A recent article in The Alabama Baptist addressed the hard question of churches that are plateaued/declining/dying (CLICK HERE). Many may not read my thoughts, but here they are…
Why do churches die? I came up with a theory 20 years ago that I now assert is true (I’m sure I’m not the first to write this): Churches… like people… have life spans. Just as people live 20… 50… 70 years or more, churches exist for differing lengths of time. As some people are athletic and physically healthy or physically challenged… some churches enjoy robust existence while others struggle to survive. As with people, when churches start the downhill slide to death, they fight to their last ounce of strength before the inevitable happens.
Could it be that some churches struggle for the same reason the man was born blind (John 9:1-7)… that God would be glorified? Could it be that God ordains some churches to fulfill a more modest role than others, and that’s okay? Maybe it is God’s will for one church to rise to a certain level of maturity and ministry that is different from other congregations… much like He determines the level to which we mature spiritually in this life. Then.. WHAT IF… God ordains the death of one to impact the world greater BY dying than continuing to live (As with Stephen’s death who a young man named Saul observed and became an Apostle. Acts 7:54-8:1; 9:1-18)? In other words, maybe it is God’s will for a local congregation to die SO THAT another congregation can do greater works as a ressult than they ever did or would have done!
Death is not a bad thing for Christians! It is from death that life springs (Resurrection). As Christians are resurrected to a new body, life, and existence… so too churches that die and are resurrected are not what they once were. Whereas a church may have been a white, middle class, community congregation… the resurrection may be a multi-ethnic, regional congregation of every economic status. But for the resurrection to occur, the old has to die… and that is NOT BAD!
“One plants… another waters… tends… harvests… God gives the increase” (1 Cor 3:6-9 Paraphrased). What a glory it would be to God IF a dying church with great facilities decided to partner with a multi-ethnic congregation to reach a community they could no longer reach because of age and resources? What a glory it would be to God IF that church decided to GIVE the facilities to the multi-ethnic congregation RATHER THAN sell the plant to them so they wouldn’t be shackled with debt?! WHAT IF a dying congregation got a kingdom view of it being “Better to give than receive?” Those things would indeed glorify God.
Congregations die… The Church doesn’t! If/when a congregation embraces a Universal Church mindset over a Local Congregation concept, THEN they will be able to do the kind of thing that makes God smile. THEN they will be thinking of others before themselves. However, there will be stress if/when some catch a kingdom vision but others resist it.
Maybe it is God’s will for resurrection to follow death… in a local congregation. Wouldn’t that be a novel idea? Part 2 will post tomorrow… God willing.