5 Painful Sacrifices Flatlining Churches MUST Be Willing to Make


Most churches aren’t reaching people. They have no pulse. They’re flatlining.

Most churches are either small churches reaching no one at all or large churches reaching mostly former members of small churches.

Part of the reason most churches in America are struggling to reach people is because they are unwilling to make sacrifices for the kingdom. Unfortunately, it is often as simple as that. Usually this unwillingness is motivated by one or all of these:

1. Fear – What will happen to the church if things change? Will people leave? Will God provide? Will our church lose tithers?

2. Selfishness - Many people & churches struggle from what I call “Jonah Syndrome” – the spiritual disease of the prophet Jonah that is grateful for His own salvation but has no desire to see others experience the same salvation.

3. Laziness – No one seems to be able or willing to put the time, energy, and resources necessary forth to reach the lost. Everyone is too busy with work, kids, school, and life in general to pursue the difficult work of reaching people.

If your church is one of the many small churches out there failing to connect with new people and draw them in, here are some things you might need to be willing to sacrifice in order to reach the lost people of today in your community.

1. Your Music

“Music isn’t everything. It shouldn’t be that crucial. People should be able to worship to anything.” No, it isn’t everything and yes, they should be able to. But it’s no easier to sing praises to God through terrible music than it is to grow through terrible preaching. Like it or not, music is a vital component of today’s church and it is one of the most important things visitors to your church will take notice of whether or not they are believers. AND – it is an incredibly important method of communication with and worship of God that churches ought to strive to do excellently.

I’m not suggesting all music should be any particular style. What I am suggesting is that church music should be good. For some churches in some settings, that will mean all hymns and a piano. But for others (most churches in our world today) that will mean a more contemporary style with more contemporary songs (or as close as you can get to it).

You and your church MUST be willing to adapt your music. Asking, “What does the current congregation enjoy most?” is the selfish question and attitude. The selfless, humble, mission minded question is “What kind of music will help us reach more people?”

One last thought here – you MUST be willing to invest what it costs for a strong music ministry. It might require reducing funding elsewhere if your budget is tight. But if you want a good, strong music ministry in your church, you need to be willing to invest what it costs.

2. Your past ministries

Odds are, even if you are a small and declining church, your ministry programs keep chugging along with the handful of people who put just enough into them to keep them going. Of course, there are some bright spots and healthy ministries, but most of them are just squeaking by doing the same old same old year in and year out.

If these ministries have not grown or connected with current members or new people, they most likely need to go. No matter how good they seem to be, if all they are is a few faithful people performing CPR every week on a flatlining ministry, something needs to change. A ministry doing little to no discipleship, little to no prayer or mission work, with little to no fruit production is just Christian busywork.

You and your church MUST be willing to put an end to some things that have been very important ministries in the past, sometimes even the recent past. It may mean ending support for a mission agency that you have no real partnership with. It may mean ending a ministry that has had 4 faithful people meeting for 15 years but is producing no real fruit. What is it for your church?

This will be a painful thing to tackle. People will need time to grieve the loss of something that was so close to their hearts for so many years. It’s a guarantee that people will get upset and it is likely that someone will leave the church. But fruitless, unproductive, flatlining ministries that require lots of energy just to keep alive need to be lovingly closed down. If they don’t, ministries reaching no one and producing no fruit will continue to suck the church dry of its resources without any kingdom fruit being produced.

3. Your personal preferences