Part One of a Series

by Steve Dunn

     It is no secret that churches continue to close. I have yet to read a commentator who expects this to change. In fact, the general consensus is that church closures will accelerate.  This can be attributed to several factors:

  1. The demise of neighborhood churches
  1. Churches that have failed to disciple even their children.
  1. Churches that have failed to adapt to the changing culture around them.
  1. Aging facilities that have reached critical points due to deferred maintenance and lack the resources to keep operating their facilities.
  1. The retirement of pastors and the failure to attract younger pastors to replace them.
  1. Aging congregations that have become more and more high maintenance placing a great burden on a shrinking younger core.

The list goes on but the number one reason why churches continue to close is the lack of Great Commission intentionality. As Thom Rainer notes: “When cultural Christianity was alive and well, churches could do minimal evangelistic activity and still grow by transfer growth. Such is not the case anymore. Churches will have to be highly intentional evangelistically in the months ahead or they will head toward death and closure.”

The Scriptures are very clear. The purpose of the church is to make disciples.  Yet too many churches adopt an attitude that is an “add-on” instead of an essential.  Or their methodology is extremely passive, “If we open the doors, people will come.” Or they wait until people recognize a personal spiritual need before engaging them.

These attitudes do not reflect a Great Commission Intentionality.  They are actually expressions of passive disobedience or pure laziness.  Matthew 25 (the Parable of the Talents) tells me that we cannot expect God to bless our ministry when we operate with this mentality. If congregations expect to survive, if congregations expect to thrive—things must change and a commitment to Great Commission Intentionality needs to be embraced. (Thank you, Thom Rainer for the inspiration.)

© 2018  by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to For all other uses, contact Steve at 


  1. I’m beginning to believe that a big reason that many of our churches are not motivated or very effective at making new disciples is that we lack evangelist leadership / capacity. The fact is (as I’m beginning to see it) many or most shepherds aren’t wired for evangelism. Pastors know that we should be doing evangelism, but we don’t have the mindset to find help because we have been taught that we’re expected to be effective at it. But if that Ephesians 4 deal is right – and I think it is – God has given some to be shepherds and others to be evangelists. We need people who are gifted and passionate about evangelism to help our equip our churches. While our evangelism commission has always offered many of these things, I believe that it will take an admission on our part that many shepherds are not passionate evangelists and maybe never will be. They – hopefully – will be faithful at proclaiming the gospel and sharing it, but I personally think that many shepherds lack the ‘going’ drive to really move boldly outside and into uncharted territory. What we’ve done is berate them for that. I’m saying that for the most part shepherds will never be ‘goers.’ They are by nature and temperament and even gifting ‘stayers.’ Sorry I rambled so much there… 🙂

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