One of the patterns I see is the cycle of dependency that sets into a church as it develops. I have lived thru 3 of these cycles in churches I have been part of. It is a sad thing when it happens. It is nearly always irreversible and is usually terminal.
I see it most like a parent who raises up a child, that child becomes misled and then somewhere along the way drifts into addiction. It's a heartbreaking thing to see. The parent grieves. Without intervention the child will perish. And when it's the church of Jesus... it breaks the heart of her Bridegroom. Without intervention, she will perish.
Here's the pattern. I speak not about any particular church or denomination, but of those who follow this inexorable cycle, a train that runs headlong down this track to death:
Birth. New Church Plant. Starting Fresh. The members are hungry. Eager. The Spirit of God is alive. I remember well these days. There would be prophecies, tongues, interpretation of tongues, dynamic altar services. Worship would go on for an hour sometimes. People laid out. Dancing in the aisles. Preaching that ripped the mask off the enemies schemes. Powerful times. You couldn't take your eyes off. The outreaches were powerful because that's all there was. Fellowship was sweet because you were all of like mind. The world was coming.
Building. The success of this vital new work means we need a building. OR a bigger building. This means debt usually. This building becomes the focus of the ministry. The myth is "We could do so much more if we had our own place". Then when the church gets their own place, the place gets them. I have more than once advised pastor leaders NOT to build too soon. It is a bondage you may not want to have. It can kill you. It certainly sucks a lot of energy up to develop and maintain this project.
Budgets. Once a church comes to a certain point, when the money coming in is flattening out, when the building is sucking over half or more of the church's income, then the art of Budgeting kicks in. No longer does Holy Spirit decide how and where you will send or use your money. The bank does. The budget committee does. The bureaucracy does. The pall is thickening.
Boards. As the difficulties in doing what needs to be done to meet budgets and do some form of ministry, boards are created. Women's, missions, children, men's, community, prison and a hundred other little fiefdoms over lorded by people elected not for their competence but for their ability to be team players. The board is the anti apostolic form of church governance and always results in complete stagnation. Boards exist where Prophets are not Heeded. When you see boards, committees and leader groups formed you know the trend is toward the grave.
Boredom. Safety is the result of consensus. Consensus rules because leadership is lacking. No risks are taken. No hopes and dreams. Let's not rock the boat. The spiritual incest causes the joy to be sucked out. The source of this is a lack of new blood. Tradition sets in. Rules take over. Things stop because of a sense of "Order". Order that denies the power of God. Death is imminent.
Baloney. Arguments and conflicts over really foolish things begin here. It is said that the Bolsheviks came and destroyed the Orthodox church in Russia after the Revolution right in the middle of a debate that was tearing the church apart over the color of vestments. The fact is we are now arguing over things just as silly. We no longer see the big picture. The main thing ceased to be the main thing a long time before. This is where gnat sized arguments are strained at. Love no longer reigns. The Church now breaths it's last.
Blaming. A remnant remains. Legacy leaders. Legacy members. No new people come in. The blame is plenty to go around. The former pastor who messed it all up. The church split. The bad elder board. The bad worship team. The lousy sound system. Fill in the blank. The truth was that Ichabod was hung over the door long ago. This now simply a corpse. You can find them all over town. Huge buildings with boards of elders presiding over fellowships that should seat three hundred now seating thirty. Dead church.
Bereavement. This is how those who were there at the beginning feel about the church they once knew. The living Body. The vitality. I have many friends who were there long ago who cannot stomach the church any more. Who love God. But the stench of death is too strong to put up with very long. The conversations you have with these people always results in "Remember when?"
There is an answer of course. Not every church goes thru this cycle. I know of several who have kept love alive. Fewer than I hoped would be the case. I won't name names. A couple of these now dead churches are still doing OK. They have not yet fallen into decline. But the spirit of God is no longer welcome. There are a couple others who are just a few years from the end.
The answer to this is to close it up right now. Change the name on the door. Fire all the leadership. Ask them to leave. Start over. Plant a new church in the old building. It would be really good if from the time the door closes till then new plant starts that six months could pass. You do not want those old spirits and old demons to come back. They WERE the death of the Church.
Jesus said it best. "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels--a plentiful harvest of new lives." John 12:24 NLT
Does your church need to roll back to it's birth? If it does.. it will need to die to all the things that suck the life out of her. Nothing of the old must remain. You must be born again.
Only courage and apostolic leadership can create this.. and you can't vote that in. It either is or is not.