Apr 092013 1 Response

Some Churches Need to Die

The church I pastor, Community Bible Church, will die one day. If I do a poor job, it might be sooner than later. Yet no matter what job I do, it will not last forever. It shouldn’t.

In Matthew 16, Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against the church. It is a wonderful pronouncement of God’s plan to always have a remnant of people on the earth through which he will work.

Yet too often we confuse God’s promise to always have a people with whatever local congregation we attend. It’s a dangerous misunderstanding.

Local congregations have life spans. They are born; they live; they die. It’s life. Like people, some live longer than others. Few things impress me more than a vibrant congregation that is 80, 90, or 100 years old. Most congregations do not have the ability to be effective for that long. Some do, and they should be commended. Most do not, and they should be closed.

While no church should be quick to close its doors, every church should feel the freedom to know its life is temporary. A day will come in which more can be done for the kingdom by closing than staying open. It’s true for most churches and it’s true for the church I pastor.

Churches are at their best when they are creating, building, fighting for a purpose. Churches are not effective when they are trying to sustain, pay the bills, or attempting to exist. In those moments too much energy is expended for the name of the church instead of for the name of Jesus. In those cases it may be better to close, to begin a new work, to redirect our energy.

A day will come in which Community Bible Church will be better off by closing its doors. When ministry seems to cease and all the focus is spent trying to maintain, it will be better to mourn its passing and move on. When that day comes, I might be sad in remembering what was, but I will not be sad for its closing. As long as new churches are born, new leaders rise up, and effective ministry continues to take place that is the only thing that matters.

We have a saying around our church—”these are the gold ole’ days.” We know that life and ministry will not always be as fun as it is today. These are days of growth, expanded ministry, and multiple opportunities. It won’t always be this way. It can’t always be this way. Churches live and die. It’s true for every church, including our own. I hope ours is a church that has a longer life span rather than a shorter one, but if times ever get tough we shouldn’t expend too much energy trying to keep ministry going for the sake of our name. If ever we can be more effective for the Kingdom by closing, merging, or planting a new work, I would hope we would be quick to jump at the opportunity.

Some churches need to die. However, as an outsider looking in, we can never say which ones. It’s a personal question for each church. How do we know when to keep fighting or when to spend our energy elsewhere is a difficult question to ask, yet it is a question which needs to be asked. Just the question can assist it keeping the focus on the right things.

Too many churches never ask the question, and in not asking the question they spend their energy in the wrong way.

How do you know when a church should die?

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