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All across America, small churches in rural areas are closing their doors and placing a “For Sale” sign in their tall un-mowed grass. These churches are not closing due to an angry church split or lack of finances. In many places, these churches are shutting the doors simply because nobody goes there anymore.

We are beginning to see the results of one of the greatest sins that goes on behind church walls. What sin could be so great that it could shut the doors of a once-thriving church? It’s the failure to pass the church on to the next generation.

It was nothing these churches intentionally did. I have met with a few churches like this and spoken with their remaining members who do their best to try to keep the doors open. Oftentimes, they are over the age of 80, and they patiently wait for young and energetic adults to come and breathe new life into the church. However, rarely do new faces arrive.

Each generation faces the temptation to hold onto the Gospel. We start off highly evangelistic, but as the years go on we turn our attention inward, assuming that the church will fill itself. It’s hard to see because a church can sustain itself for generations this way. They can even have moments that make it seem like they are thriving. But slowly, those who worked hard to bring new people to the church go home to be with the Lord, and the health of the church is just assumed by the generation that benefited from their labors.

As large as this problem is in many churches it’s rather simple to fix. We can reverse this trend simply by doing what the church is meant to do. We have to return to being evangelistic once again.

We get bogged down in politics, buildings, music choices and an endless list of programs, often while forgetting that it is evangelism that grows the church. Each one of us is called to reach out to the world around us and invite them to participate in the beautiful Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should be praying for those opportunities on a daily basis.

When was the last time you brought someone to church? When was the last time you even asked someone if they would like to come with you? Many of you have benefited from the evangelism of past generations, and now we hold onto the gospel as if it belongs to us.

The Gospel does not belong to you, and it never did. It was meant to be passed on from generation to generation. It has traveled the world for thousands of years, and it would be a shame if that ended with you.

If you want to see your church grow, then invite someone. If you want to see people saved then share the Gospel with someone. If we don’t, I fear that more and more churches will have a “For Sale” sign out front. Each generation must look beyond themselves and do their part to pass it on.