deceased-church

UPDATE: Listen to the podcast episode about this post.

Pre-Order the Book

I was their church consultant in 2003. The church’s peak attendance was 750 in 1975. By the time I got there the attendance had fallen to an average of 83. The large sanctuary seemed to swallow the relatively small crowd on Sunday morning.

The reality was that most of the members did not want me there. They were not about to pay a consultant to tell them what was wrong with their church. Only when a benevolent member offered to foot my entire bill did the congregation grudgingly agree to retain me.

I worked with the church for three weeks. The problems were obvious; the solutions were difficult.

On my last day, the benefactor walked me to my rental car. “What do you think, Thom?” he asked. He could see the uncertainty in my expression, so he clarified. “How long can our church survive?” I paused for a moment, and then offered the bad news. “I believe the church will close its doors in five years.”

I was wrong. The church closed just a few weeks ago. Like many dying churches, it held on to life tenaciously. This church lasted ten years after my terminal diagnosis.

My friend from the church called to tell me the news. I took no pleasure in discovering that not only was my diagnosis correct, I had mostly gotten right all the signs of the impending death of the church. Together my friend and I reviewed the past ten years. I think we were able to piece together a fairly accurate autopsy. Here are eleven things I learned.

  1. The church refused to look like the community. The community began a transition toward a lower socioeconomic class thirty years ago, but the church members had no desire to reach the new residents. The congregation thus became an island of middle-class members in a sea of lower-class residents.
  2. The church had no community-focused ministries.  This part of the autopsy may seem to be stating the obvious, but I wanted to be certain. My friend affirmed my suspicions. There was no attempt to reach the community.
  3. Members became more focused on memorials. Do not hear my statement as a criticism of memorials. Indeed, I recently funded a memorial in memory of my late grandson. The memorials at the church were chairs, tables, rooms, and other places where a neat plaque could be placed. The point is that the memorials became an obsession at the church. More and more emphasis was placed on the past.
  4. The percentage of the budget for members’ needs kept increasing. At the church’s death, the percentage was over 98 percent.
  5. There were no evangelistic emphases. When a church loses its passion to reach the lost, the congregation begins to die.
  6. The members had more and more arguments about what they wanted. As the church continued to decline toward death, the inward focus of the members turned caustic. Arguments were more frequent; business meetings became more acrimonious.
  7. With few exceptions, pastoral tenure grew shorter and shorter. The church had seven pastors in its final ten years. The last three pastors were bi-vocational. All of the seven pastors left discouraged.
  8. The church rarely prayed together. In its last eight years, the only time of corporate prayer was a three-minute period in the Sunday worship service. Prayers were always limited to members, their friends and families, and their physical needs.
  9. The church had no clarity as to why it existed. There was no vision, no mission, and no purpose.
  10. The members idolized another era. All of the active members were over the age of 67 the last six years of the church. And they all remembered fondly, to the point of idolatry, was the era of the 1970s. They saw their future to be returning to the past.
  11. The facilities continued to deteriorate. It wasn’t really a financial issue. Instead, the members failed to see the continuous deterioration of the church building. Simple stated, they no longer had “outsider eyes.”

Though this story is bleak and discouraging, we must learn from such examples. As many as 100,000 churches in America could be dying. Their time is short, perhaps less than ten years.

What do you think of the autopsy on this church? What can we do to reverse these trends?

Get these posts delivered to your inbox daily

Subscribe today and receive my free downloadable resource on the minister's salary!

Comments

  1. Don Matthews says

    While driving by an abandoned old church in Appomattox, VA and wondering what was their story? The Lord gave me the following statement. “They did not vote to die, they simply voted not to live.” A beautiful little church in the vale out of the Norman Rockwell art gallery is now non-existent. The sad story was that no one in the neighborhood even knew their name. Now there is only a grassy knoll where the church once stood. I have pictures. I call it the church with no name.

      • Floyd Hubbell says

        Seven years ago, my wife and I were appointed to a small rural church in Ohio. There were 25 souls worshiping there. I remember my lack of faith in that first month. I prayed that God would allow me to have at least 25 in worship when we moved on. If a parishioner moved away or left to be with the Lord, I asked for another to replace them. I did not want to have a net loss for the Kingdom, at least on my watch as Pastor. We are now in the middle of a building campaign (building half finished) and approaching 200 regular worshipers, many are young families. We are not affluent church but we are passionate about worship. We claim the two most important commandments Jesus gave us and we are constantly amazed at what He is doing in our little church. What is also amazing is that he is using me and my wife at the age of 65 in this wild time. I guess what I want to say—— God still blesses humble people, even in small rural churches.

        • Angel Maldonado says

          Thanks for this. I am in my second year of Pastoring a church in NYC and we have 50 worshippers there. Unfortunatly they are all 50 and up age. No Youth attend the children. Barely any children and there is no desire to reach the community. I will continue to pray that God brings more youth and younger adults to our congregation.

          • Dennis Raffaelli says

            Us older people cannot help when we are born. This blog tends to marginalize older people. Churches have programs for young people and young marrieds, but tend to nelect older people. They don’t mind cashing our checks in the offering though.

          • Mark Nowakowski says

            While I understand your feelings Dennis, I also wonder where Christ is in such a response…

          • Elizabeth Newsome says

            My heart bleeds for your church of 50. You go get the young people Pastor. I don’t care what seminary, if you went, taught you! Bring in the babies, explain to the Grandmas and the grandpas that the babies are going to have to change a lot of poopie diapers, but with your love and their strength, this church has a chance to be revived. Older ones, the youth aren’t your enemies. Younger ones, the older ones are not your enemies. Teach them Grandpa, teach those young people. Don’t come in with the attitude I’m gonna sit these geezers down. But instead come in with the attitude, I have a chance to learn how to love Jesus and endure! Older people say I might not like their music, but I sure love Jesus, so I’ll learn to rock with ‘em. We’ll connect both generations together, and Jesus will smile.
            I remember I had a dream, and I heard a song being sung. “Where’s Aunt Betty at? Tell me have you seen her? She’s got a lot to give, or did you set her down”? Then I heard “Where’s Deacon Jerry at? Tell me have you heard him? You have a lot to learn, are you listening to him”?

            Unfortunately Aunt Betty died without sharing anything with the church, even after I shared my dream. But there were some individuals that heard her, saw her smile, and got to love he!
            Bro. Jerry is still here, don’t let him pass before we realize, wow, that man had a whole lot of wisdom.

            The point is, the church doesn’t need the older ones to be sit down, or gasp! Be set down, we need both generations to work together in order to receive the ones God wants to send in, that’s like neither one of you. Both generations are part of the quilt that’s being pieced together, but there will be some gaps, and those gaps will be filled by the ones you both disciple.

          • Andrew Downing says

            We have a small bus ministry that picks up kids in the colonias(poorer neighborhoods). It’s Kingdom work that gets ‘older people’ involved in teaching classes. It gets members involved in bibles studies with parents of these kids. Member’s kids get a chance to distribute Christmas gifts in neighborhoods to ‘the least of these’ and see how lucky they truly are. You get a special feeling that only comes from ‘loving your neighbor as yourself. If the Lord builds the outreach ministry, ‘they will come.’ It only takes one to get started.

          • SRS says

            I was asked to speak at a ladies conference at a church on the other side of town from my own church where I live. They were a small group,maybe 40-50 members, but they did a lot of community service projects. They showed me around the church and I looked at several rooms to decide on where the largest room would hold the most number of ladies. They took me to a room farthest away, they told me it is the youth room, but they have no youth so it was full of left over items from a free garage sale they had just held a few weeks before. I told them we needed this room. They hesitated knowing they had a lot to clean out, but the following week they got together and cleaned out the room in preparation of the conference. When I went back a few weeks later, I saw it was all cleaned out, then I told them it is ready for all of the youth to use. We must prepare, with expectation of what God will do in our churches. I saw they were reaching out to the community in so many ways, God was going to bless them..That was a year ago. just this past month, I found out that they had an event and they had 25 youth in attendance and they are using that same room each week to hold bible study for those same students. I smiled when I heard this. God is so good! We should go, and do… and with great expectation, and give thanks in advance of all the things God is going to do.

          • says

            Praying with you. It’s a challenging balance because our different generations prefer different music styles and someone always seems to express offence. But stay true to loving God and caring for people by simply being a life-giving ministry

        • says

          Thank you for uplifting and encouraging words. Recently appointed to a small rural church the membership roll was two in July of this year. First, I was a bit anxious and often discouraged with the lack of enthusiasm each member displayed. Of course not being much help to my limited supply of members I begin to get up on my faith feet and walk what I had talked. Together we have numbered 13! It might not sound like it’s a large number insomuch as the church before pastoring was over 5,000. Nevertheless, my energy soared when members started returning. I just heard today from one of the parishioners he told me that my ministry was fresh and enjoying the new ideas set with realistic goals has them excited. Things easily banish from our sight. Nothing is a guarantee; yet, I pray that God will permit life to last in order to see the benefits of a packed house in this rural community. The church while packed full of heavenly individuals must see urgent needs. I’ve learned a viable lesson one that carry for years to come. Perchance being in our 60’s is a good thing.

        • gordon Marshall says

          Thank you for telling your story. It is always encouraging to hear of such good news as God still does the extraordinary with the ordinary.
          I am looking forward to talking with you more about your journey.
          Pastor Gordon

        • Greg says

          RE: “We claim the two most important commandments Jesus gave us and we are constantly amazed at what He is doing in our little church.”

          Interesting wording – first it struck me as odd, and then the wisdom in it hit me. I usually hear people talk about claiming promises or blessings, when the commandments are what we should be claiming.

      • Joel says

        Hey Thom! Do you mind sharing how the disciple making was? What was the vision for it…etc. thanks!

        • Thom Rainer says

          Joel: I have a complete video series about it this fall. I need more than a comment string to respond!

      • Gabriel C Eze says

        Yes when a church forgot the purpose of their calling,that they are called to preach the Gospel to every ,they are bound to miss Heaven .

    • John W Carlton says

      I pastored a small rural church for 6 1/2 years. 5 of those bi vo. The last 1 1 1/2 years I had retired from my secular job so I was able to devote more time to the church. I started canvassing my community and several people who lived less rhan 1/2 mile from the church did not know about it. I had to retire because of medical reasons in 2011. I see many of the same things happening in my former pastorate. I pray that they will wake up to the reality of their situation.

    • Joanna Jenkins says

      this breaks my heart, I have been a member of a church that would not look forward, it is slowly dying and it, too, breaks my heart……we can move forward, without loosing our moral compass and compromising The Standard

    • purposedryven says

      wow, i read this post after reading the “Autopsy of a deceased church”… i’m long winded but help me make this short Father(IN jESUS NAME), ok my heart was so hurt an excited at the same time (with breaking comes change) reading this blog an its 1st comment. my hearts desire has always been to be apart of a healing anointed church so that desire has lead me to many churches that needed this consulting! i feel i am getting closer to my destiny,i thought it was customer service but what i see in my God lead vision is that its CHRIST’s Love that we as living sacrifices need to serve the people. i understood that we are the church(temple)…if we —1 Corinthians 6:19–20
      19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

      so if we don’t allow God to fill us an begin the process of transformation then the brick, wood, metal building has no breath of LIFE. I am going to be a part of this wonderful shift of change that is about to swish(slam dunk) through the church(our temples) Plaace me were you want me Lord, it starts right here, right now, thank you Thom an Don, brothers an sisters for being a part also!!

    • manuel astete says

      Im agree my church nobody pray, except for 8 memebers each Saturday at 7.30 am pray for 1 hours…nobody coming also dont have other point to pray….few peolple…everything coming down….

    • says

      I appreciate Thom Rainer’s article and Don Matthews’ response…especially the words the Lord gave to him: “They did not vote to die, they simply voted not to live.” Unfortunately, that is true in too many churches. I’m forwarding this article to my husband, who is a District Superintendent in the United Methodist Church. Good read…

    • Johnny M. Wilson Jr. says

      Thanks for your sentiments Thom. It’s really, hurts. You have truly confirmed my “worst fears about the traditional and conservative congregations.

    • says

      the thing’s of the world has got people not caring about church. we live in a word today that has got in to big of a hurry. when asking people in your area to come and visit or on face book giving them direction’s they still do not come. we are a small church of about 20 member’s once we had about 60 in the early 80’s older member’s dying out younger generation does not want to attend even when invited. when people are not working they are at home resting playing video game’s on cell phone’s going to sporting event’s fishing taking trips watching TV all the thing’s the devil use’s to keep there mind off of the LORD GOD! our nation is still standing because of people still praying but sin is raging more and more. we as believer’s and still are holding on to GOD’S WORD need to go into our closet’s and pray harder. turn off the TV’S video game’s cell phone’s and give GOD all our time in prayer. i believe that we are about to take our trip home to heaven like the word of GOD say’s for us to watch and look toward the eastern sky. our GOD is closer to sending his son JESUS back sooner than we think. may GOD bless the USA AMEN!

    • says

      Re: Abandoned old church in Appomattox, VA

      Thank you for sharing this story. Around 1976, six months after I was saved in my home, I was afraid to go to go to a church of another religion that preached the gospel because of my catholic heritage. I was 15, when I finally decided to attend, I was hooked because of the love from the people. The church had just come out of a split and with encouragement from some of the people, I was baptized, joined the choir, and joined the softball team. I learned how to love others and souls. Brought the teachings and Christian love home to reach my family where they were saved and transformed. This took several years of living differently for God. I made mistakes in front of them, but they still got saved.

  2. Paul Curry says

    Thom:
    I think you glance over the factor of racism. I have seen churches either close their doors or moved because of change of race and culture in a neighborhood. The church was no longer in an all white community. I have had to walk away from churches because they simply didn’t want those kinds of people in their church and made it quite clear that was how it would be. A church cannot thrive if it fails to live and minister in its community. Let’s be honest and admit that there is still a spirit of segregation in churches today. I wish and pray it was not true, but sadly I would be lying if I said it didn’t exist.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Paul –

      While racism and white flight are common explanations for the death of many churches, such is not the case of this autopsied church. The community was mostly Anglo 30 years ago, and it still is today. The change has been socioeconomical only. There is certainly prejudice present in this story, but the prejudice here is not racism.

      I do not glance past the issue of racism. When it is present, I call it for what it is.

      • says

        I served on a church staff in the late 80a that was facing this issue. They had always been a “lily-white”, middle-class, close-knit congregation, but as they increasingly turned in on themselves they turned away from the community, which was becoming a melting pot, both racially and economically.
        In a staff mtg once, I said what no one else would- “we are going to either move, die, or bloom where we are planted. I believe we know what God’s will for us is.” Sadly, the people in the church did not want to reach the community, thereby choosing to die, as far as I was concerned. I left soon after. Another autopsy, sadly.

      • Sheila B. says

        Any type of schism which exists in the church has the ability to cause the demise of the church. RacISM, SexISM, and ClassISM. In addition, one cannot forgo the churches unwillingness to invest in youth, young adult and children’s ministries. Social Clubs have certain standards in order to be “voted” in as a member. The church is no exception, she has steadily and increasingly become an inwardly focused “social club”, instead of an outwardly focused living and breathing life force. It’s unfortunate, for many churches (large, small, sunset, and moon) if you don’t look like me, dress like me, act like me or have a lifestyle like me…this environment is not for you. Please don’t misunderstand, I LOVE the church and her endless possibilities, it’s the “churched” who are the problem.

      • says

        Hi Thom,

        I didn’t think you were looking past racism. If there were some you would’ve said so. The prejudice involved in churches like that are against new people in general, not just of a certain race. I’ve known elders who are just prejudice against people who did not grown up in said church and even towards people who don’t want to wake up early to attend church.

        I’ve had a goal to consult with churches for as little money as possible (on their part) just so I can get the message to them that things need to change. I’ve seen three churches close their doors and I know many others who are heading in the same direction. I know what a dying church looks like. I just need a way to get into the doors of many of these small churches and I pray I can do it some day soon.

        In guest preaching for some churches, I am told afterward by evangelistic thinking people how un-evangelistic their congregation has become. They lament and wish I could pass my passion onto the people in the pews. Don’t you wish you could just touch people and they’d magically catch the evangelism passion you have for the lost?

        That’d be a nice super power to have.

        • Thom Rainer says

          Thanks Brian. I really appreciate your words and heart for these struggling churches. I am praying for a great awakening from God.

        • says

          I think evangelism for the most part is taught not caught! I’ve seen churches mostly move the way the pastor leads. I’ve seen an entire church where the pastor started preaching about love become the “Love Church” I think if the leaders don’t have a plan for teaching and giving opportunities for evangelism, the church won’t just magically begin to evangelize.

          • says

            I think your point is valid. In the end doesn’t all success as well as failure rise and fall with leadership? I have just been appointed pastor of the church in this article, well, the church name is different and the town different but it’s the same church… It is my job to turn the church around, to lead them to success. Will it be easy, certainly not but I will take responsibility regardless of the outcome. There are a great deal of these types of stories on the internet, I would welcome one success story!
            Blessings…

    • Ms. Rita says

      I absolutely concur. Sunday mornings are the most segregated times in American churches. I remember attending a particular church in Denton (Megachurch) and although I went faithfully for some time, the members always addressed me as a guest due to my racial make-up. People honestly need to wake up and realize that heaven will not be segregated. We will all worship Him without regard to race, socioeconomic status, or any other pitfalls that occur on earth that keeps the body of Christ bound. Oh, if there were a renewal in the body of Christ and we would live in love as the first century Christians who were actually persecuted, crucified, tortured and many other horrid atrocities — not being put through all of those trials (although some of us still are), but to have the faith that they did. THE FAITH. THE HOPE. THE LOVE.

      • says

        I think that phrase about being the most segregated hour is a little abused sometimes.

        I’ve interviewed people, many being those that our mostly white congregation helped during the Katrina disaster. I asked specifically about attending a mostly white congregation. I was talking about ours.

        I was told they’d rather be in a congregation with people that looked like them. These guys I talked with may have been the exception to the rule, but I don’t think that’s the case. MacGavarn used a term called the homogenous unit prinicple (see link)

        http://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/8553/what-is-the-homogenous-unit-principle-of-church-
        growth

        People feel more comfortable not having to cross social, class or ethnic barriers just to worship Jesus. Can you imagine unchurched people going to a church for the first time, that’s who we’re guided by Jesus to reach, entering a church building where everyone is different from them in many ways. Now if a neighborhood changes, then the make up of the church should change if the congregation is evangelistic.

        I’m now part of a congregation now that is 55% anglo, 30% African American and 15% Hispanic in a community where the demos are about 5% South Asian 12% Pacific Islander 10% African American 20% Hispanic and 53% anglo.

        Sorry to ramble Ms. Rita.

  3. says

    I remember a seminary professor once telling a classroom of young students, “It takes a church 50 years to die.” The only thing you didn’t mention (although you touched on it in #5) is “Factions in the church were more focused on ‘who won the vote’ (no matter the subject of the vote) than on ‘what does the Lord want?'” Sometimes such churches will also flat-out lie in order to get a pastor. I had one church’s search team assure me that “our vote to call you was unanimous!” Only years later did I learn that the true vote was about 54/46%, and that the ‘motion to make the call unanimous’ only passed by a slightly larger margin. Every major vote that was taken at that church during my 4+ years there (except a vote to beautify the building) was divided by percentages ranging from 50/50 to 55/45.

      • says

        Thanks. This post was very useful to me. I created a chart, with the problems listed above in boxes to the left, then a column for how this particular problem affected or didn’t affect the church I was talking about in my reply above. I also have put in columns for my PRESENT church, so that I will guard against these problems. Thankfully, only a couple of the problems have presented themselves at the church where I am now, and in fact we seem to be actively moving in the opposite direction toward a more healthy life, after the church’s having gone through two periods of severe distress several years ago. If you’d like to look at the chart, drop me an email.

  4. says

    Powerful post, Dr. Rainer. I will definitely be sharing this with my church. We began in 1936, and peaked in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. the church has been threw some horrible ordeals, many through kno fault of their own. (A pastor in the 80’s molested children)

    A few of these points fit us perfectly, but thankfully, we’re working on it. If you think about it, please pray for the Southside Baptist Church of Winter Haven, Florida.

    • says

      Tom,

      Hope you’re accessing the resources God has placed before you, i.e. DOM, Florida Baptist Convention staff, fellow pastors, and others. I pastor in Orlando. Know one or two pastors in your area. Am also willing to be one of those resources if God directs. May you be faithful and fruitful in God’s kingdom!

  5. Kevin Rudicil says

    Somewhat related to point #3 – I once attended a church (for about 18 months before I saw the light), that was running offering to offering. There was little left in the coffers to do anything in the community. During one business meeting, I noticed a line item in the budget entitled “Cemetery Fund”. This item had a dollar value of $110,000.00 attached to it! I was curious, so, I asked. It seems that over the years people had contributed large amounts to this fund, but very little was needed to maintain a small cemetery adjacent to the church property. I was also informed that “we may need that someday”, and I got the distinct impression that rather than live for today, and reach people in the community – they would much rather sit on funds designated for the dead. Completely amazed me.

    • Thomas Worsham says

      Had the same experience in one of the first churches that I ever served in as the Youth Pastor. I had ZERO dollars in my youth budget, and yet there was an exorbitant amount of money in the flower and cemetery fund. I asked (as a naive young minister) “how was this possible?” and was told “that if I knew what was good for (me), (I’d) better not ask… “. Thankfully wisdom prevailed and a youth ministry budget was eventually allocated…. It was a learning experience to say the very least.

      • Wolfdog says

        Kevin and Thomas’ stories regarding the unnecessarily large reserves kept in “cemetery accounts” and the secrecy surrounding them provoke me to believe that some churches use this ledger item as nothing more than a “slush fund”. After all, it would be possible to draw on this account or to pay many different “vendors”, “contractors”, etc. for all sorts of nebulous “services” under the purview of such a fund.

        Look, I get that the closing of many churches is sad, even regretful, but the reality is that many more need to die (and shall) in the coming tribulation (in the near-term one, not “the great” one) to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. I am not speaking about personal salvation here, but rather about the separation of effective communities of believers from parasitic churches.

        Financial impropriety and lack of fiscal wisdom will doom many churches that could otherwise continue on, but their failures will be by no means limited to these faults.

    • says

      I was with a church that some lady left 640000 dollars 40 plus years ago now .They fixed up the church out side and inside but did not want to work with the youth .There was an average of 35 youth every Sunday morning that was in the late 90’s .Today they have about 8 or 9 all together the youngest is 55 years old , with a payed pianist ,they to are saving it for a rainy day .Yes they have been getting interest for all of them years and this has never been put in a financial report and I went to church there over 12 years. Money is not the answer to church problems not having the heart to follow Christ is .He wants followers and not fans !!

    • Jay says

      This thread is old, but I thought it would be worthwhile to point out that money that has been designated for one purpose by the donor cannot legally be spent for other things. You might wish the donor had not given so much designated to a particular fund, but you are not permitted to divert designated moneys away from the designated fund.

  6. says

    The title says that there were 11 things, but the article itself only lists 10. ???

    Other than that, I found it very helpful. Thank you.

    Seems like the most common denominator in those issues is an inward focus (the church turned inward on itself). A (for lack of a better phrase) self-centered church.

    – Andy

    • Dan says

      Thanks for the post Dr. Rainer, and thanks Andy for the helpful summary. Inward focus will destroy any church, I believe. Simply put I think inward focus is a decision to focus on the found rather than reaching the lost. Focusing on the found without focusing on the lost is evidence of a hole in a church’s spiritual life. God doesn’t seem interested in empowering and equipping a ministry that doesn’t look past those inside the four walls. More to say on that, but I think you probably get it. Thanks again for the post. I am currently working with my Baptist Association that is creating a team and process to help churches revitalize. This post is helpful, and reaffirms for me that we are on the right track.

      Blessings,
      DK

  7. says

    Thom, I served as pastor to one of these churches. Located in a post transition community the culture inside the church was very dissimilar to the culture in the surrounding community. They lived for a resurrection of the past glory. I was unable to persuade the church to address the problem and ultiimately left. I told them i loved them, but now was not the time in the life of this church that I should be wasting their time. Nor was it the time in my own personal ministry that I was willing to let them waste my time. They were on a death march which left unaltered would come to them very soon. On the day I left town in our U-Haul truck, I drove to the church. It was Sunday morning and church was in session. I parked in a vacant lot across the street, stepped out of the truck, opened my Bible and read, “Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. If they do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” (Luke 9:4, 5 HCSB). I did this without malace, rather in an attempt to say to God, “I tried to lead them to address this problem, but they would not have it.” Like Don’s comment above, in five years the church was sold. The members were scattered and the community was left without a witness in that place.

    To fix such a problem is difficult, but I do believe strong and godly leadership is necessary. And that leadership must be informed by these characteristics of an autopsy of a dead church. The battle may be bloody. The pastor will be a champion to some and a demon to others, but I believe it can be done.

    • says

      Dr. Rainer thanks so much for this post, and Dr. Drake your words are insightful and wise. There are many truths in this artical. At my last church, there was a cultural disconnect. The people on the inside were remembering the glory days of the 70’s and 80’s. The church had peaked during that time. By the time I arrived, the church was in decline. The way they were used to doing business was hit a brick wall (clash of leadership between members or pastor and members), lose about half the church and rebuild from there. It was a sick and disfunctional cycle that praise God I am no longer apart of anymore. The lack of unity in this church was overwhelming, appointing people to committees was all about checks and balances. The whole system ran counter to the unity Jesus prayed for us to have in the gospel of John. Sadly the last business meeting I attended was more of the same. Winning the vote was more important than the instruction of the Word or following their leaders. I cannot but think of what our Savior said in Revelation 3:1 “you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” I believe there are many churches that fit this profile. Sadly our convention may be marked by a majority of churches falling into this category.

      • says

        I must jump in here and share a perspective that I rarely hear much about. The reference here is about a local congregation rather than the universal organism (CHURCH). Nearly 500 years ago Martin Luther led the way to what is called the Protestant Reformation. We are in need of another Reformation. Many theologians agree that Luther did not intend to split the CHURCH, yet that happened. Reformation does not mean split. Why reformation is necessary? From Genesis 1, God disclosed himself as the Triune God. The Jewish Shema affirmed that God was “One”. It was God’s plan and design that the CHURCH operate as “One”. Jesus prayed the prayer of Oneness in John 17:21. Paul taught the doctrine of “Oneness” throughout his New Tesatament writings. Today we do not understand the essence or the necsessity of Oneness. The miltary understands the concept as well as any athletic organization. Without ONENESS we will die or simply become worthless and ineffective. We are to be ONE in LOVE, PURPOSE, PLAN and PRAYER. Every local congregation must see the “BIG” picture as well as their own milieu. Mega-churches must see the need to help smaller bodies grow and flourish. Selfishness and myopia will sink any ship or derail any organization. No matter how great an athlete is, if he/they do not play as a team they will NEVER win. We are not winning. The world is coming out of the closet and many of us are going in. Nearly 20 states have legalized same sex marriage and as a nation we kill nearly 4000 unborn babies a day. Where are we? Jesus left us here as both herald and sign. However, too many of us have busied ourselves with our own agenda. To abort one’s purpose may be equal to death. Like the manual to a car or appliance we’ve got to get back to the “MANUAL”.

    • says

      I wish more Pastors were like you Steve – we have a Church Revitalization Ministry in Canada and unfortunately in going to these dying churches and trying to teach them the principles needed to rebuild we are finding that the Pastors who are there – say they want help and change – but when it comes down to it, they don’t have the heart for it. All too often we spend months pouring into pastors to get them into a healthier place for change, and it does help BUT there are plenty of walls and barriers that pastors won’t let down that prevent change from happening. One of the biggest problems we see though – is that pastors don’t have the passion or the vision to drive the church who is asking for change. You were stuck in a church who did not want the change while you had the passion and vision – 90% of the time we are in churches who want change but the pastor does not have what it takes to cause the change – us coming helps and makes a difference but we are only there for a time, when we leave the pastor often goes back to his quiet unpassionate ways :(

      • Dan says

        I am involved in a church revitalization program in Springfield, MO. We are in the planning phase of the program. Your comments about your experience as a pastor in a dying church, and the brother who serves in a church revitalization ministry was quite helpful. I anticipated that more often than not it would be the congregation that would resist change not the pastor. From your posts I have learned that it can come from both pastor and laity. Thanks for your comments brothers.

        DK

        • says

          You are bang on there DK – it can come from both sides and often does just in different challenges.
          The plan for revitalization is critical, having a well thought out process, set of goals, timeline and vision are critical to the success of revitalization. Another key point we have picked up in our work with many churches is that healing must take place – finding a good tool to use to help people heal and get in a very healthy place with freedom from strongholds and unhealthy perceptions is critical. Our team will be praying for you and your church in Springfield. If we can every be of assistance our contact info can be found on our site http://www.4hisminsitry.org – we offer church care to those who can’t afford it.

          • Dan says

            Thanks for your response. I will definitely be checking our your website and we may contact you with questions. Thanks for what you are doing for the Bride of Christ in Canada.

            DK

    • Cyndi Bloise says

      Steve –
      I read your post and felt sad they couldn’t catch your vision and follow your leadership.
      I serve a church like that: the community around it had changed, they had begun to turn in on themselves and turn on each other, they were not making budget, had truly idolized the past, etc.
      When I was appointed in 2008 (I am Methodist), they told me at my take-in interview that they wanted me to help them reach out to the community. I said, “You understand, if I truly do that, we will have black people in the pews, and in your Sunday school classes, and on leadership teams. Are we going to have a problem with that?” They confessed there might be some difficulty, but gave me their support that night. However, within the first two weeks that I was there, I was told that most people were just treading water, expecting our church to be the next one in town to close.
      I am not called to be a church closer. We have been almost constantly outward focused – new outreach efforts every year. One of the most vital ministries is called Circles, which is a national anti-poverty initiative for which we receive grants. We’ve had to be creative in our funding and the leadership of all these outreach initiatives has had to be exceptionally courageous, especially when people who could not catch the vision began to leave the church. Some of these, we just have to call anointed farewells because their departure allowed us to move forward again. Last year, we lost our 2nd largest giver. But in conversation with him, he said, “I know you’re doing the right thing because I see more people coming and more kids. But it just isn’t for me.” When I suggested I would be taking some heat for his departure, he said, “I don’t know why. I’m not going to stop giving to the church.” Holy and anointed farewells…
      So, I had estimated last year was our make it or break it year – year 5. I would say it takes at least that long to turn the Titanic. This year, at the end of August, our giving had outpaced our estimate of giving for the first time in well over a decade. We are healthy enough that we are considering putting a new roof on the building. Just a few years ago, we were discussing whether it was a waste of money to do upkeep on the building because it looked like we were on a trajectory to close. It appears God has now decided that we have been faithful with little and is giving us more.
      One of the most difficult things to do in church leadership is stay strong and keep moving forward for years at a time, even if it does not seem clear that you are making progress. We are used to quick fixes in our world, but there is nothing quick about a church turn-around!

  8. says

    Bro Thom,

    Thank you for sharing the autopsy report. I came to pastor a small church that had unknowing attempted suicide and was on life support. Each and every one of your points above were being practiced regularly. I am pleased to say that by the power of the Holy Spirit, the congregation is no longer on on life support, but is now thriving. We have turned our eyes outside the walls and have reached out to the community. It hasn’t been without struggles; Satan had many emissaries within.

    We are doing pretty well with most points above; our finances hinders improving our facilities to the degree we want, but we’re working on it. We have a long way to go, but we’ve come a very long way. My first Sunday there, we had 25 in attendance. This Easter, we had over 90. We have a Food Pantry ministry that provides over 80,000 meals per year. My children were the only ones 5 years ago. Now we have a youth group with about 20 kids.
    Again, all credit goes to the Lord for His direction and work in this congregation.

    I think any congregation that is struggling can look at your list and find things to “work on.” Thank you.

      • Dan Land says

        We do a simple ministry to the neediest in our community. In the 3 years of this outreach, we have come to so enjoy the building of “church”. In truth, what has happened is that many of those who first came to us to be served, have themselves become the servants. They gather donations, share the news of upcoming events in their more intimate communities, and are becoming prayers of deep prayers. It is beautiful to be part of something the Holy Spirit is doing outside the walls. Has happened so gently most do not realize we have become a church. For all of us, the image is more that of family. Blessings to all of you, Dan

    • purposedryven says

      Xactly everyone, we have to allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse us,direct change in our life, so that we can move towards change an final development in turn God will use us all to make a difference in order for THIS to work THAT has to agree on one accord! it starts with us taking one step at a time an heeding to the word we believe in! and as long as we do this it will transform. that’s whats happening Rick consistent transformation.

  9. says

    Thom, as much as it pains me to say it, this could be the story of our church in 5-10 years. As much as I try, it seems they are content with the status quo. New thoughts and ideas are met with negativity. We are mostly an older congregation and they beginning to have some health issues. It can be discouraging at times but we have developed a vision and as pastor I .try to show that everything we do goes through and fits in with the vision. Just pray for us that we be outside minded and can reach our community

  10. Larry Cummings says

    Great insights. As a retired Director of Missions, I have some questions as to the process used in searching for pastors that resulted in 7 in 10 years, and the leadership abilities of men who would accept a church under those conditions. My observation over the years is that the candidating process is huge, and prayer is lacking in emphasis. However, churches and prospective pastors must be willing to so more exploring and self analysis proactively. Men being willing to settle for a preaching point, and churches having someone to fill the pulpit, may account for the short tenures.

    • John S. says

      Larry,
      As a first time pastor (just about to celebrate my first anniversary as a pastor) I would point out that I thought I knew what I was getting into but really had no idea. Seminary doesn’t prepare for the pastor search committee interview process very well. I came out of the corporate environment and that didn’t truly prepare me to ask the right questions either. I’ve found out over the past year that several things were not fully disclosed to me either and my church ignored the wise advice of several senior pastors in our association prior to my calling. I admit I almost threw in the towel a few months ago but fortunately my mentor talked me off that ledge. It’s been a struggle but we are seeing some victories and God has taught me so much this year. I didn’t settle for a preaching point, I know I was called here and God has confirmed that time after time.

    • Billy Britt says

      Larry, I served as an interim director if missions for two years. Most churches received about a hundred resumes when they began their search for a pastor. It seems there is a lot of dissatisfaction and discontentment among pastors, so they are willing to relocate with little preparation or prayer.

      • Summer says

        Thank you, Susan. As a woman and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ (UCC), I had a resigned chuckle at that line as well.

        • Dennis R says

          My pastor is a tiny Korean lady. She is a wonderful minister. She has tow doctorates and knows and preaches the Word quite wll. It is a mostly white middle class church, but does reach out and help others outside the church.

          I support anyone in the ministry who is truly called by God.

      • says

        Agreed! Even as a man myself that “men” stuck out like a sore thumb; a reminder of /another/ facet of in-turning division in our Body.

    • Paul Mayhan says

      There is a lot of truth to that, Larry. Churches with a bad reputation tend to get pastors with a bad reputation, which just tears both down. At the same time, there are pastors who may be good guys but maybe lack some basic skills or personal charisma to really be effective. If they get into a church with some solid people they can do well, while these dead churches will just eat them alive.

    • Terry Hart says

      For myself and most of the men and women pastors that I know, the new pastor comes with enthusiasm and excitement to a new call. In my case, I truly thought that I could have a positive influence on the life of the congregations I’ve served and help to lead them into a thriving future. What I’ve found is that the resistance is often deeply ingrained. There are congregants that start working on getting rid of a pastor before the pastor even begins officially. Pastors and congregants bring their own sets of expectations.

      Relationships by definition are about more than one party. In the pastor/congregation relationship each party has to accept responsibility. Its easy to point the fingers at the pastors as not being trained enough or “lacking charisma” but they cannot move people on their own. Its easy to point fingers at the elderly congregants, yet isn’t there a place for them to receive solace as they see the world they know change so rapidly around them. Accepting responsbility for the role each party plays is crucial for a healthy relationship.
      What we often forget is that the Triune God is in the one who has put this relationship together, promised to supply the needs and the vision, and lives in the relationship. This fact gets forgotten quickly as pastor/congregants begin to act as though it is a battle between them instead of a unity working to serve the Lord.

