Four thousand churches close their doors each year. On top of that, 70% of Kentucky Baptist churches are plateaued or in decline. At least 20% of Kentucky Baptist churches did not baptize a new believer in the past twelve months. Persistent and unresolved problems are often a factor in such declining churches. The church in Acts 6 experienced a problem, too, and there are many lessons we can learn from their handling of the situation.
The beginning of Acts says the early church was experiencing phenomenal growth. The Holy Spirit had come in power, the gospel was being preached and thousands of people had come to faith in Jesus and were baptized.
But something happened in that church that seemed to stymie their forward progression. Acts 6:1-7 documents a problem that threatened the future viability of this thriving congregation.
The problem was soon addressed, a solution was recommended and applied, and then we are told that the gospel was preached, and the church once again experienced the power of God in converting sinners to new life in Christ.
How can a pastor, or pastor and other church leaders, help a church that is experiencing problems to the degree that the congregation has plateaued or is in decline? Here are some general considerations from the actions of the leaders in Acts 6:1-7:
1. Discover the problem: In Acts 6, the problem was a division among the members over a group of widows who were not being served. The church did not need to do an extensive survey to discover their problem. It was apparent to everyone. Wise church leaders do not need to be problem hunters, but they do need the wisdom to recognize when trouble has arisen that threatens the unity and forward progression of the congregation.
2. Lean into the problem: While some problems in the life of a local church remedy themselves without help from others, that is not the case for all problems. The presenting issue in Acts 6 required involvement from leadership. If the church you are serving has been plateaued or in decline for several years, there are likely some unresolved issues that will need your attention. As you pray and pay attention to the life of the congregation, you may soon discover matters that must be addressed.
3. Collaborate on a solution: One of the great realities of the church in Acts 6 is that they had a model of shared leadership. The apostles worked together and arrived at a potential solution. The pastor who has a group of deacons or elders who will help him diagnose church problems and determine potential remedies is blessed indeed.
4. Implement the solution and move forward: When you address the situation at the church you serve, you may not experience the same outcome as the church in Acts 6, but the problems must be addressed. Wise pastors will be thoughtful, prayerful and considerate, but they will also be intentional. When problems are solved, the church can focus its energy on the outward mission given to them by Christ.
Let’s strive to see no additional Kentucky Baptist churches become part of the “decline” statistic. Like the Acts 6 church, let’s wisely address conflict so that church ministry isn’t hindered. May the Lord use you as a catalyst in your congregation to solve problems and help the church move forward in its mission to impact your community and the world for Christ.