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Joined: 2009/1/16
Posts: 319

 6000 Churches Close Annually in America

When Daniel Cecil accepted the pastorship at Whitesville Baptist Church in 2016, he knew changes had to be made or potentially face closing the doors despite the church's 141-year-old history.

Sunday morning attendance had dipped well below 100 for Whitesville Baptist -- a Protestant church that sits in the heart of a predominantly Catholic town of 500.

Cecil began the slow task of what's called church revitalization -- a process by which existing churches create a new vision along with a fresh strategic focus while staying true to the gospel.

He, however, was up against generations of tradition that had little to do with biblical principles.

Cecil, 41, said that changing the worship service time and remodeling the front entrance into a greeting area were among the major decisions when they shouldn't have been.

"Nothing had been changed in probably 20 to 30 years -- if not more," Cecil said. "This is just a building. It really caused me to think, 'What is a church?' and to challenge people and ask them, 'What is a church?' It's ecclesia -- a Greek word that simply means those who are called by God. That's the church."

And over these past few years, Cecil said the revitalization has taken hold without much resistance.

He added that his next challenge is attracting nearby believers who drive past Whitesville Baptist on Sunday to attend another church in Owensboro.

"I think the Lord just had this church ready for a lot of these changes," Cecil said. "Now, we just need people locally to join us instead of driving 30 minutes away to go to church."

Todd Camp, pastor of New Life Church, can identify with what Cecil is now undertaking at Whitesville Baptist.

When Camp began his ministry in 2004 at the Crabtree Avenue church in Owensboro, he said there were about "18 to 20 regulars" on Sunday.

"They didn't have enough money to pay their bills and had gone through nine interim pastors in a year," Camp said. "They were on their way out and had a fear of dying. But what they told me is they wanted this church, on this corner, to continue to be a lighthouse to the community."

Camp immediately started the revitalizing process. And one of the first "old" traditions he removed was the wooden message board that displayed the Sunday attendance and tithing amounts.

In the beginning, Camp said the existing members seemed OK with the changes.

"For the first few months, everything was good and everybody was happy; the church was growing a little bit; finances were pretty good," Camp said. "And then about six months later, there started to be control issues with the old members toward me."

For Camp, it has only been in the last couple of years that membership, finances and staffing, which includes associate pastor Kurt Hoffman who's been with the church for about a year, have given him plenty of hope for the church's future.

New Life is averaging between 80 to 100 people for its Sunday worship service. It also has purchased neighboring properties that have been turned into thrift stores, and started a transitional home for women.

New Life operates a clothes closet and a food pantry. And New Life is in the planning stages of updating its main sanctuary.

"If you're going to revitalize a church, I believe you have to be patient and persistent," Camp said. "And saying that, it takes a lot of years for it to grow and build. …Honestly, it's just now, in the last year or two, that it's stable and we got a good foundation to where I think we can build on it … God has shown us over and over that He's got us."

According to the North American Mission Board, there are from 800 to 900 Southern Baptist churches closing each year.

When all Protestant denominations are included, that number drastically increases to an estimated 6,000 or more churches that are closing annually in the United States, according to Lifeway Christian Resources' facts and trends. Lifeway cited cultural shifts away from the nation's Christian roots and members attending less frequently as contributing factors to dying churches.

It was about four years ago the North American Mission Board created a church replanting team to address the problem of declining churches.

Mark Clifton, who authored the book, "Reclaiming Glory: Revitalizing Dying Churches," now heads the North American Mission Board's church replanting team as its senior director.

"It's a significant issue in all denominations that churches are closing; it's not just unique to Southern Baptists," Clifton said. "...We plant about as many churches as we see close. We don't quite go below water but we don't get much ahead either."

Whether it's revitalizing existing churches or planting new ones, Clifton said his team can help.

"If there is a neighborhood that needs to be reached and if the church building is still viable, we think every church can have a future," Clifton said.

One such example of a successful church plant in Owensboro is Life Community Church. It took root in 2016 in what used to be Hall Street Baptist Church at 1101 Breckenridge St.

Three years ago, Hall Street Baptist's remaining membership made the difficult choice to become among the dying and closed church statistics. And after 108 years, Hall Street Baptist Church was no more.

But instead of allowing the church building to become vacant and fall further into disrepair, Hall Street's members then voted to gift the property and its assets to Life Community Church, which had been hosting services inside an auditorium at Owensboro Community & Technical College.

For Kenny Rager, Life Community's 35-year-old pastor, that "blessing" from Hall Street has led him to seek a professional doctorate degree in educational ministry in church revitalization.

"We're here because of a church that wasn't able to make it and that really spoke to me," Rager said. "…So I thought what could I do to help in this area (of revitalization) so churches don't have to make those hard decisions."

Since assuming the former Hall Street property, Life Community Church has made major renovations to the sanctuary and other parts of the church building.

Rager said having the property gave Life Community Church a permanent home but made it clear that revitalization isn't about four walls and a roof with a steeple on top.

"What's more important than property is people," he said. "And a reason a pastor should explore revitalization, and not give up on a struggling church, is because the people who are left still matter to God."


Doug R

 2019/4/2 11:12Profile

Joined: 2005/1/6
Posts: 1838
Hemel Hempstead

 Re: 6000 Churches Close Annually in America

This is sad

Dominic Shiells

 2019/4/3 17:38Profile

Joined: 2002/12/11
Posts: 37633
"Pilgrim and Sojourner." - 1 Peter 2:11


Many modern evangelical churches have turn over rates of 40-50 years or perhaps abit longer, but they are not made for durability but rather for the instant needs of reaching out in anyway possible to gather a crowd. Many people follow the well-known speakers around also till they retire or a scandal happens. Such man-centered reasons for gathering as the Church will never have long-term durability.