      There is also danger in banding together simply to keep the church alive. Maybe God has a different plan?

      • Justin says

        Perhaps God’s will in some cases isn’t to use a person to grow others but rather to use others to grow a person?

  11. Hunter D. Johnson says

    This is so sad. I read your post and all of the comments, and with tears in my eyes I type this. I am a youth pastor of a growing church. We are not huge (about 350 in sunday morning worship) but we recently went through a time that was very difficult. The pastor of the church left because of some personal issues. The church came together and pressed through. We still have our struggles but we press forward. I couldn’t help but think, the whole time I was reading your article “There but for the grace of God, go we”. Thank you Thom.

  12. Keith Wissman says

    Some number of years ago I was an administrator at a local church which had been founded in 1850.

    Within my first year all of the items listed became crystal clear to me and even after a year long series of quiet, private conversations with the Pastor he couldn’t/wouldn’t admit to any of the red and yellow flashing lights.

    They are now under the control of the local Presbytery and will be closed down and the property sold. It is very sad to me; God planted that church over 160 years ago and it was allowed to dry rot. God will not bless a church family that ignores Him and His Word.

  13. says

    I’m afraid this looks extremely familiar. I wrote a similar autopsy last year: You can see the whole things at http://www.philippianjailer.com/2012/02/death-of-local-church.html, but these were my primary conclusions:

    1. Churches die when their members stop growing in Christ.
    2. Churches die when they “fish off the dock” as their primary outreach method.
    3. Churches die when they over-celebrate their heritage.
    4. Churches die when they are populated by members who don’t participate in ministry.

    • tess says

      churches DIE because they are focused on building their “kingdom” and not God’s KINGDOM. I grew up in a church that was like this article…it spent money on plaques, and name plates, and exterior beautification, but for ministry and needs, there was NEVER any funds for that. As a youth in the church there was zero budget for us, so we created our own. We did every kind of fund raising, all with it redeposited in the HELP fund, we reached out to the community, we did WHATEVER it took. People came in got saved and got involved, and those “pillars” of the church hated the new blood. But the youth group LIVED the Book of Acts…while the youth group thrived, the older portion of the church died off…then a Pastor scandel did us in and that was it. They couldn’t find another to even try. But those in that youth group grew up and went on to serve all over the nation. Now we are the “older” group, and most of us have “left” the church because the focus is what you can “get” from God, rather than what you can “give”. So it saddens me, that in my lifetime I have watched the same stuff over and over, and it doesn’t seem to really change. I have been through the whole gamet, lived church politics and splits, there were great times of revival, but then complatency settles in. And what I see now is people will flock to seminars, events, and concerts, anything entertaining, but serving…very few want to be involved with that. Another startling thing about my peers, most of us even though we married believers, all ended up divorced -some more than once. Not one of us had a lasting successful marriage, very sad. We love the LORD but couldn’t seem to build lasting relationships. And this was surprising, most had Pastors that had been divorced as well, usually because of an affair, sigh.

  14. says

    By the grace of God, we at our 330 yr old fellowship are experiencing a gospel-shaped renewal in life & ministry. I suspect when a person or group of them (a congregation) lose the gospel as central, these 11 downward trends must happen. Praise God for His sovereign rescuing work through The death & resurrection of Jesus! He is our Treasure!

    • Ken Addison says

      This is it Danny. When the gospel is TRULY central, the opposite of this article is true and the Kingdom is advanced. Pastors and leaders, lift Jesus and His Word up. Lift His mission up. When people fall in love with Jesus, His gospel, and His purpose for us, these 11 things and 11,111 more are easily fixed.

      • Donna says

        Ken that is it put simply. When a church from the Pastor on down through the congregation is focused on ANYTHING other than the Gospel/Christ it will eventually fall apart. When Christ is real in the leadership’s life and its congregation it stays strong and can withstand any storm that blows through.

  15. says

    The Bible has some pretty clear passages as to the purpose of the assembly. Building up the body .. the members .. for the work of service. Prompting one another to love and good works. Providing a format for those gifted in preaching and teaching to manifest their gifts in the body.

    Lose sight of those and there’s no real reason to meet, that doesn’t also apply to a social club..

  16. Jacob Sweeney says

    I worked at a church that had nearly all 11 of these elements. My position was part-time in an associate role. It was also my first experience as a staff member of a church. Early in my tenure I realized that while many said that they wanted me to help the church grow, what they really wanted was to get all their old friends back and return to a previous era. My wife and I left extremely discouraged and jaded about ministry. Now, we’re fearful to even consider serving in another small church because we don’t want to go through a similar experience.

  17. says

    Unfortunately I live in a community where we have many evangelical churches. I say “unfortunately” for when I approached my pastor as to a proposal to bring together all the churches to have a one-day “Jesus Fest” he just looked at me and said, “This will never happen. Pastors are concerned about losing members.” I’ve been fortunate that in my job I am often asked to travel around the world and assist teachers, communities, countries. Often, I go to the local church where the outreach is amazing! One pastor, within a village in Kenya, whose village name is not any map, the road isn’t part of the map, taught me a valuable lesson: Their community had gone without food for two days, but he fed my team after the service for we were “honored guests” (I still get chills thinking about him, and my eyes are watery). He then said, “Thank you for coming, and when you go home, let everyone in the States know that we are praying for you.” That was the first time in my life where I saw one gentle pastor explain to me, in full detail, what the Christian Global Church was about. It seems, most of us don’t understand this, in our local churches here in the States. Thanks for this article Thom.

  18. says

    Sad. Just very sad. I hate to see a church die. I lean on the fact that The Church is the body and that no power- not even those of us that belong to a church- can stand against The Church. Thanks for the insights. Amy

  19. says

    I am the youth minister at a church which fits this description, but much closer to the end, I am afraid. Most night services we have around a dozen adults and maybe twice that many kids/teens.
    When we consider the book of Revelation and imagine a church that has lost her first love, I believe these will always be the consequences. Yet, this can be very useful for us. We are at a point now where I know that anything that happens in the church is not my doing, but is the very voice of God crying out ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ When sin becomes utterly sinful, God’s grace becomes all the more apparent. I just pray that he can pluck this church and the others mentioned here back from the brink.

  20. Spencer says

    Most dying churches that I have seen have also had a severe reduction in biblical content preached from the pulpit and taught in the Sunday School ministries. Without the Word, the people shriveled spiritually which led to the smallness of mind that causes the symptoms you indicate.

  21. says

    Could you please clarify what you mean by, “4. The percentage of the budget for members’ needs kept increasing. At the church’s death, the percentage was over 98 percent.”

    Does this mean the monies were being spent on “personal things- like new cars, personal clothes, etc” and not on actual ministries like, “youth, outreach, etc?”

    Thank you!

  22. says

    Thom, I’m sharing this post with my Long-Range Planning Team this Sunday. First Baptist Hazard was founded in 1898, reached it’s peak in the 1960s and has been fading since. This story reinforces the message I’m attempting to get my people to confront. I’m hopeful and excited for the future God has for our church, but I think people need to hear these warnings while they still have time to get a biblical vision for the ministry and get going! Thanks for the post.

  23. Stephen says

    A very good article. Now, here is my question as a deacon in the church I serve. What do we/I do if we can check off several of these boxes. Our pastor has just left, and we are doing church the same way it was done 30 or 40 years ago. Can we snap out? What steps do we need to take? I am actually considered leaving this church because I am not sure we can over come the issues mentioned above. I am looking for advice. I want to serve The Lord. Thanks!

    • Thom Rainer says

      Stephen –

      I often disappoint readers when I respond to their questions, but I simply don’t have enough information or sufficient context to give you a good answer. My prayers for you.

    • says

      Hi Stephen, If I may offer some advise… Start by looking for a “pastorpreneur”, that is, a pastor that was in business in the world. Business owners know the importance of change, keeping up, advertising and most important, they know that leading means making difficult and unpopular decisions. When searching for a pastor let him/her know the shape that the church is in and what they would be up against. Ask them the difficult questions: If we hire you what would your plan be? How would you turn this ship around? Ask the candidate for some of their “success” stories. It’s all about leadership…

  24. says

    Thom – thank you for this honest and challenging post. As an associational leader, I see this reality unfolding in far too many places. I just told a group of church leaders yesterday that in five to ten years, a number of our churches will most likely not be around any more. Is it acceptable to use this post as an article to our association’s leaders, with credit given to you, of course? If so, we’ll use it widely. Thanks for your ministry with us!

  25. Gail says

    Sadly, I am a member of a dying church. Our church was vibrant and doing well then the pastor had his own agenda. The church split last year and has split again this year. The preacher says he wants to reach the community but he has failed to reach the congregation he was given by God to pastor. He has been asked to leave but he won’t do it. He would rather see the church die completely and lose any hope of reaching the community. It is frustrating to see a man who says he was called by God be so arrogant. If he were to leave, there would be some hope left.

  26. Clif says

    Thom – a word of caution to those who have said they plan to share your post with a committee or body of deacons in their dying church. A dying church knows how to do one thing very well — shoot the messenger!

  27. Chet says

    I wonder if the following will lead to the deaths of churches…Last week I had discussions with two older men, one from Kentucky, another from Tennessee. Within the last three years, both churches hired new, younger pastors and other staff members. And with them comes an attitude of complete disregard for the needs of senior adults. Everything is focused on the needs of people that are the same ages as the staff members. Both of my friends feel as if they do not matter, even though they’ve given their all to these churches for decades. With this type of stubborness, these young leaders will continue to focus on their own needs…and one day when they age, they’ll be focused solely on the needs of seniors, and more churches will die.

    • says

      Chet, this is all too common. One symptom is what some have called “The Worship Wars” in which the younger folk take over the “worship service” and make a 100% change over to “contemporary” music. Older folks ask that their needs also be met and are met with contempt or indifference. So they pack up and leave. We saw one particular church do this and they chased off the older folks who were the ones who financed most of the budget with their tithes. The younger folk were glad to have the “contemporary music” but didn’t have the funds to finance the various programs in the church. We’ve been watching this develop over the years and the one church has spun off at least three in the past 18 years or so. The current pastor seems to be holding steady in the course he’s chosen, perhaps he will be able to rebuild with new converts over time. In the meantime at least one of the spinoffs is forming into the type of congregation referenced in the subject of the article above.

      One of the greatest issues is in the matter of seeking one’s own desires and preferences and not being willing to attend to others. The “Me Generation” has a lot to learn from He Who gave up all so that we might reach the Father through Him. Church should never be about “me” but rather about stirring each other up to love and good works so that God will be glorified through our lives. We are, after all, to be known by our love – and that characteristic can often be found lacking in the situations such as you outline.

      • Paul Mayhan says

        Those worship wars that were so prevalent in the ’90’s and early 2000’s were a symptom of this inward focus problem that Dr. Rainer is talking about. Both sides are saying, “Here are my tastes, and I can’t be happy unless they are met.” The attitude was taught to the younger ones by the older ones, so now the church pays the price. In a church on mission, the people say, ‘What music, worship order, decor, etc will help us reach this community the best?” 99% of the time if that’s where the conversation starts the music team will be able to come up with something that everybody can live with.

        • says

          The focus on style more than content is lamentable. In I Corinthians 14 we read that everything that takes place in the weekly meeting should be ‘for the edification of the church’. As we try to compete with the entertainment culture around us we tend to lose sight of that.

  28. says

    Thom, I currently pastor a church that used to look very much like the church you describe. I described it when I got there as 40 old white folks driving in from out of town, into a neighborhood that was transitioning to a racially and financially diverse community. We intentionally began to cast vision for what it would look like if we really loved our neighbors like Jesus told us to and stopped worrying about how to get the people in the building and started focusing on how to get the people in the building out into the neighborhood serving our neighbors. Over the past 4 years the church grew from 40 to 400 with over 200 (50%) of those attendees being African-Americans from the neighborhood. We have engaged in sustained and intentional mission focus that has reclaimed a firehouse as a community center, developed a community garden, started a halfway/recovery house, and built 25 new homes for low income families within 5 blocks of our church. A year ago, this church actually launched a new church start in a neighboring town and is continuing to multiply. I write all this not to brag but to give hope. If there is a leader who is willing to really lead and a core of people who are willing to do whatever it takes to be the hands and feet of Jesus, miracles happen. Thanks for your work.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Dave –

      What an incredible story! I may want to get more information from you. Thanks for your words of hope and encouragement.

    • Iris says

      Dave, I’d like some information on how your church went about establishing the community garden, and the low-income housing. Thank you.

    • says

      Dave,
      It sounds like your parish had something that Thom’s example lacked: that core of people willing and ready to do anything necessary for Jesus’s work. A parish which has that can find or make the leader they need, but the question is: can any leader develop that core when it wasn’t there before? If so, how soon do they need to come into the picture before it’s too late?
      ~Warren

  29. says

    Thank you Thom for this article. What you said here is both important and very enlightening.
    Eight years ago, my wife and I visited a church in the neighborhood where we had just moved. We enjoyed the fellowship, but sensed that the church was in a sharp decline. They had two pastors. One had to leave because of kidney problems, and the other left, I believe, because he was discouraged with how things were going there. The services were mostly small, with lots of empty seats. This was a congregation of mostly older (50+ years) Caucasian congregants.
    When we started going there (but were not members at the time), we’d heard talk that they were considering, as a church body, the idea of merging with another local church (both of them Baptist churches). The other church was a growing Filipino church, that was looking for a building to grow in. My wife and I were still looking for a church home at this time, and did not end up settling in at this particular church at that time, but we heard and saw later on how things went.

    As things happened, the two churches did in fact merge into one congregation. At the same time, many of those who were still attending the church that was already in the building before the merge stopped attending, because they apparently were not comfortable with the idea of meeting with cultural Filipinos as part of the same church body. At the same time, as far as I know, many of the members of the Filipino church body also did not ‘make the jump’, but moved on to other churches (I assume that they moved on to other, culturally Filipino churches).

    We saw the result of the merge about 2 1/2 years ago, when the Lord gave me a burden to move to a local church, that would be closer to where we live. I mention this because in the intervening years between when we first visited this particular church, and when we again visited it, we had been fellowshiping at another church, in another town, as my wife liked the pastor there.

    When we came back to this local, little baptist church, we noticed that perhaps ten or so of the members of the original church were still there, along with several members of the former Filipino church that had merged with them, along with a couple of handfuls of newer members. So it was a small congregation, with about a 50 – 50 mix of Filipino and non Filipino congregants.

    We’ve been fellowshiping there ever since, and have watched the congregation grow from not much more than maybe 20 or so people on a Sunday morning, to probably about double to triple that number now. It’s still a small congregation, but it is a very dynamic one.

    I mention these things, because much of what I see happening there is what you mentioned on the list in your article. I think that 8 years ago, we briefly witnessed a church that was becoming sick, and was quickly declining. God brought them through a valley, and brought in a new pastor who has a powerful burden and vision for outreach to the lost, and that is probably the biggest part of the focus at this particular church now. We have found a strong and real church family, where there is a lot of outreach and ministry to the local community. When we first visited, I honestly did not expect that the doors would still be open these 8 years later. So, much to my surprise and rejoicing, they (we) are still there, and God is using this little, but growing church in a big way.

    Thank you again for what you wrote. I will be sharing your article with my pastor. I think it will encourage him that we are on the right path.

    Al

  30. says

    It is sad that almost every day we hear of churches that find themselves in this type of situation. Many have become a group of people without a biblical purpose and vision. They will have many members that believe all that is needed within the church is to have a pastor preaching on Sunday, available to preach funeral and weddings, and visit them when they are in the hospital. You will never hear concern or even hear anything mentioned about the few in number of salvations or baptisms that are taking place. There will be some controlling members that would rather hold on to traditions and get their way than see the Great Commission fulfilled, which will eventually result in a church closing its doors for good.
    Mike

  31. says

    I’m not a pastor, however, I have been a pastor’s secretary, church secretary, church treasurer, and church cllerk. I believe a church dies when the people lose their vision to the needs of the people in the community. Years ago, the Lord allowed me and gave me the words to write a poem titled, “The Beautiful Church and the Stranger”. It is long 18 verses. Growing up in country churches, everybody loved everyone, where is the love now ? This is so sad to say, I am a Christian, yet, going into some of the churches today, I feel so “not there”. It is sad to say that I am more comfortable and God is speaking to me and I am learning more by my faithful attendance to watching Dr. Charles Stanley on Sunday mornings.

  32. says

    I am wondering how much of these are “indicative symptoms” and how many are “causes”. Has anyone tried to look at churches’ behaviors over the previous 20 years and compare which ones died and which are still strong?

    • Thom Rainer says

      Warren –

      Based on my years of consulting and research, I think most of the 11 items are symptomatic rather than causative.

      Good question.

  33. John kuespert says

    Dysfunctional and spiritually depraved churches will linger for a long time. Only when they run out of money will they become termina

  34. Jojhn Shultz says

    Thom,
    This is a good list of warnings. I wonder how connected this list is to each item on the list. Does the routine of a shortened tenure of the Pastor contribute to many other elements on the list? Does the lack of emphasis on the appearance of the buildings create an unwelcome environment to invite new people? Does the lack of prayer by the church set the stage of a “me first” mindset? Thanks you for sharing these eleven.

      • says

        Thom,
        Your “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” is dead on. (Excuse the pun) Several years ago I begin researching the opposite. I looked at churches that were growing and increasing in numbers through new salvations and baptisms, as well as reaching the unchurched within their local communities. We were able to identify seven common key ministries within all of the Churches that we studied. What we discovered was that a church may have more than these seven key ministries in its organizational structure, but without the seven key ministries all being active and linked together like a chain it was almost impossible for a church to be a Great Commission Church within its community. I concluded that “When any one of these seven key ministry links becomes weak or broken it seemed impossible for church members to pull in the same direction needed for church growth, and membership retention. I see the 11 things you identified in your autopsy as a confirmation to our findings within a growing church.
        The seven key ministries we identified are listed along with free ministry instruction manuals at http://bit.ly/ZKlstj

  35. says

    Hey, you just wrote an article about the church I’ve been called to pastor!!

    Seriously, every point in this autopsy has been true of this congregation. In the 130+ year history, there have been over 30 pastors. The huge building that was once very nice is ill-kept and in some places actually deteriorating. The community is changing drastically, both in racial makeup and socioeconomic realities.

    The only answer is for the Holy Spirit to breathe new life into the church.

    As some of the previous commenters have noted, I think some of these point in the article are causes, and some are indicators of other issues. That being said, however, the one single overarching reality is the lack of the power of the Holy Spirit within the individual lives of the believers, as well as His presence and empowerment within the congregation as a whole.

    I liken it to Israel after their return from the Babylonian exile. They rebuilt the Temple, and under Ezra rebuilt the altar. But the Ark, the indicator of the presence and power of God with His people, was absent.

    And no one noticed.

    No one asked “Hey, where is God?”

    I imagine that in the 400+ years before the birth of Christ, that many of the people who worshipped at the Temple were godly, they loved God, pursued Him, sacrificed to Him. I’m sure many of the priests were godly men who carried out their rituals and duties with hearts full for God.

    God’s people doing what they were supposed to do, when they were supposed to do it, where they were supposed to do it, in the way they were supposed to do it.

    And the power of God wasn’t there.

    It wasn’t until old Simeon, whose only description in the Bible is that “the Holy Ghost was on him,” was at the Temple one day, and in walks this young couple with a baby. Simeon, the guy with the Holy Spirit resting on him, is the only person who suddenly recognized – God’s back!

    I know there are demographic studies that can be done to provide tighter targeting for promotional materials. There are vision-casting strategies, transformational workshops with tons of great ideas, stewardship campaigns.

    All of these are good, and might address the perceived need for the various points within this autopsy.

    But there is only one answer, in my opinion.

    Realizing that we are like the people in Israel, who are good, godly people going through all the motions, but without any power.

    The church falling on its knees and asking, pleading, for God to revive them.

    I know that’s the only answer for the church where I serve.

    And it doesn’t come without a price. Even more people will leave. The church, the leadership, and the pastor will be attacked – sometimes physically – within the community. People will disagree, trying to exert control over the few resources that are left.

    But only God and His life-giving Holy Spirit can bring life from death.

  36. says

    Dr. Rainer,
    Thanks for sharing. I started pastoring a church slightly over 2 years ago that had dwindled to 8 people, with an average member age of 80 years old. I asked the group then that had not had a pastor in 4 years “if they were sure they were ready for change” and one 86 year old mother stated “if we dont change, lock the door in 1 year”! I was amazed in her honesty, I felt the pull of God tugging at my heart. In 2 years God has provided spiritual growth and numerical. We have average of 70-100 adults and 25 children in children’s church. We have completly renovated the building, the community is excited we exsist again. I pray we never get stuck, lose sight, or get focused inward. It’s sad to see a church die. In our community many are in “ICU” on life support. Great read, thanks. #breaking100barrier

  37. says

    Wow. Thank you for this post.

    I am a younger guy in an older, more traditional church. Sometimes it is a little frustrating to see my church lagging behind the times a little bit.

    But when I compare my church to this autopsy, I see lots of reasons to be thankful and optimistic:
    Early in our church’s history, we committed to give 25% of our budget to missions, and we have honored that commitment ever since.
    Recently there has been a renewed emphasis on impacting the community around us, and we have a clear purpose and mission.
    Ironically, the church that had the vision to plant our church back in the ’50s is probably what you would call ‘terminal;’ they have shrunk and aged and become isolated and irrelevant in their community, and they probably won’t be around in 5-10 years.

  38. Tripp Hudgins says

    It’s all about #5 for me. So many of our congregation still perceive Evangelism or outreach has been a multinational activity. It is something we do in another country we don’t need to do it in our own suburbs. That is so far from the truth. But we don’t want to offend our neighbors with our religion. We don’t want to assume anything about them or we assume they are just like us, or worse, not at all like us and thus not worth our efforts.

  39. says

    I pastor that church. The only difference is that 10 years later we have relocated, restructured by-laws to reflect a more relevant ecclesiology, found new ways to engage the unchurched, and embraced a thriving missional church culture. From a church that was 3 funerals away from closing the doors to a church that sees new faces walk through the door each week. From a church that had plants in the baptistry to a church that regularly baptizes adults who were formerly estranged from God. It can be done. It is difficult, hard work leading through change, but it is not mission impossible. Church planting is a powerful tool. But how valuable is the Kingdom resources stored in the buildings, property, and people of these dying churches? This past Sunday I was hugging one of our original Senior adults who just turned 90. She gets it. I just had to be patient and be willing to spend some time teaching with love what change could do to impact someone’s eternity.

  40. says

    Sad but true. Why is it that everything in American life is willing to re-engineer but church. Churches must allow others such as yourself make recommendations and then they must take the plunge to change.

  41. Rev. Yvette says

    Thank you for this article. A friend of mine posted it on her Facebook page. I then posted it on mine.
    It has caused a bit of stir in that it is not done by my denomination (The UCC) but it was if you were writing the
    future of the church I serve if change does not continue. I love this church and God is surely at work but
    human beings seem to struggle with change as if they are undergoing an amputation Sometimes it seems as if they would rather destroy what is there than be part of change. God requires change for God’s people. Just read The Acts of the Apostles! I really appreciated this article and I felt I wasn’t alone.

  42. Fr. Richard says

    May I repeat Joe’s question, “Could you please clarify what you mean by, “4. The percentage of the budget for members’ needs kept increasing. At the church’s death, the percentage was over 98 percent.” “

    • Thom Rainer says

      “Members’ needs” refer to any expenditures other than those that are used specifically to reach and minister to those outside the church. So staff salaries, building costs, materials for members, etc. would all fit under the nomenclature “members’ needs.”

  43. says

    Thom,
    Thank you so much for posting this. As a young pastor in the SBC, I feel particularly called to replant/ revitalize churches such as the one you described. The problem I find is the same that you described in this article. Most churches are unwilling to have a young man, like come in with a fresh vision/ breath and lead while honoring the legacy that was laid before our time. I, as well as many others, realized it’s a difficult task but we are willing to take it on with the power of the Holy Spirit. My wife and I are praying for opportunities to encounter a church that is willing to stand on it’s Gospel DNA while reflecting the socioeconomic and cultural changes that are happening around it. If there are places like this around I would love to know. Again thank you so much for posting this article and warning other Pastors of the impending closure if change doesn’t happen.
    SDG

  44. Rev. Dr. John Landis says

    Good discussion. I did my Doctoral dissertation on dying churches. The most striking thing about the research was that you can’t stop a congregation from dying. It is going to happen. The question is will they be open enough to allow something new to begin and will they support/fund it? The other thing to note is there is a growing need for “Hospice Pastors” . These are specially trained pastors who help congregations die well and leave legacies that matter. The disciplines of the emerging field of palliative care are brought into play for the congregation in similar ways that they are utilized with people. I believe this to be an emerging specialty, much the same way that Interim Pastors emerged as a specialty. It will be interesting to see if seminaries will respond with special courses or if those who wish to focus here will need to get training in other ways.

  45. says

    Very insightful. In particular, I think your first point deserves its place up top. And I think too many congregations that don’t look like the community in which they’re situated too often mistake so-called “outreach” ministries in which a few members “help” (often the activity chosen doesn’t really provide anything the surrounding community wants or needs) “those poor people” without listening to them or engaging with them as real, gifted human beings.

    I think in particular of one time when I was going to a church that had a “homeless ministry” of leaving bag lunches in the courtyard once a week that homeless people could pick up and a “20s/30s ministry” designed to attract “those young people.”

    One week, a homeless man in the community dropped by on the wrong day for the “homeless ministry,” but it happened to be right before the “20s/30s group,” and the man was in his 20s. I brought him to the 20s/30s group with me. I was mortified by the conduct of many who were there, who kept asking whether the man understood that he was there on the “wrong” day. Many expressed anger — some quite heatedly — at me for bringing him. And I was disappointed that the priest in charge of the group was one of the angry ones.

    Or there was the time when, on my Sunday of employment in a congregation, a congregant approached me at the end of the service asking me to “do something” about the homeless man who had come to the service, worshipped with the rest of us, and was now praying in the back pew. I agreed immediately to do something — I invited the man to coffee hour and introduced him to parishioners as a guest. Oh, and I gave him a set of our newcomers’ materials. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I got a ton of flack about it, and was fired by the head of the lay parish board as soon as he could.

    A congregation that distinguishes labels charitable activity to non-members “Outreach” and does not welcome those to whom they’re “reaching out” in the same way they welcome folks of their own social class and/or ethnicity is missing out on a lot of abundant life God wants for us.

    • Chris Hansen says

      Sarah, you are spot-on. The parish where I was received into the Episcopal Church has a lunch ministry for everyone each weekday. One of the great things about that church then was that some of the weekday guests became weekend worshipers, and the church was accepting of that. It made me feel good that I was part of that parish family.

    • Irene Grumman says

      Our congregation has been generous in its support to a day center helping unhoused and one-the-verge people. We’ve given money, donations in kind, and volunteers. Recently at Sunday service a woman came whose packed shopping cart and oddly assorted clothing signaled she was homeless. She was welcomed and treated with respect, although a church staffer felt called to warn her that we had no food bank. She parked her cart, accepted my companionship, and enjoyed the service. Later in the week she came to two activities, where she was again received with warmth. On the following Sunday, one who had welcomed her previously was upset to find the woman “camping out.” She had again brought her shopping cart. I reassured the congregant that the woman was not trying to live at the church and was proactively pursuing improvement in her life. After service, the pastors blithely greeted people, standing right in front of the cart. I am so thrilled that many people in my church were happy to share worship and engage the woman in conversation as a dignified person.

  46. Glenn Hughes says

    After reading your story and the 11 points, I was suddenly reminded of a remark from years ago by an old friend: “What you tolerate, you soon embrace.”

  47. Mario Lopez says

    Dear Thom, Thank you for the blog. What do you recommend the church do, when it doesn’t have a lot of financial resources, for numerical growth?

  48. Sue Weir says

    This is happening to my home church. I left there a little over 3 years ago because they stopped having anything to offer me and I had become hungry for the Lord, to serve him and to worship him. It breaks my heart to see it, but they have no outreach and all the children have gone. There are just a few diehard folks still there and a couple of families who think they own the church. But for one or two things, this autopsy could describe that church.

  49. Pastor Jim Morris says

    This article speaks loudly to a generation where going to church could be considered the norm. But as society began to change so few congregation were willing to. Most developed very conservative patterns of worship with same old program repeated over and over. I am in my second year of pastoring a church that was dying. It didn’t take long to realize that the Pastor before was just working to maintain. It had been years since they had really engaged in evangelism. No one seemed to know what to do because they hadn’t had the leadership to teach them and challenge them. When I became the Pastor there were only 23 people on average attending. When I began to challenge them and work to rebuild the very foundation and up it didn’t take long before I began to lose people for reasons that just weren’t true. Attendance feel to just 12. Now in my second year and in just the past month we have seen that number double. There have people who were too afraid to do anything who are now working in leadership and volunteering. God is blessing because we are moving in the opposite direction of these 10 things that kill a churches ministry. There is a great spirit where at first there wasn’t. I am just so thankful for leading and seeing His Spirit at work in the people.

  50. says

    We live in a shrinking community, and one of the most impoverished counties in the US. This article is true of 99% of the churches in this area, especially those that come from strong denominational background. Your #1 is my biggest gripe (and I have communicated that to them), that their view of evangelism is doing VBS and inviting people on Sunday mornings.

  51. Dennis R says

    One comment on your observation of members 67 and over. Older members are just as much a part of the body of Christ as the young. The megachurches always gear to the young and marginalized the older members.

    We have all ages in my church, but the older members are a part as well as the young. When an 80 year old man in our church passed recently, the church was packed out with members of our community because of the effect he had on them.

    I will be 65 in July. Do I need to quit being a part of a church community because I am getting older>

    • Jonathan says

      Dennis R., I am not sure which person you are replying to, but I have seen no one say Seniors should stop being part of a church community because they are getting older. The original observations in the article just said that some were refusing to engage the community the church was in.

      • Dennis R says

        I was replying to your comment in the original blog:

        “All of the active members were over the age of 67 the last six years of the church. “

  52. Jeff says

    My denomination was determined to fill such a church, they lied to me, fresh out of seminary. I ran into opposition on every front. Call the denominational leadership, received zero support, only advise was to love the people. 28 months later, they called the same leadership voted to dismiss me. They lied about that too, they did not get the vote count they needed even with stacking the deck. The denominational leadership demanded anger management counseling. Was I angry, by that time, maybe. But I was more hurt that they were more concerned with filling an opening then maturing me in ministry.

    • Irene Grumman says

      Your last sentence really hit home. I think leadership didn’t expect much from struggling churches, and had no idea how to advise me, or use my particular abilities.

  53. says

    I totally agree with your analysis! For 4 of the past 5 years I pastored a church that had all 11 of these characteristics. Before we came the last thing I asked the peple was, “Are you willing to Change to grow”, their comment was “Yes, we want to reach the younger generation” The first year we took it slow, the 2nd year we put our plan in to place , remodeled the outdated auditorium, repaired the huge gaps in the parking lot, replace a large portion of the roof, pulled pews out and added chairs, updated the sound system and added a projector…then the trouble started. “Things just arn’t the same as they have always been”. They were right we started growing their death grip was waining. I cancelled Sunday nights because the majority weren’t coming and it was dead. It hit the fan. They called a “roast the pastor meeting” and they did. We saw more people saved in the last year I was there, than they had ever seen. To shorten this, after fighting with them over every change we felt God was leading us to make, we were exhausted and resigned. God has since called me to plant a church and we have started with 1 lady and today we are averaging 30 in our home. We will launch in September 2013, and the Spirit is so sweet with our people. We drive by “that” church every day, and it’s business as usual. Their club is dying, and in 5-10 years I predict they will be gone too. My values were reaching the lost and disciplining them, there’s were meeting the needs of their family.

  54. Mary Bronson says

    My church is being umbrella-ed by a more successful church. Since my church is dying, another church has agreed to take it over and run it for us, we just need to accept the changes they plan to make and that is hard for many members.
    Mary

    • says

      Mary,
      That’s an interesting concept, and I’d love to know more.
      How far are you into this process, and how did your congregation come to the decision to either ask for this help or to accept the other parish’s unsolicited offer? Did the congregation (or its leadership) understand how much change might be entailed by taking this action? Are members of the other church transplanting themselves into your congregation’s population, or is this mostly a “leadership” approach? What kind of denominational structures are you part of?

      I’m really interested in the ways that thriving churches might be able to help the Spirit to spread into ones that have gotten discouraged or lost in a rapidly changing secular and religious world.

      Thank you!
      ~Warren

  55. V.G.RAJ Evangelist COC says

    That’s so sad to hear. But it made me to think …not even one faithful ? who could say here I am , for my sake don’t close the Church.
    I can recall similar situation happened with me…frustrated and wanted to leave ..One old Sister in age not actually requested but with force told me to stay back….and challenged me with my own statement for I used to announce from the pulpit that ” I would stay back and not leave the congregation even if one faithful Soul is to be found….and I had to stay back and suffer hardship but I did not mind, just satisfaction for keeping my word, later it proved to be fruitful for her own family joined and later more were added and later the congregation grew and with leadership training could look after it’s own affairs. I think somebody even if it is only one should take a stand not towards closure…..it will work..for God is with the faithfuls…prayerfully

  56. Bruce Garner says

    Powerful and completely on point. I am reminded of two congregations here in Atlanta, both of which “died” in different ways primarily because of an inward focus and failure to minister to the needs of the community/neighborhood where they were physically located.

    One was Moreland Avenue Baptist Church located in the neighborhood where I grew up. Their campus was an entire city block and included child care facilities, a gymnasium, educational buildings as well as the church. As the area changed both economically and racially, the congregation shrank, never reaching out to those who lived on its doorstep in its in-town very residential neighborhood. (This was the church where my high school baccalaureate service was held in 1967. They started what I guess was a “sister” congregation further out in the suburbs carrying the name of Moreland Springs Baptist Church. Eventually the main campus was sold to the congregation of First Iconium Baptist Church where the Rev’d Timothy McDonald is the senior pastor. As best I can tell, it is doing fine. Within the last year I saw an announcement in the newspaper that the final service for the sister congregation would be held.

    The other congregation “died” in a different way. It was First Baptist Church of Atlanta. Up until less than a decade ago, it was located on a beautiful block setting with the traditional white columned front of the church facing Peachtree Street. It was (and still is as far as I know) a very large congregation. They had owned much commercial property in the neighborhood known as Midtown. As with Moreland, the demographics began to change. This time it was racially, economically (upward and downward), age, sexual orientation, and the increasing category of “spiritual but not religious.” First Baptist never reached out to the neighborhood as it changed. Every Sunday it was clear that the place opened up for services and then closed back down for the rest of the week. For a while it appeared that Wednesday night programming was taking place, but that seemed to also end. Area churches worked together to create a homeless shelter for women and children. They contributed to the renovation of one of the First Baptist buildings and opened. The first ripple in the waters of service came when the church asked that those using the shelter enter from the rear of the property, thus keeping them out of the sight of most congregants. Then apparently out of the blue, they shut down the shelter, never reimbursing the congregations who helped start it.

    They already owned a huge tract of land on the northern suburban side of the city, having purchased the old Avon Cosmetics property. Regular services were happening in both locations. Migration had already begun.

    Eventually they left the Peachtree Street property altogether and sold it to what was then Bell South. The saddest part of this was that few even knew they had gone and fewer missed them. They had not been part of the neighborhood where they were located for years. Some might call this scenario a movement to further their mission. I see it as just another form of death due to most of the reasons Dr. Rainer mentions, except of course financial.

    The death was not necessary. The Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopal Churches that serve the same area are all thriving and seem to be growing. They also serve where they have been planted. I have to wonder when we will come to understand that The Great Commission directed us to all of God’s children, not just those most like us or even those we like. So sad and so unnecessary.

