We were leading a workshop based on our book "Ten Temptations of Church: Why Churches Decline and What to Do About It." People began to wander in. People were moving slowly. There was no laughter, no good-natured teasing, no energy from those in attendance. No one, it seemed, wanted to be there. This happens quite a bit at our workshops. Our workshops are for leaders who understand that 90% of the churches in America are either in stagnation or decline. One District Superintendent said "I read the title of this workshop and still came against my better judgment. I don't like the word 'decline.'" (If not decline, then what are we going to call it?) The DS spoke with a slow, deliberate voice that revealed the malady for a great majority of leaders in the room. The room was filled with a low-grade depression. Let me explain..... Everyone has seen someone struggling through the day with a low-grade fever. It is a fever that will not keep someone from work, school, or attending to the kids. It is a low-grade fever that simply saps someone's energy. The one who suffers from a low-grade fever is simply "going through the motions." All churches in decline suffer from a low-grade depression. Like a low-grade fever, it saps the energy from its leaders. Churches in decline are going through the motions. Churches in decline are playing church, not being the church. Churches in decline have low expectations and rarely see new possibilities. "We have never done it that way before," is the declining church's stop sign. In worship there is often little energy. One pastor lamented "Every Sunday I work hard to bring energy to worship but there seems to be no passion from the people, there is nothing coming back to me!"
We have an obligation to treat the low-grade depression. Take some antidepressants which bring hope and new possibilities. Remember that the church is the only organization that does not exist for the benefit of its members! Find a new passion for our purpose; to make new disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world. Bring everything into alignment with this purpose. Make some changes to the worship service. Bring some color into the sanctuary. Encourage everyone to ask "How am I being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ for others today and what will I do to model the presence of Christ for others tomorrow?"
We must do battle with the low-grade depression that has gone untreated in our declining churches all these years.