Once Churches focus 100% on worship of God and then let evangelism and all other things to be out-flows of that one purpose then we will see Churches Gather towards God Himself and become more long-lasting.

Ravenhill put it in the same way: "many go to church not to meet God but to hear a sermon about Him"

The older liturgal early church always had the one focus to gather to meet with God. We would do well to make that our focus on modern churches also.

SI Moderator - Greg Gordon

 2019/4/3 20:19Profile

Joined: 2005/6/6
Posts: 696
Campbell River, B.C.


"The liturgical service is at least beautiful; ours is often ugly. Theirs has been carefully worked out through the centuries to capture as much beauty as possible and to preserve a spirit of reverence among the worshipers. Ours is often an off-the-cuff makeshift with nothing to recommend it. Its so-called liberty is often not liberty at all but sheer slovenliness." -A. W. Tozer

I would say also that liturgical churches can become reliant on their liturgy and ceremonies and lack the presence of God. What I want to see in every church, liturgical or not, is the presence of God manifested.

Nigel Holland

 2019/4/3 20:35Profile

Joined: 2019/4/4
Posts: 4
Mid West

 Re: 6000 Churches Close Annually in America

Why do some young people leave Church all together? Why do other young people stay? Why do we go to Church anyway?

What are the honest answers? Do we really need a Doctorate to revitalize a church? What is a vital church? Well, if you as speaking of what is a vital church in the peoples eyes so that it will grow, you will come up will all sorts of programs.

If you are speaking of what is a vital church in God's eyes, it will be entirely different.

Could it be that the people's churches are what are dying and as in Rev 3, Jesus is now knocking on individual hearts?

Could it also be that the Churches with a heart for "get my people ready" are the ones with small numbers of believers who have a desperate heart for Jesus?

Is there a new reformation brewing in these small churches that are going beyond the salvation message and are beginning to understand we all must truly die to self if the Holy Spirit is going to be able to transform hearts and minds in ways that truly create within the new creations in Christ, salt and light that those who are truly asking, seeking and knocking, will be attracted to? As they were in the beginning of the Church age?

Could it be we are on the edge of the death of this Church age and God is going to work wonders in the lives of those who now are finding a reverent fear and a rebirth of a desire to please Him with how we live? -- and not with how we continue to try to revitalize dead churches?

How many times have you seen the folks who have been in a church for 30 to 50 years find a small group that is on fire for the Lord, only to hear them say, I know this is what I've been searching for all of my life, but all my friends (and my comfortability) is with my old church?

 2019/4/5 12:23Profile

Joined: 2012/2/8
Posts: 5638


Maybe the 6000 needed to close.

Sometimes there needs to be severe pruning to promote healthy growth.


 2019/4/5 15:38Profile


On this earth there is only one church, but men build walls of separation, be they literal, denominational, doctrinal, or commercial (treating each building as a dues-paying club, so "How dare you go over to visit *that* church?").

Sound doctrine is imperative, of course, but I am speaking of divisions over non-essentials. The early church in Jerusalem broke bread from house to house daily. Wouldn't it be wonderful if believers across the world decided to visit different gatherings of Christians every week, be it in home meetings or church buildings? Some clergy would be afraid that would be bad for business, and they may be correct...but it was never supposed to be an institution for the money changers in the first place.

 2019/4/5 17:36

Joined: 2008/4/1
Posts: 531
America's Heartand


I am not sure of the stats for every group. However, for the fellowship I serve, and similar ones, we are planting far more churches than are closing resulting in substantial net growth,

The vast majority of the closures are in small town/rural communities that are seeing substantial overall population shrinkage. The people simply no longer live there in sufficient numbers to support an ongoing congregation. That is the reason for the lions share of closings in the fellowships I work in.(Assemblies of God, Vineyard)

From the AG Trust page,

"From January 2017 to mid 2018, Church Multiplication Network saw over 500 new churches planted in the Assemblies of God. We praise God for that, but we believe for even greater results in 2019 as we pray for 500 churches to be planted in one calendar year --- for the first time in the history of our AG Fellowship.

That includes 28 planted on September 16 which was National Church Planting Day.

Read the article. It is enlightening.

Article can be read in full at

I am seeing similar results in the Vineyard movement as well.

 2019/4/7 14:47Profile

Joined: 2017/7/14
Posts: 1162
Snoqualmie, WA


Here's a simple thought.

What are they doing in China so that their churches increase steadily in the face of horrible persecution?

What are we doing in America so that our churches are decreasing steadily in the face of abundant prosperity?

Praise the Lord for 500 more Churches.


 2019/4/8 12:08Profile

Joined: 2008/10/25
Posts: 3421
This world is not my home anymore.


This is all some of my opinion! :)

by sermonindex
Once Churches focus 100% on worship of God and then let evangelism and all other things to be out-flows of that one purpose then we will see Churches Gather towards God Himself and become more long-lasting.

I think we agree and I'm just saying it different, sorry! But evangelism flows from a loving relationship with Christ and worshiping Him in our daily lives 24/7 through humble obedience and then out of that we love others as Christ loves them.

Not one person in this world cares how much you know about religion, theology, liturgy, etc until they truly know how much YOU care.

by sermonindex
The older liturgal early church always had the one focus to gather to meet with God. We would do well to make that our focus on modern churches also.

Yes, we would do well brother but sadly, the vast majority of churches that meet focus on their denomination and say (to God), "you gotta meet with us in our denomination's box and then we'll accept it." And anything that doesn't match it, doesn't get it (including God).

Check yourself and your church to see exactly HOW they actually meet with God.

God bless,

“My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence?” ~C.S. Lewis (A Grief Observed, p. 66).


 2019/4/9 19:41Profile

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