A church must be ready to die

By Bob Bickford

Countless churches across our country are in great need. They may be several months or just a few years from closing their doors permanently. An estimated 800-900 in our denomination face closure each year. Nation wide that number rises to well over 3,000. And the need for significant Gospel ministry is not diminishing, it is increasing.

As we work with Pastors, Denominational Leaders and Churches a question we are asked most often is this: “How can we lead the church to the point where they are willing to do whatever it takes to live again?”

You can’t but Jesus can and will: Many Pastors, Deacons, Trustees and committed church members have gone to the wall in an effort to bring back life and vitality to congregations only to find themselves misunderstood, attacked, slandered and run out of the dying church. They may think they have failed but they haven’t.

I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18

It may be counterintuitive and seem like a step backwards but sometimes growth is preceded by death. Some churches in order to grow must die. Death is often slow but it is always inevitable. But death does not mean the end of life.

“I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop.” John 12:24

We fight against death, we seek to delay it, we rarely embrace it. But death can bring about new hope. Sometimes you have to allow a church to die in order to live. Some churches learn to die to self in order to live, they won’t have to close their doors.

What must a church die to in order to live?

  • Pride and tradition
  • Its perceived reputation
  • Outdated programs
  • The decision making process it has been using
  • Its name and the appearance of its facilities
  • Its preferences (style of music, dress, service times etc.)
  • Its hesitancy to address sin through biblical church discipline
  • Designated funds and historic budget allocations
  • Cultural Christianity
  • Deficient Discipleship
  • Comfort
  • Control

How does a church get there? They begin to love Jesus more than they love anything else and they become committed to pursue His mission rather than the preservation of their own.

Published September 17, 2015

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Bob Bickford

Bob Bickford is a Replant Pastor in suburban St. Louis, serves as the Associate Director of Replant for the North American Mission Board and is the co-author of Am I a Replanter,  Pathways to Partnership and the Associational Replanting Guide. Follow Bob on twitter @bobick