I read that there are two "extreme" type of churches today.
At one extreme is the "feel-good" church that promises health and prosperity. It is a name it and claim it environment. Everybody is happy and not much is demanded of the person who attends. In some cases, there is even a fast food mentality. Have a cup of coffee and a doughnut while you're listening to our super teaching pastor and we'll have you out in less than 55 minutes. You will experience the best cutting-edge technology you've ever seen and it will fly by so quickly that you won't realize that you were in church.
At the other end of the extreme is the church that isn't even sure that they like the idea of growth and they are not growing. They may even think that they are being more doctrinally pure by sitting back and doing nothing. This kind of church is dwindling in number and growing older. In many ways, they are still living in the twentieth century.
The largest arena is the churches in between these two extremes. These churches gag at the "feel good" mentality. They don't know who they are trying to reach. They would say, "We go after everybody...that's what Jesus would do." They preach sin and forgiveness, but fail to reach their target (what target?) where the people are. It would never enter their minds to get you out in an hour (we're not McDonald's), or any time frame. It would not be a spiritual thing to do. These churches have become stagnant and since it is not showing itself in an obvious way, they are not thinking what life could look like by the time the next new president is elected.
What is needed to be an effective church if you are in the large center group? I guess a book could be written as an answer, but let me take a stab at it in a few paragraphs. I wish it was that simple.
In 2008-2009 the individual church must identify who they are. They could say that they are a solidly orthodox church that believes in biblical fidelity and is trying to proclaim the gospel, while leading people to an understanding of the lordship of Christ. Now I know that was a mouthful, but many church do what I just did. If the average person in the pew cannot articulate that in every day language and live it, that church is still not getting any traction.
Today, it is vital that churches articulate a vision of what they are all about. If I don't have a vision of what I want to do with my life, then I don't know where I'm going and cannot plan on how to get there. I have to allow "life" situations to dictate it for me. Without a good vision, my wife won't know where we are going either. It will affect her. With a vision and a plan we can move from 2008 where we are right now to where God would have us be 10 years down the road. Don't sit back and wait for something to happen.
Is the church losing ground? No, we are just in a holding pattern as we get caught up in time and methodology. We are like the airliner that is circling the airport. The fog is heavy and visibility is poor. Will we try a visual landing, or rely on instruments? We could be in this holding pattern for several years, but we will come out of it and be stronger than ever.
This did not do the subject justice in such a short space, but maybe it got you to think!