Is It Ever a Win For The Kingdom When Churches Die? Part I2
At Remedy, we have a passion for planting churches that plant churches. We want to make disciples out of non disciples and plant new churches that will share in that mission.
But something does not go without notice as you drive through each of these Shore Towns. There is no lack of churches. There are beautiful and sometimes historical edifaces on many corners. Some of these trace their roots and history back to a "Golden Age" of Christianity in this country. Some of them are tied to names and movements that we read about in church history books.
But, in this area, there are many churches that are struggling just to keep the doors open. Attendance is down. There have not been recent conversions. A great many factors have led to them battling a war of attrition. Life is leaving, either through departure or death, but new life is not coming in. If this is the way that it always was then the church would have died out after the first generation, so something is going on.
I am embarrased to admit that there was a time in my life where I thought that these churches would serve the kingdom best by shutting their doors, or give their resources to someone who has a vision for the future. Some of that still holds sway in my thinking, but I recently heard a missionary from the Czech Republic say something that really made me think. He said they have so few evangelical churches, that it is NEVER a win when one shuts their doors, so they do everything in their power to revitalize them.
So, my question is- "Is it ever a good thing for the Kingdom when churches close their doors?"
Well, it is not that easy of a question. The power of the church is the Gospel. It is what makes us unique. It is what makes us a church. Without the proclamation of the Gospel, a church is not a church. There has to be an old rugged cross at the center of who we are, what we believe, what we teach and what motivates us for a church to be a church. Otherwise, they meet and call themselves a church, but they are not one.
So, if a church has abandoned the Gospel, accepted the "social Gospel" (which really is not a Gospel at all), taken away from the uniqueness of the Gospel, or teaches that we have a hope in this life or the next other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then the church has two option:
1. Repent- really, really repent. Publically. Proclaim it from the pulpit. Call their members to repentance for choosing to attend a Gospelless church. Fire leaders that are not willing to repent and preach the simplicity of the Gospel and declare that they have disqualified themselves.
2. Or shut their doors. Because each time they gather and call themselves a church yet deny the Gospel that bought them, they are actually bringing judgment, not growing in the grace of Jesus. They are confusing the world as to what the church really is. I am not talking about small disagreements on doctrine. Even important doctrine. I am talking about an all out abandonment of the Gospel. At this point, they do the themselves and the kingdom a favor by shutting their doors.
But, what about churches that still believe, preach, love, and declare the Gospel, but they are shrinking, hurting, or have lost their way? Is it a win when these churches close their doors?
I have been reading Paul's letters to Corinthians lately and you know what is missing? Paul telling them to close up shop. They are jacked up. Confused. They had a propensity for majoring on the minors. They were filled with infighting. They would rather show off how gifted they were then reach the lost with the Gospel. They were filled with sexual immorality and quick to accept foolish teachers.
But one thing they never did- abandon the Gospel. They are not accused of that. As wacky as they are, they never became a Gospelless church. So, Paul's remedy was correction, solid teaching, rebuke where needed, mercy, patience and many of the other gifts in the pastoral tool belt. I mean, can we be honest. He exhausted the tools in the pastoral tool belt on this crazy church.
But Paul never expressed that it would be a win for the city of Corinth if this church faded into non existence. That ought to tell us something.
So, the question is: how do we see new churches planted that are making disciples who make disciples, but also see these churches that have been here for in some cases hundreds of years be filled with new disciples, new life and be revitalized?
The Gospel does not care how old or outdated a building might be. The Gospel does not refuse to bring younger saints to churches filled with older seasoned saints. So, it is not a Gospel issue.
So, what is the issue? Why are more churches closing than starting in our state? Can revitalization be a middle of the road option. What kind of humility would it take? There is something in me that really believes that Jesus celebrates when a church that was struggling through attrition sees a new age of influence and begins baptizing and making new disciples. That seems so much more along with the character of God than closing that church and just seeing our witness fractured even further.
So, how do we make it happen?
More in Pastor's Blog
November 22, 2017The Ancient Roots of Thanksgiving
November 10, 2017Having conversations with people who are not "Right, like ME"
October 31, 2017The Gospel and Race: On Earth as It Is in Heaven