Thursday, July 14, 2011

Churches Die a Day at a Time

Yesterday on Twitter Darrin Patrick quoted a really good question from For the City (a book he co-wrote with Matt Carter and Joel Lindsey):
If our churches shut their doors tomorrow, would our cities even know we were gone?
The truth is, though, that churches don't tend to shut their doors "tomorrow." Apart from some uncommon catastrophic collapse, churches don't go from growing/thriving to dead in a day. This doesn't nullify the question, of course. It helps apply it.

In New England, churches have been closing down "every day" for a few decades. New England evangelicalism once thrived. But that was a long time ago. The churches shutting down left and right didn't die in a day. They gave up ground over time. They died an inch at a time, a day at a time.

So. We can't let up on mission. We can't lose focus on the gospel. Not for a second. Because one second leads to a minute to an hour to a day to a month to a year to a decade to "tomorrow" you're shutting the doors. And if we do let up, we've got to repent and circle back.

The best way to become miss-able to our cities is be churches that keep repenting and keep returning to the gospel. Every day counts.

When the preferences of the church members are greater than their passion for the gospel, the church is dying. -- Thom Rainer


chrisblackstone said...

That's a good word Jared, particularly your focus on the gospel. One of my concerns with the idea of "being so involved that your city misses you" is that you could be missed for all the wrong reasons. Are you missed just because you ran a great soup kitchen and helped out with Habitat for Humanity? If you did those things and never made clear the reason behind why you did those things (the gospel), then, frankly, I'm kind of glad those kind of churches close. We need more communities of the gospel, not service organizations.

If, though, the people that make up our churches so clearly and explicitly communicate that they serve and help only because they were served and helped by Jesus then the doors "shutting" is simply God releasing all those people for gospel ministry in a much wider area.

A' said...

I appreciate that nothing in this post about being "missed" by the city dealt with being "relevant" or "missional." I know that you know that these things flow out of a focus on the Gospel–which was the focus of your post.

Melanie said...

Good post, Jared. May I add that most congregations close because they no longer have the power of God? It's great we share the gospel by mouth and by good will, but I honestly see a lack of a power of God, namely in the forms of healing, prophecy, etc. In other words, the church is not operating in her spiritual gifts all that much today. I believe many spiritual people operate more out of fear; fear of appearing freaky to unbelievers, fear of speaking in tongues, fear of prophesying, fear of miraculous healing, fear of anything supernatural. Many love to hear about it, but few are willing to live this way. When we fear the supernatural things of God (which is freely available to us), we cannot operate in the power of the message of the Cross as Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 1. There very well may be a lack of trust in God over these matters which often leads to doctrinal wars, worship wars, etc. If we cannot learn to love God and love each other with every fiber in our beings, the gospel is powerless in our own lives. I'm all for sharing the gospel, but also accompanied by miracles that only God can do. May Christ reveal more of himself and his kingdom to us in a deep and personal way. Blessings to you, brother!

Rob and Mary said...

This is an excellent post and makes one think.
The question I have though, is how do you know the church has lost its focus from the gospel in the first place?
Use of the word gospel can be too general at times. Hence, I asked the question I did.
I've attended the same church for 20 years now. It is not the same as it was when I joined. Yet, we are very involved in the community. It is part of it. I will not boast, because I'm not sure we have done anything. I know God has chosen to do a lot through this small community of believers. Some of which impacts/influences Jared's church and teaching in many ways.
And I extend that beyond my church community. I see other churches who are also a part of it. And several that appear dead.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing. Which book of his is the quote from?