I spoke to a old pastor friend of mine the other day and we started talking about church growth and the death of some churches. It seems in past few weeks two churches within his city closed their doors and 3 churches lunched in the past week. One being a church plant from his ministry and home church. It got me thinking, and seeking for an answer… this is what I found.
So if a church isn’t growing, what’s happening? Rick Warren says it’s dying, that it’s diseased. It’s a bleak image, but one that seems fairly accurate. However, living organisms do get sick. It’s fairly natural for churches to go through sick periods when they get off track and need to heal. As a result, growth may sputter.It also seems applicable that plants often need pruning. It’s an image that comes up in the Bible a few times. Pruning in itself isn’t growth and it may be a necessary stage—but it’s worth pointing out that the whole point of pruning is to further growth. Perhaps we can conclude that if a church isn’t growing, it should be going through a process that will eventually lead to growth. Maybe it needs time to heal. Maybe it had to remove a tumor, and such a process would hinder growth temporarily. But the point of removing a tumor is that the body can be healthy and growing again.It’s also true that organisms die. Death is a natural part of life. While it’s disheartening to see, some churches may need to die. But I think we see them being reborn as new churches are planted. Taking the analogy of the church as an organism a step farther, that body can die, and return to the ground and so fuel other living organisms. It’s the cycle of life. Perhaps local churches aren’t meant to last forever, but the universal Church is, and so it will continue growing in some way.
I came across a book a few years ago that was a great read. By, Robert Scott Stiner called Lessons from a venetian vinedresser. I could go into writing a book on just this book but wow was a great book that talks about how in order for stronger growth we at times have to be pruned and shaped up by the Father the vinedresser, “I am the vine and your are the branches and my Father is the vinedresser.” It’s a great book that brings to life to John 15:1-9!! Well I will stop now before I write too much. 🙂
In His Grip,