I read that by some estimates, every day in the United States, nine churches shut their doors forever. On January 26, 2014, my church—the Reformed Church in Plano (RCP)—was one of them.
After hearing the news late last year, I cried ...
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Having experienced the dispersing of a congregation, the change-over of a building, the departure of a leader and the fall of a leader, I think I can give some better insights. You ready?... 1. WE ARE THE CHURCH.(not any building) 2.What is our ministry focus?(as a congregation) 3. Are we gathering outside of just Sunday?
4. Do we follow a strict denomination rule or do what the Holy Spirit is leading us to? 5. Have we been really praying together and seeking God in all of it? IF...we are livng our faith, the Christian walk together, then there won't be the 'death of a church" ever. only maybe the loss of a location or sometimes the refocusing of priorities. Been there done that, on the other side of that. Be committed to Jesus first, then to each other. Follow the Bible not denominations and men.
Angie, I believe the gospel in its pure form is viral. It can’t help but be infectious. I believe the gospel in its pure form is powerful. We don’t just have the form of godliness and deny the power. We walk in the power of the Holy Spirit as the apostles did. And I believe the gospel is God-breathed. It is not by power nor might but by my Spirit says the Lord as Zechariah says. I am an egalitarian so I love the fact that you are ordained. My question would be, have you recieved the “clothing with power” as Jesus described in Luke and Acts 1? During this time-out I would take a look at the Foursquare Church. It combines the best of the social justice traditions of the RCP but it empowers women (Founded by Amy Semple McPherson) and is utterly dependent on the presence of the Holy Spirit. You asked, so that is my 2 cents worth. Take time to look analytically at your experience and to weigh what you experienced against the book of Acts. Sorry for being so direct. You have my sympathies.
Oh my, Fr. Doughty, what a painful experience for St. James the Less! I ache as I read your recollection. I am glad to know, though, that the parish lives on. Praying that the congregants are no less connected to God.
Yes, Rick. It was eerily like a funeral. I'm curious. When you mention using "the time to look analytically at the situation, rather than rushing to another church," do you speak as a pastor or a congregation member? As I mentioned in my response to Jim, I did not serve RCP as installed pastor. (Although I did fill the pulpit for 6 months while we conducted a pastoral search.) Each post and article I've written on this topic since my church closed, I've written from the viewpoint of a congregation member. That said, I can attest that visiting churches with a heart fresh with grief for the church that just died is a strange and clumsy experience. My family certainly had no intention of "rushing," but we knew that we couldn't stay home on Sundays, either.
Hi, Jim! I was JUST about to suggest that you read the post that you mentioned in your second comment. (Link below for reference.) I'm recalling a platitude from my childhood, "Great minds think alike!" If you'd like my additional, more specific thoughts, I'm more than happy to share them with you. Feel free to email me directly at email@example.com. As I mentioned in my blog post, thought, it's important to understand that I write not as the pastor of my former church, but as a congregation member.
"7 reasons (among many) why my church died," posted on www.angiemn.com on January 29, 2014 http://wp.me/p3PlmN-PH
OK. I checked the author's website which gives more details. Reason 1: Membership decline with an average attendance of "only" 135. However, many smaller churches would love to have this many. Reason 2: Aging congregation. Reason 3: Decrease in giving (no doubt tied to Reasons 1 & 2). Reason 4: Ghosts of crises past. These continued to hurt, and the issues were never resolved. Reason 5: Differing styles of leadership between succeeding pastors. Reason 6: Lack of denominational support. Reason 7: It was "God's time".
But why did this church close? It had "co-pastors". It had elders. It must have had some people. So why did it close? Did it close because it lacked money for necessary repairs and maintenance? Did it close because it "only" had "co-pastors and elders"? Did it close because it had been so divided in the past that it could never be united in the future? It is clear that many people had left (but they at least came for the funeral), but why did they leave? That it closed is very sad. That it closed "well" is good. But we learn little from its closing if we don't understand the reasons behind it.
This really is like a funeral. I find myself not knowing what to say and knowing that anything I say may be considered insensitive. I don't think Churches (the weekly community of local believers) were intended to die. I'm sure the reasons are complex, but I would use the time to look analytically at the situation rather than rush into another church. All I will say is that we need to be utterly dependent on the Holy Spirit.
Fr Samuel Doughty
I have been through a similar, although definitely different event when the property of the church of St. James the Less, Philadelphia,was stolen from the membership by Bishop Charles Bennison. The parish had been through all the court system, up to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, but the court held that the property belonged to the Bishop, not to the parishioners. We had a final date well in advance, and I'll bet final Sunday in late spring we had our last Mass, put all the prayer books, vestments, candlesticks, etc. in their proper places, and walked out the door for the last time in that place.
The thing that was different for St. James the Less, different from Reformed Church, Plano, is that the parish lives on to this day. It is now called the church of St. Michael the Archangel and has moved from Anglicanism into the Church of Rome through the Anglican Ordinariate (to my considerable regret on the last step).
If I am not mistaken, the church pictured here is in Simnasho, OR. I have twice driven by it. Simnasho is a little, out-of-the way town in central Oregon. When driving by, I found myself wondering what it was like when there was a congregation that met there.
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