Fact #1: Waldenbooks. Montgomery Wards. Sears. Kmart. Borders. Howard Johnson’s. CompUSA. Blockbuster. Dress Barn. Circuit City. Toys R Us. Frank’s Nursery and Crafts. Payless Shoes. Bill Knapp’s. Chi-Chi’s. Sports Authority. Woolworths. Thom McAn. All defunct. All done. Nowhere to be found. Dead. Dead. Dead.
Fact #2: Every poll shows that people are heading for the exits in churches too. Church attendance is at an all-time low in the United States.
In light of the above facts, here are two questions for the church:
1) Will the Church of Jesus Christ be added to the first list? and,
2) More specific to my tribe, will the Church of the Nazarene be added to that list?
Short answer to question #1: No.
The Church of Jesus Christ will prevail. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).
Short answer to question #2: Maybe.
Jesus told one church: “You have forsaken the love you had at first.Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:4-5).
Jesus told another church: “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Revelation 3:2-4)
Jesus told still another church: “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:16-17).
The failures of the churches in Ephesus, Sardis and Laodicea makes one wonder if the Church of the Nazarene could be the next Radio Shack? Have we forsaken our first love? Do we need to be awakened? Are we lukewarm in a world that desperately needs white hot?
The Church of Jesus Christ will prevail, but some variations will fall away. See the Mars Hill Church of a few years ago. See many of the churches listed in Elmer Town’s 1969 Classic, The Ten Largest Sunday Schools and What Makes Them Grow. Most of those churches are either gone or are a shell of their former self. Maybe I should write a book titled: The Ten Largest Churches and What Made Them Die. I really don’t like that title. Instead here is my outline on my (probably never-to-be-written) book: The Ecclesiastical Fork: Which Road will the Church Take?
Part I: The Road to the Church Graveyard:
Pretend nothing is wrong. Lose relevancy in a changing culture. Reminisce of the glory old days. Allow factions to grow. Be satisfied with the status quo. Be silent on issues of justice and mercy. Seek money and power instead of righteousness and holiness. Make decisions based on fear. Chase young people out. Have no one casting vision.
Part II: The Road to Stayin’ Alive (cue the Bee Gees):
Dream. Try new methods. Talk about Jesus constantly. Be united. Prioritize reaching/keeping young families. Be good neighbors. Pray.
Churches committed to these seven values will not die in any cultural environment.