The population of the United States is on the rise, but those attending the church of Christ is on the decline in many areas. According to the 21st century churches of Christ directory, in the last 3 years there has been a 4.1% decrease in church attendance in Oklahoma and 7.1% in Texas. Now we need to keep in mind that part of this percentage has been inflated because churches like Quail Springs in OKC and Richland Hills in Fort Worth, Tx are no longer being counted since they choose to start using musical instruments in their worship service.


What does this tell us? It shows that many of our congregations  have been declining over the years instead of growing as they should. It shows that we have not been doing a very good job of evangelizing and many are failing to raise their children up in admonition of the Lord.


While there are several reasons this decline is happening one of the problems is that we don’t confront people about salvation like we should. I did not live back in the 1950’s or the 1960’s, but I have read numerous articles concerning that period of time and from what I can gather it was a time in which the church was growing rapidly.


Clayton Pepper, who was highly involved in the growth of the Madison Church during that time, said that church growth was due to “the evangelistic zeal of the congregation.”


Back then more people were saying something rather than nothing about their faith, salvation, and about the church. Sometimes they didn’t always say the right thing nor did they always have  right attitude, but at least they said something. While they offended some, others were cut to the heart, which is one of the reason the church was growing back then.


After the 50’s & 60’s, the church stopped growing. It leveled off and then started to decline, especially in the 70’s and early 80’s. From 1973-1976, Dr. Flavil Yeakley did extensive research on the growth rate of the church. He stated that the decline had begun in 1965 and was continuing to decline in 1975, even until 1980.


There was a slight rebound in the 80’s. Yeakley did more research in the 1980’s.

  • 1985 – growth rate was stagnant = .02%
  • 1986 = growth rate = .5%
  • 1987 – growth rate = rose to 1%


Now I don’t want you to start thinking to negative about the growth of the church, because I ran across a new survey by this same man.

Yeakley surveyed where the church stands in relation to other religious groups:

  • Churches of Christ constitute the twelfth largest religious group in the U.S.
  • They are the sixth fastest-growing group in the U.S.
  • They rank fourth in the total number of congregations.
  • The church is fifth in the U.S. in number of counties in which there is a congregation.
  • It ranks first in the nation in distribution of congregations.
  • Churches of Christ are first in the nation in weekly attendance among membership.

Higginbotham notes that Yeakley’s study revealed that the greatest retention rate of high school graduates comes from those congregations who are described as “middle of the road.”

The worst retention rate come from those bodies who are described as liberal.

This show us that there are some good things happening within in the church today, but I want you to understand that we used to be the fastest growing church in the United States.

As I pointed out earlier, the churches of Christ in Oklahoma and Texas are still on a decline and so are many congregations in the United States. This means that the devil is winning some battles right now, but the war is far from being over.


One thing that will help us to win more battles against the devil is by confronting more people with the gospel. One place you should expect this to happen is from the pulpit, but many preachers today are preaching a watered down version of the Bible.


They focus their lessons on loving one another and how they might improve their relationships at home and how to lift a broken heart. These kind of lessons need to be taught, but the problem is many preachers have stopped preaching about evangelizing, and confronting the lost about their sin. They have stopped making it clear that it’s every Christian responsibility to reach out to the lost. We cannot remain silent about sin and say nothing because if we do, nothing will get done.


I know it can be difficult to approach people, but we must be willing to confront others about their lost condition in spite of our fears.


I read about a preacher that did a weekend seminar on Evangelism and confronting the lost. Afterwards, he and several of the members went to Shoney’s to eat. After eating, one of the members said, “Larry, what you have shown us this weekend about confronting our neighbors is true, but I’ve got to tell you the truth, it scares me to death.” One of the other members looked up from his plate and said, “So?”


