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Monday, July 5, 2010

Contract with the Church (Part 1)

The denomination my church belongs to is organized in associations. We are autonomous but we have agreed to cooperate so that we could do things together that we would not be able to do separately.

There are seventy churches in our area association. Seventeen of these churches are on the brink of closing. Their attendance and giving is unable to sustain their existence.

Could these churches have been saved? Yes. In fact, they could still be saved but they may choose not to be. Doing what you need to do rather than what you want to do is often uncomfortable. Comfort becomes more important as people get older. They are tired of changing preschoolers diapers, hearing loud youth and looking for a parking place. They enjoy going to their own classroom which they decorated and made covers for the foam rubber padding for each chair. They don't want to remember the names of new people. They already have all the friends they want. These churches will go out of business soon if this is their attitude. They do not grasp the big picture of making disciples. They may have never understood why the church exists.

Sadly, these failing churches are more common than we would like to admit. Many churches whose weekly attendance is in the hundreds are headed down the same path. Their termination date is farther away but they are taking the same approach. Their location may be the major reason they have not gone out of business. (More churches grow because of location than anything they are doing.) It could be their reputation or merely inertia which keeps them going.

These churches are going down in attendance just a few people a year. They don't know that they are going out of business yet. They are still meeting weekly, paying the bills, having Vacation Bible School and listening to their choir.  They are like people who have a terminal illness but don't yet know it. They have symptoms but it isn't changing what they need to do. Unfortunately, radically painful procedures will be necessary by the time they find out how ill they really are.

A church must take a different approach if it is to continue to a church pleasing to the Lord. It must understand that its purpose is to make disciples who will do what Jesus commanded. It must reach new people and raise them up into the likeness of Jesus.

Tomorrow I will give the things I will set out to do in my own church. Even a growing church isn't immune to the diseases of misdirection, apathy and simple laziness.

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

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