Monday, August 3, 2009

Is It Okay for Churches to Die?

Over the years I have noticed two extremes among churches. There are some that are young church plants that are seeking to impact their community with the power of the gospel. These churches emphasize outreach and discipleship and appear to have a bright future ahead of them. Unfortunately these churches struggle to raise enough funds to effectively carry out their mission. The other type of church is much older, owns large facilities, but has very few people attending. They remember the glory days of ministry in the past. Now however, they are simply trying to survive.

I have often heard that the goal for the latter of these two churches is to find someway to revitalize their slow death and help them to regain their once healthy and growing status. As a result ministers and associations spend countless hours and energy trying to resurrect a dying church (many of which have no desire to change).

But what if we were to simply let them die? What if we were to help them transition their few remaining people to a new growing body and allocate their funds to new churches that are being started? Obviously this is not as appealing. The thought of letting a church die sounds like a defeat. But is it? For example, take a church that owns a facility and has money in the bank. If this church were willing to "die" it could then either sell the building and use the money for new church plants or allow another church or churches to use it's facilities. Furthermore, the remaining congregation could join another local church and participate in effective ministry in the community.

I believe one reason many people would be opposed to this line of thinking is due to the fact that we are not starting enough churches. Here in the Pacific Northwest there is a huge deficit of churches. As a result if one church closes it's doors it is significant loss. However, if there were 5 churches being planted for every church that closed then the loss would not be as significant.

Another reason we may be slow to accept this idea is we are often more concerned about our own church as opposed to the growth of the Kingdom of God. I believe it is important for us to strive for the growth and success of God's church as a whole instead of narrowly focusing on our personal kingdoms.

Therefore, I believe pastors, churches, associations, conventions, etc. should be putting much more effort into church planting and helping dying churches to transition their resources to new or existing churches that are growing and making an impact. The process of life and death is common for all of us, including churches. After all, none of the churches started by the Apostle Paul are still in existence. Maybe it is time we let go of the past and allocate our resources more effectively for the future so that we can impact this culture with the saving power of the gospel.

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