It amazing to me how fearful we are at offending someone or hurting their feelings. We have been influenced by our society to think this way, but we have got take this mentality and throw it away because there are far too many souls in jeopardy to worry about hurting people’s feelings. Imagine yourself being their on the day of Judgment as your lost friend or family member was being condemned to hell. When you had to give account for not warning them, think about yourself saying. Well, I didn’t want to hurt their feelings and I didn’t want them to get mad at me. When think about where that person is going to spend eternity do you think that your excuse is going to make it ok? Of course not!


I want you notice the following verse about the rich man:


Luke 16:22 The rich man also died and was buried.  23 "And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  24 "Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.'  25 "But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.  26 'And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.'  27 "Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house,  28 'for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.'  29 "Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.'  30 "And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'  31 "But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' " 


Think about this. The rich man is not even in hell, but simply waiting place for hell. Hell is far worse than this place, yet he was already being tormented, was dying of thirst, and was experiencing the heat of the flame. This place was bad enough that the rich man did not want his brothers to have to come there, so he begged and pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers so that might listen to him.


We need to remind ourselves that this place is real and hell is real and if we continue to be quite and mind our own business, then our lost friends and our family members are going to go to this horrible place. If this rich man could do things over, I believe he would have and he would not have worried about his material things as he did, and he would not have hesitated to warn his brothers and everyone else he knew about what would happen if they did not get right with God.


Knowing that sinners will face the wrath of God is what motivated Paul to reach out to the lost as we see in:


2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.


When Paul went around and preached his message, he didn’t stick with topics that he thought would be safe, and he didn’t try to apologize for what the Word of God taught. As he told the Ephesians elders:


Acts 20:26 "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.  27 "For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.

As he wrote to Galatians:


Galatians 4:16 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?


We need to understand that we have a responsibility to confront the lost, and we will be judged by what we have done not done in confronting them. Also consider what:


Ezekiel 33:8 "When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you shall surely die!' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.  9 "Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.


This thought is found in the O.T. However, this is the same thing Paul was talking about when he said that he was innocent of the blood of all men, because he had not failed to preach the whole council of God, he had not failed to warn people that they will face the pits of hell if they do not obey the gospel and live a faithful life to God.


I don’t know about you, but I also want to be able to say that I am innocent of the blood of all men, and I do not want to go to the judgment day and have to say that I did not warn these people because I did not want to offend them or hurt their feelings.


There are many Christians today that would not stand a chance in the first century because we have become soft from living in a nation that promotes the idea that we should love everyone by accepting them just like they are. The chances of you suffering physical persecution or death for speaking the truth about God is slim in our nation, but during the first century and second century Christians were being put to death for their faith.


When you compare showing fear for hurting someone’s feeling to loosing your life or having your family tortured before your eyes, there is no comparison. We live in country of free speech and since the most we have to worry about is making someone mad, it should cause us to speak more freely about God and to warn people about what they are going to face if they do not change their ways.


Have you ever seen a dog bark at a parked car? They bark at the moving cars. If you never want to be barked at, that is you never want to face complaints, then by all means stay parked by living like the world and never expressing your faith.  


If you want to be like the first century Christians, then you need to be a person of action. You will allow your faith in God to move you out of your comfort zone and to face those barking dogs because you love God and want to reach the lost for Him as Jesus commanded us to do:


Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;  


Jesus never asked us to do anything He wouldn’t do or endure. We certainly know that He endured many barking dogs in his ministry. This was even prophesied in:


Psalms 22:16,20 – Concerning Jesus, “For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me….. He says, “Deliver Me from the sword, My precious life from the power of the dog.”


If we want to help the church grow again and save more lost souls, then we must become more bold at letting people know that they are lost without God and that they need Him to have eternal life in heaven.


Again, the worse thing that will happen to you is that you will be rejected just like Jesus was rejected when He preached His message to the Jews. Yes, someone might yell at you, but at least they would have been exposed to the truth.


