Driving to work the other day on my usual route, I was confronted with the road blocked and a large sign declaring, “Closed for Repairs.” As frustrating as this can be, we all understand that there are times when things need to shut down so that repairs can be made. Roadways need upgrades, businesses need remodeling, and even websites have to be scuttled so they can move to updated software platforms. Progress can be painful, and while it may feel like taking a few steps backwards, it is a temporary condition that will eventually result in a much-needed improvement.
Although we may expect temporary roadway or business closures, there are other things that we never expect to be closed for repair. We generally expect things like sewer, water, and sanitation services to work all the time. And no one would ever consider that they could one day call the police or fire department and get a recorded message that they were closed for repairs. Similarly, how would you feel if you pulled up to church one day and found a sign hanging the from door declaring, “Temporarily Closed for Repairs?” Sadly though, the reality is that some churches do close down.
Some are “done” with church
There are a number of reasons why a church may have to close, but the bottom line always seems to be that when attendance falls to the point where they can’t support their operating costs, then they have to shut their doors. The problem for many congregations is that not only are they not growing, people are actually tending to leave their folds because they are “done” with church. Over the past twenty years many churches have tried to be “more relevant” to the culture, others have moved more into entertaining the audience with high impact music and glitzy services, but for many in the growing “done” crowd, it isn’t working.
Done with church, not done with God
It’s not that people are done with God; they are just done with church. As the sociologist Josh Parkard recently shared, people are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray, and pay. They want to play, that is, they seek participation in a more real and authentic way with Christ and the Body. It seems that many are turning to smaller intimate settings, such as home fellowships and small Bible studies where they can actively participate and share their faith journey with others who seek the same. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did and how the first century believers lived?
Returning to a simple Gospel
Jesus opened his followers to a faith that was practical and was intended to be lived out in their daily lives. It was not based upon the need to support and care for a large expensive building, costly productions, or slick relevant marketing strategies. Maybe the Christian leadership needs to pay more attention to the “Dones” and consider hanging a “Temporarily Closed for Repairs” sign on the church door as they reconnect to the message and mission of the “church.” For those committed to the Simple Church, the concept of the church meeting in simple settings such as the home, means there is a great opportunity to reach and serve the “Dones,” and the new seekers who will follow on their heels.
Consider the following quotes
(taken from an article by Bill Muehlenberg)
“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference.” -A.W. Tozer
“Oh for radically Bible-saturated, God-centered, Christ-exalting, self-sacrificing, mission-mobilizing, soul-saving, culture-confronting pastors!” -John Piper
“When the church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.” -Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men… Men of prayer.” -E. M. Bounds