    Bruce

    • says

      The story of First Baptist Atlanta is told by Andy Stanley in the first and second chapter (I think) of his awesome book “Deep and Wide.” That book is the story of how the north campusof FBA became Northpoint, arguably one of the healthiest churches in North America. While I am not sure if FBA has died (they are certainly still classified as a megachurch), it is significant that people believe it is inactive in its community. I think this is a unique consequence of growth, which another church I have seen has also faced. As a church grows larger geographically, it becomes increasingly easy to just ignore the immediate community, to their long term peril.

  57. Larry Dennis says

    Thank you Thom . . . Possibly it was you who said that the sadest day in the life of most churches is their 40th birthday. Like people, churches become more comfortable around 40, inwardly forcused, taking fewer risks, losing energy and lumbering toward the finish line. You may very be a prophet with your prediction of 100,000 dying churches in the US. A Spirit empowered Planting Movement is the brightest hope for God’s Kingdom in North America.

    • says

      Considering that the churches I have most recently been a member of are 150, 102, and 149 years old, I don’t see age of the parish /community/ to be a factor. The 150y/o parish died in all but name, surviving because another parish (which had broken off from it in the ’60s) chose to merge with it and sell their building instead; the 102y/o parish is struggling but not actually dying yet; and the 149y/o parish is doing pretty well having a couple of adult baptisms a year and a slew of babies, a very wide range of cultural, socioeconomic, and racial backgrounds (there is no majority race at the parish at all, whites only making the plurality by a few %age points).

      I think that parishes go through many phases in their lives, like any group does, and getting through some of the early stages’ struggles without direction can kill the group’s momentum, and even kill the group outright. Given the two-fold issues of the movements in the secular world which pose serious challenges to our traditional ideas of our place in the structure of society *and* the serious changes that the Spirit has been working in the universal church over the last 20-40 years, some of those phases’s struggles can become explosive, implosive, or apathy-inducing.

      I agree that church planting is a vital tool for us, but we must have more than the courage to found new churches – we have to have the courage and co-creativity to re-discover what “church” looks like in the first place, while somehow not loosing the vitality of our spiritual ancestors given to us through traditions and ancient wisdom.

    • Dan Frain says

      Thom, thanks for the article. It hurts, but it’s on point. This was suggested reading from one of our ex-priests. The sheep attacked him viciously and ran him off. He’s now growing wonderfully as a junior priest at a larger, older church Our church has been wracked over the years, but we have a faithful remnant that is slowly growing. Please share my contact information with Larry.

      Larry, our Diocese is looking for a church planter. We are trying to stay faithful to Scripture and out Anglican traditions.

      Please contact me. I am a layman, but an active layman. I serve as Junior Warden (physical plant, etc.) and a vestryman. If we can find some common ground, I’ll introduce you online to some people. I’m a layman, but I have the ear of several priests and both our Bishops.

      Thank you.

      Dan Frain

  58. carl larsen says

    maybe churches are dying because the bronze age superstitions they are based on are no longer as relevant in modern society. the evangelicals tend to be more vibrant because people are naturally prone to be sucked into emotion laden relationships in a society that is more and more detached from each other, adopting the beliefs of the leader. christianity will go the way of mithraism, paganism and in a thousand years jesus will be listed with zeus, thor and neptune in a book of ancient myths.

  59. Rev. Pat Felletter, RT. says

    I served a “cat” church 12 hours weekly for 6 years. When I was called the church was in disrepair. In 6 short years they painted the outside, calked the windows, painted the sanctuary, put in new carpet, installed an accessible ramp and repaved their driveway. But they were still not satisfied and decided I needed to be replaced with a young male pastor with children. They still worshipped the long-time settled male pastor who had 4 children who remained active in the church after he retired. In the 6 years since I’ve retired they installed a new kitchen and had one settled pastor, one seminary intern, and a long-term pulpit supply pastor. After much procrastination they have just called a very part time middle-aged ordained minister who is a grandmother. I scratch my head because they are repeating the type of leadership they rejected 6 years ago. However I am happily retired and an active member of a terrific church.

  60. says

    I agree with all of hem expect #1 – A church should in now way lower it’s standard’s to that of the community – it should however reach out to the community in help, ministries, and Evangelism and help the community to want to prosper and better itself.

    The churches that I belonged to all had these elements – not only helping those have a better life that became members, but helping visitors to lift themselves educationlly and ecoomically to better themselves and their community.,

    I also have witnessed that the older a member becomes the more they are entrenched Unless you have seniors tht think and act young go to these people and befriend them and encourage them to start living again.

    One of the churches I used to belong to now has a multitude of ministries and also has the head pastor plus 3 associate pastors. It’s a church that celebrates life ad The Lord Jesus Christ – and has activities for all ages.

  61. says

    I found you because you followed me on Twitter. Thank you. I’m glad I check out my followers because I appreciated this post. I agree with you. It’s sad, but true. We are the church and when we focus on a building or program or set of past ideals we die. Jesus is about giving life to us from which we pour out to others. If we don’t empty ourselves for the sake of someone else, we stagnate and die. I realized as I was looking at the books you’ve written, that I have friends who introduced me to Simple Church. What little I read, I loved. We need to get back to simply living out Jesus in a real and relevant way. Church as we knew it back when we were kids means nothing to most people now. Thanks for the inspiration.

  62. says

    Maybe the death of a local church is Christ’s body doing some apoptosis. From our point of view it sucks that the dying cell keeps the cell walls, so to speak, while the new cell needs to rent a school or meet in living rooms but maybe from God’s point of view that is a good thing also.

  63. says

    Maybe I am reading into this in a different way than most…. BUT, I’m sure you will find many reasons for your comments to be valid, many probably ways we all need to look at and see if they are ones we need to establish. I believe there are many reasons in opposition to some of the comments presented as well, many people just won’t post them here, or have the resources to post them here. BUT, here I go (please know, I don’t speak for the Church I work at, or have devoted myself to), but, I stand in opposition to some of your comments…excuse me, THREE weeks gives you a real objective look at any parish?? NOT AT ALL!! Try living in a parish for over 50 years, try working and ministering with the people in various ways…try living, crying, ministering and dying with them as well. THAT is a sign that “someone” has researched the particular parish…then go from there. Sure, there is room to look at all the various options in the search for a new rector, possibly a new way to look at things too…BUT, for Christ Church, Delavan, going thru a search for a new rector, we will most likely be looking for compassion for times past, and times present, a rector who won’t come in changing things in his/her agenda, but yet looking at things a new person will help us grow into as well…a person who draws us back to a God that will help us to further the mission God has presented us with here, in this community, in this ministry. Lord, in Your mercy…here our prayers!

    • Dan says

      Roberta,
      I appreciate your love for your church. Would that more people were as dedicated. However, I would say that devotion to a church and or some ideal of how church should be run is neither honorable or praiseworthy if it leads to the death of the church. If a church is dying, it must be willing to ask why. Sometimes we cannot see the reasons why without an outside set of eyes. So churches bring in other CHRISTIANS who love God’s church to assess the situation. That being said, three weeks may not seem long compared to 50 years, however it is a lifetime when compared with the 60-300 seconds in which most visitors evaluate their experience at a church. Furthermore, sometimes churches stop learning and growing because we get comfortable with what we know, and with what was effective at one time in the congregations history. I do pray that God would bring the right person to your church, though I would also point out that the effectiveness of the rector will be related to the willingness of the congregation to change as God leads, if the Lord leads. Blessings to your church as it seeks its next rector.

      DK

  64. Vivian says

    I could have written that story of our church that just closed.
    The only difference, our congregation was obsessed with the building. We would spend whatever necessary of our limited funds to preserve the building. Now the building is being sold and the Congregation is non existant.
    We never learned that the Church is not the Building.

  65. MS CHILDS says

    EVERY CHURCH IVE ATTENDED IN THE STATE SHOWS SIGNS OF THE 11 ISSUES U MENTIONED. I FEEL THESE THINGS ARE ALIVE BC PPL ARE USE TO DOING WHAT THEY DO AND CHANGE IS HARD FOR MOST. I FEEL THAT IF THERE WERE MORE PPL N POSITION INTERESTED IN MAKING THINGS WHOLE AND RIGHT INSTEAD OF CLASSIFYING “EVERYTHING” THE CHURCHES COULD THRIVE AND REACH THE COMMUNITY.

  66. Scott Osenbaugh says

    For 30 of the 37 years I have been in the ministry, I have been in a pastoral role of some kind, the vast majority of it as a lead or senior pastor. My wife and I have worked together, serving mostly churches where our ministry was “search and rescue” and sadly, most of the time we were not able to bring much help. Now I serve as an assistant area overseer and one of the churches in that area is gasping for breath and refuses to do anything about it. They’ve been through three pastors in the last five years, and the last one left after trying to reach into the community and expand outreach, only, to the best of my knowledge, be rebuffed by the few congregants left. While the stories of the sick and dying churches are tragic, without a doubt, I would offer they become warnings to any church to recall “if you think you stand, take heed, lest you fall.” Jesus told us through parable to go out into the highways and country lanes and compel them to come in. If we do not heed that divine direction, then we have only ourselves to blame for the terminal diagnosis of our local fellowship.

  67. Erlinda Brent says

    I have worked for a church for 15 years. About seven years ago, we got a new rector. A few months later, we had our regularly scheduled Annual Meeting, where, among other things, vestry members are elected. One person stated that they wanted to make sure things didn’t change too much. That statement stayed with me, because I thought it was such a stagnant statement. Yes, it is nice to build on traditions and honor them, but things in a church HAVE to change. the neighborhood changes, the world changes, people change. It is called growth. Without change, without adaptation, institutions (churches) wither and die.

  68. Kellie says

    My husband, a geologist, has a t-shirt that reads, “Evolve or die.” It really is this simple. Churches that refuse to evolve will die. I believe that a trend towards evolution could be prompted by seminaries (all denominations) through emphasis on leadership skills, conflict resolution skills, and financial management skills (both personal and organizational financial management). Seminaries tend of focus on theology to the exclusion of practical skills. Pastors who see the need to instill change in their churches often lack the tools to turn the tide.

  69. says

    Thank you for this truth telling. Reading this brought me back to a small congregation that I was asked to serve and determine if it was time for “church hospice.” When I started they had dwindled to about 15 in worship after my first year with them we had grown to over 40 in worship, a children’s Sunday school and an adult Bible study before church. However, the underlying disease process remained firmly rooted. I lead the session and congregation through a very painful time of discernment and ultimately through the process of closing its doors. However, the leadership was determined that they were not going out with a whimper, but with a bang.
    Early in our discussions we read the passage where Jesus says that every seed must fall and give up its life in order to bear fruit. The leadership realized that this was the invitation that they were being given; to give up their life in order for fruit to be borne. With the money in the bank they could have clung to life-support for a few more years or they could use what resources remained – including the building – and plant seeds of faith in several important mission projects. Painfully and joyfully they chose the later option. They realized that one of the key principals of our faith is to not fear death, even the death of a beloved church.
    I write about this experience in my book, Grieving Hearts in Worship: A Ministry Resource, AuthorHouse 2012. Since this congregation’s closing amazing things have occurred through the seeds they planted and spread. One of the most amazing is that the church building was bought by a woman who had a vision of meeting the needs of the homeless. The church building is now a shelter where worship is an integral offering, they have rehab classes, life skills classes and so much more. All the things that the former congregation wanted to do, but lacked the energy to act upon it, is now happening; but it would not have happened if they had clung to life-support.
    Death of a church is not necessarily a bad thing, it is an invitation to do ministry and live our faith in a new way.

  70. Paul Mayhan says

    I pastored a church like this for 2 years. Down from 600 in worship in the ’60’s to about 40 when I came. I call churches like this “zombie churches” because for all of the purposes for which a church exists, they are already dead. Yet they continue to walk as if they aren’t. The elderly group who had held on didn’t even like being there. They were just still there because they didn’t want the stress of changing churches and because the fact that they endured meant they were winning all those old battles they remembered. By the time I came there, they had invented a micro culture of insanity that ensured that no visitor ever came more than once. The church is still there in this big dilapidated building, barely paying the bills and cursing my name the same as they do all the other former pastors from the last 30 years. This group has actually become a negative witness- their faith (in whatever it is they believe) actually pushes people away from Christ.

  71. Deitra Blackwell says

    I recently resigned my position as a church musician because I was serving a church like you describe above. It was too frustrating to be so out of step with the church leadership. We even tried the New Beginnings Program. The congregation leaders could not grasp the concept of a church that ministered to their community and could be a positive influence there. And the support that the program promised never arrived. In my opinion, churches like you describe are not churches at all but are clubs. As long as they can keep their clubhouses open, they can’t see that there is a problem. The fact that they are not fulfilling “the greats” (commandments, commission, golden rule, fundamentals of following Jesus), is just not a problem for them. I finally just had to step away.

  72. Larry says

    The truth of the matter is that almost every church that can afford to pay a full time pastor is looking for a Bible teaching yes man.

    • Scott Osenbaugh says

      I would suggest that “every church” that has the resources to pay a full time pastor is just looking for a “Bible teaching yes man” is too broad a statement, and not truly accurate. I served a church for ten years in the Midwest that had quite the ability to pay the pastor well, and never was there an expectation that I should be a “yes man.” What I have found after almost four decades of ministry is the lay leadership of the church is critical to the overall perception the church may have of itself. In the church I pastor now, and there I am full time, the leadership expects me to exercise leadership, be visionary and work as a catalyst to see the leadership idea carried forward. The church is still trying to recover from what happened before I came, and there are signs of new life sprouting here and there; it is very encouraging to see what God is doing amongst His people there. I realize this is subjective and experiential, but in those churches where I’ve been part time (bivo, usually), there was more of an expectation of the yes man thing than in the full time churches.

  73. Margaret Faiver says

    Thom,
    As a former Director of Music for several “dying” churches, I offer the following comments. The “mission” of the church is to build highways AWAY from the building and into the community. Christ set the example of traveling “to the people”. Having eyes focused outward on the needs of others gives one the opportunity to actually DO SOMETHING….to be the hands and feet of Christ! In my experience, parisioners wait at the door to greet newcomers to see what they can do for THEM. And, let’s be honest here, hasn’t the church like everything else, turned their focus towards MONEY! Not what they can give to others, after all, they meet their monthly apportionment to missions, but what they can GET from others to maintain the rising costs of their church building and staff. I truly believe that the message of Christ had nothing whatsoever to do with buildings, pastors, choirs, etc. The message of Christ was to love one another and to do unto the least of these! People who aren’t coming to the doors of a church are not LOST. Rather, those within many churches have built walls of brick and mortar and familiar rituals of childhood that they can hide behind so they don’t have to see! A hymn says it best; “Open my eyes that I might see!”

    • Dan says

      Sister Margaret,
      I want to partially disagree with you. People outside of the church are lost and there is no other hope for them than the Church who makes much of Jesus Christ. The fact that congregations worship Jesus inside of buildings made of brick walls is not the problem, even if the building is expensive. The problem with the building is that congregations often times make idols out of their buildings. The church is not a social service agency, though it can and should serve the needs of people. The problem seems to be when we make idols of people, namely ourselves who are already within the church. This causes us, I think, to focus only on what we want. Often times when recognize this hideous error we recoil at it and instead of refocusing our gaze upon the One who truly deserves worship, we can overcompensate and begin to idolize those outside. Make no mistake, the lost are lost and the church is the only hope they have, but the church is no hope at all when it does not worship its Lord exclusively. One final thought that I think is helpful for us as we try to wade through this difficult issue. Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” What does this mean for us when we think about utilizing a congregations financial resources? What does this mean for us when we think about evangelizing? What does this mean for us as we think about worship? I think at this time my answers to these questions is too simple.
      DK

  74. Vicki Glover says

    I see two big problems in the church. The first one I see is that most Christians see the church as a place only for worship, and it is mostly for the sinners to come and get to know Christ and the new Christians to get to know Him better. I see so many older Christians that complain I did not get anything out of the service today. You should be there first and foremost to serve and worship God, and if you do that God will bless you. The second problem is that when we do what Christ called us to do and reach the lost and bring them to salvation that is all we do. What happened to discipleship. We lead them to Christ and then we leave them to get slaughtered by satan’s attacks because that is when he attacks the worse, when he knows he is losing a soul. Then we lose the new saved soul back to the world because they were not showed how to look to the Word and to God for strength and His fight.

  75. Jazomine says

    This breaks my heart. I see 8 of those 11 points going on in my church RIGHT NOW. The problem is, the leadership of the church, including the pastor, thinks everything is just fine…except for finances of course. That’s their only focus…having enough money to just keep doing what they’re doing. They’re not looking upward or outward, only inward. So discouraging…

  76. says

    As person who is going into the ministry in the near future I’m wondering what a newcomers priorities should be considering I will most likely be starting in a smaller church. Part of the reasons these dying churches last as long as they do is there is always someone else willing to come in and preach but do little else. I don’t want to be a part of prolonging the problem but if there is an opportunity to get a church off the deathbed and onto the road to recovery where do you start? What have you got on immediate care treatment?

    • Dan says

      Ryan,
      Great question. I wondered the same things myself, for almost the exact same reasons. I hope you get a response from someone with a lot more experience than we have.

      DK

  77. says

    Sadder still are those churches that seem to be alive and well, and have long ago became apostate. I’d like to read an autopsy on that kind of death, as well.

  78. Julie Peyton says

    My husband is a pastor and I’ll be honest….this is what we faced when we walked through the doors of our “new assignment in New Mexico” last July. But God is the Stronger One and thanks to His might, my wonderfully stubborn husband and a few dozen other courageous, God-loving, mission-minded people….we have returned from the dead!

      • Julie Peyton says

        We would be happy to share with you Dr. Rainer…for the glory of God! You just can’t imagine what it was like…well maybe you can. :)

      • Julie Peyton says

        Dr. Rainer,

        A few weeks ago satan reared his ugly head again in our church. This is the second major battle of “whose Spirit-led, who decides what programs are best, etc” that we’ve had. We (leaders, staff) are trying our best to reconcile with disgruntled members but we seem to be getting no where. This time its over AWANA of all things!! (They want Training Union, RAs/GAs, etc.) One member suggested my husband resign so that other members who left before would come back and start tithing. (Really?!) Please pray for us….!

        And thanks for your post “Six Recent Lessons I Learned from Turnaround Churches”. This is our pattern these past few months…perhaps the reason for the pushback…

        Julie

          • Julie Peyton says

            Dr. Rainer,

            One final update: the cancer came back and was more aggressive and uglier than before. After 3 weeks of praying and fasting, my husband knew it was time to go…there was no life left. He resigned earlier this week. I can tell you that we have the peace and relief of knowing that we did just what God asked to the very end. God is good…all the time.

            Thanks for the prayers,
            Julie

  79. David Dollinger says

    Your article is exactly why I left the pastorate. Over 75% of the churches in the denomination I served is exactly as you speak. I served 17 years as a pastor and found that my effectiveness for the kingdom was limited and my passion for The Lord was waning. I now attend a church that is alive and reaching numerous people for Jesus. I don’t care where I serve. Be it from the pulpit or cleaning the bathroom, being a part of a community of followers that are reaching out is so life giving.

    • Cliff says

      David Dollinger, I hope that your passion for the Lord is no longer waning. However, don’t underestimate the effectiveness of which God can use you in His kingdom, even as a pastor. Though we may have limitations God does not! It is not up to us to save others or to even change others. It is simply to lift Our Lord Jesus up before others. Jesus said that if we lift Him up before men than He will draw men unto Himself. I sometimes think that as Christians or Pastors that we have so much compassion to see others change their lives for Christ, that we will preach to people on their need to change. Instead of just letting Christ shine through us and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to the hearts of others. May God Bless you in all that you do for Him! P.S.: Please forgive me if I have ever said or did anything that contributed toward your passion waning for The Lord.

  80. Rev Jean Throckmorton says

    Thank you, Dr. Rainer. The truth is often hard for anyone to hear, and when people have eyes and ears only for their own ‘kind’ it is near impossible. I would add two comments that I don’t think I saw in the above.
    1) small does not mean dying. Some small churches are in areas where large growth is not possible because it is a community where people come for short periods of time and leave again, or decide to retire elsewhere when the time comes, or are in remote locations. But the population of these churches may change while not increasing, thus showing that they are alive and reaching people.
    2) the phrase “panta ta ethne” has ‘stuck’ in my mind since seminary. And as I have watched some of the churches that mean a great deal to me ‘die’ because they became disconnected from their communities, the issue was that the people were from a different cultural context or a different style of worship (usually in conjunction with socioeconomic change). Most of us are aware that race is an issue (if we look closely) but often we fail to recognize the differences that are more ‘hidden’ – the cultural and social differences in the ethnic groups. We (the predominant ‘white’ churches and people) always expect those who do come to our churches to become ‘like us’ culturally rather than in Christ. And it is true, too, that many ‘immigrant’ communities prefer to continue their prior cultural and ethnic traditions, being unwilling to move from their positions, too. Too bad that we seek ‘our kind’ ethnically, culturally, linguistically rather than seeking our kind as “Christ followers’.

  81. says

    At my previous church (medium-sized church) I had been sent because I have a great love for contemporary worship and hjave begun them. The church had said it wanted contemporary, told their superior it was what they wanted, and expressed to me at our initial mtg. it was what they wanted. Within the first yr. it was established (with blessing), implemented and 25% of their average attendance was attending with a congregational promise of a year’s experiment to make it work. Within 6 months the Council cancelled it, saying they did not want contemporary, and wanted a “more caring ministry to the members.” In other words, “we like the way we are and want chaplaincy care.” The church will obviously continue their decline toward demise. Meanwhile, a 5-yr.-old church-start in the community had grown from 3 people to-start to an attendance of over 200. I share this as a confirmation of the many factors you have listed — they are very much on target.

    • says

      Charles,

      I think you are on my devotional list. As always, I will pray for you and pray for the congregation. I am sorry things have progressed this way. While I like your phrase, “We like the way we are and want chaplaincy care,” I don’t like that it’s what they want.

      So sad that people do not want to do what it takes to reach others.

      Brian

      • Charles Klink says

        Greetings, thank you for the reply and for the understanding. It is always helpful to know there are those who understand. I am now in a large-church congregation where I have been appointed to help develop an outreach program. At this stage, there is an openness and will endeavor to keep posted about the progress.

  82. Pastor Jim Ellis says

    I cannot believe this article. It is as Tom has lead by the Holy Spirit to pen this piece. So many churches have this as their mission statement “Us four and no more.” Put these 11 statement in practice and you can post “Spiritual Bankrupt” on your church door. Keep up the great work!

  83. Greg Fleenor says

    You are right on target with the article. Before the church dies…even before it starts making the decisions you talked about In the article, I believe most churches make the fatal flaw of forgetting to love one another. As Southern Baptists, we boast of being a denomination of more than 16 million. But, with about half of our members no longer associated with a church, we are actually a denomination of 8 million…or less. The typical church is no different. More than half of the membership of the typical church is no longer associated with that church or any church. We do not love one another when our fellow church members (also called our brothers, sisters, or our church family) walk away from the church and we act as if nothing has happened. We must do better!

  84. says

    Brother Thom, thank you for the autopsy on this church. It is a stark reminder of what nearly happened to the church I have the priviilege to pastor today. Seven short years ago, this church seemed destined to close. The lawn mower was housed in fellowship hall. The curtains moved when the blustery Ohio winter winds blew. The roof leaked and the baptiistry was filled with spiders, cob webs, and Christmas decorations of days gone by. Five pastors in eight short years each leaving shaking their heads. The diagnosis seemed terminal. Yet God had another plan. God had left a remnant of people who continued to pray and seek His face. The church called me as pastor. We, with the help of our state convention and local association got some grant money. We did a campus rehabilitation, installed a new sign, paved the parking lot and started reaching out. Despite the objections of older members who insisted it would not work, we had our first vbs. I prayed, please God send us souls. He did. Six children came to know Christ that first year. We continue to reach the lost, visit, and are attempting to meet needs in our community. To God be the glory. Victory Baptist Church continues to thrive and impact our community.

  85. Geraldo Méndez Ramírez says

    Very sad this chronicle of a death foretold. I think the most significant factor that could lead a church to die, is not willing to examine and evaluate relational and spiritual life of the church, or after the review is not willing to accept the findings of the review to change direction to God’s preferred future for the church.

  86. Sue Sheedy Crissman says

    I did not read through all the replies but in the article and about 15 of the posts I read, I was wondering if perhaps the problem is that the life of Christ, HIS power and life reigning in US is lacking in the mission of a dying church. A church focused on Christ would likely be vibrant and alive. Any “ism” is addressed when the love of Christ is the whole focus of any ministry. Growth in the hearts of the members may be slow and likely, some will not want Christ to soften some unyeilded parts of their hearts, but, if the love of Christ is the heart of the church, the only reason the doors will close is in God’s timing. And, when the love of Christ softens hearts and attitudes, it is HIS love that will draw all men to HIM (and by extension…to a church).

    • says

      Sue, I think that might have a /lot/ to do with what is meant by “focused n Christ”.
      There are many parishes and even whole denominations who are focused of Christ as one might focus on a piece of artwork: admiring it, counting its beauty, analyzing the methods used and the possible meanings behind it… but ultimately having little impact on their daily life and work. The individual is enriched, but the art stays in its frame or on its pedestal, and no one else is touched but the believer.

      Inversely, Jesus talked about a double focus, a two-sided law above all laws, from which all other laws (and actions) are (or should be) derived: Love God *AND* Love Neighbor. So, if by “focused on Christ” you mean focused on living out his teachings beyond the walls of the buildings, and acting as he did in the lives of the people who /don’t yet believe/, then, yes, I agree.

      • Sue Sheedy Crissman says

        Hi Warren….sorry if I caused any confusion….. When I said, “focused on Christ” I was not referring to an outward focus rather a Christ-centered passionate, fervent desire that everything, every decision or action is based on the love that Christ has for us. That our love for everyone flow out of a heart that has been regenerated and transformed by a relationship with Jesus. Where the Spirit of God speaks love to the very heart of everyone we come in contact with.

        Yes, it has NOTHING to do with a church building. WE are the church, the building is just a convenient place for us to meet where we control the environment. i.e….though a bar is a building, it would not be the most conducive place to praise and worship…not that God would have any objection to touching the heart of someone in a bar. But, then, the church building is not the only place where we live out our Christian walk, it is just a place where believers meet, encourage each other in love, hear the Word and continue the process of renewing our minds so that we are transformed more and more into the image of Christ. And for the sake of clarity….I do understand that many churches are like a war zone….bickering, gossip and backbiting…just like the world and not focused on Christ in the way I was describing above. Unfortunately, that is why so many unbelievers steer clear of churches….they perceive us to be hypocrites. And sadly, some believers have so many unhealed life-wounds that their lives look no different and outwardly do not present the Gospel as anything more than another set of rules to follow.

        But, not to worry….God is bigger than all of our unhealed hearts! He is so much more wonderful than most believers know. It’s His grace that speaks life to our hearts and it is by that grace that love reaches into the hearts of the unbeliever and draws them to Himself….we get to enjoy the privilege of being part of the process :-)

  87. says

    Now here’s an article I read yesterday that addresses the effect of the total inverse of this situation, and indeed if such a movement can capture a parish’s imagination and action, there could be a whole new kind of revival.

    Like any God-breathed revival, however, it will be scary, because we who are doing it and even leading it will have no idea how it will actually happen, or what it will “look like”, or even what it will /believe/ when it is through changing us all. Aslan is not a tame lion….

  88. says

    Thom,

    What a poignant message! With 30 years of bi-vocational ministry seving in “Helps” and “Administration” I have witnessed the “Ichabod” condition more often than I care to recount. What is not growing is dying. When fruit-bearing ceases, action must be taken to prune dead branches, water the roots, and sometimes re-plant. Typically these failures can be categorized by a lack of vision, hope, and obedience. The analysis you provided perfectly shadows the same reasons why businesses often fail. If you look at this from a secular perspective, the same rules apply. Unfortunately, most fail to recognize the cycles, indicators, and necessary steps to make course corrections. Based upon the posts, you have struck a nerve with many servants of God looking or solutions.

  89. Ben says

    It’s interesting reading your posts. It seems often from the leadership standpoint that we criticize the Bride of Christ for various reasons and point to the demise of local churches because of the fault of the people. Many pastors I have encountered have the same issues as factors charged against our flocks. I know so many pastors and people with whom I have attended seminary that come into churches “with a God given agenda” telling the church how they need to change. How can we not expect churches to be dysfunctional with the average tenure of its leaders (and I would argue its not always the churches fault). Any family that switched daddies as much as churches do are bound to have issues. There has to be a willingness to become one of the people of the church and the community. To many leaders operate from a positional respect without willing to plant their flags in a church long-term and have a willingness to develop a vision utilizing the way that God has gifted the whole local body. I read articles like this and the comments especially and it always seems like the assumption is that there is an underlying problem with the people. How are sheep to act when there is no guiding shepherd who loves them that they can trust? Many of these small dying churches I encounter are full of loving people. What they often lack is a someone who loves them enough to walk with them and celebrate an inch of victory over the expectations of radical growth. If you are going to do an autopsy of a church start with by examining its pastors. Often our (pastors) long term mindset is what needs changed.

  90. says

    When I moved from Illinois to Tulsa Oklahoma, I was amazed at there being churches on every corner. I just chalked it up to being in the belt buckle of the bible belt. After being here for six years now I have discovered that just because there are churches, it seems everywhere, that doesn’t mean they are all doing well. “Holding onto life tenaciously,” as you mentioned earlier doesn’t even begin to describe what I have observed. There are many churches here that have offered to join with each other so churches would not have to totally shut down, but because of “The remembrance of the old days” refuse too, thinking they can and will once again thrive, only to inevitably have to close their doors. I do not understand why staff and congregations will not pull churches together to glorify and lift up the name of Jesus. It’s really bewildering!

  91. Arnold says

    I so see the importance of church – yet it is so difficult for many of us to find a church that works! Here’s what I found out that may be helpful. Relevence! So many churchs that I’ve visited not at all relevent yet the word is so relevent and too many preachers are talking lots and saying nothing practical enough for the folks to take home and apply! Perhaps another thing to watch for is the ‘SPOOKY’ stuff that keeps regular folks from ever attending your churh or the spooky stuff that stops the regulare congregation from ever bringing their friends to a church function. One more thing that could help is someone needs to let the preacher know to stop blaming the Holy Ghost for his being long winded – so often the only one that loves hearing the preacher go too long is the preacher and maybe his spouse!

  92. DALE TIBBITTS says

    VERY GOOD ARTICLE, ONE OF MY TASKS THE LORD GAVE ME, IS BREATHING LIFE INTO DEAD CHURCHES,AND ELIMINATING THE DIVISIONS IN THE BODY, ONE THING I NOTICED THROUGH THE EFFORTS OF OUR CHURCH WHEN OUR PASTOR TRIED TO CONTACT ALL THE OTHER CHURCHES IN OUR COMMUNITY TO SEE HOW WE COULD COME TOGETHER TO IMPACT OUR COMMUNITY, HE GOT NO REPLIES! UNTILL WE CAN BREACH THE DENOMINATIONAL/ETHNIC BARRIERS IT WILL BE HARD TO STITCH THE BODY TOGETHER MEGA CHURCHES ALOT OF TIMES WON’T COME TOGETHER WITH SMALL CHURCHES, UNLESS THERE IS A TIE, LIKE THE LEADER CAME THROUGH THAT CHURCH UNTILL WE CAN MOVE FROM RELIGION TO RELATIONSHIP AND FOLLOW THE HEAD OF THE BODY ,THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND DO THINGS HIS WAY, WE WILL SEE THESE THINGS. WE ARE SUPPOSED TO LIFT ONE ANOTHER UP PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER.INSTEAD OF FOCUSING ON NUMBERS ,FOCUS ON THE GOSPEL(JESUS) HE SAID LIFT ME UP AND I WILL DRAW ALL MEN TO ME! WE MUST UNDERSTAND THERE IS ONE BODY(CHURCH) AND IT HAS NO DENOMINATION/ETHNICITY BUT ONE NEW MAN GRAFTED TOGETHER BY CHRIST JESUS ON THE CROSS!

  93. says

    I believe when you focus on the lost, the saved will grow. But when you focus on growing the saved, the lost are forgotten. Thank you for this sobering update on the kingdom. #fuel.

  94. Prefer not to say says

    Reminds me of my current congregation more than I like to admit. Rural, small, I’m bi-vo. Feels like I have neither the available time nor the critical mass of concerned congregants to break through established power structures. How big a part does transparency play in church death? In my church, the Treasurer and Clerk are married to each other. They keep all membership and financial records at their house. Finances haven’t been audited by a CPA in living memory. No one counts the offering except the Treasurer alone. Who knows what’s really going on there?

  95. John Pellegrini says

    An interesting article. Unfortunately there is still one obvious truth that hasn’t been stated. When a church turns inward and ignores the realities of the community, it is no longer a ‘church’. It is instead a social club, catering only to the interests of the membership. At that point, the role of the clergy is to provide some niceties for the members, but nothing more. Make no mistake, the membership was a ‘church’ in name only. Once a congregation reaches that collective mindset, there is seldom a chance to change the attitudes. Too bad, but not all ‘churches’ are real churches.

  96. Dr Kat says

    Wonderful, thought-provoking, and insightful article. I especially enjoyed the discussion following the article.
    I am reminded of a church that I attended a few years ago, where it appeared there were little boundaries and some of what I considered were unethical events that happened. A fellow church-goer, who became a friend of mine outside the fellowship, offered a good piece of advice. He suggested that I look for the power-brokers in the church, as they are often the “oligarchy” who make the ultimate decisions in churches. When you find them, you will find how decisions are made and on what criteria decisions are finalized.
    He was correct. I watched the power-brokers make what turned out to be a financially fatal decision for the church, which resulted in a mass exodus of church members, a divide of culturally diverse members, and the near bankruptcy of the church. From what I am told, members who did not agree with those holding the power were demeaned. Since I left the fellowship due to other reasons, I hear about the demise from other members who are sad that the church has been reduced to this state. Power does, indeed, corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I find it sad that so many are left to suffer for the whims of a few.

    • says

      Dr. Kat,
      I think that the corrupting influence of power is especially dangerous when those with power don’t consciously /realize/ that they have this power. In many churches, those “pillars” and “power-brokers” don’t realize how much power or privilege they have over other members of the church, thinking that they’re “just like anybody else” and that if others just [insert false-voice method here], they’d have just as much influence; as well as taking people’s silence and lack of opposition to them as consent and support. Not realizing their status in the group dynamic, they fail to consider these things, and fail to make any attempts at including other voices (that might disagree) or holding back and considering others’ needs, because that’s the job of the pastor, or the vestry, or the deacons

      I have seen (and seen abused) pastors be able to harness these hidden leaders in various ways. The best, i think, was one who started convening a parish “leadership council”, separate from the official chain of command. These included some members of the official leadership, but was intended to get all the other kinds of leaders that the pastor could see all on the same page, without having to stay within the limits (or grant the extra power of) the official bodies (age limits, gender prejudice, time constraints, etc.). It ended up functioning as an “advisory” committee of sorts, taking on extra projects (like creating an alternative Saturday worship service, or helping with hidden pastoral concerns of parishioners), and such without interfering with the purposes of the vestry.

      Inclusion of group “power brokers”, when possible, can lead to some really powerful places – not the least because they stop fighting things the official leadership is trying to do because they 1) had a say in it and 2) understand the reasons and goals behind it. Of course, this inclusion can only work if the pastor and other officials really want them to be a part of the leadership, and really listen to their advice.

  97. Kaylene Whitaker says

    Our senior pastor would like to use this article in our church newsletter. Who do I need to contact to get permission to do so?

    • Thom Rainer says

      Kaylene,

      You may reprint this article but please credit me and ThomRainer.com as the source.

      Thank you.

      • Kaylene Whitaker says

        Thank you for your prompt response! We will definitely credit you and the site as the source.

