A pastor friend, who serves on his district’s advisory board, recently indicated that his district needs to close 40 (you read that right… forty) churches! That’s a lot of dying and already dead churches. If you look close at his district’s office building there may be a sign in the lawn that reads: FIRE SALE! If there’s not a sign, there should be.
It’s not just my friend’s district. The 2020’s is going to be known as “The Decade of Death” for many churches. Members (and givers) are getting older or dying off. Stories of sacrifice where lay leaders put a second mortgage on their farm to keep the church doors open don’t happen anymore. Pastors will be retiring. Providing the pastor a living wage and health benefits is becoming more and more of a challenge. Aging buildings and the resulting bills will make operating a brick and mortar church very cost prohibitive. Moreover, our culture is less engaged with the things of God than ever before. All of these factors and more will force many churches across the country and across denominational identities to close in record numbers in the next decade.
Fear Not! Your church need not succumb to the Decade of Death. The churches that not only survive but thrive in the 2020’s will be the churches that learn to quit playing catch up with the culture, and instead go on the offensive. That means: Preaching Jesus. Caring for the needy. Being the best neighbors. Engaging the younger generation. Prioritizing families. Refusing to be defined by what they are against. And not allowing the message to be co-opted by politics (from either side of the aisle), power or petty arguments. Those churches will not need to plan their funeral.
The truth is that no church (whatever the cultural realities exist) that allows Jesus to build it and keeps their eyes fixed on Jesus will be dying anytime soon. Jesus words in Matthew 16 are still true in these contentious days: I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18).