For as long as anyone can remember, the model the church has used is to have a building, a pastor, a musician, and to make worship the primary function. There has been other support involved – education, fellowship, and special gatherings like funerals and weddings, celebrations, etc. The church grew because people in the denomination moved and found similar churches, or had babies to help replace members who had died. The culture assisted the churches too – ensuring that “blue laws” existed, telling the story of Christianity, etc. In other words, the church held a privileged position in American culture. It was expected that this would continue.
Except that’s not happening.
“The model we have used — a church, a pastor and a commitment by people to support the enterprise — is getting harder and harder to maintain.”
(Source – click here)
That’s a quote from an article about churches closed in Minnesota. But it’s not only about churches in Minnesota. It’s nationwide.
The church needs to face the reality that the times have changed. The church no longer has a privileged place in society. But the church still acts like it does in many cases. The church no longer can count on members of the denomination moving into the area to fill the pews. There are more and more “nones,” people who don’t believe. The church can’t use the same model it did before because the circumstances have changed. But that’s exactly what many churches are doing – holding onto a model that doesn’t meet the current challenges.
Fashion changes, sports teams change, businesses change, politics changes – but somehow many in the church don’t think that change applies to the church. The problem with this is that there are fatal consequences for this. If the church doesn’t change its model, it will die.
What would a new model for the church be? I don’t think there is just one model that will work. I think it depends on the people gathered together in community. One church may thrive by turning to ministry in the community, another by a focus on worship, another by selling it’s building and the expenses that go with it. The point is, we’re in a new era where a new model is needed – or rather, new models are needed.
A good set of questions might be, if we were gathering together as believers in Jesus for the first time, what would this look like? What would we be doing? Where do we see the Spirit at work? What is drawing in people? What allows us to best carry out the mission God has for us?
Numbers don’t lie – even in the age of fake news. Trends tell us important information. We can either ignore the trends or learn from them. This much I know – continuing with an old model, because it’s what we know, will lead to many more churches closing their doors. Adopting a new model is a risk – a big risk. It could be a complete and utter failure. Or it could mean new life. The first option isn’t a good option. The second option is a risk. This is where the church has to ask itself this question – are we all in? Do we trust Jesus and where he is sending us? If so, there really is only one option.