As a church leader, the reality is unavoidable. News stories circulate the statistics through Christian networks and publications with great regularity. Western Churches are dying. Closing their doors at an alarming rate. And my honest, and undoubtedly controversial, question is this: is that really all that bad?
I’m the co-pastor of a local church in downtown Indianapolis, and I unabashedly believe that the local church is God’s designated expression to bring His hope to the world. But I sometimes wonder if all our efforts to keep churches in business are actually working against God’s designed purposes for those churches to begin with. Really, I haven’t been drinking. Let me explain.
We have an undeniable propensity to see the church as an entity instead of a people, an institution instead of a movement. So almost involuntarily over time, our focus turns toward acquiring and keeping resources that sustain the organization. Efforts which may or may not lead to the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
“Preserve and keep builds my kingdom. Create and release grows God’s.”
In fact, almost without warning, our church and its existence can easily become our definition of God’s Kingdom in its entirety. The complete answer to the question, rather than just a piece of a much larger landscape.
In business school we learned the product life cycle. Eventually, regardless of longevity, all products become obsolete. It’s inevitable. But that doesn’t necessarily eliminate the demand for what those products provided. Cultural shifts or technological breakthroughs may simply create a better way to accomplish the desired outcome.
Let’s be honest, if McDonald’s goes out of business, people will still find cheap, artery-clogging food to eat. If GM shuts it doors, transportation won’t cease to exist. If Apple files for bankruptcy, our generation will still create technological tools that allow us to snobbishly mock users of Microsoft products.
“The church is a means, not an end.”
And if my organized expression of the local church ever ceases to exist, God’s Kingdom will still expand (ask any of the skyrocketing number of Christians in communist China). Because the church is people, not an institution. If what I know as church isn’t expanding the Kingdom, wouldn’t it be best to release those people and resources to start new faith communities that are? After all, the church is a means, not an end.
City Community Church turns 11 months old this weekend, and I hope with all my heart that we celebrate 10 years, 25 years, 50 years as a local church community. But only if we’re truly advancing God’s agenda in the world. If not, we need to go out of business and release our resources to those who are. Getting CityCom to its next birthday milestone can’t be our focus.
Preserve and keep builds my kingdom. Create and release grows God’s. And isn’t that what the Church is supposed to be all about? Love to hear your thoughts: www.beyondtherisk.com