Why Many Churches Are In Decline – Michael Harvey

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Image result for michael Harvey Back to church sunday

What is stopping people from doing something that is part of faith?

“80 to 95 percent of us have no intention of inviting people to church. Why?”

“Why on earth we don’t talk about this I just don’t know!’

This is Michael Harvey from the UK. He was the founder of the concept of ‘Back To Church Sunday’ and the author of a book called ‘Unlocking the Growth.’

‘Business principles’

Neil Johnson asked Michael about the reasons why many churches maybe in decline.

One of the issues Michael discusses in his book Unlocking the Growth is the need for churches to apply principles proven successful in business.

Michael said he became fascinated in this area when he became involved in what was called ‘A Welcome Sunday’ which became known as Back to Church Sunday.

“I did a bit of an investigation and it seemed to me that between 80 and 95 percent of Christians, congregational members, had no intention of inviting anybody to take a look at Christ and the church,” Michael said.

‘What’s stopping people’

This caused him to wonder what was stopping people from doing something that is part of faith; to go and make disciples.

Michael travels the world holding seminars and this is one of the questions he asks. And this is what he finds.

“80 to 95 percent of us have no intention of inviting people to church. Why?”

Here is one of those answers.

‘I’m not inviting somebody because they might ask me a difficult question.’

‘Fear of rejection’

A difficult question being ‘how does the Trinity work’ that sort of difficult question,” Michael illustrated.

“Or, ‘I know my friend will say NO’ or the fear of ‘YES’. Sometimes it’s a kind of blessed relief if you invite somebody and they say NO and you feel holy just for a few seconds apparently,” Michael quipped.

But here’s the number one reason.

“The top reason Christians don’t invite people is the fear of rejection.”

‘Business fear the same’

“Everywhere I go in Western Christianity this reason either comes out first or second. The fear of rejection is what is stopping congregational members inviting people,” Michael declared.

It should be mentioned that Michael Harvey came to this ministry from a high-flying corporate background.

Michael said it’s the same fear that holds people back from being a successful sales person for instance. The fear of rejection.

“Fear of personal rejection,” Michael repeated, saying there are two aspects to this fear.

‘I’m a little anxious’

Michael said in church circles it’s not commonly referred to as fear.

“We might say to ourselves, ‘I’m a little anxious’ or ‘I’m a bit worried, concerned, or careful’. Fear has a way of lurking underneath the surface of many of the things we’re saying but not doing.”

At this moment in the seminars Michael refers to Scripture where God says quite frequently ‘Don’t be afraid.’

“And yet what I find around the world is that fear is completely endemic in the church!”

‘We don’t want to be rejected’

“But it’s the fear of rejection. Fear really is just a signifier of the problem.

And the problem is, we don’t want to be rejected.” Michael emphasized before addressing the problem with a ‘how can we help members overcome this possibility they might be rejected?’

Michael suggested the answer lied in another question.

“Maybe we need to remind ourselves with this: Who do we know in the Christian faith who was rejected?”

“Of course the answer is fairly obvious,” Michael said, saying it was Jesus who was rejected.

‘Fear not talked about’

“Yet we fear the very same thing. Jesus said, ‘Take up the cross and follow’. So if Jesus was rejected, why wouldn’t His people also be rejected?’, Michael queried, saying this is the core reason why the church is not in mission.

Why is that so?

“We’re not allowed to talk about our fear,” commented Michael, saying it’s very difficult when a church doesn’t talk about fear.

“And yet it’s quite obvious when God says ‘Don’t be afraid.’ God is anticipating that there’s going to be a battleground area.

‘The word fear’

“Why on earth we don’t talk about this I just don’t know!’Image result for fear images

Michael was beating a drum to the rhythm on the fear bandwagon.

“Fear is a really fascinating concept. If you look at fear from a translation perspective from Hebrew, we only translate that word as fear.”

“But in Hebrew fear has several words. Roughly translated one of these words, yirah, means ‘hang about a minute’ God is about to do something. So I just think fear is a sin space,” Michael said.

