church doors locked down burnedIf church revitalization is to happen, people must let go of their kingdoms. {Tweet That!}

I just got the latest publication from my alma mater with the subject of church revitalization. On page 24, there’s an ominous graph showing the status of Southern Baptist church decline from 2007-2012 (decline of 29.5%). On the facing page, there’s an even more telling quotation from Al Mohler that reads “Sadly, many churches will die by congregational suicide. Unwilling to be replanted, they simply want a slower decline. This is disobedience to Christ.”

Before I took a vocation in higher education, I wanted to church plant or revitalize. Regarding the latter, I remember one specific example (which is not an isolated incident from other friends who have tried to pastor churches that were dying). Let me briefly tell you the story.

I wanted to plant a church in a certain neighborhood in Charlotte last year. Due to various events, the plant did not happen (for another post perhaps, or at least a coffee conversation). Concurrently with the plant not happening, a friend told me about a congregation of about 50 folks (average age 65) that had an interim pastor and would need a full-time pastor in the near future. I called the two deacons of the church to have lunch with them. I shared with them my desire to pursue the position, my desire to serve the community, and my willingness to raise my own support because they didn’t have the money to pay my salary. They never called me back.

Part of the back story–and something I will be writing on in the future–is that the church suffered from 3-4 different fellows who tried to pastor there and essentially left the congregation reeling with debt and power struggles. This caveat aside, there is a disease in our churches where people are afraid of change because they are fundamentally afraid of losing control. That’s right. Churches, like so many institutions, are afraid of losing control. What is sad about this state of affairs is that people do not own the church, Jesus does. We are merely called to gather as fellows servants, not politicians who jockey for control and perpetuity to their “legacies.”

May I plea with my brothers and sisters who are in declining churches. It may be time for you to gift your building and resources to a new generation. It may be time for you to celebrate all that God did in your midst and to rejoice at the opportunity to bless the next generation who is charged with proclaiming the glorious gospel of Jesus once you are buried. Please don’t let you building and your resources that you invested for the sake of the Name be buried with you. Joy is not meant to be boxed up and buried with you. {Tweet That!} It is intended to live on in the lives of those that come after you.

Time after time, I have been warned about not pursuing a pastoral position because there are “powers that be” who don’t want to see change. Might I submit that it is not change people are afraid of, but control? Have we assumed that because I gave my money, I have some kind of ownership? Sure there is an investment, but never. Yes, I said never. There is never ownership. The Church is owned by One. Those who are members of that Church have the privilege to invest and to love and to gift.

Now, like with any blog post, there are a hundred caveats. This serves as merely a starting point in the dialogue. A starting point and a plea.

What did I miss? What caveat would you offer? What story can you share of your experience, or am I alone in this?

I love this song by the Gettys, which captures my pleading and desire: