Across the country, there are churches closing their doors or merging with other churches. What once was a thriving, exciting church now is lightly populated with a few faithful people whose only praise reports come from previous decades.
Why is this happening? Why are they on a steady downhill slide? Why are these churches dying?
In many, if not in all of these churches, are people who are clinging to the past. Not willing to change what is obviously not working anymore. All they know is what used to work is not working now. But changing things up would take them out of their comfort zone and that is not something they are willing to do.
As time passes, the church gets grayer and grayer. Rooms that used to be bustling with children now sit in silence. The nursery, that used to be alive with the sounds of little ones, is never disturbed by those sounds now. The silence of no crying...affirms that a church is dying.
One thing is for sure. If a church is clinging to the past, it will not last. We are not living in the 1950's. And when people walk into a church that is still operating like it is 1950, they have a hard time connecting with a day that is long gone.
These churches mean well. They want to reach people. They want to see the next generation come to Jesus. They want their hallways to be filled with young families. But not enough to make the changes that are necessary to stay relevant and effective.
We should honor the past. Be thankful for the past. Learn from the past. But not get stuck in the past.
Recently, I visited a church that had no kids. No babies. No preschoolers. No elementary kids. No teenagers. As I sat in their service I couldn't help but think about how their church is already dead and they don't even know it. When the few gray haired members pass away, there will be no church left.
I know it's not always easy for older generations to change. But they must. They must realize that it's not about them. It's about passing on their faith to the next generation. It's about their children. It's about their grandchildren. It's about future generations.
Cling to the Gospel. Cling to God's Word. But let go of what is no longer effective. If you don't, the ministry will not last.
Our message must not change...but our methods must change to stay relevant for today's families.
We must stay anchored to the truth, but be geared for the future.
I drive by another church where I live on Sunday mornings and see the same 10 to 12 cars there each week. What's sad is it used to be a growing, thriving church. There used to be many young families attending. There used to be an excitement and passion for families that you could sense when you walked in the doors.
But not anymore. They are down to a small handful of people attending. Few, if any kids are there.
Somewhere along the way, they decided to cling to the past. Surely if their methods worked in the 70's, it will still work today. But, sadly they are finding out the hard way that past success does not ensure future success.
That's why every week we must ask these questions.
What is working well?
What needs to be changed or dropped?
What are some stories about lives being changed this week?
Are you willing to let go of the past, so your church will have a future?
Are you willing to stop spending time on what is no longer effective?
Are you willing to look forward instead of backwards?
Your church's best days can be now and in the future, if you're willing to spend more time looking out the front window instead of staring in the rear view mirror.
What's back there was good...in its day. But what God has for your church in the future will be even better if you're willing to change and walk into the future.