(Photo courtesy of: google images)
I have been spending some time researching churches that are thriving and churches that have had to close their doors for the book I have been working on. It’s great to see churches growing and expanding their campuses, but sad to hear the reality of those who have had to end their worship services due to issues the Bible clearly warned us about.
As I observe the stories of the unsuccessful churches, I have discovered three things that have forced their hand to wrap up their services. Here is a list of the three concepts I have discovered to be the primary issues, in my opinion anyway.
1. They Defeated Themselves: In order for a church to survive and thrive in-fighting has to stop. You see, the world wants to witness a church that is healthy within and with-out. As churches grow there are many people who enter the doors seeking freedom and relief from the stress of our society, a society that stresses backstabbing and doing whatever you have to do to get to the top. A church that strives to thrive will end backbiting, stop backstabbing, and eliminate gossip instantly when it starts. They will guide people away from that divisive attitude and lead them towards connectivity and unity. If the church you are in allows fighting to occur and fails to address it, be ready for the doors to close quicker than the pews will fill. That’s assuming you have pews.
2. A Limited View of Service To Their Community: Now, we must be careful with this one. If we’re not we might skip over it because we think we are doing just fine. Let’s look at this closely. A large amount of the churches that closed their doors had to close because the community didn’t see them as valuable. Many of the churches members felt they were doing fine because of dinners and activities they held for the community within their walls. They very rarely stepped outside their walls to serve the people they were trying to reach. This essentially equates to a poor understanding of purpose as a congregation. Any congregation; of believers who claim to follow Christ, has a purpose beyond their own needs which is to meet the needs of their community. Every church needs to ask this question: If we were to close our doors today, would the community miss us? Why or why not? The trick is to not think about your members, but the actual community.
3. Sacred Cows Wouldn’t Die: This is a hard one to embrace. Change is always hard for anyone, no matter who you are, but it is essential for survival of a church. Now, this doesn’t mean change for the sake of change, but it does mean that a church must assess their mission statement and programs to see if they are being effective. They need to actively seek ways to address issues that are hindering their ability to serve more or reach more. It may mean ending a program, redeveloping a program, putting more money towards their worship team, training, getting rid of pews (again, assuming you have pews), etc. It means taking the phrase “We’ve never done it that way” out of the church’s handbook. A sure fire way to see the end of a church coming is when “We’ve never done it that way” becomes a constant phrase of resistance instead of a phrase of progression, which would sound like this “We’ve never done it that way, but we are excited to see if this change will work!” Yeah, that sounds better. Sacred cows are not meant to exist in the house of God. In order for a church to survive and thrive, sacred cows must die!
As I stated before, this is based on my opinion from research I have been doing. There are other things that could be added to the list, but these are the three that should be considered as essential for any church to address if they strive to thrive.
Every church should be aiming for success. Success looks differently for all churches, but closure looks the same. May the Church aim to serve our communities; with grace and love in the name of the One who gives unending love and grace.
QUESTION: What has your experience been with churches that have survived or died?