Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to Kill a Church

It is a shame when the church itself is a cemetery, where the living sleep above the ground, as the dead do beneath. ~Thomas Fuller

I felt I should first explain that my husband and I have had a wide range of experiences within churches. These experiences by no means make us experts, but they provide a certain familiarity with recognizing what is down the road that a church has chosen to take, if it does not change its course.

  • We have been involved in a church that split twice--well, the second time was more of a quiet exodus within a year of the first split and what came out of it was three churches, two still thriving well today.
  • We were involved in a church once that made my aunt worry that we had joined a cult and I suppose it edged that way, but the pastor had a radio ministry that was an excellent in-depth Bible study. It was just a very small, very Calvinistic church. I always found it ironic how much the pastor talked against legalism when it was the most legalistic church I have ever attended with an aging congregation and no young adults except for the family of pastor's son...and us. That church is gone as if it had never been. It died out as its congregation died off, even the building was demolished.
  • We were in a church that beat the idea of wives must be submissive to their husbands into my head every--every!--Sunday. When seeking counseling because I was concerned about my marriage, the pastor told me the best thing I could do is use my womanly wiles to make things right with my husband. That memory still makes my jaw drop and my head shake involuntarily! That church is still operating; sadly, the men really like the empowerment it promotes for them to use over their families with women resorting to using their wiles to try to influence their husbands.
  • We have been involved in churches wasting away in their legalism and/or traditionalism with most of the congregation going there because they thought it was the right thing to do.
  • Basically, we have been in churches that were Spirit-filled and growing, churches that were in the slow death of lukewarm stagnation, and churches that had pieces of itself falling off.

Did you notice that last bullet in the list? It is very, very rare that a Spirit-filled church is stagnant or in a slow death, and they are definitely not lukewarm. Some Spirit-filled churches have had pieces break off, but that is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it means another church is created or people are placed by the Spirit's leading in other ministries. However, the dying-out church is not a church on fire for God, it simply is just...dying out.

I have seen how killing a church is an easy process, like feeding small amounts of poison over a long time so that a person cannot detect it and does not recognize its effects often until he is too sick to recover, but I have also learned that even the sickest churches do not die off easily. The most resilient members are the last to admit that it should close...and ironically they are also the most resilient against any challenge God places before them that would revive it.

When a church becomes a stagnant, aging congregation with no infusion of youth, it is all that is going to be until enough members give up, become too ill, or just pass on so that eventually there is no hope of sustaining it. What a waste! Most of the time they are missing God's calling to another ministry in another church that will serve His purpose, but instead they seem content on just waiting out their time for heaven and expecting God to do it all Himself!

There are many other things that can go wrong within a church, but they all have one thing in common: not following God's leading. That said, some churches seem to have nothing in particular bad in them going on and yet...they are missing it. (Usually they don't even know what it is that they are missing.)

How do you kill a church?

  • Just stick with tradition because when you are not listening to God, it is all you have.
  • Idolize all that is traditional. 
  • Make tradition the greater god of your church than the living Holy Spirit in you.
  • Make traditional hymns far more important than the contemporary music that is flowing from the creativity of Spirit-filled artists inflaming the hearts of the youth.
  • Show the youth that singing about God with the new and contemporary music they like is only to be done during Sunday School or VBS, but never in the traditional services.
  • Do church the same traditional way you have done it, even after your children have grown up and grown away from your church.
  • Invite God into your service, but only if He promises to stay within the boundaries of your tradition--just in case He had other plans and ignore His challenges of your traditions.
  • Continue to do this until your tradition is so outdated that it does not reach any young families at all or any of the youth within your own families and they either fall away from the church entirely or find a church that is Spirit-filled that does reach them.
That is how you kill a church!

~ My Lord, please show Your people where the love of church traditions have taken place of the love of You in their hearts. ~

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.