  98. says

    You have described nearly half the churches of our Association, including my own. Up until 5 years ago, everything was going great. But then some thought a change of leadership was necessary. Such was not the case. Iwas convinced by a majority of the people to hold on. After those vents, we took a nose dive. We ARE beginning to rebound, but it is ever so slow. I know, and many in the church knows, that God is moving again in our church. I believe that we will rise again!

  99. Ruth says

    The Church where I grew up, once thrived. It changed ministers and is now 1/8 of what is was, and continues to drop. There is no longer a youth group or youth choirs. There were once 3 youth choirs. There is no longer a reason to promote Sunday school. I remember there being 2 teachers to a classroom because the classes were so large. Currently there are only 2 middle school children. Their is no longer any interest in a Confirmation class. This is the Church where my husband and I met. The Church were there are 300 members and only about 38 attendees. We left because we feel it is “cold” and we no longer feel welcome.

    • says

      Ruth, that sounds like a slightly different (though related) problem that churches often have.
      One easy trap for pastors & priests to fall into, especially if they are really good at getting things to happen, is to allow the parish to become dependent on them and their skills. A minority of ordained ministers have the skill set, passion, intuition, and insight to be able to whip a congregation into a powerhouse. These ministers are able to identify the right people to do the right jobs at the right time and seem to be able to make any program successful. However, when they leave, it all falls apart. Nobody realizes at the time how much the pastor was doing “behind the scenes” in the direct operation of the church’s programs, from encouraging individuals and helping them run their ministries, doing and running ministries personally, to resolving interpersonal conflicts and personally settling disputes, to finding sources of funding and knowing how to talk to the various financial key people to get them to give when needed.

      Sounds great, right? “The next pastor should be like that!” you say.
      But here’s the trap: they won’t be. All but the wealthiest parishes are likely to have more mundane pastors who are only equipped to preach, counsel, and keep shop: the traditional role of the pastor. After a parish has one of the superpastors, they feel let down by the next one(s), wondering where their support went and why everyone seems to be fighting, or why nobody’s giving as much anymore.

      The job that the superpastor /didn’t/ do in these cases was to train and empower the lay leaders to do what /the pastor/ was doing. Pastors come and go these days – rarely do parishes have a single ordained minister through their entire ordained life, even in traditions who seek that out, end even when they *do* get that, the pastor will eventually retire or die and the pattern continues the same way. The parishes who do best /after/ having a superpastor are those who have raised up capable lay leaders and kept them trained in their roles *AND* have developed a leader mentoring system (formal or not) where new leaders are continuously raised up. Only a *very* few of the superpastors know this, so it is usually dependent on the existing parish leaders to 1) recognize that they have a superpastor and 2) /ask/ the superpastor to teach them how to do things, to plan for their eventual departure by slowly taking their hands off and mentoring, rather than doing.

      A superpastor often has such a force of will and/or cunning that when they /don’t/ take the special effort to mentor instead of “do”, they undermine, alienate, or otherwise break up the healthy core of do-ers in the parish. When he leaves, they are either not there anymore, or they’re no longer in the middle of things – nobody’s looking to them for leadership anymore, they’re only looking at the new, mundane, pastor.

      In my seminary, we are taught about this as being a form of pastoral abuse, and one that’s hard to counteract, since 1) the superpastor is *so* well loved and has done so many good things (actually good things too, not just a perception – these ministries that they form and foster do real good and are definitely part of God’s mission and should NOT be discounted), 2) the damage isn’t usually seen until they’ve left, and 3) the problems are blamed on the new pastor instead of the old. It’s damage that can be repaired, but not without pain, dedication, and sometimes extreme measures (like bringing in a consultant like Thom and honestly working with them for an extended period of time, or being lucky and finding another superpastor who knows better).

  100. Jim Clayton says

    I really appreciate this insight. Albeit common sense to a minister’s call, it is still very much an issue. I pastor three small rural churches and much of the conversation is spent talking about times past and good this was or how many used to come. Board meetings consist of counting money and dealing with a building not a people. This article came at the perfect time for me and I am going to look very closely at all 11 of these signs. Thank You!

  101. says

    As church restoration specialists who go into dying churches and help them – we can say that this post is bang on! The article posted “6 Steps DYING Churches Must Take to Find Life” on ChurchLeaders.com to follow up on this post is also precisely true! We have found this in every church we have helped. Good job and thank you for getting the word out.

  102. Marlene says

    I am part of a church which has held steady at about 350-400 attendance but has had problems maintaining a decent-sized youth dept. There is a core of about 65 people who volunteer, serve on committees and organize things, with the rest content to come to church & worship & that’s it. I’m in my late 30s and PREFER the pews & hymnals. Church with folding chairs and videoscreen lyrics leave me cold…that isn’t worship, to me. In previous years I have served this church in multiple ways, becoming extremely involved in things, but over the past 2 years, I’ve suffered from illness to the point that it’s hard to maintain my home and keep up appearances, and I have stopped going. They are so focused on missions and serving others in the community, nation and world, that the congregational needs are sometimes overlooked. As soon as new members join, it’s like they are pounced on- what can you do for us??? Donate this, volunteer for that, give give give… sometimes congregational members of the church need help too. Sometimes we are too poor to give or donate anything, and sometimes everyone just seems so perfect and “together” that it’s hard to feel like I’m worthy of being there, when my house is filthy and I can’t get motivated to do anything due to depression and grieving. I need help with things as a single mom, and I’m too embarrassed to ask. I no longer serve on committees, volunteer, play sports, or help much, and no I’m not elderly. I work a full time job and keep my bills paid. Sometimes I go to church and sit in worship, feeling raw and unworthy to be there, and the familiarity of everything is a huge comfort. The hymnals and unison prayers and pews comfort me, and sometimes that is the only comfort I have.

  103. Elmer Speer says

    Dr. Ranier, your blog Autopsy of a Deceased church hit home 100%. I am Pastoring a church that is dying or really is dead. There has been almost zero growth in the past 5 years that I have been here. Average age is 70 and only 2 Baptisms in past 2 years. I have a retired pastor and his wife that feel called to this church and are helping but are not interested it seems in trying anything “new”. I think a blend of contemporary and some traditional is worth a try but fail to be able to institute any significant change. the community has changed from white to hispanic. but we do not seem to be able to reach them. We have a food pantry, our only ministry outreach at this time. I suggested we put the building up for sale and take the proceeds and start in a small storefront that we could afford,.voted down. the building is paid for but is in sad state of neglect and old. (1897) the average income per month is about 1200 dollars enough to pay the bills. we rent the downstairs fellowship hall to a Haitian church but they are also very small. I am open for any help or suggestions at all.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Elmer –

      Unless the church truly decides to reach the community in which it is located, the prognosis is not good. You are in my prayers friend.

    • says

      So true, the church must decide on its mission, it needs a concrete vision with goals to drive it. In effect it needs to decide to change or stay the same. If it decided not to change or reach the community around it then there is nothing a pastor can do there. They simply are not willing to strive for God’s will in the life of the church. Praying too. Thom I am so thankful you are speaking truth to Pastors.

  104. Donna says

    Thom, I read this article and then I shared it with our church email members. Although our church is not at this place now, I could easily see it happening. This article could serve as a wake-up to us because there are so many churches that are slowly headed this way. I know many churches in our area have done away with Sunday night services; and I believe that’s just the beginning of the death of the church.

  105. says

    Very interesting story. Unfortunately, this is happening all over the world.

    The church needs a remedy and has to really place their trust in the One in whom they preach about and have faith in.

  106. Tim Harrison says

    Thank you for the courage to honestly observe the Church and write this article. I am in a denomination that closes many more churches than they plant. In our region, the last new church was in the 1980’s, and we’ve been closing one church a year for many years. I asked if we’ve even done an autopsy, and the answer was no, and we never will. I would love to be in a community that talks about these issues.

  107. Linda Millican says

    Thanks for the though provoking story!! It seems to be a sign of the times…..to see churches in decline. The older members don’t care for change in the church. They don’t like to see how the young people dress, the music that is different-brought into the church, noisy kids, etc. etc. We must as a family of believers go to our church for the right reasons: as Christ said in the Bible- forsake not the gathering together. We must be accepting of others, willing to accept some change, be friendly and understanding. We need to see our community as our mission field – ripe for the harvest and invite those who are unfamiliar to us, into our midst. We need to welcome anyone who has a desire and thirst for the Word. We need to reflect Christ!! We need to be willing to minister, not just be ministered to!!

  108. Danavan Pryce says

    let me get this straight you were informed of this dying church, by the time you got there the first thing that should have been settled was how you would be paid?……would you have given them that consultation if you knew you were’nt going to be paid? should’nt the fact that the church was dying pricked your heart to help rather than to settle the payment issue first? and when since have we gone downhill that a church now has to pay to get consultation on its deteriorating situation nowhere in biblical scripture an apostle or prophet had to be paid to give a consultation on a specific situation… in revelation chapter 2-4 Christ gave free consultation to the various churces, in 1 corithians 7 Paul by the holy spirit gave free consultation to specific situation…if i may be bold to say this, brother you added to the death of that church, obviously they could not swing your fee, until a brother decided to foot on top of all that the church was going through they had to deal with this issue…further more where was the pastor at the time of your visit? where was his suggestion? had he also lost his vision? was there no knowledge on his lips as a messenger of God to correct the church? and like a shepherd lead them back to the true counsels of God?

    • Dan says

      Danavan,
      I do not really want to respond to your diatribe against Dr. Rainer but I would find it even more distasteful if he had to defend himself. That said, I would respond with three points and a question: 1) Most people in America get paid for providing their expertise. 2) If a church is unwilling to spend the relatively small investment to pay an expert, they are unlikely to be willing to change. 3) The fact that they had agreed to hire a consultant but had not been able to come to an agreement about how to pay for the service likely gives you some insight into the nature of their business meetings. My question is this: Do you go to work and expect to not get paid? I have a newsflash for you, to earn the degree Ph. D. is a massive sacrifice of time, energy, and money. In a secular field the consulting fees would be astronomical by comparison to what a church consultant makes. Yes, there were no consultants in the New Testaments but neither were their air conditioners, microphones, toilets, or hymnals (not to mention Bibles that include both Testaments in book rather than scroll format), which one of these new developments are you dissatisfied with that you would like to jettison along with consultants? Final thought has to do with your comments about preaching. Many a preacher has faithfully opened God’s Word to the congregation for many years only to have it fall on deaf ears.
      In spite of our disagreement on this issue, I do share your passion for Christ’s Church and belief in the power of Spirit empowered preaching.
      DK
      P.S. Not that it matters, but I am on an unpaid consulting team that is currently creating a program to help churches get healthy–our main fear (this really borders on expectation) is that the churches who need the assistance most will not be willing to ask for it.

  109. says

    Where was the godly influence? It sounds like the many pastors let the congregation pull rank. A bad form of Church government perhaps.Sounds like the majority got their fleshly way and the pastor was powerless. A sure formula for disaster.

  110. Louise says

    Speaking of the subject of the inward focused Church who doesn’t evangelize: The longer I’ve been in ministry the more I believe that we the “corporate” Church can only do so much when it comes to evangelization. I really believe that it is to be mostly the individual members of the church who are to do the evangelizing. The church members are the ones in the market place rubbing shoulders with many different kinds of people. That is their MISSION FIELD! But because individuals no longer reach out with the Gospel to those around them, the corporate Church is having to take up the slack. So you see many a church compromise their services, making them “seeker friendly” to get the unsaved in their churches. You see them lean towards entertainment to entice them into their doors, and the message is watered down so they will not leave. All this compromise to get more into their church. Then the whole purpose of the Church shifts from being a place for the saints, to a place for the unbeliever! If each individual did their part in representing Christ in their own sphere of influence, then we’d see more people get saved and COME INTO OUR CHURCHES!

  111. says

    Churches like these which have not died yet are the place that many young pastors begin in the ministry, many of whom either become discouraged or leave the ministry.

    These churches are the way they are for theological reasons. They either were never taught or resisted learning what the Bible has to say about being and doing church. Someone or something other than Jesus was the head of such churches. The inner life of these churches did not reflect the NT teaching about how people are to relate to each other and behave in God’s church. The relationships between pastor and church leaders was not shaped by the call for pastors to equip and laity to be equipped for ministry. The individual wholeness of church members makes it hard for a pastor to find healthy leaders. Sometimes the individual wholeness of the pastor makes a sick church even sicker. Lastly, these church bodies like healthy skin by having healthy ministries for an unhealthy world because of neglecting the biblical call of outreach and ministry to others. Such churches are poor because they are theologically underfunded. The solution is preaching, teaching and discipling churches in biblical ecclesiology (doctrine of the church). Clergy who lack sound ecclesiology must be taught and discipled in it also.

  112. A humble servant says

    Being a Priest in a parish for 3.5 this whole article needs to be read in most of the Parishes where I live. Here, the “glory years” are relived so often. But even they are a fallacy because when you check the vestry books, the attendance was not very good even 50 years ago. The parish I had just left has a wonderful vision ” to make sure ‘my church’ is still here when I die so that I will be buried out of ‘my church'” For the past 25 years,this Parish can not keep priests longer than 3 years! Most have left before “things” start to happen. Some have left utterly destroyed by bullies, people who have lost the mission of the Gospel. It’s sad. One priest said 25 years ago that the area is in Palliative Care. WE NEED to WAKE UP!! And stop being like the people of Jeremiah’s time!

  113. Mark says

    While the autopsy results are true one important aspect that is overlooked is the fact that Pastors are not doing their tasks very well in offering courageous leadership. Shepherds must lead!

  114. says

    A few things that struck me as I read the article in the comments. A) It’s not always about the people in the pews. In my experience I have often seen churches with more boldness and zeal in the pews than in the pulpit. Mainline Christianity needs to start forming pastors again who have a passion to spread the gospel and care for souls. We don’t need more ordianed activists, organizers and event directors. We need PASTORS!! B) It’s not always about desegregation or diversity. Sometimes I feel we have created an idol out of diversity. On internship a parishioner came back from a synod event and said “Vicar I was told I had to invite a black person to church, I don’t know any,” I replied, “Marilyn, start with the unchurched white family across the street.” Thanks for the great read.

  115. J. Heckerman says

    I once served as the bi-vocational minister in a small congregation which has since closed. They were faithful people who gave heartily to support their church and their denomination’s programs. They had an adequate facility which was well-maintained and also room for expansion. They were eager to share in community mission and programs. But, a few years before I came there, when the number of children in the church had reached a very low level, they had given up offering any Sunday School program for them. Soon, the few families with children were going elsewhere. The community began to grow, some young couples in which one partner had grown up in that church started returning to the community and a few even joined. But when their kids got to the age to participate in classes they reluctantly moved their memberships elsewhere. The classes were no longer their and neither were the people young enough to lead them. That one past decision, more than any other factor, eventually killed that church.

  116. says

    This is a great diagnosis. And the obvious answer for how not to die is to do the opposite of items 1-11. Still, there are lots of blogs floating about the death of the church; I would love to read some posts about churches that have been resurrected, and the characteristics thereof.

  117. Paul says

    The culture has changed. There are too many worldly interests to take up the busy lives. There is hope in reaching out to the community with welcome arms and spreading the Word.

  118. jon says

    Jesus taught who would produce much fruit, ones with a good and noble heart. Contrasting this he pointed out those who received the word with gladness but fell away do to the cares of this world, also those who fall away do to trials. People can still attend church, but their hearts can be far from the Lord. Thankfully we do have a savor who I believe continues to search for lost sheep. Christians who have fallen away. Jesus also said unless one takes up their cross they are unfit to be called His disciple. This indicates a choice, Jesus does not force us to take up our cross thus having our heart condition renewed.

  119. Kevin Jones says

    How about this? Hospice pastors, for the churches that are going into their declining years, and would like to die gracefully. Then sell off the properties in order to fund evangelism and church planting.

    Teach the old folks in a declining church like the one above that everything – even their beloved church – dies and they must leave and move on so that something good can come of it.

  120. says

    Thanks, Thom. This is painfully right on. In Chicago, God has given us opportunity to restart 8 different churches in the last 13 years. These historic churches carried many of the eleven signs you list. But before they died we had the privilege of merging our stories with theirs, breathing new life and vision into a places of historic mission. We believe this is a key part of church planting strategy for this generation in the North America and Western Europe. We did a little video about our restart story: http://www.newlifecities.org/restart/

  121. says

    I am not a religious person and of course, don’t attend church. Yet, there is a message in this story for anyone, not just church-goers: cooperate and grow together or bicker and fall apart.

    I’m aware of a church that is attended by a close acquaintance that is exhibiting the symptoms described by the author. It is elders in the church who stubbornly cling to the past and create the acrimony that will eventually cause the church to fail. Like the church described by the author, this one has been through several pastors, all of whom were attempting to keep the church relevant in the community. These pastors were resisted every step of the way by elders who thought that they were still attending the church that existed 40-50 years ago. The current pastor is having a bit more success in this regard, but is still being resisted by elders who can’t accept that not everyone sees church life through the faded lenses of the past.

    A philosopher whose name escapes me once opined that there is nothing constant as change. All organizations, spiritual or secular, should take heed. If you want to perpetuate yourselves make sure there’s enough room for new people to get involved.

  122. says

    What a great article. I have shared these thoughts with the congregation to which I have been Pastoring now for over 3 years. When I first arrived average attendance was 55-60 on Sunday mornings. In the past three years this church family has had a great outward focus and God’s blessings have been seen. Sunday morning services now range between 100-120 and in the last three years membership has grown approx 75% with new people and families attending on a weekly basis. If a church does not evangelize, it will eventually fosilize. I once read that if we become focussed on the color of carpets and hymnal selection instead of reaching the lost then we will become, “Keepers of the Christian aqairium instead of fishers of men.” Thanks for sharing and let’s always remember that the message of the gospel needs never to be changed, however; it’s delivery can. So, let’s learn from this post and get out and fulfill the great commission that Christ has entrusted to all God’s children. Thanks for allowing me to share.

  123. Leona says

    One other reason people leave is that some churches, especially smaller churches, have members, or even pastors that make assumptions of church goers. If a person does not join groups or participate in many activities they sort of leave that person out. I am sorry to write that there is almost a click like feeling in some smaller churches. Some people take longer than others to join and some people may need to just take spiritual nourishment for a longer time than others before they join in. Churches should be a place of refuge for the broken, not a place where your activity level makes you popular.

  124. Paul says

    I have read some good comments recently from Ken and Barry. As I stated last week in my own comment, this culture is a BUSY culture. I have friends with kids and their excuse is they are too tired when Sunday comes along. People spend the week full with activities, events, entertainment, and work. We enjoy the worldly things. To obtain the worldly possessions, we intensely focus on work. Two salaries is not even enough. The church is simply not the priority in the American and European cultures. I can not think of a solution to change a culture. The only thing I can think of is to keep pressing on. Pressing on towards the trophy in heaven. As Ken stated the church has to stay centered on Christ and the Gospel. As soon as Jesus is not the center a church will fall apart.

  125. Jon says

    How do you convince a church that it is dying when they say “we’ve been here (low attendance) and survived without changing anything, why should we change….”?

  126. Johanna Rowland says

    I actually first saw this in print somewhere else some time ago, and see it happening in our rural Virginia county. My husband has pastored in this area for 21 years with the exception of two years in seminary and two years on the foreign mission field as part of his degree. Both churches where he pastored have grown, I believe, because God honors a heart devoted to him and his people, even if we are works in progress ourselves. My husband does not prefer conflict but realizes as a leader he must keep “advancing the Kingdom” at the forefront and always preach JESUS even if that creates conflict! We must pray that members of these dying churches will have ears to truly hear ! We recently moved into a new building and are now heading towards 500 in attendance, no small feat for a county of 28,001. Pray for us as we now hope to cross racial barriers even more than we do now. Thanks, Mr. Rainer. I appreciate all of your work and research in church growth.

  127. Dennis Raffaelli says

    Mark: In reply I have to ask where Christ is when someone says it is unfortunate that I am over 50.

    Fortunately, I attend a church where people of all ages are encouraged both young and old.

  128. says

    Hi I don’t wanna tell you my name but I live in Florida. I was raised in a holiness church that ran maybe 75 people on Sunday morning, as an adult all the churches I’ve been in have only ran 75-100 people. I’m now in a church running about 130-150. I believe they are a wonderful couple, ( the pastors) , young and on fire. But I also believe they are aspiring to be a mega church, reaching the heights of ” Christian tv” . I’m not really big on , I say sarcastically, ” Christian tv”‘ . They are nothing but godless entertainers…I.e.( wannabe) pastors of LA. Biggest bunch of mess I ever saw. I will never listen to Ditrieck Haddon again…I feel his listeners believed he was truly committed to Christ. After seeing this I doubt his relationship is genuine. We are not suppose to be ” having what p diddly has” which was said by one of the pla’s. Jesus NEVER laid up things on earth, nor did he seek his name be known. That’s so prevelant and sad. I’m not saying my pastors are like that yet. I’m trying to get rooted and grounded in a God driven church and not a 10 thousand member circus. I want a pastor who when I pass away can give my children words of comfort and help my family celebrate my life not his associate to the associates associates pastors. I love my church the praise and worship is awesome, but I also see where they are trying to go..and I’m uneasy. We have churches in town that have 3 Sunday morning services. That’s ridiculous. I’ve been at this church since April 2013 and its nov2013. I’ve shaken my pastors hand maybe 5 times. I go every Sunday morning. We don’t have Sunday evening service. I’ve spoken to the pastors wife 3 times…in 6 months. I’m not trying to make this about me, I’m voicing to outsider what I’m feeling and someone who sees these things and not asking for an opinion just a little guidance. Let me say this I went to see a mega church pastor about 10 years ago…I was very sick, I attended a small church that I loved,and went to see this guy with some friends…what a joke…I told my pastor I was going to see him. She said ok. I got to the church a lady met me at the door with a big drooping gold chain and said we will have someone lead you to an overflow room. I was disappointed , but not showing it. My friends had gotten separated from my husband and I , so they were in a different overflow room. A guy comes in and says hi everyone get up follow me, walk fast, so we did. Halfway down the hall he stops my husband and I and says not you two, them, speaking of the rest of the group. So we went back to the room and began watching him on big screen, a few minutes later another person comes to the door and says follow me, there are two seats in the back. We did and as soon as we sat down a lady motioned to us to two seats in front, I was four pews from the altar…I looked this mega pastor eye to eye…yep he preached the same message he always preached on tv…what I’m about to tell you blows people’s minds when I tell them…it was end of service, he said anyone who needs prayer and miracle and you have 1000.00 dollars put your money or check in the air and come to the front…I didn’t have a thousand dollars, but I was definitely sick. Then as that line filled up and ushers took the money, the mega man says if you need prayer or miracle and you have 500.00 dollars put your money in the air and the ushers began to take that money up, so he says if you have 50.00 dollars and you need prayer or miracle put your money in the air, the ushers will come take your money and you can come get in line. I was stunned, they never showed that part of the service on tv, and I know because I watched it when they aired it. I have NEVER watched that fake mega tv wanna be again…and by the way there was a little lady sitting beside my husband who put an offering of 5.00 dollars in a envelope and put in the plate…an usher literally gave it back and said we can’t take this five dollars it’s not enough money..at that we left. I laid down in the seat of my car and cried all the way home which was 2 hours away. My pastor called me the next day and asked how it went. I asked if I could come to her house she said yes…I apologized after I told her and asked her forgiveness…she said you didn’t do anything wrong,you had to see for your self…and believe me I did and will never forget it…I recently found out he was on trinity crying about how he was going under and he’s lost his spots on tbn… A big DUH there…this may be a joke to them but God doesn’t play. I don’t feel sorry for him, he’s reaping what he sowed…that’s why I’m uneasy about mega wanna bees …thank you for your time.

  129. says

    Hi Thom,

    Thanks for your insight and in particular, your honesty and grace in which you present your observation.

    I too, travel extensively in support of local churches and elder ship boards / pastoral search committees, and can concur with your findings. Whilst everyone is entitled to voice their perspective in response to your findings, I think one should always be aware that the hallmark of Christ’s presence was life. Fundamentally, when ones focus and activities are directed inwards, a body becomes moribund and autolysis begins.

    The churches primary responsibility is reconciliation, and as Psalm 127 outlines, it begins first with you and I, then the Family, Church and City. Where we as individuals cease to grow daily in our relationship with Christ, the church (as a a group of individuals), has ceased to be salt and light in the community.

    Whatever opinion we as Church members and fellow Christians have on the topic, we are all duty bound to take personal responsibility to grow. Sadly, when ones memories replace ones vision for the lost humanity which we are called to serve, the Church loses its anointing, strength, and is bound to the traditions of grinding out an existence just like Samson. Sadly, Samson thought he could “go out” as before, but God had left him. I don’t believe God needs to withdraw from us, we often times, withdraw from him.

    The good news is, Samson’s hair began to grow and he was more effective in his last mission, than he was in all the years prior to that fall from grace. So “come on” pastors, leaders and fellow Christians, return back to the author of life himself, and lets build with fellow builders the glorious church.

  130. lyoeono says

    Thank you for your message. Our “prayer meeting” was so dead last night. I see our small group growing more and more dead. Even when I am cooking dinner and inviting people over, they don’t show up. Where is the heart for God, and his service? We do go out and knock on doors and continue to try to work with the community, but not sure why we are so dead?

  131. Terry Root says

    I think # 8 …. praying together is the glue and backbone of any strong church. You can have all the programs in place, but a praying church is a staying church.

  132. says

    Hey everyone

    Well, after printing Thom’s timely and brilliant post, I am emailing people in our city, our church and burdened by the freezing weather we are experiencing at the moment (and we are not certainly alone), In preparing for my weekend message I wanted to print the short blog and my printer went crazy as it printed over 100 pages (trust me I didn’t ask for it) of comments.

    Super discouraged (and admittedly broken and probably wrong). People need Jesus, the Church needs to stop debating about the ‘church’ and start being Jesus to our world. We are dying not because the gospel has lost its power but its people lost their focus. We are the church. The Bride of Jesus, the hope to our world. Gosh friends (did I say gosh) can we get a reality check here???? Come on, please. If you are reading this, you are part of the solution. We are as ‘one’ the church. Say that, and believe it. WE—ARE—THE—CHURCH of JESUS.

    We can all, as Christ followers stand, look, give commentary and advice but when the day is over it is not about what you think as brilliant as you might think you are. It is about one thing, which is LOVE.

    As I type these words, I am sitting in my nice warm house looking at the super cold weather in the great Pacific NW and as much as I personally hate cold weather, I don’t have to unroll a sleeping bag tonight, I have a bed, I have a home, with actual heat beyond layers of clothes and I have a family.

    As much as I hate left-overs I have so much in my refrigerator. As much as I hate the stupid water heater that does ‘it’s thing’ I still can experience a hot shower, personal and unviolated or uninterrupted by any person or any place. Because I am blessed! I am blessed by the God of the Universe to be a blessing to each person I can touch for Jesus. Audacious? Yep. I believe it!!!

    This isn’t ‘that’ comment and frankly I rarely comment but I just had to tonight, because people in our world are dying as we write comments, watch TV and sit in our nice warm houses, commenting (me included by the way) and debating about what is, would can or should be and as I type each word, I can’t get out of my mind the little boy or girl who might not be able to have enough warmth to just ‘survive’

    As a graduate of seminary, a friend of people who are way smarter than me, I still sit in my house struggling because someone just needs to know they are loved.

    We are the church, yep, we are asleep but it is time for the church of Jesus to wake up and take it’s rightful place in our generation. It is time to stop looking at what isn’t and look at what can be because last time I checked Jesus said “with God all things are possible”

    It is time to stop debating about what or who we are and START being the church of Jesus.

    It is time to honor men like Thom Rainer and others who love the church and are bringing things that ‘matter’ to light

    It is time to stop printing 100’s of pages of comments and start being more than saying and thinking. Rhetoric and opinions aren’t working my co-workers.

    Jesus said they will know we are his disciples not by what we say but what we do.

    Let’s continue ‘doing’ something for the ONE who gave everything for us.

    OK. For not planning to comment, this is a bit long.

    Do something today. Something that will empty you and exalt Jesus.

    It is what we must do.

    Good night friends.

    Ps. John Bishop

  133. Jo Schmidt says

    I am currently unchurched because it is easier to control my feelings of resentment by avoiding the church than to convince the church to change. I’m old so you might think I’m part of the problem. Age has nothing to do with it. Christ is Joy and Love and that’s what our church misses. We were an inner city church without any helping ministry, as you mentioned. The pastor would hand out canned food or a gas card to the occasional person seeking help, but with a large new facility and congregation of 500 I thought we could do more; I was told the other volunteer services had the areas well covered and to donate to them instead. Our music was plodding and not at all fun, but the words were “Christian” and that’s what mattered. In fact, I was told we didn’t want the music to be so enjoyable the words were overlooked. We offer Lent and mourning 352 days of the year. It’s permissible to sing enthusiastic songs and be joyful on Christmas and the 11 days following, and again on Easter Sunday. When I looked at your article I was expecting to find things like “lack of joy.” I think you may have overlooked something. Churches do need to teach sin and penitence but it should never overshadow joy and salvation.

  134. Quintin Byrd says

    Hello fellow brothers on Christ I just recently joined the website not too long ago and I just finished reading the article that was posted and I must say that the article is so accurate in so many ways. For one I’m a deacon at non denominational church in NC that focus on healing, speaking in tongues, and hearing what the Lord wants to do in our life. There has been a problem since I started going to that church and its that we have always had a small congregation like barely 20 members and its still liket that now and I’ve been there since november 2010. Let me be the first to say that there are so many problems going like for one there is a cultural difference and division between the american members and nigerian members. The nigerian members have the tendency to offend the american members by saying how this country is spoiled and even I get offended when I hear it even from my pastor sometimes. I feel that’s part of the reason why some of the members left because of statements like that. Do note that even though the ministry that I’m under is suppose to for all nationalities it just doesn’t feel like it it feels more like a church one type of culture and not a church for many cultures and nationalities. Second our praise and worship team is terrible. Because we have a small congregation the members were ramdomly picked to sing and most of them are not the best at singing plus they don’t practice and almost everyone has their own agenda to lead the choir or sing solo and no one is singing for the right reasons which is to sing for the Lord. And las but not least everyone complains about everything and no wants to come up with any ideas to better the ministry they just want our pastor to do all the and since we are still unknown our communities dont even know we are the. I don’t want this ministry to fails so please tell what can I do

  135. Quintin Byrd says

    Hello fellow brothers on Christ I just recently joined the website not too long ago and I just finished reading the article that was posted and I must say that the article is so accurate in so many ways. For one I’m a deacon at non denominational church in NC that focus on healing, speaking in tongues, and hearing what the Lord wants to do in our life. There has been a problem since I started going to that church and its that we have always had a small congregation like barely 20 members and its still liket that now and I’ve been there since november 2010. Let me be the first to say that there are so many problems going like for one there is a cultural difference and division between the american members and nigerian members. The nigerian members have the tendency to offend the american members by saying how this country is spoiled and even I get offended when I hear it even from my pastor sometimes. I feel that’s part of the reason why some of the members left because of statements like that. Do note that even though the ministry that I’m under is suppose to for all nationalities it just doesn’t feel like it it feels more like a church one type of culture and not a church for many cultures and nationalities. Second our praise and worship team is terrible. Because we have a small congregation the members were ramdomly picked to sing and most of them are not the best at singing plus they don’t practice and almost everyone has their own agenda to lead the choir or sing solo and no one is singing for the right reasons which is to sing for the Lord. And las but not least everyone complains about everything and no wants to come up with any ideas to better the ministry they just want our pastor to do all the and since we are still unknown our communities dont even know we are the. I don’t want this ministry to fails so please tell what can I do

  136. says

    Article’s been out for a while, but still hits hard. The church you described? Wherever it is, it’s an almost exact copy of my home church. Attendance over 700 in two morning services. Now maybe 80, and still in two services.
    I appreciate the analysis. Point-by-point– spot on. They need the true Lordship of Jesus Christ among them, which hasn’t been preached or taught to them since about 1970.

  137. says

    My current church faced the very same issues in 1984 — all-white and racist in a rough and largely-African-American neighborhood, and a new pastor told congregants that it needed to change. Fortunately, the church always had prayer warriors who recognized that God had to move in that new direction, and the new pastor for six years focused upon holding the congregation together; only after that did he begin to challenge the congregation with issues of diversity. (He was able to sell that by insisting that there was a mission field just outside the church doors.) To make a long story short, from a congregation of 400 and shrinking 30 years ago it has become one of over 3,000, economically and culturally diverse with all kinds of community outreach but not sacrificing one iota of basic of doctrine in the process.

  138. Connie says

    Unfortunately, I truly feel that our Church will follow this path when our Pastor retires. He is a fabulous Pastor, a man after God’s own heart, and though he is in his early 70’s (and has Pastored our Church since he was in his 20’s), his messages are still fresh and very relevant. In a very small town (1600 people), our Church attendance is over 600 on Sunday morning! It would be much larger, but it’s a revolving door. I’ve been there 15 years. We moved 25 miles JUST to go to this Church, even though it meant my husband had to drive an hour to work. About a month ago I looked around and realized that I didn’t recognize about a third of the people there. The problem is our Church board. If you are in any ministry in the Church, you WILL have a run in with them eventually. Our Pastor would prefer to put responsible people in positions, then let them MINISTER (with light supervision). On the other hand, our board likes to make every ministry as hard as possible…to the point of people quitting and/or leaving the Church! Our daily operations are run by the board, but big decisions, or those that cannot be agreed upon, come before the Church members for a vote. That is supposed to be the final decision. However, over the past 15 years, the board has become the “good old boys club”. You cannot run for a board position without the current board’s approval, and they have worked out a system where they just get reelected. They are constantly overstepping the boundaries of their positions, and going totally against issues that were decided by congregation vote. Some things seem small: a room was supposed to be shared as a “once in a while” bridal room, and a staging area for vbs decorations was carpeted with the palest green carpet, and fancy white upholstered furniture was put in there, along with an elaborate sink, makeup benches, etc. TOTALLY against the congregation vote, but they justified it by saying it was done with donated materials. The bottom line was: a board member’s daughter was getting married, and wanted it fancy. They also defied the vote, and didn’t allow it to be shared space. The bigger things are BIG: $200K over budget on the new Church office, all because the board member’s wives were given free reign with decorating, buying extremely expensive and impractical things (like a $10K conference table that took up 90% of the floor space for a room that was supposed to be shared by a Sunday School class), and major changes not approved by the congregation. In a town of 1600 people, our vbs pulls in almost 300 kids. But the board fights the dedicated people that run vbs on everything. A group of 8 women work 20-40 hours/wk from Feb. to Aug. for our vbs. We’ve had other Churches from large cities visit to see how we run it because it is so successful! The congregation voted to give vbs their own (locked) storage room. The board wives jimmied the lock and threw away a lot of decorations (they claimed they couldn’t tell that they were vbs decor) because “they” wanted to turn the room into a college age lounge. What they didn’t throw away was moved to a pole barn 2 miles away. Since it was done in the off season, the vbs crew didn’t find out until they were gutting the room (it’s a huge Church)! Now that the grandchildren of the board members are teens, they think we should do away with vbs, which is the single largest outreach we have. AND the most successful! At any given time, 1/3 of our teen program is made up of young people brought in through the vbs program. Pastor used to lock horns with them constantly. But, it seems like he’s tired of having to fight them too I could go on all night. I had hoped that my grandchildren would grow up in this Church in this small town. But, unless something major changes, I expect 1/3 to 1/2 of the congregation to leave when Pastor retires. The other half will be the board, and their families and friends. When they can’t control each other….it will die. 120 year old Church, destroyed by 10 men.

    • says

      I’ve had opportunity to read this article multiple times. I’ve read through the responses multiple times. I see both success and decline stories here. The main article, with 11 reality statements, could be summarized with only two of them. #9 based on #5.
      9. The church had no clarity as to why it existed. There was no vision, no mission, and no purpose.
      …because…
      5. There were no evangelistic emphases. When a church loses its passion to reach the lost, the congregation begins to die.

