The Death of a Church (Closure)

The Death of a Church (Closure) Examination of a church closure, why it should, why it shouldn’t, explaining why it happens when it shouldn’t.

Let me make a highly charged statement. Every single church in the world should shut down completely. Read on to follow my logic, and then I have comments to make about the issue of church closures.

Should all churches close down?

Yes, definitely. They should all close, but they won’t. Why. When Christ returns in the rapture, immediately every single church should shut down completely. But Satan has his control over so many churches, with so many of their members and leaders being unsaved people who do Satan’s will and not God’s will, I propose another strange statement. When Christ returns, I doubt that most churches will even notice the saved are no longer among them!

But setting aside this silly talk, let’s consider churches that are struggling with closing. What is going on? What went wrong? How could a church closure be avoided? Why does this happen? Why does God allow this to happen?

What is a church?

The first step in understanding these issues is very simply to correctly define what a church is. A church is presented in the Bible as a local group of people who are truly saved and wanting to obey God by worshiping in a join fashion. joining together to do the work of the Lord and to worship God. In that sense, even when a particular church shutters their doors, the people continue to worship God and do God’s work even if they are in other local assemblies.

But we must separate the idea of what is a spiritual church, a body of believers, from what is a particular local church’s situation and existence. They are different issues. Totally different.

Reason #1:  Churches close because they do not have committed people.

Why does a church “die”? The answer is that they do not have committed people, or the people in the church lose their commitment and desire to sacrifice and work to keep the church open. This is the truth of the matter. There are several reasons behind this situation. Discouragement is a primary reason. Something has happened that has taken the strength necessary to keep a church functioning out of the people in the church. I am assuming that perhaps the death of the pastor may be an example, and this is very discouraging, but wait a minute, churches are a structure designed by God. God is not foolish. He designed churches with an automatic structure or element for their replication, and this is evangelism and teaching of those who are members. When the people of a church “sit on their hands”, enjoy others ministering to them, others paying the bills, and do not actively participate in the functioning, ministry, and financial burden of the church, one day they will find themselves overseeing the closure of the church.

Commitment is a necessary ingredient in the functioning of any real church that pleases God. Commitment must be a grassroots element of all the members and leadership. In so many of our churches, there are many people in our churches that are what I call “tourists”. These people are always there it seems like, except when the leaders are looking for workers, then they all disappear. When the offering plate is passed, they also are just “observers,” and they are not to be expected to give anything, definitely not a tithe, and a generous offering is absolutely out of the question. If they do give anything, they want the choir to sing alleluia and somebody to jump up and praise them by name.

Churches work on the basis of free will offerings. In other words, as God moves people’s hearts, they should give. The pattern of giving was set in the Old Testament as a tithe, in other words, 10% of what a person’s earnings or income is. In the case of retired people, probably that would be 10% of what they get or withdraw from their savings as income for the month. But there are two separate things here. One is a tithe on earnings, and the other is an offering which has no relationship with what was earned, just what God lays on a person’s heart. But a church has no other income other than what its people give. When we think about church cake sales and such nonsense, I always compare that to when Jesus cleansed the temple. The people of his day made God’s house of worship like a business in generating money, and this is a singular time when Jesus in his earthly life showed what would be seen as anger. He cleansed the temple of that nonsense. While you may not like that idea, in Revelation, God will come again and show much greatly anger.

How small can a church get and still remain open?

If a group has at least one committed person among them, usually they can keep the doors open. Missionaries and church planters start churches in their own homes. Some even work secular jobs in order to make ends meet. That shows commitment. What a church closure says to the world is that “none of are willing to sacrifice, none of us are committed to the Lord’s work. We all are basically retired from serving God.” Okay. Fine. Go to another established church and continue working there. But to just give up is not in the Bible. Jesus says He will establish His church, and He will build it up. The gates of hell (the fury of Satan) cannot overcome God’s church. The question really needs to be examined, “was the church God’s church, or was it just a religious club that we put together for our convenience?

Reason #2: Churches die because they have no vision for souls, they disobey the Commandment to witness.

You see, the church is not a Burger King. Burger King began its existence with the motto of having hamburgers “your way“. One of the key issues is evangelism. Evangelism and Christian invitations (your church members inviting Christian people looking for a good church), as well as the welcoming friendly spirit portrayed to visitors, are elements that increase your church’s attendance. While many churches just ignore evangelism and church growth, some churches are actually poisonous when it comes to this issue. They consider “outsiders” are people to be “run off.” With a half dozen years of this poison flowing in your church, and it will start shrinking, and eventually be closed down.

The opposite extreme is to do nothing but “evangelism”, which in these people’s minds is to make the church a carnival or circus of one show after another. To get more and more people into such a circus church, they rape all the sermons and teaching that grow Christians, and they get a completely carnal church, and when problems happen, these people will have no commitment like the first case we examined above.

A true church teaches their people that God wants Christians to congregate, attend, participate, work, and sacrifice for the work of the Lord. If that point is not driven home, and all the members understand and commit to that principle, the church will find its way to ruin anyway.

I emphasize at this point what evangelism is according to the Bible. True biblical evangelism is presenting the salvation that God has given us in the Bible, explaining it such that the person believes and is saved. Any evangelism that is easy believism where “numbers” are the game, and the people are not patiently worked with over time is another gospel. When this happens, there are great numbers of people, but something is flawed and wrong when these supposedly saved people disappear as quickly as they showed up, and there are not saved people giving the spiritual fruit of Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Holy Spirit. What is a mark that things are going biblically is when there are truly committed people working and sacrificing for the work of the Lord in the church.

This is highly a function of the true conversion that should be taking place in the hearts of the people. If God separated a nation (Israel) for this purpose, and because of their lack of commitment, God set aside Israel for the church, then it is not a surprising thing that much effort is inverted into a group, people of a certain place, and after years of that, you do not see commitment. That is not a surprise.

Should we give up? The answer simply is that we run things until the end. When there are no committed people to even oversee a new pastor, then the church should close down. But if we want to talk about what should be, the church members and leaders should be doing what is right according to the Bible from the beginning and never give up.

Reason #3: The Loss of a Church’s Leader(s)

Sometimes people die, other times they “move on“, and sometimes chaos happens, or sin in the leaders’ lives, and these things strike the church, and many leave the church. The truth of the matter is that God will always call new leaders when the elderly leaders retire or die. That is a matter of all time since the beginning of the church until Jesus returns.

There should be some kind of transition between one leader stepping down and some other leader taking their place. This should be on a level of pastor, deacons, and any other leaders like assistant pastors or Bible teachers. Likewise within the church, there should be a training of new workers to help the existing workers as well as taking their place when they cannot or will not be able to continue.

In my 65+ years of being in good Baptist churches, I have seen a lot of things happen in churches that I am familiar with. One of the turning points in which Satan overtakes a good church is when there is a change in leadership. The pastor leaves, and a new pastor comes in. Unfortunately, most church candidate committees as well as church memberships have little of the patience and diligence necessary to see a good man of God installed in their church. That is a rule, it seems. After a trying time, they accept anybody that will agree to step in. What follows is disaster and usually a downsizing, and many times closure.

The Death of a Church (Closure)

More Articles from the Church Category

More Articles from the Church Problems Category