4000 churches close their doors annually. 10 per day. Thousands of heartbroken people mourn the loss of a building and a family and a place their faith took root. Can’t you recall the place your faith took root? Now imagine that door closing.
Worse, see it (hear it), creaking closed to a slow, deadly melody.
Can you see the church your grandma once attended? The one where you colored in a padded pew, hoping no one would see you etch your name in the wood? A building that was once full of life in the 1950s, is now a musty and lifeless structure.
See a pastor at his desk reviewing the number of people coming on Sunday morning. Hold his heart and feel his tears as they drop onto a folded bulletin. A necessity in the traditional church. An order of service.
As if to say we need order because the loss seems out of control.
But the fights over carpet colors, coffee in the lobby and an increased inward focus meant digging a grave, rather than digging up soil to be fertilized.
We must be careful of how we till the land we’ve been given.
But down the road we see cars load into the parking lot for the megachurch. The one where they baptize 14,000 children a year. Praise God, we think! The gospel still has its hold. But does it? Because one would argue a transience in the megachurch – a safe place to hide without ever having to tell your story or weep over your brokenness.
Show up but don’t pour out.
Check the box but don’t let people in the box.
Be present on Sunday and absent Monday-Saturday.
Is this church?
To be clear this isn’t to argue megachurch and small church. I adore both. I uphold both and I pray for both. Both serve a space in our society. I’ve even worked at both and loved people at both.
But one could argue, megachurch and small church, does the institution of church have the same influence over society as it once did?
Tell me you haven’t recently had a conversation with someone who mentioned they “don’t go to church anymore.” Maybe they did but were hurt. They were burned by one of our imperfections. Maybe they were pained by a pastor’s fall into temptation or were the source of a bible study’s prayer request (err, gossip session). Maybe they never felt like they could unload their shame.
87% of people feel like the church is judgmental.
91% of people feel like we are anti-homosexual.
85% of people say Christians are hypocritical.
Friends, this is what they say about us. And we are the representatives – the ambassadors of Christ.
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.’” 2 Corinthians 5:20
And to make matters worse, we have been faced with an intense political climate and we’ve likened believers with republicans and America with the church and everything is entangled and it isn’t okay anymore.
We get mad at our pastors and we leave. We aren’t clear about church membership. We wonder why the church isn’t serving us well. (Psstt, we are to serve the church not the other way around).
All the while people are looking into our Christian world. They are confused about Jesus and His message and what about all that grace anyway?
We could unpack this for days, but this is a blog, not a book. And I really want this to be a discussion. I long for your input. So can I ask us a question?
How did Jesus do church? He did it radically with people. Going to them. Meeting with them. Being extremely available for them. He certainly told stories to the masses, but what we often forget is that he listened to individual stories – stories of the sinner and the tax collector and the prostitute.
How are we doing, Church?
How are you doing, Church?
If you are a church-goer, you said yes to that church, not to only receive from the pastor but commissioned by Jesus to go and make disciples. To swing open your door. To go where the need is, to be available for coffee dates and stories and broken hearts. We will get trampled, people will break our hearts, some church members may not understand when we go to the lost or why the organ has lost its influence.
And if you don’t go to church, may I suggest that the Church needs you?
4000 churches will die this year. 4000 street corners of gorgeous old buildings gone. Will we be the ones who decide to be influencers and restorers or will we dig our heels further into the way things have always been for sake of tradition? Will we continue to allow transience in our megachurches or is it time to pursue that one person and set up a coffee date – a date to make way for her story?
Our work in this will certainly be trial and error. But what I do know? God will be with us. He promised He would be.
Can you join in this conversation? Can you tell me how you see Jesus doing church in scripture? How the new believers did it in early church days? What we are missing in our churches? How we can become restorers and influencers once again? Would you be bold and brave enough to engage in the conversation. I hope you do…