My friend Sam forwarded a blog post from “Culture Watch” (December 26, 2014 – Bill Meuhlenberg). The title was “On Leaving Church”. The writer described a distressing phenomenon. Christ-loving, zealous believers who are leaving the organized church for smaller-scale inter-personal worship, training, service and communion. They are not coming back. They are the “Dones”. Here is a portion of the article:
While this move away from the churches may be a way these believers find a new outlet for Christian fellowship, it is obviously tough on pastors and church leaders. One thing they may have to do is slow down, think, pray and ask some hard questions.
But the problem is, so often our leaders are so busy doing church, that they do not have this needed time to reassess, rethink, and re-evaluate. I once wrote a piece in which I made the serious suggestion that some churches might be best placed to actually shut down for a brief spell as the members, and especially the leaders, spend some quality time on their faces before God.
I said in part:
My recommendation is this: it may well be the best thing in many cases to simply shut our church doors and post a big sign on each entry with words something like this:
“Dear friends, sorry but our church is now closed for repairs. It will be closed for perhaps a few days, perhaps a few weeks, and maybe even longer, until a full and thorough renovation has taken place. These doors will remain shut for as long as it takes. We will notify you when the doors will reopen. In fact, there will be no need to notify you, because it will be apparent to everyone when the renewal work is completed. Thank you for your patience.”
Does that sound like a pretty radical proposal? Of course it does. But it may take something radical like this to deal with a church which seems to be losing its way, and is in many ways haemorrhaging to death. When things get that bad, radical surgery is indeed required.
I do not envy being a pastor or a church leader. They have a very tough job, and their work is often thankless, painful and exhausting. We certainly must pray for our leaders. They certainly need it. And they need regular encouragement as well.
But the church is going through tough times now. I certainly do not have all the answers for this. But we must be willing to at least pause and reflect, pray and seek God, as to how we might turn things around. We must at least begin there.
Let me finish with a few great quotes from a few great saints. Their words of warning and advice make for more helpful starting points:
“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.” A.W. Tozer
“Oh for radically Bible-saturated, God-centered, Christ-exalting, self-sacrificing, mission-mobilizing, soul-saving, culture-confronting pastors!” John Piper
“When the church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“The church has lost her testimony. She has no longer anything to say to the world. Her once robust shout of assurance has faded away to an apologetic whisper. She who one time went out to declare now goes out to inquire. Her dogmatic declaration has become a respectful suggestion, a word of religious advice, given with the understanding that it is after all only an opinion and not meant to sound bigoted.” A.W. Tozer
“The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men…Men of prayer.” E. M. Bounds
(above image by Janell Rardon)