Weekly Word from Bro. David
June 30, 2016
From The Pastor's Heart:
Today, we continue our series through Malachi. A series I've entitled Going Through the Motions. We come to Malachi 1:6-14 where it becomes evident very quickly that's exactly what God's people are doing. They are going about their religious rituals but their hearts are not in it.
Every year, approximately 7,000 churches close their doors for good. Listen to this haunting story by Thom Rainer:
I was their church consultant in 2003. The church's peak attendance was 750 in 1975. By the time I got there the attendance had fallen to an average of 83. The large sanctuary seemed to swallow the relatively small crowd on Sunday morning. The reality was that most of the members did not want me there. They were not about to pay a consultant to tell them what was wrong with their church. Only when a benevolent member offered to foot my entire bill did the congregation grudgingly agree to retain me. I worked with the church for three weeks. The problems were obvious; the solutions were difficult.
On my last day, the benefactor walked me to my rental car. ''What do you think, Thom?'' he asked. He could see the uncertainty in my expression, so he clarified. ''How long can our church survive?'' I paused for a moment, and then offered the bad news. ''I believe the church will close its doors in five years.'' I was wrong. This church lasted ten years after my terminal diagnosis. Together my friend and I reviewed the past ten years. I think we were able to piece together a fairly accurate autopsy. Here are eleven things I learned.
The church refused to look like the community. The community began a transition toward a lower socioeconomic class thirty years ago, but the church members had no desire to reach the new residents. The congregation thus became an island of middle-class members in a sea of lower-class residents.
The church had no community-focused ministries. There was no attempt to reach the community.
Members became more focused on memorials. The memorials at the church were chairs, tables, rooms, and other places where a neat plaque could be placed. The point is that the memorials became an obsession at the church. More and more emphasis was placed on the past.
The percentage of the budget for members' needs kept increasing. At the church's death, the percentage was over 98%.
There were no evangelistic emphases. When a church loses its passion to reach the lost, the congregation begins to die.
The members had more and more arguments about what they wanted. As the church continued to decline toward death, the inward focus of the members turned caustic. Arguments were more frequent; business meetings became more acrimonious.
With few exceptions, pastoral tenure grew shorter and shorter. The church had seven pastors in its final ten years. The last three pastors were bi-vocational. All of the seven pastors left discouraged.
The church rarely prayed together. In its last eight years, the only time of corporate prayer was a three-minute period in the Sunday worship service. Prayers were always limited to members, their friends and families, and their physical needs.
The church had no clarity as to why it existed. There was no vision, no mission, and no purpose.
The members idolized another era. All of the active members were over the age of 67 the last six years of the church. And they all remembered fondly, to the point of idolatry, was the era of the 1970s. They saw their future to be returning to the past.
The facilities continued to deteriorate. It wasn't really a financial issue. Instead, the members failed to see the continuous deterioration of the church building. Simple stated, they no longer had ''outsider eyes.''
We must learn from such examples. As many as 100,000 churches in America could be dying. Their time is short, maybe 10 years or less.
It's a sad story isn't it? Churches closing their doors. But did you know that God actually asked the priests and the people to shut the doors at the church? He says, “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors'' God says, it would be better if the church were closed. From this passage we will see three reasons a church should close its doors.