There is an article on the Christian Chronicle website (here is the link) detailing the declining status of Churches of Christ. For those who attend a Church of Christ, I hope this news does not come as any surprise. I believe the reasons are many and I will just try to lay out some of the possible reasons I see.
First, there are far too many Christians among us who occupy a place in a pew or chair during worship but have never matured into a fruit-bearing disciple of Jesus. Whatever the reason(s), scripture seems vividly clear that every Christian has been gifted for ministry in the church. The failure of a local church to exercise the variety of spiritual gifts God has given surely has a direct impact on that local church to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Second, there still seems to be this idea that bigger and better programs will attract “them” to us, meaning to one of our assemblies at our buildings. Even if we were called to be competitors for the best program marketing, the truth is that most Churches of Christ have neither the financial resources nor the other sufficient resources necessary to operate these programs (at least not on par with the large mega-church that just moved into town).
Third, and related to the second, we have not learned how to be a missionally “sent” people who go to the community rather than hoping the community comes to us. We have a building/facilities centered mind-set. We love worshiping in the building. We love having potlucks in the building. We are a benevolent people (that is a great thing too) who invite people in need to the building to sift through our pantry. And on and on it goes. How about going to a park, taking lots (and I mean a lot) of food with us, go through the neighborhood and invite everyone to come and join us for a meal and worship. Give the left-over’s to those who seem to have the most need for some extra-food. This does not mean there would be no use for a building, I am just trying to point out how our buildings should be nothing more than a building but have become a means to an end (and this means is no longer producing the end result we desire).
Fourth, many members (though not all) of Churches of Christ no longer believe that we are the only Christians and the only ones who will be in heaven. Evangelism used to be simple. Alls it required was having a gospel meeting where we would invite other “denominational” Christians come and hear a logical presentation that exposed the errors of their beliefs in hopes that they would convert. Well, now that we believe some, perhaps many, of those other professing Christians are actually our brothers and sisters in Christ and that like them, we too have less than a perfect doctrinal understanding of the Bible, that approach to evangelism has been nullified. But how do we reach the unchurched, whether they be the youth hanging out at the local skate-board park, the poor living in public housing, the young post-modern grad student who socializes in coffee-shops and night-clubs, those new families that migrated from another country and neither speak English well nor have a Judeo-Christian worldview, etc…? The answer to this question lies in the next problem.
Fifth, part of our church DNA is a view of scripture that treats the New Testament as though it is a blue-print form to tell us how the church should look in every culture and place rather than seeing the New Testament as a collection of occasional writing addressing specific situations from which we can learn from as we seek to follow Jesus (not the first century church) and live out the gospel in culturally relevant ways. Specifically, we thought our duty was to be a first-century church form rather than being a 19th, 2oth, and now a 21st century church living out the gospel in 19th, 20th, and 21st century ways. While many of the leaders in our local churches no longer believe this is our calling, that mind-set still looms large. I believe it inhibits us from seriously taking an incarnational approach to the many diverse sub-cultures of non-Christians I listed in the last paragraph. For example, in most Churches of Christ, women have no role in reading scripture, offering prayer, sharing testimonies, etc… in the assembly. Yet this is a barrier to non-Christians in some cultures within North America. I know because it was in Ithaca, NY where I lived for nearly two years. I have not lived long enough in Willmar, MN to determine if this is the case here as well. Will we allow an issue like this to stand between the gospel and the lost?
To conclude, I believe there are many Christians among Churches of Christ who are still very passionate about Jesus and the gospel he preached and lived out. In addition to the problems I see us struggling with that I list above, we lack for a vision and missional purpose. What we need first is a bold new vision that is outside of the box we are not only comfortable in but find difficult to see beyond. We need a vision that would conceptualize what it looks like to be a missional body of Christ among our culture. Since every local culture is unique, this vision must be developed by courageous local leaders. We also need a new missional purpose that calls us to bear witness to the kingdom reign of God (the gospel Jesus preached) rather than restoring a particular historical period of the church.
 I am not suggesting that allowing women to pray would solve all of our evangelistic problems. However, if it is a barrier then it is part of the problem and needs to be addressed.