Churches are dying, but the Church isn’t.
It would be like saying humanity is dying because thousands of people die every day.
Sadly we lose loved ones often. And it breaks my heart every time I counsel someone who loses someone close to them. Death is a destructive force.
Yet just because thousands of people die every day (about 150,000 to be exact), does that mean that humanity is dying?
150,000 people die, but more than twice as many are born every day.
But what if this wasn’t the case? What if 150,000 people died every day, but new people were never born?
We don’t have to imagine what that would look like, because writer/director Alfonso Cuarón gives us an idea of this with his movie Children of Men.
In the year 2027, eighteen years since the last baby was born, the world becomes desperate for new life. Those who grow old, lose hope, for they have no children to pass on their legacy. The youngest person in the world becomes a celebrity. History is preserved, but for no future generations. Aging people submit to euthanasia.
When they discover a young woman who miraculously becomes pregnant, clans and governments fight over her. They try to hide her. She becomes more than a bearer of new life, but something to be fought after and hidden.
This is what the world would look like if there were only death and no new life to replace it.
And this is what many Christian denominations look like.
In 2012, the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church closed about 30 churches, but opened only a couple new ones. In America, Christians close about 4,000 churches; yet less than 1,500 new churches are started.
If you watch the movie, you might find it easy to see the same kind of fears, desperations, motivations, and angst that you see in many Christian denominations: Youth is idolized. History is preserved. Society becomes desperate for new life. And when someone comes along who can actually produce new life, they are fought over. Effective church planters in aging denominations are treated like precious possessions.
The problem with the church is not that churches are closing. The problem is that those who are closing don’t belong to communities or denominations that are giving birth to new ones at a comparable rate.
We need new churches that are like our children: messy, immature, and—dare I say—childish…? Children might get messy and bring with them problems, but I would say creating something new is always worth the effort.
Why don’t we do this with our churches?
The secret to church renewal has always been new church starts.
If you are apart of an aging congregation and want to learn more about how you can pass on your legacy through new church starts, I’d love to talk. Don’t hesitate to send me an email.