Turnaround Fellowship – A New Blog Series

Growing Light Bulb The Christian Chronicle recently published their Top Stories of 2009 list. Heading the list was the membership decline in Churches of Christ. Without a doubt, that was the biggest story in Churches of Christ for 2009. However, it's been a work in progress for some time. Hence, I'm beginning a new series of blog posts, entitled, Turnaround Fellowship.

Below I list seven things that I believe would most substantially help Churches of Christ reverse course. There are certainly others. If you have others to offer, please share them in the comments section.

All of these can be worked on, over time. I will take one per day over the next couple of weeks and offer some possible solutions. I'm not under the illusion that these are the only seven things we need to work on or that my observations won't rattle a few cages. I'm also aware that I could be wrong or off ten degrees, as these comments are also generalizations of our fellowship as a whole. Thus, individual congregations may not have some of these issues. These are simply personal observations I've made as I travel the country talking to churches and leaders about the good, the bad, and the ugly of ministry.

It's OK for us to disagree. You may think there are some things missing, and some things on my list that we already do quite well collectively. I'm hoping the comments section can provide a lively forum for passionate, godly, debate. We've got to begin talking frankly about things—or 2009's lead story will be the lead story of 2010 and beyond. I desperately want to see the church prevail in the 21st Century. Most importantly, so does God.

I believe that even mild improvement in these areas would do much to stem decline and even produce growth in many places. I am not a CofC basher. In fact, I'm known as a bit of a patriot. However, we have some issues that we need to work through…and work through yesterday.

So, in that spirit, here we go:

  1. Healthy Leadership. First place by miles.
  2. Flexibility and Nimbleness.
  3. Increased Generosity Toward the Local Church.
  4. Increased Practical Ministry Skill Among Leaders and Members.
  5. Increased Cooperation Among Churches and Institutions.
  6. Increased Care/Attention Toward the Next Generation.
  7. Increased Care/Attention Toward Weekend Assemblies.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Share Your Thoughts

7 thoughts on “Turnaround Fellowship – A New Blog Series

  1. Max Weber (the father of sociology) taught that bureaucracy usually replaces a loss of the Spirit and fosters oligarchy, rule by a few; an interesting observation when related to churches. The crisis of leadership in most churches isn’t an organizational one, but a spiritual one.

  2. I will look forward to reading this series. I was raised in a non Bible-belt CoC congregation which continues to struggle today. Now as a minister, I have served with CoC’s outside of the Bible-belt and many of the same problems exist. Many of these problems fall under the broad general catagories you plan to discuss. One observation is that many of the CoC’s established outside of the Bible-belt were done so simply as a transplanted church (as opposed to a cross-culturally planted incarnational church). That is, churches planted in places like Chicago or South Bend to places like central New York State and rural Minnesota and Kansas were simply churches based on the cultural assumptions of the Bible-belt rather than taking into consideration each individual context which is as varried as it is numbered. This was a “one size fits all” approach to church polity, evangelism & ministry, etc… and it has been detrimental for the most part.
    I suggest that one major change which needs to occur is for every local church to learn how to be missional (think and act missiologically) in a way unique to their own cultural environment. Obviously, this is no easy task but it starts with our universities, seminaries, and Bible-schools training those preparing for congregational ministry and/or preaching to learn how to do missiology in the local church. Of course, some churches will outright reject this as heresy but that is another problem all together. It also means that the experience of academic professors practicing their discipline need to be as much as possible in as diversified settings as is represented in our culture. In other words, while noting the exception of those who have foreign mission experience, our professors need to have experience outside of the Bible-belt (which is not always the case).
    Grace and peace,

  3. Wes,
    I thought about “issues orientation,” but felt as though that isn’t as much a fellowship-wide problem as a symptom of dysfunction at the local level–meaning it really varies church to church. I could be wrong, but I think our fellowship has come a long way in this regard…though we surely have a ways to go.
    Christ-Centered theology should be on almost any list of this sort. The aim of this particular list, however, is at the “tactical” level. Meaning, it’s focus assumes a Christ-Centered theological umbrella…while focusing on practical ministry objectives that emerge from the assumed theology.

  4. Unfortunately, since the elders (leaders) are not paid by the church, and thus not accountable to it in any meaningful way, this particular (and crucial) change is highly unlikely. I know that’s a rather pessimistic (and sad) assessment, but I believe it would be substantiated by even a cursory poll of most ministers in the Churches of Christ (if they were allowed to respond anonymously). The good news is that, in those isolated churches where leaders resolve to change, the other nine changes come rather easily by comparison. As the leadership (elders) goes, so go the churches. That’s the design of leadership in Churches of Christ.