      Or, as the second responder (Hubbell) said much more simply back in October:
      “We claim the two most important commandments Jesus gave us and we are constantly amazed at what He is doing in our little church.”
      Those commandments? Stated multiple times in the Gospels: “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12.28b-31)

      Read through all the comments on this article, and it’s plain. There are many who complain about the decrease, the locks, the loss of meaning. Some are more concerned about political issues than faith. Some want position and influence in the town more than they want a loving relationship with Christ and with others. Some are more interested in growing numbers than they are with growing in Christ. One of the most important things about Jesus’ ministry (other than his loving sacrifice for all), is that for him, politics are NEVER involved. Whenever a political question comes up to him, how does he answer? By saying something like, “Who’s picture is on the money in your pocket?” What does politics in the Gospel do? It leads to Christ’s crucifixion. How much political fight did He offer? None.

      When the Church turns political, or wants local influence, or allows members to fight over who has power to do things, it declines. This is regardless of denomination or location. And why does a congregation or denomination get political? Because leaders– pastors, elders, deacons, whatever– get off of the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many leaders think that the Church is supposed to be some government or society influence to make things better. But that’s not what Jesus taught or demonstrated. The Church is supposed to have one target: Jesus Christ. And by focusing on that target, individuals are saved and led, one at a time. And then they may make societal differences as individuals, depending on how the Lord calls them.

      But in general, pastors and churches get the idea that they can skip all that. Oh sure, they preach great sounding messages that make people get all interested. But apparently those messages are wrong. Or at least not meant to be delivered to the Church.

      I read Connie’s sadness about how their great church will crash when their present pastor retires. Politics has taken over, and those who want to live by faith aren’t getting the encouragement they need. So they don’t see a way to correct their church leadership. Right after that is Allan’s comment, who says they ask people if they have a church home. Do they ask these people if they know and love Jesus Christ? Do they preach his true love to all who attend? Do those members love Christ above all else, and love those vistors as they love themselves?

      Allan’s little country church is down to such a small number, but it’s still there. He’s got the extra truth that rural populations are less than they used to be. Farm economy of big farms of one family, more than hundreds of small farms. That congregation is in my prayers today.

      I am always extremely popular with this message. (Little dry joke here.) Actually, I may get multiple attacks for these comments. Those always come from people whose churches are declining, or who want some political point to be passed. Or any other point except admitting that they either don’t really believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, or they don’t preach him that way.

      Others think that the Word of God is too harsh. It puts down too many people. It forces folks to face their sins and repent, where what folks actually want is to justify their sins. I often get accused of being too old fashioned, or judgmental, or condemning. Truth is, I choose to love and relate to all people, regardless of their sins or positions. Preaching the Truth about salvation through Christ can be done easily, without trying to pass judgment or condemnation. I just call people to Christ, loving Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and my neighbor (everyone) as myself.

      First step, back off on anything that is not connected to #9 and #5. Lead, encourage, guide, pray for pastors that they will preach this somehow, in every message. Why does the Church exist? To tell people about Jesus Christ. If the pastor can’t go this way, then replace him or her with someone who will. Every message needs to lift up Christ as the only true hope. Every pastor needs to find how to add evangelism to every message and to every outreach, just like every evangelist needs to learn how to apply pastoral love for every person. Every church member needs to be challenged regularly and always, with having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I challenge you and everyone to keep Jesus first, and love all others as he loves you. Then all those other solutions will follow.

  139. says

    Great article Thom! Ten years ago the Lord led my wife and I to plant a church in a rural South Dakota community. At the same time our church was growing and experiencing God’s blessing, we began to notice that so many other congregations in our region were not. In short, my eyes were opened to the dismal state of the church in so many rural communities. In 2009 God gave me a clear and strong vision to use technology to reach out into other rural communities that were in need of a healthy, vibrant, growing church that was driven to share the gospel and reach out into the community to make real and lasting impact. Since then, we have grown to 3 multi-site campuses and we are preparing to launch our 4th this year! I’m not sharing this for the sake of bragging (God gets ALL the glory for what He is doing in our story!) But I would like to share our vision with anyone who recognizes that they are sitting in a dying church and would love to be a part of something fresh. Feel free to check out http://www.therescuechurch.com and click on the banner that says VISION to watch a brief video about how you can be a part of bringing a healthy church to your community. Once a church is characterized by the symptoms described in this blog post, it is almost impossible for it to recover (short of God intervening with strong leadership). I say rather than wasting years of your life “organizing deck chairs on the Titanic”, get out while you can and invest your time, talent, and treasure in a church that has a fresh and compelling vision from God, that is outward focused, that is serving its community, that is reaching the next generation, and that speaks more about its future than the glory days of the past!

  140. David Kennedy says

    In 1999 I was asked to move from the Pacific Northwest to upstate Pennsylvania to help a ministry and also to be an assistant pastor in a small country church. The requested column from the only pastor of the church. After discussing that with my new life we don’t been married about six months at the time, and after praying about it as well we decided to move back And moved about 3200 miles. My first Sunday in the church I taught Sunday school to the adults there were 14 people there, I was 41 years old, my wife was 22, we were the youngest people in the church. After the service the senior pastor and our wives went out for lunch. In the course of our discussion of the service and how things went I asked a question as to if the board knew that I was coming out and what my purpose was to be there. The pastor told me he hadn’t told the board yet I was coming because he knew that they would not approve of my being there, but that he had planned on talking to the board in the next few days. At first it wasn’t for sure as to the decision being a good one to have made the move.

    On Tuesday and that week I got a phone call from one of the members of the church, her husband had just had a heart attack and was in critical condition in the hospital could I please come and pray with him. I dropped what I was doing and went to meet with the family and with him and pray with him. After I left the hospital I called the senior pastor and asked him why he had not gone, he was surprised to hear that I was called first he didn’t even know about the heart attack, but even after my telling him he still didn’t contact the family until the following Sunday at church. That Sunday I taught and preached. The next Tuesday I was told that I would be doing all of the pastoral duties for the foreseeable future, without pay as the board was told that I was only there for a year or so, and needed a place to minister. He never did ask the board for permission for me to be there, and wanted me to take on the full responsibilities as a pastor without pay. When I told him that I couldn’t do that he told me he didn’t think I was committed enough to HIS ministry, (this was after We moved on our money, and time.) and that he decided he didn’t want me there after all but asked that I stay at least a month so that he could get a break from preaching, I agreed within that month’s time the church went from 35 people to 75 people. When we returned to the West Coast the church closed its doors.

  141. CHAE S. SONE says

    PART I OF 3

    I. HIDDEN PASTORAL PLAN

    CHAPTER 1. GENESIS OF REV. WON TAE CHA GROUP HOLY MISSION

    .
    In the middle of various accusations against an innocent family members, we received a handwritten letter in Korean from an unknown member, dated June 16, 1997, (post marked 6/17/1997) the mailer noted as a sympathizer 동정자 at the address of Korean church 633 West 115th Street, New York.

    Since Rev. Won Tae Cha assigned to this church, our family had very good cordial relations with him. Often he visited our residence in Long Island. Very often we exchanged very friendly cordial greeting cards in civility. However, there appeared some disagreements among the church leaders how to properly manage the Building Trust Fund of the Church.

    Unexpectedly this anonymous hate letter to an innocent church leader seemed to suggest their hidden plans for the ministry plan.

    It was a threatening as well as an insulting letter to curse our family, especially our children. How could happen this kind insults to the innocent church family members in this church.

    The handwritten envelope from the church address.

    The writer surprisingly stated “we were mentally ill and our Children were pitiful as they were born from such mentally ill parents.”

    Surprisingly some one from the church sent this frightening cursing hate letter to the recipient church family against our faith.

    In order to prevent further unpredictable violence against the church and its innocent family, it was necessary to find out the sources. So we hired an expert investigator of the handwritings to determine the identity of the real writer of this ominous dangerous hate letter.

    At the time, Rev. Cha group was offensive to the church rules on the trust fund. The hate letter was mailed to my residence from the dear church address.

    Suddenly it hinted to investigate this hate letter comparatively with other handwritten letters from the pastor. For no one would dearly use this historic church address for such evil letter.

    Translated text of the hate letter from Korean.

    ”Simply I thought you are normal persons, but I know now you are seriously ill mental patient…If you are old, prepare for your dead. You are more pitiful than just crazy old ones… Even your children from such parents like you – they are really pitiful.” (Post Marked 17 Jun 1997)

    1 ) Korean handwritten text of the hate letter

    We were so shocked and frightened to have received such insulting letter from an unknown church member and we tried to identify the letter writer by a hiring a specialist.

    So we hired a costly Forensic Document Examiner, Julia Bevacqua, who is a court approved specialist to identify such crime oriented letters, to identify the threatening handwritten letter in comparison with the Korean letters previously received from Rev. Cha in the past.

    At the time Rev. Cha and his group was most antagonist to our family as they could not abuse the Trust Fund freely as the trustee’s tight control of the Trust Fund under the Chairman Sone according to the church rules and the state law.

    It was frightening to receive such insulting letter from an unknown person or persons. It was necessary to find out who did this in order to protect the congregation from the anti-Christian actions. A costly handwriting investigator was hired by our family.

    The Specialist Julia Bevacqua used the original handwritten letter of June 16th and its envelope for comparative analysis with the 6 other closely related old hand written letters from Rev. Won Tae Cha.

    The specialist concluded,

    “The letter was written by Rev. Won Tae Cha.”

    The investigator stated,

    “I derived the above results after studying the letters for identification and comparison by the use of a microscope (20 x magnifications), a microscope (30x) with measuring reticules, enlargement 182 percent, and oblique lighting equipment (transmitted light tables).” (1/15/1998)

    In light of the findings, now we naturally could conclude that Young Kim, Steve H. Park and Rev. Cha group was applying the evil bully tactics against our family in order to maintain their off beat ministry as their group activities indicated. It was the beginning of their organized hate letter campaign against the innocent church members.

    Eventually this group took over the church treasury, purging the church officers, trustees and so on through multiple hidden or open projects to push out good church members under Rev. Cha’s conjectures.

    the anonymous hate letter investigated in comparison with eight other documents (translated from the Korean language. the result of it revealed the deeply seated illness of the church

    However, the forensic document examiner did not present the investigation results in detail scientifically to avoid any misunderstanding. I urged her to present scientifically full details to the church leaders and members.

    But, the circumstances in the crucial church moral required presenting the academically or scientifically correct report of the criminal investigation results in order to avoid any illogical misunderstanding on it by the concerned members.

    This anonymous hate letter hinted obviously Rev. Won Tae Cha had a dream plan for his ministry with his own group. Please review his very good relations with the staff as the letters to my family indicated. He was friendly with the victim, the Board Chairman in honorable ways.

    However, some how, his pastoral ideas changed in hidden ways in order to establish his own way of the ministry for this historic Korean Methodist Church and Institute, misleading this Christian community. Eventually this toxic virus injured the spiritual health of this church since then.

    It concluded that her investigation proved it was written by Rev. Won Tae Cha of Korean Methodist Church and Institute according to the Special Forensic Document Examiner, Julia Bevacqua.

    The report should be a academically correct good educational data for good leadership, or any leadership to learn the nature of human behaviors in the Christian community.
    ““““““““““““““““`

    See the following logical presentations.

    . CHAPTER 2. REQUESTED DETAILED INVESTIGATION OF HATE LETTER

    Although investigator Julia Bevacqua researched the hate letter, her presentation was superficial and not satisfactory. And I demanded the details of it.

    2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, New York 11801 (516)931-1067/ 931-0424 Fax (516)938-5580

    January 23, 1998

    Ms. Julia Bevacqua Forensic Document Examiner 140-65 Beach Ave.
    Flushing, New York 11355

    Dear Ms. Julia Bevacqua:

    I have read carefully your examination of the letters. It gives an impression the report presents an outline what you did find from the investigation, without giving any examples. Without supporting examples it seems to be imperfect and not convincing.
    When I met with you, you explained to me the findings showing certain characters. I believe the report should have included such examples.
    Please let me ask you to supplement the report with proper exam¬ples to authenticate the findings – “arrangement”, “alignment”, “ration”, “microscopic examinations”, etc.
    It may be difficult for you to write Korean characters.
    To make examples, cut off relevant characters or numbers and
    paste up on the paper and copy them.
    I might present the complete report to other party about a month later.
    I would appreciate your help. Sincerely yours.
    I

    CHAPTER 3. HAND WRITTEN HATE LETTER

    In response to the request, the Investigator presented the following research on the hate letter, pastoral letters and detailed technical reports

    TRANSLATED TEXT: DEROGATORY HATE LETTER TO DR.CHAE S. SONE, JUNE 16, [1997]

    “Sone couple!

    While attending the Church for many years, first time in my
    life, I heard a rare news (legal action to get money from the
    Church). And I am writing to you.

    I do not know you very well what you are doing or if you had
    a formal education. I just thought you were healthy persons.
    But now I understand that you are seriously ill, awful mental
    patients.

    Perhaps you would not understand what I am going to tell
    m going to tell you.

    You are old. Better, ready for the death! You are really
    much more pitiful than in that situation of olden crazy.
    And if you are covetous of money, you need to repent more than

    Go to the Church regularly. Beg money from the church
    members (as beggars). Don’t act like bogus Christians! Go see a
    physician as soon as possible and try to cure your mental disease.
    You, two people! Don’t make your children experience the
    terrible shame! Go, hurry! See a physician for help.

    If your children do not understand what I am going tell about
    you, naturally it may be so for them too because they are
    offspring of such parents (mental patients). You are really
    pitiful.

    I end my letter at here. Try to have a good treatment!”
    (Signed) By a Sympathizer Korean text of the handwritten hate letter

    It was mailed out from the church address to the victim.
    These letters comparatively analyzed with the anonymous one.

    CHAPTER 4. HAND WRITTEN PASTORAL LETTERS REVEALED FINE RELATIONS

    The hand written pastoral letters were analyzed by the investigator. The letters truly demonstrated good pastoral relations with our family.

    The investigator comparatively analyzed the handwritten letters in comparison with the hate letter in detail.

    The forensic investigator found the style of the hate letter writer to be the same writers as the incumbent pastor’s.

    See the nice well written friendly letters.

    k1. TRANSLATED TEXT of Rev. Cha’s inquiry letter.

    Dear Dr. Sone: 4/3/91

    I appreciate very much for your diligent cooperation with the ministry. To day, I receive the enclosed mail. I would appreciate if you response to it. I would like to know Dr. Sone’s proposals.
    It is necessary to have a responsible counter strategy, but I worry about it as I do not have ability to push them to do so.
    Respectively yours, Rev. Won Tae Cha.

    ——

    k2. TRANSLATED TEXT of Rev. Cha’s letter on church problems. k2

    KOREAN METHODIST CHURCH AND INSTITUT
    633West 115th Street, New York, New York 10025 (212) 662-1422625

    Dear Stewart Kyung Ok Kim:

    Greeting in peace. I missed you for few weeks. I believe the rumors in the church would disappear after some time. Even now, as I am the minister of this church, I can not hide my concern and worry about Steward Kim. I think there could not be lasting enmities in Christ; there are plenty amicable strings of resolutions of the church problems.

    Let us have the strong dream that the faithful body could be established, shaking off the past wrongs. I cannot forget that past few months about the church problems. The painful experiences in the church reminded us and educated us to rethink about our deviant deeds.

    We shall overcome the force trying to divide us with the power to tie us together. Hope to see you next week. September 11, 1977. Respectively Rev. Cha Won tae

    k3. TRANSLATED TEXT of Rev. Cha’s happy birthday card
    k3.

    Dear Dr. Sone: Sincere celebrations

    Happy birthday to you. It was only yesterday when we celebrated your birthday at Dae Dong Restaurant. Time goes by too fast. It is already 6 years past since I was appointed to Manhattan (Church).

    In the past, you celebrated even this humble servant like me with your precious gift. I am re-examining my life and my ministry. I became very seriously humble about my own life before my life time runs out.

    Again I sincerely celebrate your birth

    k4. TRANSLATED TEXT of Merry Christmas card from Rev. Cha and Mrs. Cha k4

    Dear Dr. Sone family:

    I wish you very happy Christmas and New Year.
    I really do appreciate your advices and encouragement in many ways. Under such encouragements, this humble servant will do the best with the assistance of the faithful.
    Unhappy past events shall be berried forever with the past gone year and will do effort to create new events in the coming days. Surging vicious events to us will be replaced with the good events according to the power of our good faith.

    All of the thorny conversations will be replaced with peaceful ones. I would like to cooperate with such new plans. Offering the new greetings again.

    Merry Christmas and Happy a New Year!
    December 12, 19,

    Rev. Won Tae and Cha Tae Ok

    PART II OF 3

    chapter 6 should be added independently from other chapters 1/17/2014

    12;40 AM 1/25/2014

    CHAPTER 6 TECHNICAL ANALYSIS OF HANDWRITTEN
    LETTERS

    However the first report of the investigation was very simple in scientific terms and requested the investigator to present the investigation in technical terms to eliminate any questions on the subject matter that was clearly related with the church affairs..

    In response to the request, The Investigator presented the following scientific research data.

    JULIA BEVACQUA January 15, 1998

    FORENSIC DOCUMENT EXAMINER COURT QUALIFIED • EXPERT WITNESSES: (718) 358-6359 FAX: (718) 359-0103
    140-65 BEECH AVENUE FLUSHING, NEW YORK 11355

    Report prepared for:
    Mr. Chae Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801

    Report prepared for:
    January 15, 1998
    Mr. Chae Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801
    Questioned Document Specimen
    One page letter in Korean dated June 16. (photocopy)
    Questioned Document Specimen
    One envelope postmarked June 17, 1997; Westchester, NY? addressed to:
    Sone, Chae S.
    2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801
    with “return address” in Korean.
    (photocopy)
    Known Documents
    The following Standards were tested in accordance with forensic document examin¬ation principles and these documents were proven to be the same writer.

    April 3, 1991 letter in Korean with “Blest be” imprinting at the top of page and “the ties” imprinting at the bottom of page, with imprinted address (bottom, right side): Rev. Wontae Cha
    The Korean Church and Institute 633 West 115th Street New York, NY 10025
    (photocopy)

    One page FAX in Korean dated September 11, 1997, with “United Methodist” logo on top left side of page and “Korean Methodist Church and Institute” address (hereinabove) and telephone number; (212) 662-^1422 imprint (approximately) at top center.

    THE INVESTIGATION RESULTS FROM HATE LETTER :
    A group of handwritten letters were made comparative analysis in order to determine the hate latter writer
    Ql. Questioned document specimen

    One page letter in Korean dated June 16, (Photocopy)
    Q1a. Questioned document specimen
    One envelope postmarked June 17, 1997; Westchester, NY; Address to; Sone, .Chae S. 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801 with “return address” in Korean.
    (Photocopy)
    Report continued from page one of this report.

    EXAMPLES:

    • Known Documents (continued)

    The following standards were tested in accordance with forensic document examination principles and these documents were proven to be the same writer.

    k1. April 3, 1991 letter in Korean with “Blest be” imprinting at the top of page and “the titles” imprinting at the bottom of page with imprinted address (bottom, right side);
    Rev. Won tae Cha
    The Korean Church and Institute
    633 West 115th Street
    New York, NY 10025
    (Photocopy)

    K2. One page FAX in Korean dated September 11, 1997, with “United Methodist” logo on top left side of page and “Korean Methodist Church and Institute” address (hereinabove) and telephone number: (212) 662-1422 imprint (approximately) at top center. (Photocopy)

    K3 • November 28th letter in Korean with Korean imprinting on top and left side of document and “Korean Methodist Church and Institute” address, telephone (both; hereinabove), and FAX;* (212) 662-9696 on bottom and right side of document.
    (photocopy)

    K3a • One envelope postmarked November 30, 1994; New York, NY; addressed to;
    Dr. Chae S. Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801
    with “return address” and “logo” imprint of “Korean Methodist Church and Institute”, with its telephone and FAX numbers (hereinabove). on upper left side of document.
    (photocopy)

    K4 • December 19th greeting card; “Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year”, with hand¬written message in Korean under card message (hereinabove) imprint and continued on opposite side of greeting card.
    (photocopy)

    K4a• One envelope postmarked December 19; Bronx, 104, PM (portion of postmark stamp is missing); addressed to:
    Drs. Chae and Kyung Ok Sone (hereinabove address)
    with handwritten “return address” of “Wontae Cha, 5125 Post Rd., Riverdale, NY 10471.”(photocopy)

    Report continued from page two of this report.

    QUESTION:

    WERE THE JUNE 16TH LETTER AND/OR THE JUNE 17, 1997; WESTCHESTER, NY POSTMARKED ENVELOPE—QUESTIONED DOCUMENT SPECIMENS Ql AND Qla HEREINABOVE-WRITTEN BY THE SAME AUTHOR THAT WROTE THE STANDARDS: Kl, K2, K3, K3a, K4, AND K4a?

    ANSWER

    Based upon my detailed forensic examination and compar¬isons of the documents hereinabove, according to the principles and techniques of handwriting identification and scientific research,
    both Questioned Documents hereinabove, Ql and Qla, WERE written by the same person that wrote the Standards hereinabove: Kl, K2, K3, K3a, K4, and K4a to do this report.

    FINDINGS:

    My forensic research disclosed the following criteria to substantiate the above conclusion.

    Report prepared for Mr. Chae Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801

    Report continued from page three of this report.

    FINDINGS: (continued)

    Distinct individual characteristics within the Korean shaped letters, as well as the American letters and numerals, were very similar and distinctive of the same writer.

    The “arrangement” of the writing in both; the: r Questioned and Standards (Ql, Qla; Kl through K4a) was measurable.
    The “alignment” of the individual letters and numbers in both the Questioned and Standards (hereinabove) was distinctive of one writer, and this characteristic was measurable.

    The “ratio” of the writing, which is the relation between the heights of the short and long letters, was similar in both the Questioned and Standards (hereinabove).

    The characteristic of “form” in the Questioned Document Specimens was significantly similar when com¬pared with the Standards submitted in its points of origin and termination in many letter and numeral formations.

    The characteristics identified herein above indicated • ONLY. one and the same writer to have been the author of the Questioned Documents (Ql and Qla) and the Standards (Kl, K2, K3, K3a, K4, and K4a) submitted to do this report.

    Report prepared for Mr. Chae Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801

    Report continued from page four of this report.

    FINDINGS: (continued)

    I derived the above results after studying the letter formations of the Questioned Documents and the Standards for identification and comparison by the use of a micro¬scope (20X magnification), a macroscope (30X) with mea¬suring reticles, enlargements (182 percent), and oblique lighting equipment (transmitted light table).

    I had access to the original documents (Ql and Qla; Kl, K3, K3a, K4, and K4a) with the exception of the Standard “K2″, which was a photocopy. From these original documents, I reproduced copies from my photocopier machine, which are attached to this report.
    the results of my research findings may be presented, questioned, and clarified further—if need be—in any legal forum; I am willing and ready to present my research findings.

    ALL SUBMITTED MATERIALS TO DO THIS REPORT RETURNED WITH THIS REPORT.

    SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN TO BEFORE ME THIS 16th DAY
    OF Jan, 1998.
    ^
    (Notary public)
    ROBEFTTNAGY Notary Public, State of New York No.4893447 Qualified In Nassau & Queans Counties Commission Expires JUNE 30,1998
    Julia Bevacqua

    Forensic Document Examiner JULIA BEVACQUA
    FORENSIC DOCUMENT EXAMINER COURT QUALIFIED. EXPERT Witness
    140-65 BEECH AVENUE TEL: (718) 358-6359
    FLUSHING, NEW YORK 11355: FAX (718) 359-0103

    CURRICULUM VITAE

    Engaged in the profession of Handwriting Expertise since 1981.
    Have accomplished well over four hundred reports in the areas of forged bank checks, altered personnel records, falsified business contracts, fraudulent credit card receipts, disputed signatures on Wills, anonymous annoyance mail, as well as verifying numerals and writing on medical doctors’ prescriptions and hospital notes.

    Have been consulted by Proskauer Rose Goetz & Mendelsohn; Citi¬bank’s Citicorp Leasing; Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Co.; McAloon & Friedman; Judge Investigations; Queens borough Registry for Nurses; Local One—International Union Elevator Constructors; Healthcare Underwriters Mutual Insurance Company; Queens Legal Services; Sky Chefs; National Association of Letter Carriers; Geros Realty Company; Hawthorne Investigations; among many other’s.

    Have testified as an Expert Witness in the State of New York at the following courts: Supreme Court, – Surrogate’s Court, and N.Y.C.
    Civil Court, Small Claim’s Court; at the Grand Jury; and at union arbitrations for both the defendant and the plaintiff. My research findings contained in my reports and given in my testimony as an Expert Witness have resulted in the arrest and discharge—as well as the reinstatement—of employees.

    Background instruction includes the completion of the training course and certification in Forensic Document Examination from Andrew Bradley & Associates, Denver, Colorado; tutorial lessons in Advanced Document Examination from Felix Klein, the founder of the National Bureau of Document Examiners, New York City; in addition to continual acquisition of equipment, professional periodicals and books for maintaining a current research library and laboratory. Further education holds a bachelors degree in human relations> Pace University, New York City, NY; twelve credits in criminal justice courses, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ.
    Have spoken—through an invitation—at an international handwriting conference for the Associazione Grafologica Italiana (A.G.I.) in Ancona, Italy, on September 12, 1993, as representative for the U.S.

    Have taught the Document Examination Seminar certificate program, three-credit course, at Feliciano College, Lodi, New Jersey, in 1995.

    Publications include “The Criteria of Comparison Between Questioned and Known Documents” (Attualita Grafologica), Journal 60, pp. 26-27, June-September 1996.).
    Have appeared on “The People’s Court” as its Expert Witness (NBC tapings: July 15 and August 7, 1997).

    PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS
    NATIONAL BUREAU OF DOCUMENT EXAMINERS (1992-1995)

    NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DOCUMENT EXAMINERS (1992-present)

    PART II OF 3 DOCUMENTS

    chapter 6 should be added independently from other chapters

    CHAPTER 6 TECHNICAL ANALYSIS OF HANDWRITTEN
    LETTERS

    However the first report of the investigation was very simple in scientific terms and requested the investigator to present the investigation in technical terms to eliminate any questions on the subject matter that was clearly related with the church affairs..

    In response to the request, The Investigator presented the following scientific research data.

    JULIA BEVACQUA January 15, 1998

    FORENSIC DOCUMENT EXAMINER COURT QUALIFIED • EXPERT WITNESSES: (718) 358-6359 FAX: (718) 359-0103
    140-65 BEECH AVENUE FLUSHING, NEW YORK 11355

    Report prepared for:
    Mr. Chae Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801

    Report prepared for:
    January 15, 1998
    Mr. Chae Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801
    Questioned Document Specimen
    One page letter in Korean dated June 16. (photocopy)
    Questioned Document Specimen
    One envelope postmarked June 17, 1997; Westchester, NY? addressed to:
    Sone, Chae S.
    2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801
    with “return address” in Korean.
    (photocopy)
    Known Documents
    The following Standards were tested in accordance with forensic document examin¬ation principles and these documents were proven to be the same writer.

    April 3, 1991 letter in Korean with “Blest be” imprinting at the top of page and “the ties” imprinting at the bottom of page, with imprinted address (bottom, right side): Rev. Wontae Cha
    The Korean Church and Institute 633 West 115th Street New York, NY 10025
    (photocopy)

    One page FAX in Korean dated September 11, 1997, with “United Methodist” logo on top left side of page and “Korean Methodist Church and Institute” address (hereinabove) and telephone number; (212) 662-^1422 imprint (approximately) at top center.

    THE INVESTIGATION RESULTS FROM HATE LETTER :
    A group of handwritten letters were made comparative analysis in order to determine the hate latter writer
    Ql. Questioned document specimen

    One page letter in Korean dated June 16, (Photocopy)
    Q1a. Questioned document specimen
    One envelope postmarked June 17, 1997; Westchester, NY; Address to; Sone, .Chae S. 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801 with “return address” in Korean.
    (Photocopy)
    Report continued from page one of this report.

    EXAMPLES:

    • Known Documents (continued)

    The following standards were tested in accordance with forensic document examination principles and these documents were proven to be the same writer.

    k1. April 3, 1991 letter in Korean with “Blest be” imprinting at the top of page and “the titles” imprinting at the bottom of page with imprinted address (bottom, right side);
    Rev. Won tae Cha
    The Korean Church and Institute
    633 West 115th Street
    New York, NY 10025
    (Photocopy)

    K2. One page FAX in Korean dated September 11, 1997, with “United Methodist” logo on top left side of page and “Korean Methodist Church and Institute” address (hereinabove) and telephone number: (212) 662-1422 imprint (approximately) at top center. (Photocopy)

    K3 • November 28th letter in Korean with Korean imprinting on top and left side of document and “Korean Methodist Church and Institute” address, telephone (both; hereinabove), and FAX;* (212) 662-9696 on bottom and right side of document.
    (photocopy)

    K3a • One envelope postmarked November 30, 1994; New York, NY; addressed to;
    Dr. Chae S. Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801
    with “return address” and “logo” imprint of “Korean Methodist Church and Institute”, with its telephone and FAX numbers (hereinabove). on upper left side of document.
    (photocopy)

    K4 • December 19th greeting card; “Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year”, with hand¬written message in Korean under card message (hereinabove) imprint and continued on opposite side of greeting card.
    (photocopy)

    K4a• One envelope postmarked December 19; Bronx, 104, PM (portion of postmark stamp is missing); addressed to:
    Drs. Chae and Kyung Ok Sone (hereinabove address)
    with handwritten “return address” of “Wontae Cha, 5125 Post Rd., Riverdale, NY 10471.”(photocopy)

    Report continued from page two of this report.

    QUESTION:

    WERE THE JUNE 16TH LETTER AND/OR THE JUNE 17, 1997; WESTCHESTER, NY POSTMARKED ENVELOPE—QUESTIONED DOCUMENT SPECIMENS Ql AND Qla HEREINABOVE-WRITTEN BY THE SAME AUTHOR THAT WROTE THE STANDARDS: Kl, K2, K3, K3a, K4, AND K4a?

    ANSWER

    Based upon my detailed forensic examination and compar¬isons of the documents hereinabove, according to the principles and techniques of handwriting identification and scientific research,
    both Questioned Documents hereinabove, Ql and Qla, WERE written by the same person that wrote the Standards hereinabove: Kl, K2, K3, K3a, K4, and K4a to do this report.

    FINDINGS:

    My forensic research disclosed the following criteria to substantiate the above conclusion.

    Report prepared for Mr. Chae Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801

    Report continued from page three of this report.

    FINDINGS: (continued)

    Distinct individual characteristics within the Korean shaped letters, as well as the American letters and numerals, were very similar and distinctive of the same writer.

    The “arrangement” of the writing in both; the: r Questioned and Standards (Ql, Qla; Kl through K4a) was measurable.
    The “alignment” of the individual letters and numbers in both the Questioned and Standards (hereinabove) was distinctive of one writer, and this characteristic was measurable.

    The “ratio” of the writing, which is the relation between the heights of the short and long letters, was similar in both the Questioned and Standards (hereinabove).

    The characteristic of “form” in the Questioned Document Specimens was significantly similar when com¬pared with the Standards submitted in its points of origin and termination in many letter and numeral formations.

    The characteristics identified herein above indicated • ONLY. one and the same writer to have been the author of the Questioned Documents (Ql and Qla) and the Standards (Kl, K2, K3, K3a, K4, and K4a) submitted to do this report.

    Report prepared for Mr. Chae Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801

    Report continued from page four of this report.

    FINDINGS: (continued)

    I derived the above results after studying the letter formations of the Questioned Documents and the Standards for identification and comparison by the use of a micro¬scope (20X magnification), a macroscope (30X) with mea¬suring reticles, enlargements (182 percent), and oblique lighting equipment (transmitted light table).

    I had access to the original documents (Ql and Qla; Kl, K3, K3a, K4, and K4a) with the exception of the Standard “K2″, which was a photocopy. From these original documents, I reproduced copies from my photocopier machine, which are attached to this report.
    the results of my research findings may be presented, questioned, and clarified further—if need be—in any legal forum; I am willing and ready to present my research findings.

    ALL SUBMITTED MATERIALS TO DO THIS REPORT RETURNED WITH THIS REPORT.

    SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN TO BEFORE ME THIS 16th DAY
    OF Jan, 1998.
    ^
    (Notary public)
    ROBEFTTNAGY Notary Public, State of New York No.4893447 Qualified In Nassau & Queans Counties Commission Expires JUNE 30,1998
    Julia Bevacqua

    Forensic Document Examiner JULIA BEVACQUA
    FORENSIC DOCUMENT EXAMINER COURT QUALIFIED. EXPERT Witness
    140-65 BEECH AVENUE TEL: (718) 358-6359
    FLUSHING, NEW YORK 11355: FAX (718) 359-0103

    CURRICULUM VITAE

    Engaged in the profession of Handwriting Expertise since 1981.
    Have accomplished well over four hundred reports in the areas of forged bank checks, altered personnel records, falsified business contracts, fraudulent credit card receipts, disputed signatures on Wills, anonymous annoyance mail, as well as verifying numerals and writing on medical doctors’ prescriptions and hospital notes.

    Have been consulted by Proskauer Rose Goetz & Mendelsohn; Citi¬bank’s Citicorp Leasing; Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Co.; McAloon & Friedman; Judge Investigations; Queens borough Registry for Nurses; Local One—International Union Elevator Constructors; Healthcare Underwriters Mutual Insurance Company; Queens Legal Services; Sky Chefs; National Association of Letter Carriers; Geros Realty Company; Hawthorne Investigations; among many other’s.

    Have testified as an Expert Witness in the State of New York at the following courts: Supreme Court, – Surrogate’s Court, and N.Y.C.
    Civil Court, Small Claim’s Court; at the Grand Jury; and at union arbitrations for both the defendant and the plaintiff. My research findings contained in my reports and given in my testimony as an Expert Witness have resulted in the arrest and discharge—as well as the reinstatement—of employees.

    Background instruction includes the completion of the training course and certification in Forensic Document Examination from Andrew Bradley & Associates, Denver, Colorado; tutorial lessons in Advanced Document Examination from Felix Klein, the founder of the National Bureau of Document Examiners, New York City; in addition to continual acquisition of equipment, professional periodicals and books for maintaining a current research library and laboratory. Further education holds a bachelors degree in human relations> Pace University, New York City, NY; twelve credits in criminal justice courses, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ.
    Have spoken—through an invitation—at an international handwriting conference for the Associazione Grafologica Italiana (A.G.I.) in Ancona, Italy, on September 12, 1993, as representative for the U.S.

    Have taught the Document Examination Seminar certificate program, three-credit course, at Feliciano College, Lodi, New Jersey, in 1995.

    Publications include “The Criteria of Comparison Between Questioned and Known Documents” (Attualita Grafologica), Journal 60, pp. 26-27, June-September 1996.).
    Have appeared on “The People’s Court” as its Expert Witness (NBC tapings: July 15 and August 7, 1997).

    PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS
    NATIONAL BUREAU OF DOCUMENT EXAMINERS (1992-1995)

    NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DOCUMENT EXAMINERS (1992-present)

    PART III 3 DOCEMENTS

    II. SEARCH FOR SCAPEGOATS

    CHAPTER 6. THE PLAN TO MAINTAIN DEVIANT MINISTRY

    Please examine how deeply troubled church leadership is. Gospel according to Rev. Won Tae Cha would reveal the extend of Rev. Cha’s movement.

    It could be said to be a phenomena of an Adam’s apple syndrome to destroy this historic tradition of Korean Methodist church and Institute under this ministry.

    Eventually, Bishop Earnest Lyght removed the resisting Rev. Cha as of June, 2000 from the ministry. In 1999, Rev. Cha refused to retire although he once stated to the Bishop.

    Soon his group filed three lawsuits against our family members in retaliation or in support of their church politics.

