or bring in kneeling cushions to make it more conducive to praying.

c) Preach sermons on prayer. Find a sentence or verse or a pithy saying that expresses what the Lord lays on your heart. Then, keep it before the people through the bulletin, banners, and announcements.

One I regularly use is: “Prayer is need-driven and faith-powered.” That is to say, needs will drive you to your knees, but only faith will connect you with the Heavens.

d) Have testimonies on prayer. If you have members who can do this briefly and effectively, enlist them. If not, bring in the occasional outsider. Consider interviewing them rather than turning them loose in the pulpit, otherwise you will sometimes find yourself with no time to preach.

2. You can get the people to confessing.

Focus on the Lordship of Jesus Christ in your talk, your sermons, everything. Make much of Him. Nothing is going to turn the thinking of your congregation around more than each member drawing near to the Savior.

The gospels will provide all the sermon material you’ll ever need for this. However, Ephesians and Colossians go to great lengths to exalt Jesus in the hearts and minds of believers.

3. You can get your people to stretching.

How’s that? Here’s the story….

He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So “they” watched him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.”

Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil? to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other (Mark 3:1-5).

Jesus asked the man to do the very thing he was unable to do, to stretch out the shrunken, useless portion of his anatomy.

Our Lord loves it when we stretch. When we attempt by faith to do the very thing we’ve been unable to do, whether that means to speak in public, to sing a solo, to bear witness for Him, to loosen our deathgrip on our bank account.

As pastor of a weak and struggling church, you can lead your people to do something–however small–in the direction of faith and obedience.

One idea we’ve used is to invite people to contribute extra Bibles from home which you will then donate to the community. Put a box in the foyer for a couple of Sundays. Then, go through the Bibles and remove the damaged ones. Insert witnessing and church materials. Put a message on the outside church sign (and tell the people) that next Saturday from 10 to noon, “Free Bibles.” Invite any members who wish to assist you to see you following today’s service. Some can set up tables, carry out the Bibles, and greet visitors.

4. You can get people to serving.

To the healed paralytic of Mark 2, Jesus instructed, “Take up your bed and walk.”

The man’s muscles were atrophied from underuse. Now, he needed to exercise them by doing something which would previously have been difficult.

Following Hurricane Katrina, so many of our New Orleans area churches became centers for distribution of food, water, and other supplies. On one occasion, I spent half a day driving a reporter to various churches and campuses while she interviewed people. One lady hard at work in a church’s fellowship hall told the reporter she was 70 years old. What was she doing? “Sorting the canned goods and preparing sacks of groceries.”

Was it hard? “Are you kidding? I’m having the time of my life.”

Tell me. Before this hurricane, what did you do in the church? “I occupied a pew. Nothing more.”

I do not recall the woman’s name, but I guarantee she was never the same afterward.

Serving others in Christ’s name will forever change us.

Start small. Let people make tiny commitments first. Do not ask them for major, for-the-rest-of-your-lifetime pledges of anything. Remember that when God gets ready to do something major, He often begins small (Matthew 13:31-32). We can do that, too.

5. You can help your people to praise.

Here’s the danger, pastor. When the congregation is on life-support, when the members are complacent and unresponsive, if you take your eyes off Jesus and place them on the members, you are going to be angry in spirit and negative in your preaching. When that happens, nothing you do will work. All you’re doing is digging their grave deeper and deeper.

After the Lord healed the paralytic (Mark 2), we read: Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Pastor, when you have victories, no matter how minor, recognize and celebrate them. Call attention to the three people who joined you in the church driveway Saturday to give away 48 Bibles and make new friends for the Lord and this church.

However, do not overdo the recognition and focus everyone’s attention on one another. One reason the church has been dying is the self-centeredness that demands that “we have our needs met first.” This narcissistic egotism has killed many a good congregation.

Now, repeat as often as necessary.

Bear in mind these three things…

–One sermon on any subject hardly makes a dent in the problem. People need constant repetition and reinforcement of the great truths of God’s Word. Be faithful, pastor, and be patient.

–People are at various stages of life and alertness. One will be growing in the Lord and rejoicing in her progress while another will be sleepwalking and a third grousing about being awakened in the middle of his nap. Expect it.

–As pastor, you must love them all as equally as possible and minister to all impartially. However, you will feel drawn to the few who are responding to the Holy Spirit. Ask the Father to show you how to encourage them further without causing a rift in the barely-alive fellowship.

None of this takes a vote of the church. None of it will get you fired. Nothing here will threaten anyone except the devil. (If he’s in the church, occupying a pew or a leadership position, then you have more problems than resurrecting the dead congregation.)

It’s time, pastor, for you to decide whether it is by the preaching of the cross that people are saved, and if the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation.” If so, then keep the emphasis on Spirit-filled preaching about Jesus, and expect God to do His work.

7 thoughts on “5 Things You Can Do With A Sick Church

  1. We added one more. You can get the people forgiving. We inherited a church that was deeply split. the Holy Spirit was not going to do anything in that church until the people began forgiving one another. We preached forgiveness for almost six months. Now they stand hand in hand and pray every Sunday morning.

  2. We added one more. You can get the people forgiving. We inherited a church that was deeply split. the Holy Spirit was not going to do anything in that church until the people began forgiving one another. We preached forgiveness for almost six months. Now they stand hand in hand and pray every Sunday morning.

  3. We added one more. You can get the people forgiving. We inherited a church that was deeply split. the Holy Spirit was not going to do anything in that church until the people began forgiving one another. We preached forgiveness for almost six months. Now they stand hand in hand and pray every Sunday morning.

  4. These comments are full of Gods wisdom Gods bride (the church) is suffering today from gossip, backbiting, divisions, little prayer and just in a mess.

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