Jesus’ church will never die.
But individual congregations are never given that promise. No matter how faithful they may be.
Last week, I wrote a blog post about honoring those who care for congregations as they face the last years or days of their ministry life.
Most of the responses were positive. Many were grateful to have finally been acknowledged for the unsung, valuable ministry they have provided for churches going through such difficult circumstances.
But there were also a few responses that were concerned about what they perceived as lack of faith. A couple were downright angry. Some commenters (on FB and email) felt that it was an admission of defeat or disobedience to acknowledge that congregations have a finite life-span. They told me, in sometimes harsh terms, that the only reason a congregation would ever close was because of unrepentant sin.
As a rule, I let such responses go by without comment. And I’m keeping to that rule now.
So this is not a direct response to those comments, but it is about an issue they raised that I feel is important to address. Namely, why do congregations close, other than sinful disobedience?
Why Congregations Die
Here are a few reasons I’ve seen:
- Some start-ups never get enough resources or momentum to get past the launch stage
- Some churches close when their denomination ceases to exist
- Military chaplains have had to close churches on military bases that cease operations
- Many churches in once-populous towns close up when the town loses jobs and the population takes a nose-dive
- Some churches sell or give their physical assets to other churches and ministries rather than losing them through continual debt payment
- Some churches were unable to survive after losing their facilities and leadership because they held firm to biblical truths after their denomination abandoned its biblical moorings
- A pastor left for another ministry, after which the remaining church members decided they could make a greater contribution to the body of Christ by attending other churches that needed their help than by recruiting a new pastor for their church
- When churches merge, it can be like a death for the smaller church that is being taken over by a bigger one
- Some churches have a specific ministry to accomplish, then they close up after that season of ministry is over
If you are ministering in a church that is in its final days for these or other reasons, let me say again what I said in my original post on this subject, Going, But Not Forgotten: A Tribute To Those Who Help Local Churches Die With Dignity.
Whatever your past, present or future as a congregation may be, we are grateful for the kingdom work you have done.
We mourn for the loss you feel, and we celebrate the eternal results of a job well done.
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