    1. Korean United Methodist Church and institute, Inc., Won Tae Cha, Young So Kim, Ki duck Shin, Kyung Hee Shin, Hyuk Dal Kwon and Dong Gene Kim v. Chae S. Sone and Kyung Kim Sone. Demanded $4 million damages.
    filed 8-25-00 Index No.118338-00

    2. PARK V. SONE Index 9647/00
    Demanded $4 million damages from Defendants, charging the father and son as mass murderers.

    3.Korean United Methodist Church and
    Institute, Inc. v. Chae S. Sone filed 6-29-01 To expel from the church. Index 603296/01

    These lawsuits filed against our family members with false accusations, demanding $8 million damages from our family. How these Christians could act this way against their fellow church members?

    These lawsuits caused great financial and emotional pains to me, my beloved son, and wife for many years. These unusual pressure caused costly great medical, psychological problems to our family.

    On August 17, 2001, our attorney Brian Raum, Esq. questioned Mr. Steven H. Park about their lawsuits against our family in the name of the church during the afternoon deposition before his attorney Morton Povman, Esq.
    .
    But his court testimonies were absolutely false to destroy our family, accusing me and my beloved son as attempted mass murders which were absolutely false and malicious. He made us criminals falsely accusing that we threatened to kill Mr. Park, his family, his lawyer and other church members. He described me as an ugly criminal with obscenities. [2] How a church officer could plan such evil satanic lawsuit against the innocent same church members?

    If he met my son, it should have occurred more than a quarter century ago at the Sunday day school. I once met Steve Park in 1987, when he came to my residence in Hicksville to give us an estimate for a home improvement project for his business. We never had any personal relations with him at all.

    They used the false accusations successfully as their Bible in Jesus masks under the leadership of Rev. Won Tae Cha.

    Excerpts of small portion from the transcripts of 235 pages long describe that Mr. Steve H. Park’s criminal lawsuits projects against our family was under the leadership of Rev. Won Tae Cha group since 1998 to take over the administration and to loot the church treasury.

    Rev. Won Tae Cha and his group used the stolen church money for the three or more fake lawsuits against their scapegoats, cheating this small congregation, stealing the church money. Virtually they hijacked the church and still these elements are controlling their deviant church operations.

    Rev. Won Tae Cha directed their court actions and participated in the trials. How a Christian minister could do act as he did for his evil project?

    (Another significant issue is the valuable stolen antique bath tub of this historic church as revealed by Rev. Cha’s court interpreter, Mr. Pyun Sun Whan, who stated to me at the court that he once interpreted for Rev. Cha’s bath tub trial lawsuit, according to the interpreter,

    “Rev. Cha testified at the trial that the bath tub valued for $2,000,000.”

    Evidently they had disputes about the stolen bath tub from the church among Rev. Cha group. Yet nobody knows who owns it now.

    Learn more than a quarter century old deviant leadership under the Rev. Won Tae Cha ministry for this historic Korean Methodist Church and Institute that is nothing more than an Adam’s apple syndrome. Is there anyone to say something for the Jesus causes of this historic church events?

    CHAPTER 7. STEVE H. PARK’S COURT TESTIMONY REVEALED THE NATURE OF ORGANIZED CHURCH CRIMES [1]

    THEIR BIBLE

    Their 3 false lawsuits were filed in the same period, some of the all false Allegations were described in this deposition indicating their malice and falsehood.

    It is so called Christians’ vicious court testimonies against the innocent family members, falsely accusing the father and his beloved son as attempted mass murderers in the church.
    It was done under the conspiracies of Rev. Won Tae Cha and his followers. See how deeply corrupt his church group is to take over the church assets and the control.

    Read how so called Christians do testify cruelly criminalizing the innocent members as such, quoted in this paper from their original costly court depositions. [1]

    Remarks: PARK SUED DEFENDAT FOR OUTRAGEOUS BEHAVIOR [See transcripts questioned by defendant’s attorney Brian Raum, Esq.(Mr. Park sued against Sone) Park’s testimony against Sone, as mass murderer at 114 Old Country Road, Mineola, New York, August 17, 2001, 11:40 a.m. Total 232pp of the deposition.

    This way so called church leaders tortured the innocent church family to loot the church. This costly long testimony consisted of the group’s premeditated fraudulent false testimony against the family by the church officers.

    These testimonies revealed how deeply corrupted souls among the so called church leaders. Prayerfully asked Jesus would enlighten them spiritually.

    TESTIMONIES ASA CHRISTIAN

    Page 60; 9-13

    Q That’s what I’m asking you. You said
    you brought a lawsuit against him for outrageous
    Behavior, he’s yelled at you before; right?

    CHURCH ADMINISTRATIVE BOARD AUTHORIZED LAWSUIT

    Page 124; 18-24.

    ADB authorized the lawsuit against Dr. Sone in 1998(?)

    18. Q So you’re testifying that in 1998,
    19. A “There was a resolution passed which authorized or
    20. Was
    21. A “Requesting.”
    22. Q requesting or recommending that a
    23. Lawsuit is brought against Dr. Sone?
    24, a “yes.”

    PARK’S AFFIDAVIT ON MY MURDER PLAN

    Park falsely sworn the affidavit that my son and I were going to kill him. Paragraph 4 of his affidavit;

    “5. In the year 2000, the defendant Sone, without cause or provocation, approximately midyear, at the behest of the defendant, he sent his son, Paul Sone, who threatened to kill me and other church members,” 10-13. Paragraph 5 of Park’s affidavit 5, 25, of 2001

    STEVE PARK CRIMINALIZED MY SON THREATENED TO KILL HIS LAWYER

    Park lied that his lawyer, informed him that my son was going to kill his lawyer and his staff in his office. It was absolutely false testimony. He tried to ruin my son.

    Page 148; 9-21

    10 A Chae Sone’s son, walked into my defense
    11 lawyer’s office using profanities, like, you know
    12 fuck you and these were the words that were
    relayed to me, you asshole, I’m going to kill you,
    everybody in sight, kill you and everybody in
    sight and he chuckled when he called me, he said
    there’s a little lunatic running around here, he
    claims to being his son, and that’s how I got this
    name,

    MR. PARK DID NOT
    KNOW HIS LAWYER’S NAME

    2 Q Do you remember the specific names of who is that attorney?
    …….
    ….
    7 A I don’t have that name in my memory right now.
    8 I would be happy to forward that name.
    to you.

    STEVE PARK’S TESTIMONEY IN PROFANITIES

    Page 76; 13-16.

    His language indicates a corrupt sub-culture of so called Christians today, A shame. You can see what kind church is ours?

    13 Q I would like you to tell me exactly
    What you say Chae Sone said to you.

    A “He said fuck you and asshole on a
    routine basis , that’s basically what he said, day
    In and day out. ..”

    Page 78; 11-21

    Q Do you recall what the first thing he
    Said to you was?
    A “Yes. Curses.”
    Q Tell me exactly. This is?
    15 A “F you and F you, you know, asshole, you
    know, you better watch out your step,”
    Q That was the first thing he said to
    You?
    A “Yes. Constant. Constant. It’s
    Always regurgitation of same, same type of
    Remarks, on and on and on.”

    Page 86; 8-17

    Q I want to know exactly what you say
    that Dr. Sone said to you approximately six months
    ago in connection with killing your family What
    Did he say? What were his words?

    A “He said watch out, you asshole,
    Specifically said you asshole, you watch out, if
    You don’t watch your step; I’m going to kill you.
    That’s very specific. I can’t get much more
    Specific than that. I just walked away. I just
    Walked away.”

    SONE’S THREAT TO KILL PARK AND HIS FAMILY

    Page 65; 3-10

    Q Did you ever report it to the police?
    A No I did not.
    Why is that?
    A Because I tried to do it peacefully.
    Q Dr. Sone threatened to kill you. Do you
    Realize that’s a criminal offense?
    Q Why didn’t you call the police about a threat to you
    and your family?
    23 A “Once again I knew the man. I wanted to resolve it amicably. So I did not want to get either the police or the legal system.”

    Page 61; 5-7

    A “I’m going to kill your whole family.”
    Q That’s what Dr. Sone said to you?
    A “Yes.”

    PAGE 62; 9-17, 21-23.

    Q You’re claiming that Dr. Sone
    Threatened to kill you and your whole family?
    A “Yes.”
    Q When did he threaten to do that?
    A “He did it on several occasions. I do
    Remember several occasions very specifically. I
    Think it was like 1998. I don’t know the dates
    I don’t keep diary of these things.”

    Q those are serious threats, right?
    ……
    “MR. POVMAN 1998 and you said
    There were other times?”
    “Yes.”

    (Mr. Povman lied too because it was absolutely false accusations as there were not such events)

    PAGE 63; 9-25

    9 A “It has not stopped.
    This is now the year 2001. It is still
    Continuing.”
    Q When did he first threaten to kill
    You and your family?
    A “I mentioned that to you. I think that
    Was like sometime in 1998.”
    Q Sometime in 1998?
    A “Yes.”
    Q Was that the first time that he ever
    Yelled you at you or acted outrageously?

    REPORT THE THREAT TO ADB CHAIR MR.YOUNG SOO SHIN

    PAGE 64; 19-25

    19 Q Did you ever make a complaint to the
    leadership of the church about Dr. Sone
    Threatening to kill you?
    A “Yes.”
    Q Did you make a written complaint?
    A “I verbally expressed that to the
    Administrative Board Chair, Mr. Shin at that time.”

    WITNESSES

    PAGE 87; 21-25

    Page 87

    2 Q I want to know who witnessed Dr. Sone
    3 threatening your life and the life of your family
    4 approximately six months ago
    ….
    ….
    21 A Y. S. KIM. K. D. Shin, former pastor
    22 W.T Cha, Y.S. Shin, Y. H. Lee, Y. J. Kim, D. J. ,
    22 Chun CHUN, Paul Choi, Y. J. Kwon,
    24 K W O N, LC Lee. Those are few names I
    25 remember right now.

    I subpoenaed over 10 persons including them for the trial to testify for the false murder charges. Park withdrew his case because he could go to jail through the fraudulent process of judge shopping, deceiving. nearly 10 judges with their wise deceptions wasting the stolen church money in devilish ways. They demonstrated how our weak judicial system is weak and the deviant clergy ethics.

    SONE SMACKED MY SHOULDER WITH HIS SHOULDER. HE TESTIFIED

    “4. On or about January, 2000, the defendant, without cause or
    provocation struck deponent of the shoulder while in the Korean
    United Methodist Church and Institute, the causing an injury to my
    Shoulder.” Paragraph 4 of Park’s affidavit.

    Page 97; 18-20, 23-24, 98; 2-11.

    A. I was
    walking down, he just, just with his shoulder,
    Just smacked me. I was very very startled…

    23. Q So you‘re testifying that he hit you
    With his shoulder on your shoulder?

    2 A “Yes.”
    Q which shoulder did he hit into?
    A “This side.”
    Q your left shoulder?
    A “So it’s my left shoulder.”
    Q Which shoulder did he use to hit you?
    A “I do not know.”
    Q You don’t know?
    A “I don’t know. I wasn’t looking at
    Him.”

    D. J. CHUN AND Y. J. KIM SAW IT

    Page101; 10

    9. A D. J. Chun was right behind me and
    10. another individual that was Kim Y. J. We usually
    11. hang around together in church, so that’s…”

    PAGE 102; 11-15

    11. Q Did either Mr. Chun or Mr. Kim
    Indicated that they had seen the incident?
    A “ Oh, they said what the hell is this guy
    doing is literally their expression.”

    PAGE104; 18-24.

    18 Q What did Mr. Chun say as far as what
    he saw?
    A “I can’t believe that guy did that.
    That’s it. We didn’t curse We didn’t do
    Anything…”

    MISSING ITEMS IN HIS FAKE AFFIDAVIT

    Page 105, 106, 107

    11. Q Well, did you state in your sworn
    Affidavit that it took
    place in January of 2000?
    A “I don’t recall that. I don’t.”

    A “Okay. So it must be January 2000.”

    PAGE 91; 11-24 – 92; 912-23.
    Q I’m asking you whether that affidavit
    Reflects, number one, the incident you must testified to that took
    place (Threat to kill), allegedly took place
    Between you and Dr. Sone six months ago. Is that
    In the affidavit?
    A Do you know what? It’s not in there.
    Do you know what? If you like, I will add it.
    A No. It’s not in there.
    Q Are any of the incidents, the
    numerous incidents where Dr. Sone allegedly
    threatened your life, contained in that affidavit?
    24 A No.

    LIST OF EXHIBITS (omitted SEE REFERENCE)

    Bishop Jeremiah J. Park could have rescued the poor souls from the dungeons. [4]

    Comments, remarkably some of them are working today in the church control group as victors. See Website references.

    CHAPTGER 8. CHONG KUL KIM GROUP PREMEDITAED FAKE LAWSUITS

    Mr. Kim’s public accusations against Defendant in the church services on July 28, 2001.

    Then Mr. Kim Chong Kul, some officers and their factions took organized actions in order to discredit the newly appointed Rev. Kunnae Lee to challenge the Bishop’s new appointment, reflecting the faithless souls of Rev. Cha faction.

    By this time they already send out the protesting letters against the new pastor Lee to 490 member churches in this area. It was a prelude to follow additional distortions to disturb the unstable church. It is a good material to study how deviant Christian minds function irrationally in support of ill faiths as rotten Adam’s apple syndromes. Please study his memo for mental health!
    of this historic church!

    Dear Members:

    Mr. Kim Chong Kul issued this prepared memo to the members following the Administrative Board meeting on May 20, 2001 (Large part is quoted)
    It gives an impression that the meeting had not been done smoothly as usual. Mr. Kim wants additional information to complete the minutes rationally in detail as it was actually happened.

    He raised the following questions in the memo:

    1. Why they always hesitate to treat the church financial matters openly?

    2. Why he should write to 490 churches about the problems in the church?

    3. Why he should not reveal the content of the letter to
    the church members if it was not a personal letter?

    4. Why this small congregation needs an outside help as long
    as we are not idiots? A rational group or God fearing group should rise up to clean up the church. The church hierarchies have helped present elements to build up its own power bases in the church, which is being looted now.

    5. The down fall of the church was originated by the
    promotion and practice of illegal elections under the superintendent who could be impeached by the church law.

    6. The congregation needs free self-examinations by every one in a free atmosphere.

    7. If the church secedes from the main body of the United
    Methodist Church, how long this church could stand-alone? Do they have a capacity to be independent?

    8. The church is already in the state of financial and moral
    bankruptcy by the people alien to the civility or the values of Christian teaching.

    9. A church is public institute, not a private business
    establishment like a vegetable Store and the officers should administer its business openly without any secrecy.

    10. The pastor’s sermons were criticized: Did she preach
    Buddhism or shamanism? Did she promote profanities? Did she preach censorship? Did she preach how to lie? Did she preach how to double talk? Or did she preach how to cover-up? Is she morally ambivalent? Did she promote the brute majority rule of mob? Or did anyone cheat her? etc. Any honest criticism will be creative for all.

    11. The lawsuits caused by individual misconducts but the
    Church…It is nothing to do with the church work. The church is victimized by the misconducts. The result is not being proud.

    12. A church is public institute, not a private business establishment like a vegetable Store and the officers should administer its business openly without any secrecy.

    13. The pastor’s sermons were criticized: Did she preach Buddhism or shamanism? Did she promote profanities? Did she preach censorship? Did she preach how to lie? Did she preach how to double talk? Or did she preach how to cover-up? Is she morally ambivalent? Did she promote the brute majority rule of mob? Or did anyone cheat her? etc. Any honest criticism will be creative for all.

    14. The lawsuits caused by individual misconducts but
    the church…It is nothing to do with the church affairs. The church is victimized by the misconducts. The result is not being proud.

    The recipients of this e-mail may e-mail it to the Bishop with comments. It is a free country. Try to tell him as it is as you can see or feel. He shall be glad to be informed by the members how a local church feels about his policy directions. Let us help him for his shortcomings. Open dialogues will be mutually beneficial. If you believe you are a Christian, feel free to write to the Bishop about your own image of this church. It is your church

    Dear God help us not to double talk. +

    CHAPTER 9. TWO CONTRASTING SUPPORTS OF TWO PASTORS

    According to the sources, the atmosphere of the Administrative Board meeting (Interim) was very hostile, controversial and secretive, on May 20, 2001, as they handled very complex church problems caused by the former pastor. The hidden issues were their opposition related with the removal of Rev. Won Tae Cha and the new appointment. Following two positions were well indicated on the issues.

    1. Newly appointed Rev. Kunnae Lee expressed to it her need for the ministry as there are special needs for family education, training, guidelines, etc. (for the staff) as she learned the problems of this historic church.

    2. Young So Kim expressed his idea to help the young student congregation. Thus, for sometime they misled the English Congregation in order to get their support for the litigations. However, the English congregation faced extensive embezzlement troubles of the so called officers.

    The major hidden issue of them seemed “how to restore Rev. Won Tae Cha ministry in support of him against the newly appoint pastor.”

    3. Kim young So’s hidden projects:

    Fake M.D. Young Kim mentioned to the church meeting that he was threatened with lawsuits. But it was false.

    However, in contrary, Rev. Cha group already were preparing three torturous lawsuits against their scapegoats – our family members – with false accusations, especially one for the attempted mass murders against the father and his beloved son, wasting the stolen money from the anarchic church. According to fake Columbia M. B.A. Steve H. Park, they planned such litigation against Defendant since around 1997 in Rev. Cha period. (See his depositions)

    Dr. Young Kim stated three objectives in his plan for ELM.

    Future ministry requires a special attention.
    Transition ministry – To consider an independence of ELM from the main body, a task force committee needs to be formed.
    Korean language ministry has serious problems. We are always under the legal threat that they created for their evil causes. In the church there should be love, forgiveness and repentance.

    Up to the time this group utilized the ELM group for their malicious lawsuit projects against the innocent victims. (See New York State Attorney General’s investigation of their embezzlement of the church money)

    However, they misreported the church events to the Bishop, who already knew the real status of the ministry at the time, in order to cover up the failed ministry of Rev. Won Tae Cha group.

    According to Dr. Kim, a recent letter from the Bishop Earnest E. Lyght stated that “I harassed the new pastor.” I cannot accept such a letter from the Bishop.

    I am going to write to him a protesting letter. I will send the letter to 490 churches. It will be mailed out on June 16th. I will let 490 churches know our problems. There should be a resolution. I will write to 490 churches. I will appeal to them, “We need help.”

    Displaying an e-mail, he stated “I was threatened with a lawsuit in this e-mail.” It was absolutely false accusation. By this time they already filed three lawsuits against our family –their scapegoats – with false accusations, including the false mass murder charges against the father and his beloved son. However, the disputes with the Bishop were very seriously complicated with their opposition to the new appointee, reflecting the malicious faithless actions under the guidance of Rev. Won Tae Cha who wanted to return to his old position if the new pastor removed.

    III. CHALLEGE TO BISHOP’S AUTHORITY

    CHAPTER 10. BISHOP LYGHT-ELDER DISPUTES ON REV. LEE’S PASTORAL ASSIGNEMENT

    They challenged the Bishop Lyght against the newly appointed Rev. Lee. The Young So Kim group disputed with the Bishop against the newly appointed pastor to replace Rev. Won Tae Cha. Their disputes did not benefit the church at all. How could they try to continue conscientiously the Rev. Cha’s deviant ministry that ruined this historic church?

    These letters to bishop Lyght against new appointee
    Rev. Koonae Lee revealed how they were so deeply
    misdirected for the church members without believer’s
    self respect at all.

    According to the disputes with the bishop, it clearly revealed their disagreement. See their letter campaign. Korean Methodist Church and Institute
    633 WEST 115th STREET NEW YORK. NEW YORK
    (212) 662-1422

    May 21, 2001
    Pastors, Lay Leaders and Congregants;

    We call upon your Christian spiritual value and faith to help us resolve the tormenting problems that are affecting our church. We need guidance in our continuous struggle to do God’s work through Methodist Church.

    In Cod’s Service,
    Ki Duck Shin

    L ay Leader

    Steve Park
    Chairman of ADB Committee

    Korean Methodist Church and Institute
    ,’ 633 WEST I15TH STREET
    NEW YORK, NEW YORK I0025
    (212) 662-1422
    May 21, 2001
    Bishop Ernest S. Lyght
    the New York Conference of The United Methodist Church
    252 Bryant Avenue
    White Plains, NY 10604
    Dear Bishop Lyght:
    Grace and Peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ.
    The Korean Methodist Church-and- Institute, which just celebrated its 80th anniversary, is The Mother Church- for all of the Korean churches in the United States, throughout our proud and glorious history, our church has provided spiritual guidance for many of the future leaders of Korea. Over the years, hundreds of young- Korean men and women, who are studying in this country and developing their leadership skills^ have attended our services lo be stimulated by-high caliber sermons from the prominent ministers who have served us as pastor.
    In addition, the Korean Methodist Church and Institute was the first Korean Church to develop an English Language Ministry to-supplement and enhance our long standing Korean Language Ministries – along with Transitional Ministries-for young people temporarily studying here–are essential to the success of Korean churches in the United States.

    As you know, the Korean Methodist Church and Institute has-been in constant turmoil for the last four years, largely due to divisive legal actions brought against our church, its officers and its minister. During this period, we realized that the Book: of Discipline holds the answer to preventing conflicts in the-years-ahead. Therefore, despite the resistance of the old-guard, we-changed the very foundation of our church by abolishing our bylaws on March 19, 2000,-thereby eliminating-the ineffective, hypocritical Eldership System, Our fervent hope was that we would achieve a democratic process to govern our affairs and enter an era of peace and healing that everyone would cherish.

    Unexpected obstacles, however, dashed-this expectation and the discord continued. With the survival of o«p church now at-stake, we see to find Christian solutions that will-restore reconciliation, harmony dignity. To assist us in achieving this objective, we respectful request that you address some of the issues raised in your- recent letters by answering the following questions;
    litigation and Intervention
    In May 1997, when our church, leadership and Pastor Wontae Cha were sued by one of the church’s, congregants, we immediately asked to your guidance and help-by approaching District Superintendent Carol Cox In December 1998,. Our Pastor Parish Relations Committee had an opportunity to meet with you in order to discuss this matter. We asked you to send an intervention team to mediate-the ongoing differences among our members and you responded by appointing Reverend Ahn and Reverend Waif. We never heard-anything again from you about this team until your letter arrived last month.
    Why didn’t you demonstrate your strong support when our church, officers and minister were subjected to unnecessary litigation?
    When unseemly accusations were made against Pastor Cha, why did you decline to publicly uphold his position?

    Why was no action ever taken by the intervention team appointed in 1998?
    4) By selecting anew intervention team-now, four years after he crisis erupted, are you indicating that Pastor Lee cannot solve our church’s existing problems?
    `Rescinding the Church Bylaws 4

    When we abolished our bylaws by a two-thirds affirmative vote of the membership – becoming the first Korean church to do so-we rejected the concept of ranking individuals in a-church setting and fostering the Christian principle of inclusiveness. This revolutionary change had a major impact on-the other Korean-churches in the United States that may eventually follow our lead. Yet, you did not give us positive comments to our decision at any time throughout this arduous process.

    5) Why did you allow Reverend Cox to modify our traditional practice of permitting every member on the rolls of our church to vote during elections?
    6) Why didn’t you back the efforts-to return the governance of our church to its roots in the Book of Discipline?
    Why do you let the-Eldership System-remain in force at other Korean churches throughout the conference?
    Appointment and Reappointment of Reverend Lee
    In the spring of 2000 with-the situation, at our church-deteriorating rapidly, we asked you appoint a-new past«p with specific qualifications: the ability to deliver stimulating sermons- with depth and spirituality, the skill to meet the needs .of young congregants who wish to participate in morning services, the-understanding of the importance of an English Language Ministry and the-experience to-perceive our complex- problems and recommend appropriate strategies. Nevertheless, on July T, 2000, Reverend Koonae Lee was named pastor of the. Korean Methodist Church and Institute, despite the-formal opposition of-our PPRC to the appointment. Furthermore^ the evaluation report of Pastor Lee by our PPRC in December 2000- prior to your reappointment decision was a-negative one and indicated that no improvement seemed likely by June 30, 2001.
    Did you study the qualifications desired by our congregants,
    as evidenced by a survey of the membership, before appointing
    2Pastor Lee?
    9) Why did you make the final appointment before the PPRC
    bad a chance to interview her?
    10) After you learned of the PPRC’s concerns and doubts
    about Reverend Lee’s leadership abilities, why didn’t you review
    the Appointment?
    11) Why did you shortcut the introductory consultation
    process in the course of appointing Reverend Lee as pastor
    and merely notify us of your decision afterwards?
    Because of lower membership and the reluctance of many members to fulfill their pledges, contributions to our church-have been reduced the year by approximately 70 percent. As-a-result of these grim-conditions, it is unlikely that we will-be able to achieve our- financial goal for 2001. The prospects are, moreover, that we will be unable to make our requested apportionment to the-conference or pay the full amount of the pastor’s salary.
    12) What is the basis for the inflammatory implication in your letter of April 23, 2901 that certain-members of the Korean .Methodist Church and Institute are harassing Pastor Lee?
    13) What do you believe-to be- the major problems facing our church at this time?
    14) Why didn’t you follow up when it became apparent that the original intervention team did not work effectively enough to bring the parties together, as anticipated when the team was established?
    15) Why hasn’t the Cabinet taken an active role in resolving the difficulties currently confronting our church?
    16) In which ways do you believe that Reverend Lee meets the criteria for a pastor desired by our congregants?
    17) Would you please explain what you mean by a) willing to be
    on God’s team and by willing- to be a partner with one of God’s
    servants, -Pastor Lee?
    We sincerely hope-that you will respond to these questions,
    your earliest convenience in- an effort to further a dialogue between us
    and to bring us closer together. As an initial step,
    we recomm

  142. CHAE S. SONE says

    PART I OF 3

    I. HIDDEN PASTORAL PLAN

    CHAPTER 1. GENESIS OF REV. WON TAE CHA GROUP HOLY MISSION

    .
    In the middle of various accusations against an innocent family members, we received a handwritten letter in Korean from an unknown member, dated June 16, 1997, (post marked 6/17/1997) the mailer noted as a sympathizer 동정자 at the address of Korean church 633 West 115th Street, New York.

    Since Rev. Won Tae Cha assigned to this church, our family had very good cordial relations with him. Often he visited our residence in Long Island. Very often we exchanged very friendly cordial greeting cards in civility. However, there appeared some disagreements among the church leaders how to properly manage the Building Trust Fund of the Church.

    Unexpectedly this anonymous hate letter to an innocent church leader seemed to suggest their hidden plans for the ministry plan.

    It was a threatening as well as an insulting letter to curse our family, especially our children. How could happen this kind insults to the innocent church family members in this church.

    The handwritten envelope from the church address.

    The writer surprisingly stated “we were mentally ill and our Children were pitiful as they were born from such mentally ill parents.”

    Surprisingly some one from the church sent this frightening cursing hate letter to the recipient church family against our faith.

    In order to prevent further unpredictable violence against the church and its innocent family, it was necessary to find out the sources. So we hired an expert investigator of the handwritings to determine the identity of the real writer of this ominous dangerous hate letter.

    At the time, Rev. Cha group was offensive to the church rules on the trust fund. The hate letter was mailed to my residence from the dear church address.

    Suddenly it hinted to investigate this hate letter comparatively with other handwritten letters from the pastor. For no one would dearly use this historic church address for such evil letter.

    Translated text of the hate letter from Korean.

    ”Simply I thought you are normal persons, but I know now you are seriously ill mental patient…If you are old, prepare for your dead. You are more pitiful than just crazy old ones… Even your children from such parents like you – they are really pitiful.” (Post Marked 17 Jun 1997)

    1 ) Korean handwritten text of the hate letter

    We were so shocked and frightened to have received such insulting letter from an unknown church member and we tried to identify the letter writer by a hiring a specialist.

    So we hired a costly Forensic Document Examiner, Julia Bevacqua, who is a court approved specialist to identify such crime oriented letters, to identify the threatening handwritten letter in comparison with the Korean letters previously received from Rev. Cha in the past.

    At the time Rev. Cha and his group was most antagonist to our family as they could not abuse the Trust Fund freely as the trustee’s tight control of the Trust Fund under the Chairman Sone according to the church rules and the state law.

    It was frightening to receive such insulting letter from an unknown person or persons. It was necessary to find out who did this in order to protect the congregation from the anti-Christian actions. A costly handwriting investigator was hired by our family.

    The Specialist Julia Bevacqua used the original handwritten letter of June 16th and its envelope for comparative analysis with the 6 other closely related old hand written letters from Rev. Won Tae Cha.

    The specialist concluded,

    “The letter was written by Rev. Won Tae Cha.”

    The investigator stated,

    “I derived the above results after studying the letters for identification and comparison by the use of a microscope (20 x magnifications), a microscope (30x) with measuring reticules, enlargement 182 percent, and oblique lighting equipment (transmitted light tables).” (1/15/1998)

    In light of the findings, now we naturally could conclude that Young Kim, Steve H. Park and Rev. Cha group was applying the evil bully tactics against our family in order to maintain their off beat ministry as their group activities indicated. It was the beginning of their organized hate letter campaign against the innocent church members.

    Eventually this group took over the church treasury, purging the church officers, trustees and so on through multiple hidden or open projects to push out good church members under Rev. Cha’s conjectures.

    the anonymous hate letter investigated in comparison with eight other documents (translated from the Korean language. the result of it revealed the deeply seated illness of the church

    However, the forensic document examiner did not present the investigation results in detail scientifically to avoid any misunderstanding. I urged her to present scientifically full details to the church leaders and members.

    But, the circumstances in the crucial church moral required presenting the academically or scientifically correct report of the criminal investigation results in order to avoid any illogical misunderstanding on it by the concerned members.

    This anonymous hate letter hinted obviously Rev. Won Tae Cha had a dream plan for his ministry with his own group. Please review his very good relations with the staff as the letters to my family indicated. He was friendly with the victim, the Board Chairman in honorable ways.

    However, some how, his pastoral ideas changed in hidden ways in order to establish his own way of the ministry for this historic Korean Methodist Church and Institute, misleading this Christian community. Eventually this toxic virus injured the spiritual health of this church since then.

    It concluded that her investigation proved it was written by Rev. Won Tae Cha of Korean Methodist Church and Institute according to the Special Forensic Document Examiner, Julia Bevacqua.

    The report should be a academically correct good educational data for good leadership, or any leadership to learn the nature of human behaviors in the Christian community.
    ““““““““““““““““`

    See the following logical presentations.

    . CHAPTER 2. REQUESTED DETAILED INVESTIGATION OF HATE LETTER

    Although investigator Julia Bevacqua researched the hate letter, her presentation was superficial and not satisfactory. And I demanded the details of it.

    2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, New York 11801 (516)931-1067/ 931-0424 Fax (516)938-5580

    January 23, 1998

    Ms. Julia Bevacqua Forensic Document Examiner 140-65 Beach Ave.
    Flushing, New York 11355

    Dear Ms. Julia Bevacqua:

    I have read carefully your examination of the letters. It gives an impression the report presents an outline what you did find from the investigation, without giving any examples. Without supporting examples it seems to be imperfect and not convincing.
    When I met with you, you explained to me the findings showing certain characters. I believe the report should have included such examples.
    Please let me ask you to supplement the report with proper exam¬ples to authenticate the findings – “arrangement”, “alignment”, “ration”, “microscopic examinations”, etc.
    It may be difficult for you to write Korean characters.
    To make examples, cut off relevant characters or numbers and
    paste up on the paper and copy them.
    I might present the complete report to other party about a month later.
    I would appreciate your help. Sincerely yours.
    I

    CHAPTER 3. HAND WRITTEN HATE LETTER

    In response to the request, the Investigator presented the following research on the hate letter, pastoral letters and detailed technical reports

    TRANSLATED TEXT: DEROGATORY HATE LETTER TO DR.CHAE S. SONE, JUNE 16, [1997]

    “Sone couple!

    While attending the Church for many years, first time in my
    life, I heard a rare news (legal action to get money from the
    Church). And I am writing to you.

    I do not know you very well what you are doing or if you had
    a formal education. I just thought you were healthy persons.
    But now I understand that you are seriously ill, awful mental
    patients.

    Perhaps you would not understand what I am going to tell
    m going to tell you.

    You are old. Better, ready for the death! You are really
    much more pitiful than in that situation of olden crazy.
    And if you are covetous of money, you need to repent more than

    Go to the Church regularly. Beg money from the church
    members (as beggars). Don’t act like bogus Christians! Go see a
    physician as soon as possible and try to cure your mental disease.
    You, two people! Don’t make your children experience the
    terrible shame! Go, hurry! See a physician for help.

    If your children do not understand what I am going tell about
    you, naturally it may be so for them too because they are
    offspring of such parents (mental patients). You are really
    pitiful.

    I end my letter at here. Try to have a good treatment!”
    (Signed) By a Sympathizer Korean text of the handwritten hate letter

    It was mailed out from the church address to the victim.
    These letters comparatively analyzed with the anonymous one.

    CHAPTER 4. HAND WRITTEN PASTORAL LETTERS REVEALED FINE RELATIONS

    The hand written pastoral letters were analyzed by the investigator. The letters truly demonstrated good pastoral relations with our family.

    The investigator comparatively analyzed the handwritten letters in comparison with the hate letter in detail.

    The forensic investigator found the style of the hate letter writer to be the same writers as the incumbent pastor’s.

    See the nice well written friendly letters.

    k1. TRANSLATED TEXT of Rev. Cha’s inquiry letter.

    Dear Dr. Sone: 4/3/91

    I appreciate very much for your diligent cooperation with the ministry. To day, I receive the enclosed mail. I would appreciate if you response to it. I would like to know Dr. Sone’s proposals.
    It is necessary to have a responsible counter strategy, but I worry about it as I do not have ability to push them to do so.
    Respectively yours, Rev. Won Tae Cha.

    ——

    k2. TRANSLATED TEXT of Rev. Cha’s letter on church problems. k2

    KOREAN METHODIST CHURCH AND INSTITUT
    633West 115th Street, New York, New York 10025 (212) 662-1422625

    Dear Stewart Kyung Ok Kim:

    Greeting in peace. I missed you for few weeks. I believe the rumors in the church would disappear after some time. Even now, as I am the minister of this church, I can not hide my concern and worry about Steward Kim. I think there could not be lasting enmities in Christ; there are plenty amicable strings of resolutions of the church problems.

    Let us have the strong dream that the faithful body could be established, shaking off the past wrongs. I cannot forget that past few months about the church problems. The painful experiences in the church reminded us and educated us to rethink about our deviant deeds.

    We shall overcome the force trying to divide us with the power to tie us together. Hope to see you next week. September 11, 1977. Respectively Rev. Cha Won tae

    k3. TRANSLATED TEXT of Rev. Cha’s happy birthday card
    k3.

    Dear Dr. Sone: Sincere celebrations

    Happy birthday to you. It was only yesterday when we celebrated your birthday at Dae Dong Restaurant. Time goes by too fast. It is already 6 years past since I was appointed to Manhattan (Church).

    In the past, you celebrated even this humble servant like me with your precious gift. I am re-examining my life and my ministry. I became very seriously humble about my own life before my life time runs out.

    Again I sincerely celebrate your birth

    k4. TRANSLATED TEXT of Merry Christmas card from Rev. Cha and Mrs. Cha k4

    Dear Dr. Sone family:

    I wish you very happy Christmas and New Year.
    I really do appreciate your advices and encouragement in many ways. Under such encouragements, this humble servant will do the best with the assistance of the faithful.
    Unhappy past events shall be berried forever with the past gone year and will do effort to create new events in the coming days. Surging vicious events to us will be replaced with the good events according to the power of our good faith.

    All of the thorny conversations will be replaced with peaceful ones. I would like to cooperate with such new plans. Offering the new greetings again.

