One guarantee: If survival is the goal of a church, then death is the inevitable outcome.
Survival is “all about us.” When a church is all about us, it’s not at all about the gospel, making disciples, or being faithful to the biblical mandates to welcome the stranger. Only when a church is willing to follow Jesus’ call to “take up your cross daily and follow me” and to “lay down your life” (including the church’s desires, preferences, comfort, the status quo, and even the church’s needs) will it have any chance at all of growth. Without that surrender, it won’t have the will to do what it takes to reach non-Christians.
Almost every church has the “desire” to grow. They really wish they’d grow. But few churches have the “will” to grow – they aren’t willing to actually do what’s necessary to grow. 1 Corinthians 9:22 “I have become all things to all people that by all possible means I might save some.”
Declining church has the will to grow? Can you say Hip Hop, cookies and coffee in the sanctuary, t-shirts, dialog sermons, texting in worship, YouTube, and taking the tattooed skinhead to lunch after worship? If a church isn’t “willing” to do all this and more, then they’re in survival mode, not “whatever it takes to be faithful to winning the world for Jesus” mode … and there’s very little hope for them (they’re an 80% church, not a 20% church). –Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Hip Hop and all the rest of that is a recipe for a church’s growth. What I am saying is that if they’re not willing to actually and seriously consider ALL of that – and anything else that’s legal, ethical, and moral – they have the desire, but not the will, to grow. And their survival mode will kill them.