Tipping Point (noun): the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place.
If current trajectories continue, American churches will pass a tipping point. Our congregations will begin a likely unstoppable path toward decline that will rival many European churches of the past century. If there is not a significant movement of revitalization, there will be an accelerated rate of decline and death.
The good news is that many church leaders are not denying this reality. They are seeking God and responding obediently. This begins by committing to truth within our churches and being faithful to communicate it to outsiders.
Committing to Truth Inwardly
If a church does not have a solid biblical and theological foundation, all other issues are moot. In some congregations, there is slippage on the doctrine of exclusivity, the biblical truth that Christ is the only way of salvation (John 14:6). In other congregations, leaders and members are questioning the absolute authority of Scripture. That issue is as old as creation when the serpent questioned God’s Word, “Did God really say . . .?” (Genesis 3:1).
We can’t even begin to deal with other tipping point issues until we have resolved the issues of truth and fidelity to Scripture. The slippery slope of questioning God’s authority leads to the decline and death of churches. Are we faithfully and consistently communicating the truth no matter the cost?
Communicating Truth Outwardly
There are many presumably Bible-believing churches that like the idea of evangelism more than doing evangelism. Frankly, I deal with evangelical church leaders and members every day who profess unwavering fidelity to Scripture but haven’t intentionally had a gospel conversation in recent memory.
We are so busy with church activities that we neglect active obedience of the Great Commission. We can be passionate about the placement of the offertory in the worship service but never invite people to come to those worship services. We can complain when the pastor doesn’t visit members sufficiently, but never visit the hurting and lost ourselves.
A church leader recently asked me why I thought his church was not growing. I asked him what his church did every single week to reach, invite, and serve the community. His silence was his own answer. Many of us conservative Christians would rather fight each other than fight against the gates of hell.
It is Time
Still, I am not discouraged. The tipping point is not inevitable. Our obedience may have waned, but God’s power has not. Many church leaders and members are recommitting themselves to a renewed and vibrant mission. Many of their churches are seeking and seeing revitalization.
There is indeed an incipient movement of scrappy churches. It is real. It is growing.
It is time.
With whatever years God gives me, with whatever breaths I have remaining to breathe, I ask God to use me in my church to serve Him and others with unwavering commitment.
And then, and only then, may I dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”
Dr. Rainer spoke on "Communicating the Truth About the Need for Church Revitalization" at the sixth annual Shepherds 360 Church Leaders Conference in October, 2019.