Monday, June 18, 2012

Churches on Hospice Care?

There is an overture to my District Convention this week which starts out good but ends up badly.

The overture begins by criticizing how we determine how church are deemed "successful" or not - usually it is by attendance figures, and that a lot of time and effort goes into training pastors for "success" in this way. But is that the only way to measure a church's "health?" Are there not other factors and indicators? It then resolves to ask that such criteria be identified and used and considered when looking at our churches. I think that part of the resolution is helpful.

However, it then goes on to look at the other end of the spectrum, and assert that there also needs to be criteria to identify "dying" churches and resolves that resources be developed to train pastors to serve on "hospice care" for such churches. That just as great resources have been dedicated to train pastors for "successful" churches, so resources should be dedicated to train pastors for "dying" churches.

I am quite disturbed by this. Do churches "die?" Well, they close for various reasons, sometimes merge, and sometimes move. But do they "die?" Is this the right way to look at the church of our Saviour Jesus Christ? The Gospel for this past Sunday talked about the seed that is sown and grows we know not how. God produces growth in His church through His Word and Spirit, and who is to say He cannot and will not in churches we think are or have identified as "dying" and to be put on "hospice care?" Such thinking seems to make worldly sense, but seems completely against the Word of God.

I know the pastor whose congregation submitted this overture, and I think I know why they submitted it - there are many small, rural congregations in his circuit which used to be in thriving areas, but which are now in small towns where the industry has closed and many people have moved away. What can we do for these churches? How can we help them? What do they need? I think his heart is in the right place, but I do not think putting churches on "hospice care" is the right and faithful answer. It fact, it is quite troubling to me indeed.

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