Friday Forum – Should a church be allowed to die?

Posted: September 28, 2012 in Friday Forum
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Welcome to the Friday Forum: a place to have some friendly discussion about issues that arise when Christianity and secular life “rub against” each other. There is no right or wrong here, just different ways to deal with things that come up. Each week I will post a topic, and my thoughts on it, and we will see where the comments take us!

I came to faith in God late in life, and only recently moved into a leadership role in my local church. In secular life I have been in construction one way or another since high school, both as employee and as owner, and so I have some knowledge of running a business. The non-profit model is very different, however, and so I find myself caught between conflicting worldviews, with different desired outcomes.

We are a small Southern Baptist church, on the fringe of the city limits – as inner-city as it gets in Houston. Founded in the late 50’s, it served a vastly different community than now exists – one with much less diversity and much more money – and like many small churches, we are shrinking…older members are passing on to glory, and drawing new people is a challenge for everyone today. Many of those who do come are barely getting by themselves. Shrinking membership and shrinking donations mean hard choices need to be made, and we have made them, and will continue to do so…but at some point, doesn’t it reach an end? When you can’t pay the bills, what do you do? How do we serve the people who are coming, who need a spiritual home?

Finances are not the only issue, of course; it’s part of a larger malaise…a clash of generations and of ideologies. I am not going into particulars, because it doesn’t matter… in the end we are divided, and without unity of spirit, no amount of money will ever solve the problems. The breach hinders our fellowship, blunts our prayers, grieves the Holy Spirit of God Himself. We cannot continue like this, but I see no reconciliation, only attrition.

This pains me deeply, because I care for and about these people…my church…my family. I am working hard to learn how to answer the calling God has placed upon me (to shepherd His flock as a pastor) and I am starting right here, as a deacon and teacher, at this church. I don’t want to see it fizzle, and I don’t think it has to; but I am beginning to feel I am in the minority. And if that is true, then maybe it should fizzle, and we should all go serve in a new and different way – maybe we needed a little “dispersion” to shake us out of our complacency. I don’t know, I’m just grasping at straws.

So here is the forum topic for this week:  If  a local church is suffering and struggling due to internal divisions, to such extent that  it can no longer sustain itself financially, is it better to hang on as long as two people are willing to meet in a dark building; or to end the dissent, move on, and find more fruitful opportunities to serve somewhere else?

Post your comments below, I will reply throughout the week, and next Friday we will discuss a different topic.

Following hard after Him,


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