    Merry Christmas and Happy a New Year!
    December 12, 19,

    Rev. Won Tae and Cha Tae Ok

    PART II OF 3

    chapter 6 should be added independently from other chapters 1/17/2014

    12;40 AM 1/25/2014

    CHAPTER 6 TECHNICAL ANALYSIS OF HANDWRITTEN
    LETTERS

    However the first report of the investigation was very simple in scientific terms and requested the investigator to present the investigation in technical terms to eliminate any questions on the subject matter that was clearly related with the church affairs..

    In response to the request, The Investigator presented the following scientific research data.

    JULIA BEVACQUA January 15, 1998

    FORENSIC DOCUMENT EXAMINER COURT QUALIFIED • EXPERT WITNESSES: (718) 358-6359 FAX: (718) 359-0103
    140-65 BEECH AVENUE FLUSHING, NEW YORK 11355

    Report prepared for:
    Mr. Chae Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801

    Report prepared for:
    January 15, 1998
    Mr. Chae Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801
    Questioned Document Specimen
    One page letter in Korean dated June 16. (photocopy)
    Questioned Document Specimen
    One envelope postmarked June 17, 1997; Westchester, NY? addressed to:
    Sone, Chae S.
    2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801
    with “return address” in Korean.
    (photocopy)
    Known Documents
    The following Standards were tested in accordance with forensic document examin¬ation principles and these documents were proven to be the same writer.

    April 3, 1991 letter in Korean with “Blest be” imprinting at the top of page and “the ties” imprinting at the bottom of page, with imprinted address (bottom, right side): Rev. Wontae Cha
    The Korean Church and Institute 633 West 115th Street New York, NY 10025
    (photocopy)

    One page FAX in Korean dated September 11, 1997, with “United Methodist” logo on top left side of page and “Korean Methodist Church and Institute” address (hereinabove) and telephone number; (212) 662-^1422 imprint (approximately) at top center.

    THE INVESTIGATION RESULTS FROM HATE LETTER :
    A group of handwritten letters were made comparative analysis in order to determine the hate latter writer
    Ql. Questioned document specimen

    One page letter in Korean dated June 16, (Photocopy)
    Q1a. Questioned document specimen
    One envelope postmarked June 17, 1997; Westchester, NY; Address to; Sone, .Chae S. 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801 with “return address” in Korean.
    (Photocopy)
    Report continued from page one of this report.

    EXAMPLES:

    • Known Documents (continued)

    The following standards were tested in accordance with forensic document examination principles and these documents were proven to be the same writer.

    k1. April 3, 1991 letter in Korean with “Blest be” imprinting at the top of page and “the titles” imprinting at the bottom of page with imprinted address (bottom, right side);
    Rev. Won tae Cha
    The Korean Church and Institute
    633 West 115th Street
    New York, NY 10025
    (Photocopy)

    K2. One page FAX in Korean dated September 11, 1997, with “United Methodist” logo on top left side of page and “Korean Methodist Church and Institute” address (hereinabove) and telephone number: (212) 662-1422 imprint (approximately) at top center. (Photocopy)

    K3 • November 28th letter in Korean with Korean imprinting on top and left side of document and “Korean Methodist Church and Institute” address, telephone (both; hereinabove), and FAX;* (212) 662-9696 on bottom and right side of document.
    (photocopy)

    K3a • One envelope postmarked November 30, 1994; New York, NY; addressed to;
    Dr. Chae S. Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801
    with “return address” and “logo” imprint of “Korean Methodist Church and Institute”, with its telephone and FAX numbers (hereinabove). on upper left side of document.
    (photocopy)

    K4 • December 19th greeting card; “Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year”, with hand¬written message in Korean under card message (hereinabove) imprint and continued on opposite side of greeting card.
    (photocopy)

    K4a• One envelope postmarked December 19; Bronx, 104, PM (portion of postmark stamp is missing); addressed to:
    Drs. Chae and Kyung Ok Sone (hereinabove address)
    with handwritten “return address” of “Wontae Cha, 5125 Post Rd., Riverdale, NY 10471.”(photocopy)

    Report continued from page two of this report.

    QUESTION:

    WERE THE JUNE 16TH LETTER AND/OR THE JUNE 17, 1997; WESTCHESTER, NY POSTMARKED ENVELOPE—QUESTIONED DOCUMENT SPECIMENS Ql AND Qla HEREINABOVE-WRITTEN BY THE SAME AUTHOR THAT WROTE THE STANDARDS: Kl, K2, K3, K3a, K4, AND K4a?

    ANSWER

    Based upon my detailed forensic examination and compar¬isons of the documents hereinabove, according to the principles and techniques of handwriting identification and scientific research,
    both Questioned Documents hereinabove, Ql and Qla, WERE written by the same person that wrote the Standards hereinabove: Kl, K2, K3, K3a, K4, and K4a to do this report.

    FINDINGS:

    My forensic research disclosed the following criteria to substantiate the above conclusion.

    Report prepared for Mr. Chae Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801

    Report continued from page three of this report.

    FINDINGS: (continued)

    Distinct individual characteristics within the Korean shaped letters, as well as the American letters and numerals, were very similar and distinctive of the same writer.

    The “arrangement” of the writing in both; the: r Questioned and Standards (Ql, Qla; Kl through K4a) was measurable.
    The “alignment” of the individual letters and numbers in both the Questioned and Standards (hereinabove) was distinctive of one writer, and this characteristic was measurable.

    The “ratio” of the writing, which is the relation between the heights of the short and long letters, was similar in both the Questioned and Standards (hereinabove).

    The characteristic of “form” in the Questioned Document Specimens was significantly similar when com¬pared with the Standards submitted in its points of origin and termination in many letter and numeral formations.

    The characteristics identified herein above indicated • ONLY. one and the same writer to have been the author of the Questioned Documents (Ql and Qla) and the Standards (Kl, K2, K3, K3a, K4, and K4a) submitted to do this report.

    Report prepared for Mr. Chae Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801

    Report continued from page four of this report.

    FINDINGS: (continued)

    I derived the above results after studying the letter formations of the Questioned Documents and the Standards for identification and comparison by the use of a micro¬scope (20X magnification), a macroscope (30X) with mea¬suring reticles, enlargements (182 percent), and oblique lighting equipment (transmitted light table).

    I had access to the original documents (Ql and Qla; Kl, K3, K3a, K4, and K4a) with the exception of the Standard “K2″, which was a photocopy. From these original documents, I reproduced copies from my photocopier machine, which are attached to this report.
    the results of my research findings may be presented, questioned, and clarified further—if need be—in any legal forum; I am willing and ready to present my research findings.

    ALL SUBMITTED MATERIALS TO DO THIS REPORT RETURNED WITH THIS REPORT.

    SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN TO BEFORE ME THIS 16th DAY
    OF Jan, 1998.
    ^
    (Notary public)
    ROBEFTTNAGY Notary Public, State of New York No.4893447 Qualified In Nassau & Queans Counties Commission Expires JUNE 30,1998
    Julia Bevacqua

    Forensic Document Examiner JULIA BEVACQUA
    FORENSIC DOCUMENT EXAMINER COURT QUALIFIED. EXPERT Witness
    140-65 BEECH AVENUE TEL: (718) 358-6359
    FLUSHING, NEW YORK 11355: FAX (718) 359-0103

    CURRICULUM VITAE

    Engaged in the profession of Handwriting Expertise since 1981.
    Have accomplished well over four hundred reports in the areas of forged bank checks, altered personnel records, falsified business contracts, fraudulent credit card receipts, disputed signatures on Wills, anonymous annoyance mail, as well as verifying numerals and writing on medical doctors’ prescriptions and hospital notes.

    Have been consulted by Proskauer Rose Goetz & Mendelsohn; Citi¬bank’s Citicorp Leasing; Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Co.; McAloon & Friedman; Judge Investigations; Queens borough Registry for Nurses; Local One—International Union Elevator Constructors; Healthcare Underwriters Mutual Insurance Company; Queens Legal Services; Sky Chefs; National Association of Letter Carriers; Geros Realty Company; Hawthorne Investigations; among many other’s.

    Have testified as an Expert Witness in the State of New York at the following courts: Supreme Court, – Surrogate’s Court, and N.Y.C.
    Civil Court, Small Claim’s Court; at the Grand Jury; and at union arbitrations for both the defendant and the plaintiff. My research findings contained in my reports and given in my testimony as an Expert Witness have resulted in the arrest and discharge—as well as the reinstatement—of employees.

    Background instruction includes the completion of the training course and certification in Forensic Document Examination from Andrew Bradley & Associates, Denver, Colorado; tutorial lessons in Advanced Document Examination from Felix Klein, the founder of the National Bureau of Document Examiners, New York City; in addition to continual acquisition of equipment, professional periodicals and books for maintaining a current research library and laboratory. Further education holds a bachelors degree in human relations> Pace University, New York City, NY; twelve credits in criminal justice courses, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ.
    Have spoken—through an invitation—at an international handwriting conference for the Associazione Grafologica Italiana (A.G.I.) in Ancona, Italy, on September 12, 1993, as representative for the U.S.

    Have taught the Document Examination Seminar certificate program, three-credit course, at Feliciano College, Lodi, New Jersey, in 1995.

    Publications include “The Criteria of Comparison Between Questioned and Known Documents” (Attualita Grafologica), Journal 60, pp. 26-27, June-September 1996.).
    Have appeared on “The People’s Court” as its Expert Witness (NBC tapings: July 15 and August 7, 1997).

    PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS
    NATIONAL BUREAU OF DOCUMENT EXAMINERS (1992-1995)

    NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DOCUMENT EXAMINERS (1992-present)

    PART II OF 3 DOCUMENTS

    chapter 6 should be added independently from other chapters

    CHAPTER 6 TECHNICAL ANALYSIS OF HANDWRITTEN
    LETTERS

    However the first report of the investigation was very simple in scientific terms and requested the investigator to present the investigation in technical terms to eliminate any questions on the subject matter that was clearly related with the church affairs..

    In response to the request, The Investigator presented the following scientific research data.

    JULIA BEVACQUA January 15, 1998

    FORENSIC DOCUMENT EXAMINER COURT QUALIFIED • EXPERT WITNESSES: (718) 358-6359 FAX: (718) 359-0103
    140-65 BEECH AVENUE FLUSHING, NEW YORK 11355

    Report prepared for:
    Mr. Chae Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801

    Report prepared for:
    January 15, 1998
    Mr. Chae Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801
    Questioned Document Specimen
    One page letter in Korean dated June 16. (photocopy)
    Questioned Document Specimen
    One envelope postmarked June 17, 1997; Westchester, NY? addressed to:
    Sone, Chae S.
    2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801
    with “return address” in Korean.
    (photocopy)
    Known Documents
    The following Standards were tested in accordance with forensic document examin¬ation principles and these documents were proven to be the same writer.

    April 3, 1991 letter in Korean with “Blest be” imprinting at the top of page and “the ties” imprinting at the bottom of page, with imprinted address (bottom, right side): Rev. Wontae Cha
    The Korean Church and Institute 633 West 115th Street New York, NY 10025
    (photocopy)

    One page FAX in Korean dated September 11, 1997, with “United Methodist” logo on top left side of page and “Korean Methodist Church and Institute” address (hereinabove) and telephone number; (212) 662-^1422 imprint (approximately) at top center.

    THE INVESTIGATION RESULTS FROM HATE LETTER :
    A group of handwritten letters were made comparative analysis in order to determine the hate latter writer
    Ql. Questioned document specimen

    One page letter in Korean dated June 16, (Photocopy)
    Q1a. Questioned document specimen
    One envelope postmarked June 17, 1997; Westchester, NY; Address to; Sone, .Chae S. 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801 with “return address” in Korean.
    (Photocopy)
    Report continued from page one of this report.

    EXAMPLES:

    • Known Documents (continued)

    The following standards were tested in accordance with forensic document examination principles and these documents were proven to be the same writer.

    k1. April 3, 1991 letter in Korean with “Blest be” imprinting at the top of page and “the titles” imprinting at the bottom of page with imprinted address (bottom, right side);
    Rev. Won tae Cha
    The Korean Church and Institute
    633 West 115th Street
    New York, NY 10025
    (Photocopy)

    K2. One page FAX in Korean dated September 11, 1997, with “United Methodist” logo on top left side of page and “Korean Methodist Church and Institute” address (hereinabove) and telephone number: (212) 662-1422 imprint (approximately) at top center. (Photocopy)

    K3 • November 28th letter in Korean with Korean imprinting on top and left side of document and “Korean Methodist Church and Institute” address, telephone (both; hereinabove), and FAX;* (212) 662-9696 on bottom and right side of document.
    (photocopy)

    K3a • One envelope postmarked November 30, 1994; New York, NY; addressed to;
    Dr. Chae S. Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801
    with “return address” and “logo” imprint of “Korean Methodist Church and Institute”, with its telephone and FAX numbers (hereinabove). on upper left side of document.
    (photocopy)

    K4 • December 19th greeting card; “Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year”, with hand¬written message in Korean under card message (hereinabove) imprint and continued on opposite side of greeting card.
    (photocopy)

    K4a• One envelope postmarked December 19; Bronx, 104, PM (portion of postmark stamp is missing); addressed to:
    Drs. Chae and Kyung Ok Sone (hereinabove address)
    with handwritten “return address” of “Wontae Cha, 5125 Post Rd., Riverdale, NY 10471.”(photocopy)

    Report continued from page two of this report.

    QUESTION:

    WERE THE JUNE 16TH LETTER AND/OR THE JUNE 17, 1997; WESTCHESTER, NY POSTMARKED ENVELOPE—QUESTIONED DOCUMENT SPECIMENS Ql AND Qla HEREINABOVE-WRITTEN BY THE SAME AUTHOR THAT WROTE THE STANDARDS: Kl, K2, K3, K3a, K4, AND K4a?

    ANSWER

    Based upon my detailed forensic examination and compar¬isons of the documents hereinabove, according to the principles and techniques of handwriting identification and scientific research,
    both Questioned Documents hereinabove, Ql and Qla, WERE written by the same person that wrote the Standards hereinabove: Kl, K2, K3, K3a, K4, and K4a to do this report.

    FINDINGS:

    My forensic research disclosed the following criteria to substantiate the above conclusion.

    Report prepared for Mr. Chae Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801

    Report continued from page three of this report.

    FINDINGS: (continued)

    Distinct individual characteristics within the Korean shaped letters, as well as the American letters and numerals, were very similar and distinctive of the same writer.

    The “arrangement” of the writing in both; the: r Questioned and Standards (Ql, Qla; Kl through K4a) was measurable.
    The “alignment” of the individual letters and numbers in both the Questioned and Standards (hereinabove) was distinctive of one writer, and this characteristic was measurable.

    The “ratio” of the writing, which is the relation between the heights of the short and long letters, was similar in both the Questioned and Standards (hereinabove).

    The characteristic of “form” in the Questioned Document Specimens was significantly similar when com¬pared with the Standards submitted in its points of origin and termination in many letter and numeral formations.

    The characteristics identified herein above indicated • ONLY. one and the same writer to have been the author of the Questioned Documents (Ql and Qla) and the Standards (Kl, K2, K3, K3a, K4, and K4a) submitted to do this report.

    Report prepared for Mr. Chae Sone 2 Woodbury Court Hicksville, NY 11801

    Report continued from page four of this report.

    FINDINGS: (continued)

    I derived the above results after studying the letter formations of the Questioned Documents and the Standards for identification and comparison by the use of a micro¬scope (20X magnification), a macroscope (30X) with mea¬suring reticles, enlargements (182 percent), and oblique lighting equipment (transmitted light table).

    I had access to the original documents (Ql and Qla; Kl, K3, K3a, K4, and K4a) with the exception of the Standard “K2″, which was a photocopy. From these original documents, I reproduced copies from my photocopier machine, which are attached to this report.
    the results of my research findings may be presented, questioned, and clarified further—if need be—in any legal forum; I am willing and ready to present my research findings.

    ALL SUBMITTED MATERIALS TO DO THIS REPORT RETURNED WITH THIS REPORT.

    SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN TO BEFORE ME THIS 16th DAY
    OF Jan, 1998.
    ^
    (Notary public)
    ROBEFTTNAGY Notary Public, State of New York No.4893447 Qualified In Nassau & Queans Counties Commission Expires JUNE 30,1998
    Julia Bevacqua

    Forensic Document Examiner JULIA BEVACQUA
    FORENSIC DOCUMENT EXAMINER COURT QUALIFIED. EXPERT Witness
    140-65 BEECH AVENUE TEL: (718) 358-6359
    FLUSHING, NEW YORK 11355: FAX (718) 359-0103

    CURRICULUM VITAE

    Engaged in the profession of Handwriting Expertise since 1981.
    Have accomplished well over four hundred reports in the areas of forged bank checks, altered personnel records, falsified business contracts, fraudulent credit card receipts, disputed signatures on Wills, anonymous annoyance mail, as well as verifying numerals and writing on medical doctors’ prescriptions and hospital notes.

    Have been consulted by Proskauer Rose Goetz & Mendelsohn; Citi¬bank’s Citicorp Leasing; Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Co.; McAloon & Friedman; Judge Investigations; Queens borough Registry for Nurses; Local One—International Union Elevator Constructors; Healthcare Underwriters Mutual Insurance Company; Queens Legal Services; Sky Chefs; National Association of Letter Carriers; Geros Realty Company; Hawthorne Investigations; among many other’s.

    Have testified as an Expert Witness in the State of New York at the following courts: Supreme Court, – Surrogate’s Court, and N.Y.C.
    Civil Court, Small Claim’s Court; at the Grand Jury; and at union arbitrations for both the defendant and the plaintiff. My research findings contained in my reports and given in my testimony as an Expert Witness have resulted in the arrest and discharge—as well as the reinstatement—of employees.

    Background instruction includes the completion of the training course and certification in Forensic Document Examination from Andrew Bradley & Associates, Denver, Colorado; tutorial lessons in Advanced Document Examination from Felix Klein, the founder of the National Bureau of Document Examiners, New York City; in addition to continual acquisition of equipment, professional periodicals and books for maintaining a current research library and laboratory. Further education holds a bachelors degree in human relations> Pace University, New York City, NY; twelve credits in criminal justice courses, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ.
    Have spoken—through an invitation—at an international handwriting conference for the Associazione Grafologica Italiana (A.G.I.) in Ancona, Italy, on September 12, 1993, as representative for the U.S.

    Have taught the Document Examination Seminar certificate program, three-credit course, at Feliciano College, Lodi, New Jersey, in 1995.

    Publications include “The Criteria of Comparison Between Questioned and Known Documents” (Attualita Grafologica), Journal 60, pp. 26-27, June-September 1996.).
    Have appeared on “The People’s Court” as its Expert Witness (NBC tapings: July 15 and August 7, 1997).

    PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS
    NATIONAL BUREAU OF DOCUMENT EXAMINERS (1992-1995)

    NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DOCUMENT EXAMINERS (1992-present)

    PART III 3 DOCEMENTS

    II. SEARCH FOR SCAPEGOATS

    CHAPTER 6. THE PLAN TO MAINTAIN DEVIANT MINISTRY

    Please examine how deeply troubled church leadership is. Gospel according to Rev. Won Tae Cha would reveal the extend of Rev. Cha’s movement.

    It could be said to be a phenomena of an Adam’s apple syndrome to destroy this historic tradition of Korean Methodist church and Institute under this ministry.

    Eventually, Bishop Earnest Lyght removed the resisting Rev. Cha as of June, 2000 from the ministry. In 1999, Rev. Cha refused to retire although he once stated to the Bishop.

    Soon his group filed three lawsuits against our family members in retaliation or in support of their church politics.

    1. Korean United Methodist Church and institute, Inc., Won Tae Cha, Young So Kim, Ki duck Shin, Kyung Hee Shin, Hyuk Dal Kwon and Dong Gene Kim v. Chae S. Sone and Kyung Kim Sone. Demanded $4 million damages.
    filed 8-25-00 Index No.118338-00

    2. PARK V. SONE Index 9647/00
    Demanded $4 million damages from Defendants, charging the father and son as mass murderers.

    3.Korean United Methodist Church and
    Institute, Inc. v. Chae S. Sone filed 6-29-01 To expel from the church. Index 603296/01

    These lawsuits filed against our family members with false accusations, demanding $8 million damages from our family. How these Christians could act this way against their fellow church members?

    These lawsuits caused great financial and emotional pains to me, my beloved son, and wife for many years. These unusual pressure caused costly great medical, psychological problems to our family.

    On August 17, 2001, our attorney Brian Raum, Esq. questioned Mr. Steven H. Park about their lawsuits against our family in the name of the church during the afternoon deposition before his attorney Morton Povman, Esq.
    .
    But his court testimonies were absolutely false to destroy our family, accusing me and my beloved son as attempted mass murders which were absolutely false and malicious. He made us criminals falsely accusing that we threatened to kill Mr. Park, his family, his lawyer and other church members. He described me as an ugly criminal with obscenities. [2] How a church officer could plan such evil satanic lawsuit against the innocent same church members?

    If he met my son, it should have occurred more than a quarter century ago at the Sunday day school. I once met Steve Park in 1987, when he came to my residence in Hicksville to give us an estimate for a home improvement project for his business. We never had any personal relations with him at all.

    They used the false accusations successfully as their Bible in Jesus masks under the leadership of Rev. Won Tae Cha.

    Excerpts of small portion from the transcripts of 235 pages long describe that Mr. Steve H. Park’s criminal lawsuits projects against our family was under the leadership of Rev. Won Tae Cha group since 1998 to take over the administration and to loot the church treasury.

    Rev. Won Tae Cha and his group used the stolen church money for the three or more fake lawsuits against their scapegoats, cheating this small congregation, stealing the church money. Virtually they hijacked the church and still these elements are controlling their deviant church operations.

    Rev. Won Tae Cha directed their court actions and participated in the trials. How a Christian minister could do act as he did for his evil project?

    (Another significant issue is the valuable stolen antique bath tub of this historic church as revealed by Rev. Cha’s court interpreter, Mr. Pyun Sun Whan, who stated to me at the court that he once interpreted for Rev. Cha’s bath tub trial lawsuit, according to the interpreter,

    “Rev. Cha testified at the trial that the bath tub valued for $2,000,000.”

    Evidently they had disputes about the stolen bath tub from the church among Rev. Cha group. Yet nobody knows who owns it now.

    Learn more than a quarter century old deviant leadership under the Rev. Won Tae Cha ministry for this historic Korean Methodist Church and Institute that is nothing more than an Adam’s apple syndrome. Is there anyone to say something for the Jesus causes of this historic church events?

    CHAPTER 7. STEVE H. PARK’S COURT TESTIMONY REVEALED THE NATURE OF ORGANIZED CHURCH CRIMES [1]

    THEIR BIBLE

    Their 3 false lawsuits were filed in the same period, some of the all false Allegations were described in this deposition indicating their malice and falsehood.

    It is so called Christians’ vicious court testimonies against the innocent family members, falsely accusing the father and his beloved son as attempted mass murderers in the church.
    It was done under the conspiracies of Rev. Won Tae Cha and his followers. See how deeply corrupt his church group is to take over the church assets and the control.

    Read how so called Christians do testify cruelly criminalizing the innocent members as such, quoted in this paper from their original costly court depositions. [1]

    Remarks: PARK SUED DEFENDAT FOR OUTRAGEOUS BEHAVIOR [See transcripts questioned by defendant’s attorney Brian Raum, Esq.(Mr. Park sued against Sone) Park’s testimony against Sone, as mass murderer at 114 Old Country Road, Mineola, New York, August 17, 2001, 11:40 a.m. Total 232pp of the deposition.

    This way so called church leaders tortured the innocent church family to loot the church. This costly long testimony consisted of the group’s premeditated fraudulent false testimony against the family by the church officers.

    These testimonies revealed how deeply corrupted souls among the so called church leaders. Prayerfully asked Jesus would enlighten them spiritually.

    TESTIMONIES ASA CHRISTIAN

    Page 60; 9-13

    Q That’s what I’m asking you. You said
    you brought a lawsuit against him for outrageous
    Behavior, he’s yelled at you before; right?

    CHURCH ADMINISTRATIVE BOARD AUTHORIZED LAWSUIT

    Page 124; 18-24.

    ADB authorized the lawsuit against Dr. Sone in 1998(?)

    18. Q So you’re testifying that in 1998,
    19. A “There was a resolution passed which authorized or
    20. Was
    21. A “Requesting.”
    22. Q requesting or recommending that a
    23. Lawsuit is brought against Dr. Sone?
    24, a “yes.”

    PARK’S AFFIDAVIT ON MY MURDER PLAN

    Park falsely sworn the affidavit that my son and I were going to kill him. Paragraph 4 of his affidavit;

    “5. In the year 2000, the defendant Sone, without cause or provocation, approximately midyear, at the behest of the defendant, he sent his son, Paul Sone, who threatened to kill me and other church members,” 10-13. Paragraph 5 of Park’s affidavit 5, 25, of 2001

    STEVE PARK CRIMINALIZED MY SON THREATENED TO KILL HIS LAWYER

    Park lied that his lawyer, informed him that my son was going to kill his lawyer and his staff in his office. It was absolutely false testimony. He tried to ruin my son.

    Page 148; 9-21

    10 A Chae Sone’s son, walked into my defense
    11 lawyer’s office using profanities, like, you know
    12 fuck you and these were the words that were
    relayed to me, you asshole, I’m going to kill you,
    everybody in sight, kill you and everybody in
    sight and he chuckled when he called me, he said
    there’s a little lunatic running around here, he
    claims to being his son, and that’s how I got this
    name,

    MR. PARK DID NOT
    KNOW HIS LAWYER’S NAME

    2 Q Do you remember the specific names of who is that attorney?
    …….
    ….
    7 A I don’t have that name in my memory right now.
    8 I would be happy to forward that name.
    to you.

    STEVE PARK’S TESTIMONEY IN PROFANITIES

    Page 76; 13-16.

    His language indicates a corrupt sub-culture of so called Christians today, A shame. You can see what kind church is ours?

    13 Q I would like you to tell me exactly
    What you say Chae Sone said to you.

    A “He said fuck you and asshole on a
    routine basis , that’s basically what he said, day
    In and day out. ..”

    Page 78; 11-21

    Q Do you recall what the first thing he
    Said to you was?
    A “Yes. Curses.”
    Q Tell me exactly. This is?
    15 A “F you and F you, you know, asshole, you
    know, you better watch out your step,”
    Q That was the first thing he said to
    You?
    A “Yes. Constant. Constant. It’s
    Always regurgitation of same, same type of
    Remarks, on and on and on.”

    Page 86; 8-17

    Q I want to know exactly what you say
    that Dr. Sone said to you approximately six months
    ago in connection with killing your family What
    Did he say? What were his words?

    A “He said watch out, you asshole,
    Specifically said you asshole, you watch out, if
    You don’t watch your step; I’m going to kill you.
    That’s very specific. I can’t get much more
    Specific than that. I just walked away. I just
    Walked away.”

    SONE’S THREAT TO KILL PARK AND HIS FAMILY

    Page 65; 3-10

    Q Did you ever report it to the police?
    A No I did not.
    Why is that?
    A Because I tried to do it peacefully.
    Q Dr. Sone threatened to kill you. Do you
    Realize that’s a criminal offense?
    Q Why didn’t you call the police about a threat to you
    and your family?
    23 A “Once again I knew the man. I wanted to resolve it amicably. So I did not want to get either the police or the legal system.”

    Page 61; 5-7

    A “I’m going to kill your whole family.”
    Q That’s what Dr. Sone said to you?
    A “Yes.”

    PAGE 62; 9-17, 21-23.

    Q You’re claiming that Dr. Sone
    Threatened to kill you and your whole family?
    A “Yes.”
    Q When did he threaten to do that?
    A “He did it on several occasions. I do
    Remember several occasions very specifically. I
    Think it was like 1998. I don’t know the dates
    I don’t keep diary of these things.”

    Q those are serious threats, right?
    ……
    “MR. POVMAN 1998 and you said
    There were other times?”
    “Yes.”

    (Mr. Povman lied too because it was absolutely false accusations as there were not such events)

    PAGE 63; 9-25

    9 A “It has not stopped.
    This is now the year 2001. It is still
    Continuing.”
    Q When did he first threaten to kill
    You and your family?
    A “I mentioned that to you. I think that
    Was like sometime in 1998.”
    Q Sometime in 1998?
    A “Yes.”
    Q Was that the first time that he ever
    Yelled you at you or acted outrageously?

    REPORT THE THREAT TO ADB CHAIR MR.YOUNG SOO SHIN

    PAGE 64; 19-25

    19 Q Did you ever make a complaint to the
    leadership of the church about Dr. Sone
    Threatening to kill you?
    A “Yes.”
    Q Did you make a written complaint?
    A “I verbally expressed that to the
    Administrative Board Chair, Mr. Shin at that time.”

    WITNESSES

    PAGE 87; 21-25

    Page 87

    2 Q I want to know who witnessed Dr. Sone
    3 threatening your life and the life of your family
    4 approximately six months ago
    ….
    ….
    21 A Y. S. KIM. K. D. Shin, former pastor
    22 W.T Cha, Y.S. Shin, Y. H. Lee, Y. J. Kim, D. J. ,
    22 Chun CHUN, Paul Choi, Y. J. Kwon,
    24 K W O N, LC Lee. Those are few names I
    25 remember right now.

    I subpoenaed over 10 persons including them for the trial to testify for the false murder charges. Park withdrew his case because he could go to jail through the fraudulent process of judge shopping, deceiving. nearly 10 judges with their wise deceptions wasting the stolen church money in devilish ways. They demonstrated how our weak judicial system is weak and the deviant clergy ethics.

    SONE SMACKED MY SHOULDER WITH HIS SHOULDER. HE TESTIFIED

    “4. On or about January, 2000, the defendant, without cause or
    provocation struck deponent of the shoulder while in the Korean
    United Methodist Church and Institute, the causing an injury to my
    Shoulder.” Paragraph 4 of Park’s affidavit.

    Page 97; 18-20, 23-24, 98; 2-11.

    A. I was
    walking down, he just, just with his shoulder,
    Just smacked me. I was very very startled…

    23. Q So you‘re testifying that he hit you
    With his shoulder on your shoulder?

    2 A “Yes.”
    Q which shoulder did he hit into?
    A “This side.”
    Q your left shoulder?
    A “So it’s my left shoulder.”
    Q Which shoulder did he use to hit you?
    A “I do not know.”
    Q You don’t know?
    A “I don’t know. I wasn’t looking at
    Him.”

    D. J. CHUN AND Y. J. KIM SAW IT

    Page101; 10

    9. A D. J. Chun was right behind me and
    10. another individual that was Kim Y. J. We usually
    11. hang around together in church, so that’s…”

    PAGE 102; 11-15

    11. Q Did either Mr. Chun or Mr. Kim
    Indicated that they had seen the incident?
    A “ Oh, they said what the hell is this guy
    doing is literally their expression.”

    PAGE104; 18-24.

    18 Q What did Mr. Chun say as far as what
    he saw?
    A “I can’t believe that guy did that.
    That’s it. We didn’t curse We didn’t do
    Anything…”

    MISSING ITEMS IN HIS FAKE AFFIDAVIT

    Page 105, 106, 107

    11. Q Well, did you state in your sworn
    Affidavit that it took
    place in January of 2000?
    A “I don’t recall that. I don’t.”

    A “Okay. So it must be January 2000.”

    PAGE 91; 11-24 – 92; 912-23.
    Q I’m asking you whether that affidavit
    Reflects, number one, the incident you must testified to that took
    place (Threat to kill), allegedly took place
    Between you and Dr. Sone six months ago. Is that
    In the affidavit?
    A Do you know what? It’s not in there.
    Do you know what? If you like, I will add it.
    A No. It’s not in there.
    Q Are any of the incidents, the
    numerous incidents where Dr. Sone allegedly
    threatened your life, contained in that affidavit?
    24 A No.

    LIST OF EXHIBITS (omitted SEE REFERENCE)

    Bishop Jeremiah J. Park could have rescued the poor souls from the dungeons. [4]

    Comments, remarkably some of them are working today in the church control group as victors. See Website references.

    CHAPTGER 8. CHONG KUL KIM GROUP PREMEDITAED FAKE LAWSUITS

    Mr. Kim’s public accusations against Defendant in the church services on July 28, 2001.

    Then Mr. Kim Chong Kul, some officers and their factions took organized actions in order to discredit the newly appointed Rev. Kunnae Lee to challenge the Bishop’s new appointment, reflecting the faithless souls of Rev. Cha faction.

    By this time they already send out the protesting letters against the new pastor Lee to 490 member churches in this area. It was a prelude to follow additional distortions to disturb the unstable church. It is a good material to study how deviant Christian minds function irrationally in support of ill faiths as rotten Adam’s apple syndromes. Please study his memo for mental health!
    of this historic church!

    Dear Members:

    Mr. Kim Chong Kul issued this prepared memo to the members following the Administrative Board meeting on May 20, 2001 (Large part is quoted)
    It gives an impression that the meeting had not been done smoothly as usual. Mr. Kim wants additional information to complete the minutes rationally in detail as it was actually happened.

    He raised the following questions in the memo:

    1. Why they always hesitate to treat the church financial matters openly?

    2. Why he should write to 490 churches about the problems in the church?

    3. Why he should not reveal the content of the letter to
    the church members if it was not a personal letter?

    4. Why this small congregation needs an outside help as long
    as we are not idiots? A rational group or God fearing group should rise up to clean up the church. The church hierarchies have helped present elements to build up its own power bases in the church, which is being looted now.

    5. The down fall of the church was originated by the
    promotion and practice of illegal elections under the superintendent who could be impeached by the church law.

    6. The congregation needs free self-examinations by every one in a free atmosphere.

    7. If the church secedes from the main body of the United
    Methodist Church, how long this church could stand-alone? Do they have a capacity to be independent?

    8. The church is already in the state of financial and moral
    bankruptcy by the people alien to the civility or the values of Christian teaching.

    9. A church is public institute, not a private business
    establishment like a vegetable Store and the officers should administer its business openly without any secrecy.

    10. The pastor’s sermons were criticized: Did she preach
    Buddhism or shamanism? Did she promote profanities? Did she preach censorship? Did she preach how to lie? Did she preach how to double talk? Or did she preach how to cover-up? Is she morally ambivalent? Did she promote the brute majority rule of mob? Or did anyone cheat her? etc. Any honest criticism will be creative for all.

    11. The lawsuits caused by individual misconducts but the
    Church…It is nothing to do with the church work. The church is victimized by the misconducts. The result is not being proud.

    12. A church is public institute, not a private business establishment like a vegetable Store and the officers should administer its business openly without any secrecy.

    13. The pastor’s sermons were criticized: Did she preach Buddhism or shamanism? Did she promote profanities? Did she preach censorship? Did she preach how to lie? Did she preach how to double talk? Or did she preach how to cover-up? Is she morally ambivalent? Did she promote the brute majority rule of mob? Or did anyone cheat her? etc. Any honest criticism will be creative for all.

    14. The lawsuits caused by individual misconducts but
    the church…It is nothing to do with the church affairs. The church is victimized by the misconducts. The result is not being proud.

    The recipients of this e-mail may e-mail it to the Bishop with comments. It is a free country. Try to tell him as it is as you can see or feel. He shall be glad to be informed by the members how a local church feels about his policy directions. Let us help him for his shortcomings. Open dialogues will be mutually beneficial. If you believe you are a Christian, feel free to write to the Bishop about your own image of this church. It is your church

    Dear God help us not to double talk. +

    CHAPTER 9. TWO CONTRASTING SUPPORTS OF TWO PASTORS

    According to the sources, the atmosphere of the Administrative Board meeting (Interim) was very hostile, controversial and secretive, on May 20, 2001, as they handled very complex church problems caused by the former pastor. The hidden issues were their opposition related with the removal of Rev. Won Tae Cha and the new appointment. Following two positions were well indicated on the issues.

    1. Newly appointed Rev. Kunnae Lee expressed to it her need for the ministry as there are special needs for family education, training, guidelines, etc. (for the staff) as she learned the problems of this historic church.

    2. Young So Kim expressed his idea to help the young student congregation. Thus, for sometime they misled the English Congregation in order to get their support for the litigations. However, the English congregation faced extensive embezzlement troubles of the so called officers.

