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Alan Danielson: "Please remember that Jesus never promised mountain-moving would be easy or painless."

I once served as the interim pastor for a small church. This church could seat 400, but only 40 came. They’d fired their last three pastors and had changed very little for 40 years.

The church had been declining since its peak in 1965, and the average age of the congregation was over 70. They were bearing no fruit, and they were dying a slow death. Their “hope” was the money they had in the bank. They had over one million dollars, but wouldn’t spend it.

On Sundays when it would rain, they’d put buckets around the auditorium to catch the water that dripped through the ceiling. The money wasn’t really “hope” at all … it was life support. It was almost as if they’d forgotten that Jesus didn’t say, “I came to give them life and to give them life-support.”

This doesn’t just happen to old churches though.

It can happen to young, contemporary churches too. When our churches find security in anything other than Christ, we have started the process of sticking our heads in the sand and dying a slow death.

Mark 11:12-19 tells the story of Jesus cursing a fig tree for not bearing fruit, then immediately driving the moneychangers and merchants out of the temple. Both of these images are powerful reminders of God’s views of the local church: 

1) God hates it when the church does not bear evangelistic fruit, and 2) the church does not exist for our own benefit.

All too often, the church becomes inward, focusing on our own needs, desires, hopes and preferences.

When that happens, we have become like the moneychangers; we’ve made the church about us. The tragic result of this is a church that bears less and less fruit.

I’ve seen these churches with my own eyes, and it makes me weep.

Alan Danielson Alan Danielson is the Senior Pastor of New Life Bible Church in Norman, Oklahoma. Previously he served as Central Team Leader for LifeGroups at in Edmond, OK, where he led over a thousand small groups on LifeChurch’s thirteen campuses in six different states. He then founded to help leaders master three essential leadership skills: vision-casting, creating strategy and fostering relationships. Alan is a popular conference speaker and consults regularly with ministries and leaders on topics relating to small groups and leadership. Learn more from Alan at

More from Alan Danielson or visit Alan at

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  • Christopherswims

    This is confirmation for me! Thank you

  • matt robbins

    Great message in this article.

  • Guest

    If the church does not preach the true word of God, as taught by our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ, under the new Covenant established by God with Mankind, then the church is not preaching true Bible teachings and deserves to fold…the majority of so called “christian” churches today, do not teach anywhere near the teachings of Jesus in the new covenant, but have their own “feel good” slant to the HOly word of God…they can feel good and still teach the words of Jesus, in the four gospels, upon which our Salvation all hinges…so forget about the multi million dollars churches, and get back to basics…the true word of God!

    • Jonathan Williams

      “the majority of so called ‘christian’ churches today, do not teach anywhere near the teachings of Jesus in the new covenant, but have their own “feel good” slant to the HOly word of God”
      I would think it’d be impossible to KNOW what the majority of “so called ‘christian’ churches today” teach unless you do a LOT of traveling around the world, and visit a LOT of “so called ‘christian’ churches.”

  • jhb0331

    There in lies the problem.  The multi-million dollar churches erroneously teach our Salvation lies within the synoptic gospels.  Our Salvation begins at the Cross and continues on the road to Damascus and matures through the Pauline epistles.  You shall be my apostle to the Gentiles……..  Read them carefully and ask the Holy Spirit to give you understanding.

  • Jaroslaw from Poland-Cracov

    I suppose the problem is in every country. We live in time church of Laodicea. Be hot, buy gold refined, white clothes and salve. Look at Jesus’ cross every day. Thank you.

  • Malou

    The Church needs True Believers…..The Church of Christ can’t be destroyed..though many enemies have tried; whenever persecution comes, the church is spread and multiplied….Acts 8:4 Yes the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ….

  • Gregory

    Sounds just like the church I’m Pastoring now. Thanks a answered prayer for me.

  • Hersh or is it Harsh

    GREAT POINTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Rev Amponsah

    Thanks for your massage we want more.If we focus and move in Christ alone we are the winners.
    Amen and Amen

  • Todd Hudnall

    Good message for all pastors. It’s easy to forget churches with barren ministries and who are stuck in the past oftentimes were the leaders and innovators of the past. Usually its for the reasons you outlined. All of us need to, “Consider our ways.” Thanks Alan!

  • Jay

    Thank you! This article has blessed my life!

  • DaveEkstrom

    An excellent post! Let’s take it the next step. How can a pastor encourage an inbred congregation to have faith? I guess the easy answer is to give up on them and start new churches. But what if God led you to a church like the one Alan described? (And all of our churches have tendencies that Alan described.) How would you lead?

  • PWM

    The major flaw I see with this post is the assumption that numeric growth is the major, if not only indicator of God’s presence. A fellow by the name of Noah might have something to say on the subject. I agree churches need to grow numerically but that can’t be the only measure of successful ministry.

  • Christopher

    Sorry, but this is a load of nonsense, because until the American church learns what Jesus actually taught (It’s in the Bible) and stops focusing on their own diverse, narrow interpretations, every American church will continue to disappoint and decline.

  • kwedini

    So…what happened to the church you pastored with attendance of 40? Your article didn’t telll us what you did. Were you successful or unsuccessful in your attempts to revive this church? the rest of your article was a nice homily but disappointing that you did not share results of your ministry to this church. This would have been of far more value. What did you do? What were the resullts? Did God bless your ministry there? Why or why not. Give us some answers that are helpful…not another sermon. I am pastor of a church just like you described. Your article did not help.

  • jonathan

    There is no doubt that many churches are not having time to comply with the command of Jesus in Matt.28;19 which was his closing speech and should be considered very crucial.

  • Drae

    This reminds me of the saying I always use and that is God is bigger than your problems. Not your god, because the god you conjured up in your head may not be in line with the God that is given to us in Scripture. Faith in the God of the Scriptures is the only direction in which we should aim our faith. -be blessed and a blessing

  • moji

    I must say I am shocked by the rude tones of some of the commentatotors on this article. Where is the spirit of gentleness? I believe poeple can state their csse without being rude. Alan has expressed his opinion. If you feel he has not done enough, by all means add to it. That is why we are members of the body of Christ. To complement one another and not to tear others down.

  • Robin J McCollough

    Very good article. We must be relevant in today!


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