When Churches Close, Who’s to Blame


America is experiencing a religious transformation, a de-Christianizing of the nation. The result is foreseeable. Thousands upon thousands of churches will close this year and next. This sad reality is affecting an ever-increasing population of Christians as they experience church closure firsthand.

People judge one another.

We cannot help ourselves. When we see someone who is overweight, dresses poorly, speaks with an accent, or drives a fancy car we make assumptions about their behavior, their upbringing, and their morals. We then justify our thoughts by looking for more evidence to support our emerging opinions. Judgment and its associated pain is a universal experience that is intensified when we are judged by those we should be able to trust. This is true for people from all walks of life, including pastors.

The church closed because the pastor failed, right?

If he or she had just led better, done more evangelism, grown the children’s ministry, partnered with other congregations, and been a better preacher, the church would have thrived. By now you know, this isn’t true. Churches close for a variety of reasons. Very often hard working pastors do their best, and their church closes anyway. These pastors commonly blame themselves even when they did all they could. The obvious conclusion is to be kind to pastors, especially those who have to close their church.

Failure as a pastor is the same as failure for any Christian.

Failure is disobeying God.

Intuitively Christians understand this, yet we fall victim to the thinking of the world. The world says growth is success and death is failure, but this is not biblical. What did Jesus say? “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” (Jn 14:15, emphasis mine).

To my brothers and sisters who have, or who are, or who will soon need to close their churches, let me remind you that God is the All-Powerful One. He, alone, is the author of life and the savior of the world. Remember the lesson of Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 (NET):

For everything there is an appointed time, and an appropriate time for every activity on earth:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

If you are losing your church, hear this:

God is still on His throne.

The pain you are feeling is real, and God is good. The questions swirling in your mind need answers; they need biblical answers. Don’t let the pain and confusion drive you away from the only source of life and light. Stay close to Jesus, and He will lift your head.

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. Chris enjoys traveling with his wife and running with his Golden Retriever, Kona.

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