    The major hidden issue of them seemed “how to restore Rev. Won Tae Cha ministry in support of him against the newly appoint pastor.”

    3. Kim young So’s hidden projects:

    Fake M.D. Young Kim mentioned to the church meeting that he was threatened with lawsuits. But it was false.

    However, in contrary, Rev. Cha group already were preparing three torturous lawsuits against their scapegoats – our family members – with false accusations, especially one for the attempted mass murders against the father and his beloved son, wasting the stolen money from the anarchic church. According to fake Columbia M. B.A. Steve H. Park, they planned such litigation against Defendant since around 1997 in Rev. Cha period. (See his depositions)

    Dr. Young Kim stated three objectives in his plan for ELM.

    Future ministry requires a special attention.
    Transition ministry – To consider an independence of ELM from the main body, a task force committee needs to be formed.
    Korean language ministry has serious problems. We are always under the legal threat that they created for their evil causes. In the church there should be love, forgiveness and repentance.

    Up to the time this group utilized the ELM group for their malicious lawsuit projects against the innocent victims. (See New York State Attorney General’s investigation of their embezzlement of the church money)

    However, they misreported the church events to the Bishop, who already knew the real status of the ministry at the time, in order to cover up the failed ministry of Rev. Won Tae Cha group.

    According to Dr. Kim, a recent letter from the Bishop Earnest E. Lyght stated that “I harassed the new pastor.” I cannot accept such a letter from the Bishop.

    I am going to write to him a protesting letter. I will send the letter to 490 churches. It will be mailed out on June 16th. I will let 490 churches know our problems. There should be a resolution. I will write to 490 churches. I will appeal to them, “We need help.”

    Displaying an e-mail, he stated “I was threatened with a lawsuit in this e-mail.” It was absolutely false accusation. By this time they already filed three lawsuits against our family –their scapegoats – with false accusations, including the false mass murder charges against the father and his beloved son. However, the disputes with the Bishop were very seriously complicated with their opposition to the new appointee, reflecting the malicious faithless actions under the guidance of Rev. Won Tae Cha who wanted to return to his old position if the new pastor removed.

    III. CHALLEGE TO BISHOP’S AUTHORITY

    CHAPTER 10. BISHOP LYGHT-ELDER DISPUTES ON REV. LEE’S PASTORAL ASSIGNEMENT

    They challenged the Bishop Lyght against the newly appointed Rev. Lee. The Young So Kim group disputed with the Bishop against the newly appointed pastor to replace Rev. Won Tae Cha. Their disputes did not benefit the church at all. How could they try to continue conscientiously the Rev. Cha’s deviant ministry that ruined this historic church?

    These letters to bishop Lyght against new appointee
    Rev. Koonae Lee revealed how they were so deeply
    misdirected for the church members without believer’s
    self respect at all.

    According to the disputes with the bishop, it clearly revealed their disagreement. See their letter campaign. Korean Methodist Church and Institute
    633 WEST 115th STREET NEW YORK. NEW YORK
    (212) 662-1422

    May 21, 2001
    Pastors, Lay Leaders and Congregants;

    We call upon your Christian spiritual value and faith to help us resolve the tormenting problems that are affecting our church. We need guidance in our continuous struggle to do God’s work through Methodist Church.

    In Cod’s Service,
    Ki Duck Shin

    L ay Leader

    Steve Park
    Chairman of ADB Committee

    Korean Methodist Church and Institute
    ,’ 633 WEST I15TH STREET
    NEW YORK, NEW YORK I0025
    (212) 662-1422
    May 21, 2001
    Bishop Ernest S. Lyght
    the New York Conference of The United Methodist Church
    252 Bryant Avenue
    White Plains, NY 10604
    Dear Bishop Lyght:
    Grace and Peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ.
    The Korean Methodist Church-and- Institute, which just celebrated its 80th anniversary, is The Mother Church- for all of the Korean churches in the United States, throughout our proud and glorious history, our church has provided spiritual guidance for many of the future leaders of Korea. Over the years, hundreds of young- Korean men and women, who are studying in this country and developing their leadership skills^ have attended our services lo be stimulated by-high caliber sermons from the prominent ministers who have served us as pastor.
    In addition, the Korean Methodist Church and Institute was the first Korean Church to develop an English Language Ministry to-supplement and enhance our long standing Korean Language Ministries – along with Transitional Ministries-for young people temporarily studying here–are essential to the success of Korean churches in the United States.

    As you know, the Korean Methodist Church and Institute has-been in constant turmoil for the last four years, largely due to divisive legal actions brought against our church, its officers and its minister. During this period, we realized that the Book: of Discipline holds the answer to preventing conflicts in the-years-ahead. Therefore, despite the resistance of the old-guard, we-changed the very foundation of our church by abolishing our bylaws on March 19, 2000,-thereby eliminating-the ineffective, hypocritical Eldership System, Our fervent hope was that we would achieve a democratic process to govern our affairs and enter an era of peace and healing that everyone would cherish.

    Unexpected obstacles, however, dashed-this expectation and the discord continued. With the survival of o«p church now at-stake, we see to find Christian solutions that will-restore reconciliation, harmony dignity. To assist us in achieving this objective, we respectful request that you address some of the issues raised in your- recent letters by answering the following questions;
    litigation and Intervention
    In May 1997, when our church, leadership and Pastor Wontae Cha were sued by one of the church’s, congregants, we immediately asked to your guidance and help-by approaching District Superintendent Carol Cox In December 1998,. Our Pastor Parish Relations Committee had an opportunity to meet with you in order to discuss this matter. We asked you to send an intervention team to mediate-the ongoing differences among our members and you responded by appointing Reverend Ahn and Reverend Waif. We never heard-anything again from you about this team until your letter arrived last month.
    Why didn’t you demonstrate your strong support when our church, officers and minister were subjected to unnecessary litigation?
    When unseemly accusations were made against Pastor Cha, why did you decline to publicly uphold his position?

    Why was no action ever taken by the intervention team appointed in 1998?
    4) By selecting anew intervention team-now, four years after he crisis erupted, are you indicating that Pastor Lee cannot solve our church’s existing problems?
    `Rescinding the Church Bylaws 4

    When we abolished our bylaws by a two-thirds affirmative vote of the membership – becoming the first Korean church to do so-we rejected the concept of ranking individuals in a-church setting and fostering the Christian principle of inclusiveness. This revolutionary change had a major impact on-the other Korean-churches in the United States that may eventually follow our lead. Yet, you did not give us positive comments to our decision at any time throughout this arduous process.

    5) Why did you allow Reverend Cox to modify our traditional practice of permitting every member on the rolls of our church to vote during elections?
    6) Why didn’t you back the efforts-to return the governance of our church to its roots in the Book of Discipline?
    Why do you let the-Eldership System-remain in force at other Korean churches throughout the conference?
    Appointment and Reappointment of Reverend Lee
    In the spring of 2000 with-the situation, at our church-deteriorating rapidly, we asked you appoint a-new past«p with specific qualifications: the ability to deliver stimulating sermons- with depth and spirituality, the skill to meet the needs .of young congregants who wish to participate in morning services, the-understanding of the importance of an English Language Ministry and the-experience to-perceive our complex- problems and recommend appropriate strategies. Nevertheless, on July T, 2000, Reverend Koonae Lee was named pastor of the. Korean Methodist Church and Institute, despite the-formal opposition of-our PPRC to the appointment. Furthermore^ the evaluation report of Pastor Lee by our PPRC in December 2000- prior to your reappointment decision was a-negative one and indicated that no improvement seemed likely by June 30, 2001.
    Did you study the qualifications desired by our congregants,
    as evidenced by a survey of the membership, before appointing
    2Pastor Lee?
    9) Why did you make the final appointment before the PPRC
    bad a chance to interview her?
    10) After you learned of the PPRC’s concerns and doubts
    about Reverend Lee’s leadership abilities, why didn’t you review
    the Appointment?
    11) Why did you shortcut the introductory consultation
    process in the course of appointing Reverend Lee as pastor
    and merely notify us of your decision afterwards?
    Because of lower membership and the reluctance of many members to fulfill their pledges, contributions to our church-have been reduced the year by approximately 70 percent. As-a-result of these grim-conditions, it is unlikely that we will-be able to achieve our- financial goal for 2001. The prospects are, moreover, that we will be unable to make our requested apportionment to the-conference or pay the full amount of the pastor’s salary.
    12) What is the basis for the inflammatory implication in your letter of April 23, 2901 that certain-members of the Korean .Methodist Church and Institute are harassing Pastor Lee?
    13) What do you believe-to be- the major problems facing our church at this time?
    14) Why didn’t you follow up when it became apparent that the original intervention team did not work effectively enough to bring the parties together, as anticipated when the team was established?
    15) Why hasn’t the Cabinet taken an active role in resolving the difficulties currently confronting our church?
    16) In which ways do you believe that Reverend Lee meets the criteria for a pastor desired by our congregants?
    17) Would you please explain what you mean by a) willing to be
    on God’s team and by willing- to be a partner with one of God’s
    servants, -Pastor Lee?
    We sincerely hope-that you will respond to these questions,
    your earliest convenience in- an effort to further a dialogue between us
    and to bring us closer together. As an initial step,
    we recomm

  143. Jocelyn says

    This article is a great foundation to creating a counter list — 11 signs of a healthy congregation. Here’s my attempt, and I welcome others to add/edit!

    1. The church proactively accepts to look like (and become a hub of) the community.
    2. The church is full of community-focused ministries.
    3. Members celebrate hopes, dreams, ambitions, attempts, successes and lessons learned. The past is respected (memorials) but the future and present are the focus of celebration.
    4. The percentage of budget for meeting new members’ needs was balanced with budget for healthy solutions to sustaining members’ needs.
    5. There is a passion to connect with those who are not found.
    6. The members engage in increasingly more discussions with the community about what the community wants.
    7. Pastoral tenure last a lifetime because pastors are encouraged by their members to support new ministries, empower lay leaders and create flexible systems for action.
    8. The church prays regularly together — and with its community using language and tone that meets the community where they are, not necessarily where the members are.
    9. The church knew exactly why it existed. The vision, mission and purpose can be reiterated by pastor AND every member, making it easy for a new member to navigate their way and find a place to get involved.
    10. The members span many generations and collectively apply lessons from the past to today’s experiences, questions and issues but also fully understand that today is a different world where not all answers are known but can be found with patience, understanding and tolerance and empathy.
    11. The facilities continue to be maintained, reinvested or repurposed based on what the community (the church’s ‘outside eyes and ears’) says it needs to be healthy.

  144. Richard Carl says

    Thom,
    Thanks so much for your artical “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” it all seems to support the idea that if your not transforming as a body of Christ you are dying. Sometimes these deaths are slow and painful. I have watched enought of them to speak with some authority on the subject. My wife and I are starving a congregation in rural a East Texas which we served for a couple of years back in the late 90s. Upon our returned the congregation was half the size it was when we left. So in just 17 years they have suffered a reduction of 25 members. We meet this evening to have a spiritual gut check as I call it to see what the vision of the congregation is for the church . We will also revisit the idea of transformation since our faith is grounded in that very concept. Prayers are welcome and apprictaed as we trust God to get the congregations wheels out of the ditch. I trust that the folks will receive God’s vision for the fellowship. My wife and I have that vision but we are waiting for it to be reveled to the folks in the pews. With out them sharing in full measure in God’s vision we will not be transformed and be made anew. Again thank you for you artical it confirms much truth about the charter of so many congregations here in the states. God bless!

  145. says

    I’m wondering how you knew that the church “refused to look like the community.” I’ve seen churches that wanted to welcome people of different economic, social, and racial backgrounds, but they were not coming. Sometimes the barrier is not in the minds of the people in the church, but there is a barrier in the minds of those in the community.

  146. says

    payday uk
    Hello there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is really informative. I’m gonna watch out for brussels. I will appreciate if you continue this in future. Numerous people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

  147. jo says

    Charles spurgeon preached the gospel when he wasa a teenager his church started growing and he started receiving big money years later it was a known fact he was smoking cigars before he preached a sermon, but starting a ministry is ok but god leaves you after a while its up to you were you lead your holy spirit.but god dosent tolerate smoking in ministry, we have to be clean and be on time with him. people in churches today dont have the tools to go across the otherside, or have proper understanding of the bible, this is why there are closures of churches today.

  148. carla Stafford says

    I have only known that the Holy Spirit does not count years or discriminate age. He uses those who are willing and obedient. He can stir the old and make hungry for meat the young. Without the welcoming of the Holy Spirit in a place, you can use any strategy you want, and still end up like you started. But when HE is asked to step in and take over…..the end is better than the beginning. It is not about numbers. it is about commitment for even just one soul.

  149. Greg says

    I am staring dead in the face at some of these issues right now. I have also been studying on the Jerusalem Factor. A book that was written by Dr. David Wood. It is very simple. Look at the first church. They started with twelve, added and multiplied to 120, then multiplied greatly within 3 years until they had won over have of Jerusalem to Christ. Our issue is that we have tried to come up with ideas to grow or reach people on our own. Studying these things has led me to realize that one of our biggest problems, is Jesus laid out the method and commanded we follow. We MUST get back to that.

  150. Greg says

    I am staring dead in the face at some of these issues right now. I have also been studying on the Jerusalem Factor. A book that was written by Dr. David Wood. It is very simple. Look at the first church. They started with twelve, added and multiplied to 120, then multiplied greatly within 3 years until they had won over half of Jerusalem to Christ. Our issue is that we have tried to come up with ideas to grow or reach people on our own. Studying these things has led me to realize that one of our biggest problems, is Jesus laid out the method and commanded we follow. We MUST get back to that.

  151. jim says

    Our denomination began in the late 1800’s. In the 1970 and 80’s attendances peaked, the Sunday school hour was often more attended than worship hour. Numbers in the churches were high. Sadly today most of those churches have an attendance of under 50. I have looked over the records of these churches and because they have kept good records across the boards, I have discovered their past and present practices in ministry have changed. Their sad because of the present low numbers. The outstanding difference is, they just don’t do what they used to do. If we’re not getting results it’s our own fault, Gods provision is still promised if we’ll engage in the Great Commission.

  152. Marcelo says

    I’m music director at a dying congregation. This past Sunday I glanced over people in the pews and it dawned on me that I saw mostly white hair (or no hair…). I say ‘congregation’ because it is the Traditional Worship campus of a thriving multi-campus church, having grown about a thousand members in the last five months and becoming one of Methodism’s largest churches in the US. All this growth has taken place at the Contemporary worship campuses, where the leadership puts all the attention and energy. Traditional worship is seriously neglected. Any suggestions, Mr. Rainer?

  153. t naron says

    Such short sightedness by some of you to ignore real numbers and statistics regarding population growth and church membership.

    Really tired of all the blame being placed on the older members.
    Really tired of all the answers revolving around needing children.

    Between 2012 and 2020 the population of those over 50 will have increased by 76%, while the population of those under 50 will have increased by 1%.

    Clearly, a church must meet the needs and reach out to ALL ages with the same gusto. To do anything less is tell that group of people being ignored that they are not worth the effort and have no value.

    Any church should be excited to gain members with a potential of being there for 30 years, right? If you answered yes, then you need to be certain you are not ignoring the over 50 population, 40% of which is unchurched.

    When Christ said to “love your neighbor” he didn’t stop there, he continued saying, “as yourself”. A church must be healthy itself or it won’t be able to love their neighbor. We must care for and feed ourselves or we’ll be in no condition to care for and feed our neighbors. It’s not an either/or situation, but a both/and situation.

    When a church doesn’t “vote to live”, they’ve turned completely inward, but turning completely outward ignoring the health of members is also not voting to live. IMHO

  154. PastorBen says

    Dr. Rainer,

    I just just bought and read the new Autopsy book in one sitting. Very insightful stuff. I admit I bought the book because my own scenario at the church I pastor made me desperate to find some answers.

    As a pastor of a small, rural church, I’ve seen the “We’ve never done it that way” animal rear its ugly head far too often. The amazing thing I’ve found is that most church members seem to know that it’s a problem – in a vacuum. But when situations come up that they care about, no matter how small, wisdom seems to fly out the window. Often as not, it ends up being someone you thought had a little more wisdom than they display.

    I appreciate your insights on this topic, and with your permission, may attempt to incorporate some of these principles going forward (giving you due credit, of course!).

    My prayer request is this: it often seems hopeless. Tradition for tradition’s sake produces the single hardest and most illogical obstacle I’ve faced as I attempt to lead God’s people. My prayer is that we pastors have the wisdom when to speak and when to let things go, and in all things, rely on God’s grace. Right now, I’ll admit, I’m not sure which way is up.

    Thanks for your faithfulness.

  155. dyingchurchguy says

    Thom:

    I am a 26 year old minister who is called to preach and pastor and have been in the ministry for 4 years. The church I am serving at is going through a change and says they want me as their pastor. (I am currently serving in other areas). The church averages around 30. We currently have 56 chairs out that we can’t fill. They say they want to grow, but there is unresolved conflict that has been building over the years and I believe it is hindering the growth of the church. I am going to be using this article in a sermon this week and it may very well be the last sermon I preach here, but it also may be just the beginning. The most recent pastor left in January and he left discouraged and I have been preaching ever since. I am asking for prayer for myself and the decisions to be made but also for the hearts of the people in the church. I have a vision for our church to start reaching the community, but I don’t believe we are ready. I’m just not sure where to go from here. Any advice would be appreciated.

  156. Daniel McGary says

    I’m curious–what church was this in Thom Rainer’s story? It would be very interesting to know the name of the now deceased church, then google the name, and find out more. Such as, for example, do the former members now regret their mistakes?
    What church was this, Thom?

  157. Daniel McGary says

    Thom, I am very interested in learning exactly which church it was that you wrote your autopsy about. It would be fascinating to Google the name of that deceased church, seeing if any of its former members have realized their many mistakes. Very interesting.

    Daniel M.

  158. Daniel McGary says

    Thom, I would like very much to know the name of the church you wrote your autopsy about. I just imagine how very interesting it would be to Google the name of the late church–and see if any of its former members have now realized their many mistakes. SO, exactly what church was it?

    • Thom Rainer says

      Daniel: The church was a consultation I did over a decade ago. I do not release the names of former clients; that would be a breach of ethics. But it’s relatively easy to find deceased churches. Just ask a local denominational leader or longer term pastors in a town.

  159. Manuel Silva says

    Wow…an eye opener. I happened to pastor a church with most of these descripctions.
    By experience I can suggest a 12 reason: Not seeking youth or young adult families. While staying in the past, sometimes these churches cater themselves and forget about planning a future and that ultimately scare off the young couples and the children or grandchildren that dont feel included anymore.

  160. Charles Philbrick says

    Dr. Rainer. I think your list of 11 consists of 10 symptoms of a dying church and 1 cause: No. 5.
    Thanks for all you do. Charlie.

  161. says

    AUTOPSY OF A DECEASED CHURCH

    I was a member of that church as well as a member of a church that barely escaped the fate of death. OUTREACH and strong leadership made the difference in the outcome of the church that survived. Race was an issue in the surviving church. The pastor was a White man, a Christian radical who went against the tides in order to service the community and save the church. Notice, his one action had 2 positive outcomes. I was amongst the 1st generation of Black members of a Presbyterian Church.
    The church that died ALMOST was saved. There’s a scripture about almost being saved. I brought a sense of revival to that church as a newly relocated Black Presbyterian. The shoe was on the other foot; I was the only Black member of a White church. I had the support of the congregation but there were small pockets of dissention. I was doing the job all by myself and had no one to work with me and encourage me. I had the vision but as a single person I couldn’t transform ALL of the resistance to change and it was beginning to wear me down and undermine my spirit. But I must say, I GREW in that church, more than any other church I’ve ever been a member of. So you see I grew and the church grew (while I was there). I was told that if I would have stayed a member the church would NOT have died. This made me feel good and bad.

  162. says

    AUTOPSY OF A DECEASED CHURCH

    I was a member of that church as well as a member of a church that barely escaped the fate of death. OUTREACH and strong leadership made the difference in the outcome of the church that survived. Race was an issue in the surviving church. The pastor was a White man, a Christian radical who went against the tides in order to service the community and save the church. Notice, his one action had 2 positive outcomes. I was amongst the 1st generation of Black members of a Presbyterian Church.
    The church that died ALMOST was saved. There’s a scripture about almost being saved. I brought a sense of revival to that church as a newly relocated Black Presbyterian. The shoe was on the other foot; I was the only Black member of a White church. I had the support of the congregation but there were small pockets of dissention. I was doing the job all by myself and had no one to work with me and encourage me. I had the vision but as a single person I couldn’t transform ALL of the resistance to change and it was beginning to wear me down and undermine my spirit. But I must say, I GREW in that church, more than any other church I’ve ever been a member of. So you see I grew and the church grew (while I was there). I was told that if I would have stayed a member the church would NOT have died. This made me feel good and bad.

  163. says

    I’m an old Baptist Minister, 22 years a pastor, plus 36 years of medical ministry. Related to University of Oklahoma Medical School.

    In 2007 Medical Students started an organization to put the students into free medical clinics around our city. Prior to that Medical Students were primarily taught to be scientists. Now they work with person in these clinics and as part of their education are discovering patients are people living often in desperate circumstances. Many illnesses result from lack of healthy living. They are discovering what it is like to not have a car that works without needing repairs weekly; to have no knowledge of how to parent; to be uninformed and under monied on how to have good food rather than bad food; to live in a group which devalues marriage and goodness.

    Many of the things Dr. Rainer mentions are surface symptoms of how we view church today. Our ministry have been education and trained to do things “at the church” for people to attend. Bible teachers mimic this and become lecturers. Thus no one “at the church” actually knows what life is like for the people we seek to evangelize. We create in our churches social events for people to attend rather than knowing what stresses the participants in our “activities” have which create distracted church members.

    There is some much said by ministers about “being loyal to the church” but I find few ministers who are loyal to the individuals and families within their care. They spend more time polishing their oratory than in knowing the actual lives the people experience. Thus, the preacher totally misses the application of the Good News to people who need to know it. We have created churches which mistakenly can memorize great gobs of Holy Scripture but have never seen it is to be lived out in their lives.

    Put the ministry into the homes of their parishioners and out of heading up things that makes people proud of their past. If dying churches (meaning people, I suppose) are dying, it is because the seeds of their death were sowed years ago in with only tiny portions of a true Biblical World View. Everything has a history.

    We do not need to “save the church;” we do not need to “pump up their faith;” we need to have genuine koinonia in the lives of those individuals who are the body of Christ.

  164. Mike says

    I’ve been asking churches “Are your MEMORIES bigger than your DREAMS?” Are the memories of what [insert name] church used to be / have / do bigger than your dreams of what [insert name] church can be / have / do? Our churches need to stop living in the past; they need to forget about the “glory years” and look at the “founding years” – looking at the passion and the willingness do something new that the church planters who founded [insert name] church.

  165. Cris says

    Am being interviewed by a church of Christ, 6 members. They (or she, the secretary) asked me five questions over the internet, e.g. who would you be responsible to, etc. “They” even asked me if I would send them a “professional” resume instead of the one I already sent. Maybe they are testing me? The gist of this: they are dying, they know it, and I truly believe they blame their death on previous preachers. What a shame! I sensed no love nor dedication to Christ while speaking to one of the leaders on the phone. Am I paranoid or has Jesus left them to their own devices???

  166. Bruce Webster says

    I recently finished reading Autopsy of a Deceased Church. For the most part I thought it was very good. However, on page 41, second paragraph you said, “The imperative in those verses is “go.” The implications of that really bothered me. I double checked the Greek again and “go” in the Greek is a participle. “Disciple” is the only imperative! A literal translation would be, “Going therefore disciple all the nations, baptizing them to the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.” Or “As you are going (to you neighborhood, or job, or school, or bowling league, or third place, etc.) make disciples.”
    The focus is not on the “go” but on making disciples (not converts but followers of Christ who recognize Him as Lord of their life).
    Thom, are you familiar with the research of Dr. Richard A. Myers? It is not well known, partly because there was very little published about it. However, as someone with PhD level training in social science research at a Big Ten university, I can say it is probably the best research ever done on churches. One of the things he learned is that what almost everyone believes about Easter attendance is a myth. I was present when, based on his research, he predicted exactly how many people were present on Easter at one church. (Usually he was only close.)

  167. Allan Guy says

    I pastor a little country church. We are 11miles from the nearest town. We are surrounded by The Shawnee National Forest – and people who either have a church home – or people who are not interested in a church home. We have canvassed, we have had newspaper ads, we have put posters up in public places, my business cards are in the local restaurants , we talk to everybody we meet and ask if they have a church home. Some are enthusiastic, but we never see them again. It is a beautiful little church and it brings me to tears to know that it might close, but we are down to 8 people (8 older people) – and we are praying for God to give us some instruction on what to do. At one time it was a thriving church, but was abandoned by a split many years ago.

  168. says

    One thing which amazes me is how long the memory of a small community is. If you moved to that church to pastor, you may not realize how long the split echoes in people’s minds. When we go door-knocking in our neighborhood, people still call it the so-and-so church, along with all of the memories of things a pastor did maybe 40 years ago. It takes intentional rebranding through acts of demonstrated love to overcome that. When the apostles went to the Gentiles, the Bible tells us very little about the barriers they faced because they were Jews (“Blessed be Artemis of the Ephesians!” might give us a pretty vivid hint). Can you imagine how hard it was to convince an entire Gentile world that every experience they had with the Jewish people was misleading? But demonstrated love broke through where nothing else would. When you have a small church of older people, it is hard to get people who are able to serve in high-visibility ways. But making sure that you are constantly looking for ways to serve the community will be powerful. From your faithfulness in spreading the identity of your church, people already have at least some knowledge of it. Give them a positive association with that image and watch Almighty God touch their hearts with it.

  169. says

    Praise the Lord Allan!
    What you need to to is pray ” spiritual warfare type” prayers. I can send you a template that i have developed and you will see a turn- around in Jesus Mighty Name.
    In Christ,
    Elizabeth.

  170. Allan Guy says

    Thank you sir. I am most appreciative. I have been driven by Luke 9:62, but I have finally just said, ‘Lord I’ve done everything I know to do. If it’s going to survive -it’s going to take a miracle on your part. We all agree in prayer every day, seeking an answer.

  171. Brian Fender says

    So in other words despite years of having scripture taught to them when push comes to shove the congregation didn’t practice what it preached? This is just another example of the hypocrisy that I have considered to be the fundamental flaw of most religious organizations. I have always said that my first religious experience was when a little boy told me when I was about five the I and my family were going to hell because we weren’t Baptist. It was a very scary thing to hear as a child and I couldn’t understand why someone would say something so hateful and got so much pleasure out of saying it. Of course that family eventually turned into a big hot mess, but it made me leery of religion and its motives at a very early age. Then I realized that I was gay, which further alienated me from religious institutions. When I became an adult I started volunteering as an adviser for a gay, lesbian, transgender support group for youth. It was here that I saw the affects these same messages from the pulpit were having on these kids who were just trying to find a place were they could be understood, identify with a group of peers and get the support they weren’t getting anywhere else (far from it in fact). It was inspirational and heartbreaking at the same time. So I had another level of distaste for the way religious doctrine was being used to facilitate a hostile environment for kids that just want to fit into the world they were born into. I eventually interviewed a group of these kids and learned something from them about religious organizations that didn’t hold these restrictive beliefs. And one of the kids said to me, “you know most of the denominations forget that Jesus was a rebel, he was out there working for the rights of the marginalized people, and if Jesus were alive today he would be on the picket lines with the Human Rights Coalition.” And of course he is right. I am now 45 and dying of ALS. The nature that surrounds me is my cathedral, the true expression of the almighty. I see strength in the diversity of true religious expression and don’t see the principles as competing or mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, most people consider repetition to be tradition, and that includes not changing the demographic, and God forbid bringing in poor people. But primarily people don’t like to be wrong. My mother gave me the best answer I have ever received in reference to homosexuality. I asked her “Why are you so afraid of people like me, when you have lived my whole life loving me?” Her answer, “Because I was always taught that homosexuality is wrong, and if it isn’t then my whole way of life is questionable.” I am happy to report that she is an active participant in mine and my partner of 18 years life and remarkably she is the same lovely woman she always was. And to finish off my little rant I would also like to point out one of the most blatant hypocrisies is that we gay men are by in large not violent people (excluding those nasty queens in the Vatican), while our heterosexual male counterparts and religious institutions are in fact the war mongering parties and who continues to get persecuted. So in summation I hardly see it as sad that an hollow institution died!

  172. Sue Sheedy Crissman says

    Dear Brian,
    My heart just cried for you as I read of the pain inflicted by Christians who were conveying to you a completely wrong concept of who God is and His love for you. Your Baptist friend likely was parroting the information learned but sincerely didn’t want you to spend eternity separated from God. (Being raised Catholic; I was also taught that if you weren’t Catholic, you were going to hell.) Unfortunately, the church you refer to, does practice what is preached – they just don’t realize that what is being preached/learned has everything to do with the law….the should and should-not-do’s of what is believed to be God’s will. There is not one person, in any church, under any label “Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Non-Denominational”, etc (the label makes NO difference) that gets it right all the time…right and wrong is likely the main message heard (either in perception or reality). Well, my friend, right or wrong, good or bad is ALL lived from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…yup…that same tree that Adam and Eve partook of. There are obviously good and bad things that happen all around us (murder, gossip, theft, sex trafficking, abuse – the list seems almost endless). So, how do we relate to a loving God when all these evils surround us? Which church organization has all the right answers? NONE….the church of Jesus Christ in reality, are its individual members-in Christ. Some church doctrines can often miss the whole point of Jesus life, death and resurrection entirely. Jesus understands who we REALLY are. No matter what the offense is, the difference this side of heaven is the consequences….if I kill someone I may end up spending the rest of my life in prison…or maybe not. If I steal stamps from the office that I work in…well, the consequences are obviously completely different. But, sin is sin. So, what do we do with the REAL issue? The state we are born in….spirits that are dead to God because of Adam’s sin? A relationship and surrender to Jesus and an understanding of His grace are the only way we can walk in peace and assurance that it is HIS sacrifice for us on the cross and His resurrection that are the source of life for us now (The Tree of Life). Since His death, all sins that have been committed were in the future. When someone has a salvation experience and there is often a “honeymoon” period where all is right with the world and we couldn’t be happier. But, usually no matter what church we go to, then comes the list of do’s and don’ts. Think about it….salvation is a free gift but we have to be good enough going forward to keep it (seriously-think about the absurdity of that). We are often led to believe that God is ready to write us off with the next offense, or we think that if we can be “good” enough, we can balance out the scales and not go to hell. Oh my, what a horrible existence. A very shaky foundation, at best. Jesus alive in me gives me the amazing gift of living out of the Tree of Life. Yes, there are many deep wounds that He wishes to heal that will enable us to walk in amazing freedom. Freedom to love others without agenda….when you realize you don’t have to “measure up”; it is an amazing gift you can extend to others just by being who you are. Because, the spirit in you that once was dead, is now alive with the Spirit of God….regenerated, whole, no condemnation….and that is the REAL you. Jesus in you is the real you. Will you have experiences that cause you pain…yes. There will be offenses, both given and received. Your salvation is not dependent on your reaction or ability to get the victory over/in those circumstances. Jesus in you is the ONLY measure of your salvation. Yes, many Christians have very horrible outward expressions of unkindness, manipulation, greed or every other sin known to man. It’s hard to wrap our minds around it, how can they be such awful people and still be Christians? When we walk around wounded and hurting, not understanding that the God of the Universe resides in us, we hurt people – life proves that this is true. In other words, they are human beings. That is why our judgment of their spirituality is a waste of time…we can’t know what is really in their hearts. Painful life experiences will influence the actions of everyone, believers and non-believers. Conversely, when the real love of Jesus is displayed, you know there is something different about that person. I’m not talking about love that says, “I’m OK, you’re OK”, I’m talking about a love that says, “God loves you and you are safe in that love”. As a believer, Christ in you makes you perfect! You died, were buried, resurrected and sat down at the right hand of the Father – IN JESUS. Yes, you are in Him and He is in you….that’s the good news….the real gospel. ALL the rest of life is then the process of growing in knowledge and grace. Not the knowledge of how to have a better life, but comprehension of just how awesome God and how much He really loves us. Your mom’s comment, “Because I was always taught that homosexuality is wrong, and if it isn’t then my whole way of life is questionable.” is a result of her perception of “right and wrong”. What you “do” is not who you “are”. Her fear may have caused you and her great pain. It is her decision to walk in her love for you that has provided the opportunity for healing in the relationship you have with her. GOD IS LOVE….He wants to do the same with all of humanity….that we all would know just how much He deeply loves us and how much He wants to heal our wounded hearts.

  173. Brian says

    Hi Sue, thank you for you kind words and concern. I am very much at peace with impending death. There are many human interpretations of what happens after death. I personally believe we transcend such human concerns and I believe that death will be equally as dynamic and miraculous as our conception, birth and life in all of its incredible diversity. To me the idea that you have to give your life to Jesus, Buddha, Allah etc. are just human semantics that when put next to the complexity of an atom seem profoundly trivial. All of the teachings hold truths and principles to live by, unfortunately most disregard them when they become uncomfortable, which was primarily what I was trying to get over with my previous post.

    I have a great deal of respect for my mother to be able to be that introspective and honest when she was trying to understand this new information about her son. She is a mother that always wants to protect her children. Growth is often painful and my family has been able to grow with such thoughtfulness and grace and support of me and my partner, which they were originally mortified by. I have to disagree with you, everything I do is who I am. I love a man and am proud of what we have achieved individually and as a couple, I speak my mind, I stand up to the best of my ability against injustice for others, I create to try to foster empathy and understanding of others, he works to help kids transition out of foster care so that they don’t become homeless, modify substance abuse and remain HIV negative and we love each other better than anyone else could have. Everything single thing we do is who we are.

    Although I certainly would prefer to continue to grow old with a healthy body, I was very healthy, I have been able to see the blessings in this disease. I have lived the last three years in the moment. There is no past, unless I am writing about it, and there is no future just an endless stretch of the moment until there are non left.

    So please my intention wasn’t for someone to worry about me. It was more like giving perspective from someone who isn’t your usual contributor. A friend posted this story on facebook and after I read it I felt the need to testify:) I hope this finds all of you well.

  174. David says

    Thom, thanks for the article. We will be having a men’s prayer breakfast on Saturday morning and I plan on presenting these for discussion and prayer to decide what God would have us do in His church.

  175. says

    Thom, great article. We’re using this post as a reference in some research we’re doing on the most common reasons why churches fail.

    Question: How vital do you think activities during the week are for keeping a church alive? We know association is key, but are interested in your thoughts.

    Matt
    Levaire Group

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Church; * An Open Letter to the Latest in a Long Series of People Angry at the Church; * Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 11 Things I Learned [essential reading]; * 10 Quick & Practical Ministry Principles that Will Bless Your [...]

  2. [...] Autopsy of a Deceased Church  — Thom Rainier posts an autopsy of a church he tried to help in 2003, and that recently closed. I think many churches are going through such moments and need to look at these things to see how they can adjust their ministry goals and visions. Here are just a few of the problems he listed: [...]

  3. [...] Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 11 Things I Learned – “I was their church consultant in 2003. The church’s peak attendance was 750 in 1975. By the time I got there the attendance had fallen to an average of 83. The large sanctuary seemed to swallow the relatively small crowd on Sunday morning. The reality was that most of the members did not want me there. They were not about to pay a consultant to tell them what was wrong with their church. Only when a benevolent member offered to foot my entire bill did the congregation grudgingly agree to retain me. I worked with the church for three weeks. The problems were obvious; the solutions were difficult. On my last day, the benefactor walked me to my rental car. “What do you think, Thom?” he asked. He could see the uncertainty in my expression, so he clarified. “How long can our church survive?” I paused for a moment, and then offered the bad news. “I believe the church will close its doors in five years.”” Thom Rainer [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


+ 6 = ten