‘We feel fear’

“Fear is the space where we can meet God. Fear is the boundary edge of the kingdom of God. I think whenever God comes into our lives we bodily feel it as fear,” Michael stressed, but said it’s not fear but a matter of God’s presence.

Image result for michael Harvey Back to church sunday

“When God’s presence is felt I think God is often asking us to do something that we’re not comfortable with.”

“Surprise, surprise, that God would do that!” Michael observed.

This is because God doesn’t really want us to remain as we are.

“God has a different plan for us. To become who we’re meant to be in Christ,” Michael stated.

‘Identifying fear’

Michael said identifying a fear is the starting point. A habit we need to develop at that point is to put our faith where our fear is.

“What we’ve done with faith is to turn it into certainty. What we believe.”

“But I think with faith, there has to be an element of uncertainty,” Michael said.

He qualified that by saying whatever it is we are doing might not quite work out in the way we want it to work out.

One example he gave was the saints, saying they took their faith with them as they went to do something trembling in fear. Take Moses.

‘Here am I, send him!’

“There he is. Minding his own business and he sees a burning bush. And we hear the conversation, ‘You want me to do what? Go to Egypt. Are you joking?’

“You know I can’t do it. I can’t speak. What would I say? Oh. Actually I’ve got a really, really, good idea. Send my brother. He’s much better at it than me!” said Michael paraphrasing Moses.

“So basically Moses motto was, ‘Here am I, send him!”

“Essentially Moses went into that situation uncertain of the outcome. But with faith with the knowledge, ‘Don’t be afraid for I am with you’.” Michael said.

‘Faith, fear and trembling’

This is what Michael described as the beautiful thing.

“If we can go trembling at times but with faith, then maybe we’ll find God right in the middle of the thing that we fear the most.’

He concluded that in mission God is wanting to do something in us as well as through us.

“I think we become too one-eyed to ‘the lost’. Those who are without Christ. When things go wrong and don’t work out, maybe it’s something to do with developing our character,” Michael suggested before quoting a Scripture.

‘I glory in suffering’

“I glory in suffering.’ I mean what a stupid verse that is. That’s very inconvenient for us Western Christians.”

Cross on a hill

“Let’s just change the verse to say, ‘I glory in rejection’, it’s the same sort of thing. But here’s what the verse goes on to say.”

“I glory in suffering because suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope.’

Michael said that as we take our faith to tackle the fear there is the possibility of character development. The possibility of the fruits of the Spirit.

“That’s more faith, more peace, more joy, and we leave the results to God,” Michael Harvey testified.


MJH Associates. MJH was set up in 2002 and has a track record of growing businesses and organisations.

Michael Harvey Principal Consultant has worked across sectors as diverse as Insurance, Consumer Electrical, Property Management and Software. He has been a director of the largest Insurance Broker in the world – Aon and has an MBA.

Michael is currently implementing a project which is reaching thousands of people in England, Wales, Scotland, Canada and New Zealand.


Personal bio:

Michael Harvey is married to Eike and they have three children Ben, Kirsty and Lydia. He started work for Sharp Electronics in the consumer electronics business and eventually went to work as area sales manager for a number of wholesalers. It was during this time that Michael spotted an opportunity within the insurance industry for replacing goods that had been either damaged or stolen. He won his first contract with Cornhill Insurance and over a number of years won a number of contracts to supply consumer electrical goods. Eventually Michael found a software system in Australia that would sit on the screens of insurance companies and secured the UK licence. The business was eventually acquired by Aon the largest Insurance brokerage in the world and Michael became a director and started to spend part of his working week in the city of London. Eventually Aon decided to sell the business and Michael decided that he would step out and start his own consultancy. So in 2003 MJH Associates was born. Over the past years Michael has helped a number of business and individuals unlock growth and unleash potential. In 2004 Back to Church Sunday was birthed and Michael started to work with churches throughout the UK and eventually throughout the English speaking world. He has spoken to thousands of church leaders in his Unlocking the Growth Seminars and has to date seen thousands of Christians mobilised to invite, resulting in hundreds of thousands of accepted invitations.

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