I know that we have the ability to warn others when they are in danger. Most people would not hesitate to tell someone that a tornado or a fire is coming their way. We all have a desire to see someone remain alive. That’s great, but we should have that same attitude when it comes to warning people about the dangerous of hell because where you spend eternity is far important than our physical lives here on this earth.


It is easy for us to find a comfort zone and stay in it because we like knowing what each day is going to be like, but as Christians, we must force ourselves out of this mentality and remind ourselves that we are in a spiritual war with Satan. As soon as you wake up in the morning the battle begins. As Jesus said:


Matthew 9:37 The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  38 "Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." 


We teach our children, I’m in the Lord’s army, but based on them watching our example many times they might think that means that we are on standby because they don’t see us fighting on the battlefield, instead all they see us doing is warming up the pew. We need to take what Paul said to heart in:


Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.


God wants us to put on our battle gear and get out there! He wants us to contend earnestly for the faith, He wants us to speak up about salvation. Paul said:


Galatians 6:17  From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.


Do you bear any marks for standing up for Jesus? Do you have any battle scars? Have you ever had lump in your throat and felt your heart racing because you stood up for the truth or tried to talk to somebody about Jesus?


If you have not been fighting on the battlefield for the Lord, when are going to begin?


When Jesus examined the 7 churches of Asia, one church in particular was too comfortable and Jesus said He would spew that church out of his mouth. Why?

Because they were spiritually lukewarm.


I want you to notice what Jesus said to the Laodicea church:


Revelation 3:17 "Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' -- and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked --  18 "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  19 "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.


The Laodicean church was rich, wealthy and obviously very comfortable, and Jesus said their attitude was one of “having need of nothing.” Yet spiritually they were:


  • wretched
  • miserable
  • poor
  • blind
  • naked


Jesus told them to get some eye salve so they could see clearly. This same thing could be said about many Christians in the Lord’s church today because far too many Christians have become comfortable and blinded to their responsibility to reach the lost. So, some of us may need to get the eye salve out, and lift up our eyes so we can see that the fields are white and ready for harvest.


One place I think we fail when we begin to talk to others about God is that we allow ourselves to get in disputes about different matters such as using musical instruments, having women preachers, God’s grace. These are all great topics that need to be dealt with, but we need to focus on teaching people about salvation first, then focusing on all these other issues. That is what Paul did:


1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.  2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.


I know it is not always possible to focus on what it takes to become a Christian, but we need to make that our goal. If someone asks you questions about the church or it teaching, tell them you would love to answer that question, but ask them if they would allow you to teach them about what the Bible says about salvation first because if you are not saved, none of these other issues are going to matter.


Also it is important that you establish that the Bible is the only authority and that we cannot allow our gut or heart of hearts override the Word of God. If you cannot get someone to agree that the Bible is our only authority, then your wasting your time and you need to move on to someone else.


Not only should we confront the lost with the truth, we should also confront our children with the truth. They need to be taught why certain things are wrong and what will happen to them if they grow up and live their life without God. Far too many Christian parents have neglected to teach their children about God’s Word and to respect its authority, so new generations are growing up that are leaving the church, and those that remain are being silent because they are not convicted. They have been trained well by society, and we have let them. So, we must do our part as Christian parents to teach our children about God’s Word and the importance to speak out about God’s truth. If we do this, we can raise up a new generation that knows God and is willing to fight on the battlefield for the Lord.


In conclusion, I hope this lesson has motivated you to be more vocal to your family, friends, and others you come across. We are not doing anyone any favors by remain silent and if we want to be innocent of the blood of all men, then we need step up and embrace our responsibility of reaching the lost and warn them about their fate if they don’t obey the gospel. Yes, it can be scary, but things could be much harder such as losing you life for professing your faith. So, I want to encourage you to become more bold at telling people about God. When I say that, I am not suggesting that you be mean to people, but that you simply teach them the truth out of love for their soul, and do it such away that is from the heart and with words that are seasoned with salt.


Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.