Tuesday, July 08, 2008

How to Keep the Church from Closing it's Doors

I viewed an advertisement for a church for sale the other day. It was a church much like ours. Large auditorium, mutli-media capabilities, beautiful children's areas. And it made me think, "what would ever cause us to put this new facility that we're in on the market?" (this is a horrifying thought for me after 5 years of intensive investment into this new facility!) We have tons of acreage for future expansion - so I don't forsee a space issue. The only reason to sell would be that Grace would one day die, board up the windows, close the doors, and throw in the towel (what an uplifting blog post Derek...)

A trend is already underway - in Roman Catholic Churches in Boston, Toledo, even Johnstown, PA, churches are boarding up their doors and windows, or consolidating 4 or 5 churches together into one because of dwindling numbers in the pews and dwindling financial streams. Mainline denominations are not far behind. United Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran... We at Grace are experiencing just the opposite - growth - life - vibrancy.

Now don't get me wrong, the Church - as in the universal church - will never die. Jesus promised that he would build his church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. However, individual local churches are not automatically protected from extinction - as we can see by all the churches across America that are closing their doors every day. My prayer is that all types of churches who promote Jesus Christ would thrive and grow and be fruitful. I also believe that some churches need to die because they may be doing more damage than good for the cause of Christ. Churches whose vision does not match the vision of Jesus should just stop.

So how does Grace take steps to ensure vitality and life for many generations to come? In addition to maintaining an intense focus on our vision to reach out to those who are far from God, and to help those who are following Christ to follow him with more vigor and depth, in addition to consistently challenging people to invest their time and resources in kingdom causes, and hiring good staff members to champion the mission of Grace - we are taking an interesting step this year to insulate ourselves against extinction - or even worse than extinction - irrelavence. We feel so strongly about this - we have made it one of our 4 major church goals for the coming ministry year.

Here is the way we're phrasing the goal: "Begin the process of empowering younger generations to lead the church and influence ministry by assuring that we achieve 10% growth in the number of millenials (those born between 1980-2000) who are serving in each ministry department at Grace." One of the ways that the church can fight off extinction is to stay young and continue to reach and empower new generations to follow Jesus. We have modeled this philosophy by the way we have staffed at Grace (our last two hires are ages 20 and 29). But we need to assure that "young blood" is filtering in to each department and affecting how we do ministry.

The world is completely different for teenagers and 20-somethings than it was for this 37 year-old dinosaur and those older than me. Without compromizing the scandal of the gospel in any way- we must figure out how to reach out to them, and grow them in Christ, and connect them to the church, and empower them for ministry, and facilitate their worship to a Holy God. The way that we do these things will be different than the way we have done it up until now.

With the ministry staff that we have thinking and strategizing about this, I am confident that Grace will continue to re-invent herself for increasing effectiveness. Those in our church who are older will be called on like never before because the Scriptures command them to be involved in this process of training and investing in a new generation of Christ-followers. I'm convinced that Grace's best days are ahead.

What do you think are the most dangerous enemies to a local church's ability to survive and thrive?


sojourn said...

That I/we fall into the trap of following Jesus of America, rather than Yeshua of Nazareth. That I/we believe that a democrat or republican can represent the Kingdom of God. That I/we believe a social program can replace Jesus' call to His Church to see God in the poor and oppressed. That the leader's of the denominational churches would forget that they are to be speaking truth to THE Church (the beloved of Christ). That I/we would continue to believe that truth and beauty and the face of God only lies within the "christian" church.

Anonymous said...

My first thought is when they focus inward and not outward.

I've seen it happen too many times.

Great post and this is a great goal.

Anonymous said...

1) A loss of discontent
2) A loss of learning
3) A loss of ruthless accountability
4) Measuring the wrong outcomes.

Danny Lucas said...

I am meandering archives.
I do not review with 20-20 hindsight, but a willingness to understand how "What Is" developed from "What Was".

These two sentences in your post stood out:

"Jesus promised that he would build his church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it.

However, individual local churches are not automatically protected from extinction - as we can see by all the churches across America that are closing their doors every day."

The first sentence is true, undeniable, Biblical, and a promise.
It is universal and eternal.

The second sentence denies the first. This is impossible if the first is declared as I outlined.

Individual churches ARE automatically protected from extinction; it is Biblical. The gates of hell will not prevail.

The focus of the church Jesus builds (not the one man builds) is on Jesus, and Jesus alone.
He wants to be the Gate to allow all sheep to enter the Kingdom and be with the Father.

He said "I will spit the lukewarm from my mouth", tho He is silent about the cold as opposed to lukewarm. Their plight is likely worse.

You are for Jesus, or against. (That then, makes you an ally of satan).

Sexual immorality at the top, pedophilia, embracing satanic doctrine over truth, deception, darkness, evil, distorted lies, new age, failure to preach and teach the Gospels, and a host of anti-christ activities that keep Godly folks from doing Christly activities lead to extinction.....
not a bending of His promise.

Those same domestic churches in decline here, are growing in other parts of the globe, so Christ has not stopped building His church on them.

He has stopped building in American, those churches with weak foundation, for the house can not stand when not built on rock.

The leadership of those churches boarded up, will one day face judgment for that boarding. They stray from an emphasis on Christ.

They teach the properity promise, despite God promising that "the poor you will always have among you". (One of them is lying---a hallmark of satan).

They deceive entrusted sheep in their flock.

They focus on accumulation of money (Christ never paved a parking lot). He paved Godly intent.

They harm children (Millstone time for them!).

They preach churchianity and religiosity instead of Jesus Christ, King of Kings.

Ritual and the thoughts of man take precedence over leading folks to Christ.
There is no other purpose to church.

But in America, volleyball courts and complementary breakfast for the rich, take precedence over visiting prisoners and acts of mercy.

A wife once sat in the car with her husband. He was driving and listening to her saying:
"When we first fell in love, we cuddled as we drove around. You stroked my hair and whispered 'I love you'. You put your arms around me and squeezed me often. You don't do that anymore"

The driver and the husband uttered a two word response: "Who moved?"

He sits where he sits for he is in control. She slid to her side of the seat and lost the warmth and embrace. The relationship from her view....chilled. All she had to do was scoot back over and sit tight.

Same with our churches going extinct and boarding up.

God is in control and asks:
"Who moved?"
"You used to huddle and cuddle close to me and now you sit on the far end by satan"

He never withdrew protection.

They walked away.

They held socials and fundraisers instead of Bible explanations and making it come alive daily in sheep lives.

They kept everyone so busy at church that there was no time to build a family.

They marketed to sell, and the product was a church, not a Christ.

Success at marketing meant failure with Christ.

They spent time proclaiming profits, not prophets....and yielded neither.

As with the Pharisees, they will pound on the door of heaven proclaiming
"Lord Lord Let us in.
Don't you recognize us?"

He is quick to let them in on truth:
"GET AWAY from me!
I never knew you", and slams the door shut on them.

He is speaking to people who believe THEY are BELIEVERS (for they call him Lord). He never knew them.

Those are the churches being boarded as we speak. Not the denominations. The people who deceive themselves.

It could happen to Grace if you end the cozy seat next to Christ, and slide to the far end of the seat and find it chilly.

The sounding of that heavenly door closing forever is a Biblical promise. And it closes on folks who think they are a shoo-in to heaven.

Woe unto those who believe that. Micah 6:8 is a good start for the driver of the local church. Let the flock cuddle up from there.

You, Derek, are protected also with prayer.
Count on it.