Should Your Church Close?
She had three kids from three different men and the man she was living with was father to none of them. They showed up at church one Sunday and two weeks later she was a Sunday school teacher and he was the youth group leader. In fact, she was elected as the board moderator within a couple months. Then the problems started. They broke up and she showed up at the church with no place to stay. So, she and her three kids camped out in the church basement. In addition, she started showing signs of an emotional breakdown. The congregation started to complain, saying she was a bad influence on the kids - and he was worse, they said. The pastor was getting upset because, since she was the moderator of he church board, she was technically in charge.
"So, what do you think I should do?" he asked me. "I mean, I could tell by the look on your face while I was telling you this that you think I screwed up."
I paused a moment, taking time to chose my words carefully. I had just met the man and I didn't want to ruin a God given opportunity to serve.
"Well, I think the problem started when you invited the two of them to take leadership roles in the church."
He nodded. "I know, I know - but that's how mainline denominations roll, man. We want to love not judge."
"I understand. But it's not loving to confirm someone in sin, pastor. What you were telling them - right from the beginning - is that they didn't have to believe the Bible because you didn't believe it yourself." I shrugged, pausing a moment to let that sink in. "In fact, you were telling them they could define salvation any way they wanted - as long as they felt good about it."
He frowned at me and shook his head. "What are you talking about?"
"Think about it. What does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 6:6-7? Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. According to the Bible, someone who willfully sins, someone who willingly practices sin and is not striving to work out their salvation, isn't actually born again. So you really weren't doing the loving thing in the first place. They were practicing fornication and your actions confirmed them in that sin. I think the first thing you should have done was counsel them to live apart and forgo sexual relations until they were married. As for taking leadership roles in the church, that might have been an option a few years down the road."
He shook his head and gave me a wry smile. "Fornication? This is the twenty-first century, chaplain. We're an open and affirming church and like I said, that's how we roll."
We chatted for a few more minutes but it was clear he wasn't interested in hearing more advice from me. I didn't press the issue. I would see him at the next ministerial meeting and I wanted to preserve the relationship in hopes the Lord would give me further opportunities to share the truth with him.
It's hard to find reliable statistics concerning the state of the Church in the USA but it's generally accepted that somewhere around 4000 churches close their doors every year. Moreover,
Of the 250,000 Protestant churches in America, 200,000 are either stagnant (with no growth) or declining. That is 80% of the churches in America and maybe the one you attend, if you attend at all.
There is less than half of the number of churches today than there were only 100 years ago.
3,500 people leave the church every single day.
Since 1950, there are 1/3rd fewer churches in the U.S. (see also here and here)
I pastored a mainline church once - briefly. When I accepted the call to the church, I was told that a strong majority of members wanted to leave the UCC and join a Bible believing denomination such as the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (the denomination I'm ordained with). They said all they needed was a Bible believing, Bible preaching pastor to lead the way. I was relatively young and naive, so I believed them. I thought God had called me there to have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; have mercy on others but with fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh (Jude 22-23). Eighteen months later I was out the door. Yet, four years after that, the church did leave the UCC. I found this out when I ran into a fellow pastor who had served in the same town when I was there. He told me he believed the change took place because of the seeds I had sown during the year and a half I occupied the pulpit at the church. Perhaps he's right.
It would be wonderful if every leftist, mainline church were to reform and truly submit to Christ. However, I suspect when churches do leave the mainline fold, there is a disposition to retain many of the liberal tendencies of the past. In the long run the formerly mainline church often becomes nothing more than a little Joel Osteen clone.
Like the example at the beginning of this article, too many churches are on the side of the enemy. Rather than work to realize the kingdom of God in Christ, they labor to advance a worldly version of American Folk Religion. Thus, it may be best for the Church at large when a congregation that is Christian in name only, simply closes its doors.
Next Time: What About The Tiny Church That Just Won't Die?
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