Researchers agree the American Church is shrinking rapidly. People are leaving the church in droves. There are few exceptions to this cultural phenomenon impacting every aspect of the Christian life. The tsunami of change is decimating institutions, including Seminaries, Denominations, Missions organizations, and local churches.
A plethora of voices tell us the tide will change. They suggest we must simply do a better job leading our churches, preaching, engaging in evangelism, training our young, and getting along with one another. While this is hopeful, it is not always helpful. Some local churches will not survive regardless of the interventions we employ. Some local churches should be allowed to die for God’s glory and the good of His people. Here are three reasons this is so:
1. It is God’s will for some churches to die.
History teaches us that no churches begun by Jesus or His disciples exist today (Roman Catholic Church claims notwithstanding). Those seeking biblical evidence should look at Revelation 1:20, which gives the key to Jesus’ warning in Revelation 2:4-5. Here the LORD threatens to close the church He has deemed unhealthy.
2. Godly people are released when unhealthy churches die.
I understand that some denominations choose to close local churches when the attendance falls below a certain number because they covet the resources. This is a terrible practice. Evaluating church health requires wisdom and thorough investigation; however, when a church can no longer practice the ministries that make it a church, that church should die. Once the church has gone, God’s greatest earthly resource, His people, will be enabled to serve Him with greater efficacy in new ministries.
3. Churches are going to die.
When God’s people experience this sort of death, it affects them deeply. As shepherds, it is our job to protect, feed, and lead the sheep even when we, like David, are called into the valley of the shadow of death. We are to fear no evil but instead trust in the comfort of the LORD, knowing that we will live in the house of the LORD forever.
No one enjoys death, but we can no longer live in denial. The pastors of this land must choose courage and begin intentionally aiding those churches destined for death. If we fail to do this, God’s people will needlessly suffer all the more.
Chris Sherwood (D.Min. Liberty University) lived through the trauma of closing his local church in Richmond, CA. He and his wife of 27 years have three children by birth, two more by marriage, and two grandchildren.