Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dying churches

S.M. Hutchens reflects on his own experience with a church on its last legs and argues that although the end may be inevitable, it is often handled very badly:
.... As a former pastor of a dying church, I feel quite strongly that such congregations should be allowed to die—that they, just like human beings, when they see the signs of impending death, need to take reasonable steps to dissolve in an orderly and peaceful way. None should be assumed to last forever, and it may also be assumed that if God wanted them to keep going, he could easily and quickly supply the necessary resources, just as he could give any of us, if he chose, a greatly extended life span. But as a rule he does not—in fact, he endorses happenings that lead us to death. He expects us, when we are able, to make our preparations, and die well.

I wonder, however, how often this happens. The congregational "denial" phases I have heard of are usually extended and painful. Every other member seems to have an idea for a silly nostrum that will help keep the church going, and will be angry at their fellows for pointing out its obvious flaws. There will be charges and counter-charges about whose fault it is, and discussions, often acrimonious, of what might have been done in the past so this state of affairs would not have been reached.

There are always those who see the setbacks that have led to this point as tests of "faith"—specifically, the faith that this church, if everybody just believes, and pulls together, will survive, because God really wants it to—how, indeed, could he not, since we like it? .... [more]

Touchstone Magazine - Mere Comments: Growing Churches

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