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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Kill Your Church

Steve McCoy killed his Missional Baptist Blog last week. It was a great forum for missional folks to connect with likeminded people and discuss everything from theology, ministry, culture, and whatever else we wanted. I am thankful for Steve's hard work in maintaining it, and always keeping the discussion fresh and interesting. While I admit that my favorite comment threads were the ones where some wacko would come in and make a couple of crazy remarks and Steve would end up banning him, I think it's really cool that he shut it down.

Why? Because he says that it served its purpose. His blog networked many of the missional leaders in the States and on the mission field. We've worked together to define what we're about, and we've shared ideas of how that might look in the real world. Now, most of us have our own blogs, many of which feature the same comments we were making on his site. Missional Baptist Blog had done what Steve set out to do with it, and now it is time to move on. I think we could learn something from that.

What if all the pastors that read his blog stood up in front of their churches this Sunday, and instead of preaching a sermon, simply announced that they were going to let the church die? Something like: "Folks, I have an announcement to make. We're selling the building, and I'm getting a job at Home Depot." I think it would be a great thing. I'm wondering if most of our churches haven't already reached their expiration date.

Has your church built up leaders? Do you have a real spiritual family that is missionally active in the community? Have you subdivided into Bible Study groups or cell groups? Maybe it's time to shut everything else down. You don't need a building. You don't need professional ministers. You don't need any of the programs that you've got going on. If the system that you've maintained has served its purpose, shut it down.

I believe that this sort of thing is what it would take to make "Christianity" as we know it in the 21st century make sense for me, and I don't think I'm alone.

10 comments:

Paul Burleson said...

SC,

Some will hear you saying "close the Church" and be extremely unhappy with you because their definition of "church" is what is happening where they are on sunday.

You don't define "church" that way and neither do I. Besides, the "Church" will never be closed since we believe that "gates of hell" thing. We are the "church" but how we do "church" is a method that needs to be rethought and restructured often.

Peter Lord used to ask the group he pastored in Titusville, Florida every fall to pray, think, discuss, and decide what programs are no longer needed and what methods of doing things needed to be changed and how.

If we really are a body relating to the Lord, each other, our community, and culture, we must regularly rethink and regroup on "how to do things". It doesn't matter which culture we ["the church"] happen to be living in.

Kudos to Steve and to your post.

Paul Burleson

mr. t said...

Established churches today (especially in the west) are high maintenance. Our SBC institutions require high maintenance. By the time the resources trickle down, there is very little left that is actually used toward reaching the lost. People (led by the Spirit), not programs, are our greatest resource and require the most resources. How do we get God's people into missional ministry instead of maintenance ministry? Church structure must be radically transformed for that to happen. That is too painful and too difficult for most, very few make that transition. Or, if they do, it doesnt go far enough. Thus, the saying, "Easier to give birth... than to raise the dead."

stepchild said...

Paul,
You make a good point about the definition of "church." One of my favorite questions to ask is "what is the church?"

I think we should always be asking those hard questions: is this necessary?", "Why are we doing this?" and "Is there a better way?"

mr.t,
Thanks for your comment. You mention some efforts at missional reform not going far enough. That's something we've been exploring, and its been a little scary to see how far away from the traditional we can go and still be biblical, brinde-of-Christ, "church."

Bryan Riley said...

I commented earlier today that if there really are 42,000 SBC churches in the US today, that alone is some where between 7 and 10 churches for each unreached people group. Send them! If you add to that number all the other evangelical churches, because I believe this should be about the whole body of Christ unifying with the goal of taking Jesus to the world, you can easily put together associations of 10, 20, 30, 50 churches to support each unreached people group. Let's not stop with killing "churches"; let's kill traditional thinking about many things and mobilize workers for the harvest!!!

Paul Burleson said...

SC,

You have been prayed for this week.

Paul

Doug said...

SC,

I think many pastors have done just what you suggest, only the churches have not followed through on their part (although, I know one church in Orlando that closed the doors and gave the building to a Spanish congregation that is flourishing). How many pastors (or missionaries) do you know that have left the ministry? It seems that only the hardiest of men can remain on the front lines for too long. They're doing great against the gates of hell. They're getting wounded by the snipers following them from behind. However, I have noticed in several churches that there is a transition of power taking place as the current generation of church lay-leaders are literally dying one by one. There seems to be a new generation coming along that are lay-servants, not lay-rulers. I have seen some amazing rebirths of churches. I think the next ten years will be very telling in SBC churches. Thanks for the post. Is there anything in particular that I can pray for you?

Doug

Publius said...

Stepchild,

I appreciate your sentiment, but I think you put a little too much trust in the importance of structure and organization. It's true that many of our "church" buildings and organizations are not effective at what we want them to do. But if I've learning anything lately, it's that God doesn't need organizations and buildings to accomplish His task. His task is accomplished by His own power, through a relatively few individuals. It's the way He's always worked - it's not like He wants to mobilize an army of billions, and would have if it weren't for those meddling churches. His way is narrow and hard, and He has no plans, I believe, to make it a six-lane autobahn.

That said, even ineffective churches serve a purpose. There are valid ministries, which we do not even know about, in thousands of "dead" churches across the west. Ours is not to worry about them, but to do what we can with the job placed in front of us.

stepchild said...

Doug,
Thanks for commenting. I think you're right about the new generation of lay servants. Hopefully, the lines between clergy and laity will soon fade completely.

Publius,
I think you're the first person to ever tell me that I put "too much trust" in anything.

I guess this post was my attempt to think through the life-cycle of a local church and why we're so afraid of just letting them die.

I think you're right about God using just a few people to do great things. I'm just wondering if maybe there aren't more believers out there like me who would love to explore being part of a spiritual family that isn't institutionalized. If my pastor back home announced that we were closing the doors because we were all ready to be on our own as churches, I'd feel really free.

discipulando naciones said...

I so agree with you, stepchild.I believe there is a new generation of people who do need people who do live out as wittnesses in a world tired of religiosity and structure.I mean "real honest people".
Most of us are terribly tired of unfulfilled promises of specialy polititians and preachers.
That´s the challenge for us today to reach out to the ones who are without "church"

stepchild said...

Thanks, Discipulando. And thanks for reading. It's nice to know that if I'm wrong about some of this stuff, at least I'm not alone!