thoughts on the death of the Church

The Church is dying.  It’s terminally ill.  Perhaps it’s already dead.

Or so I’ve heard.  I’ve heard it from professors, from church leaders, from sociologists.  Attendance is dwindling, buildings are closing, and members are getting older.  There are “not enough” 20-somethings, families with children, ethnic minorities, people who tithe, fill-in-the-blank.  Expectations are too high or too low or too vague or too specific and this, I am told, is killing the Church.

Here’s the thing: the Church is not dead.  I’m tired of hearing 40- and 60- and 80-year-olds tell me about how the Church is dying or dead.

I am 22 years old, and I am the Church, too.

I’m not going to sit by and let people tell me that we have no choice but to watch our congregations die.  I’m not going to listen to voices that claim, whether from fear or concern or malice or the desire to complain more loudly than anyone else, that there is no future for Christianity in this country.  I’m not going to pay attention to them because it’s clear to me that they are wrong.

Perhaps they mean that Christendom is dead.  It is true that the Christian Church no longer enjoys its position of privilege in American culture.  This, however, does not mean that the Church is dead.  If it were my responsibility to ensure that the congregations I serve continue on exactly as they always have, then I would be in trouble.  If we begin to worship numbers instead of God, problems will arise.  If we expect the Church to function and thrive according to our parameters, we’re in for an unpleasant surprise.

Because the Church is not ours.  It is God’s.

It seems pretty clear from the Bible that God delights in not behaving according to our parameters.  This is really good news; it turns out that God’s ideas are way better than ours.  When God is working, building up the Church by the work of the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t always look like the model we have in mind, but it’s usually better than anything we could have imagined for ourselves.

Even if I’m wrong and the Church is dying, I’m not worried.  The God we worship has a pretty solid record when it comes to bringing life out of death.

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3 Responses to thoughts on the death of the Church

  1. Leah Ness says:

    I think you’re right on. I heard an advertisement on the radio a little while ago for a website that helps worship leaders by offering new, hip songs, and pretty backgrounds to project lyrics on, all so they could present a more appeasing atmosphere for the Holy Spirit to enter into. The way they spoke, you’d think God needed to be cajoled into meeting with His bride. It’s almost like we think we have to induce the Holy Spirit, rather than simply delighting in and worshiping Him. All the bean counting is getting in the way, as it did with David and his census in 2Sam.24. We Christians need to remember that we are the church. We need to attend weekly meetings because we love God and love each other and want to reach the lost, not for the sake of upholding tradition or building stronger political platforms. “Because the Church is not ours. It is God’s.” I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for the interesting and insightful post!

  2. mnfauth says:

    The point of not being in a position of privilege anymore makes me feel so hopeful – Jesus didn’t operate from a position of privilege at all – perhaps this is forming our faith in a much stronger way than it ever could have before. Even if the church as people see it is dying, there is always room for God’s church, and it will continue, even if that means being something different than what humans want.
    Well said!

  3. Pingback: This Week’s Links | Timothy Siburg

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