==== ====What to do when your church is closing? Find out here.http://churchrealty.com==== ====In his book entitled "Exit Interviews," William D. Hendricks writes something astonishing: "Almostall growth reported by North American churches today is the result of church switching andbirthrate within the churches rather than conversion growth."Hes referring to transfer growth rather than new converts. In other words, its easier to go to arestaurant and order baked fish than to catch and clean our own.Over 3800 American churches close their doors annually throughout the USA. The reasons forthese closures run the gamut: real or perceived pastoral incompetency, strife, infidelity inleadership marriages, lack of financial integrity, doctrinal discrepancies, power struggles,persecution, congregational distrust or dissatisfaction (only 43% of Christians surveyed say theyfully trust their church), choosing sides on any issue, and more. Its no secret that church splitsinflict damage upon the army of God. Things like divorce, death or sickness of a beloved leader,job transfers, college relocation, military reassignment and the like, wreak havoc upon the rankand file Believer. All of these situations leave the average Christian scratching his or her head inbewilderment as their brothers and sisters in Christ leave their fellowship, never to return.Is it a "bad" thing for the members of a church congregation to scatter like this? At first glance,yes. But it depends on ones perspective. Sure, it hurts, causing great emotional pain. Though itstrue, in accordance with Scripture, that if one smites the shepherd, the sheep will scatter, the"scattering of the sheep" has been happening since the early days of the church, often without anyshepherd-smiting at all. Whether it was through the influential confusion brought upon the Churchby the Judaizers (Galatians 1:7; 2:14; 3:1) or the persecution and subsequent scattering of theChurch at the hands of the Romans under Neros reign during which Peter was martyred, Godwas never left wringing His hands, anxiously trying to figure out what His next move was going tobe. The Jewish-Roman wars of A.D. 66-70 also contributed to the scattering of the saints.For the first two centuries of the Church, the Apostle Paul and others journeyed forth across theknown world to spread the Gospel. As a result of previous scatterings, while remaining true to theirfaith in Christ, scattered believers had been divinely positioned, ready to receive these travelingevangelists into their homes and give them provisions for their journey as they went forthpreaching the Gospel and as the Kingdom of God continued to advance. Again, notice how theChurch had been strategically placed, through persecution, to disciple new converts as they cameinto being. These people would not have been there to receive the evangelists, had they not beenscattered by persecution or any other outside influence that had caused their once-cozy groups tosplit up. God is always in control.WHAT MAKES A CHURCH SPLIT A BAD THING?
For starters, theres the shipwrecked faith of the weaker Christians that so often occurs. Sadly,many Christians will abandon the faith altogether in the face of a Church split, disillusioned as theyobserve those whom they saw as "solid" Christian leaders suddenly picking up stakes and walkingout the door. For anyone with shallow roots, Satan can use a church split to spiritually destroy themost vulnerable. For babes in Christ, seeing the world through rose-colored eyes, nothing onEarth can compare to the sweet fellowship from which theyve found nourishment. Suddenly,boundaries become obscured. Friends become enemies. Brothers become adversaries. Andanother church-attender goes down with the ship.Another unfortunate result of a church split is that most of those in pastoral roles will, statistically,never return to full-time pastoral ministry after they lose a church or are uncerimoniously drummedout of the corps. In fact, though they still maintain a relationship with God, the statistics arealarmingly high regarding those ministers who never even join another congregation, much lesspastor another flock. Even in these instances, however, it is becoming more and more common todiscover licensed and ordained ministers working in our midst as salesmen, floor managers,telemarketers, etc. Once again, Gods people have been strategically positioned to shine the lightof Christ into the darkened life of their coworkers - those who spend more time at work than theydo at home - and the Faith at Work Movement is spreading like wildfire. No one leaves theirproblems at home. A battered wife is still a battered wife at the office. A dad whose daughterturned up pregnant still has a broken heart while managing his crew. I served for 5 years as aworkplace chaplain myself and found that ministry quite fulfilling and appreciated by the staff.WHAT GOOD CAN COME OF A CHURCH SPLIT?To answer this, we must first recognize that God is more concerned with our individual characterthan He is in our comfort. Satan and God have one thing in common, friends... theyre BOTHtrying to kill us. Thats right. The only good Christian is a dead one! We MUST decrease in orderfor Jesus to INCREASE. In other words, the world must see more of HIM shining through our livesthan they see of US. We have NOTHING to offer that matters in light of eternity besides He Wholives in us, the Spirit of God.So, what are we made of? How strong are our Christian marriages? How strong is our church?How strong is the sweet fellowship of the saints? Rest assured, the dreaded "rub" will come.Everything WILL be tested. It MUST be tested. Tried by fire. The REFINERS fire; the fire thatcauses the dross to rise to the top as the silver is purified, allowing the silversmith to see His ownreflection in the product, testifying to its readiness for use. See, the Lord only builds with fireproofmaterials. As the hay, wood and stubble are burned into ashes, once the smoke clears, stone andsilver are all that remain. So, burn, baby, burn! Jesus was tested and we will be, too.That Christian who stands praying while his beloved church is crumbling, and remains faithful tothe Kingdom of God REGARDLESS of what happens to a building made of brick and mortar, hasreceived the highest order of strength, straight from the foundries of Heaven. Its the grace of God.When unjust persecution comes, when unjustified crucifixion becomes our lot, we can call uponthis grace to empower us so that we may remain true to the cause of our Christ, regardless ofcircumstances. Only the Spirit of God can keep us on course. We can not live vicariously throughour godly, spirit-filled ministers. Our Christianity cannot be typified by our worship style, preachersgifting, size of assembly, cost of the sanctuary, or the scope of our pastors TV ministry. We mustresist the deceptive thinking that God is so enthralled with our particular church group and its
exciting ministries that He no longer sees us as individuals.Part 2HAVE IT GODS WAYGod says a really strange thing in Exodus 23:38. He states that He will drive out the enemies ofIsrael by sending hornets. In other words, God would arrange it so that the Israelites would noteven have to fire a shot - their enemies would be "bugged" to death. Imagine an army of hornets,lined up, stingers at the ready, awaiting the directive of Earths Supreme Commander and Creatorto drive out Israels enemies. Just crazy enough to work! But its an order that never came.Unfortunately, for the Israelites, it seemed too simple an answer to too big of a problem. So, in alltheir wisdom, they chose to fight their own battles rather than trusting in the same God that haddelivered them from Egypt using flies, frogs, and then fed them with manna from Heaven and quailevery night. The result? Nearly forty years later, it was their children, not they themselves, whowould enter the Promised Land.The point? Gods ways are not our ways. Theyre much HIGHER than ours. Victory can be oursonly when the battle is the Lords. He will share His glory with no man. In the midst of the pain andsuffering inflicted upon ones soul during a church split, imagine a seemingly silly thing like prayerserving as a balm for the soul. Yes! Pray for those who are siding against you! No one can hatethe one theyre praying for - no more than we can despise a garden over which we might toil. Wellchase away the rodents, well water and weed and, ultimately, rejoice as the field bears fruit. Butwe can never hate that over which we toil in prayer. God is able to cause our greatest enemies tobe at peace with us.THIS IS A TEST!Beware. The day of crisis is coming to your congregation or denominational camp. It HAS to. Thething MUST be tested by fire. When discord and backbiting, divorce and disharmony abound, howwill we conduct ourselves? Amazingly, in my experience with church splits, Ive noticed that bothsides feel quite justified in pulling out the sacred Word of God and using it to bludgeon oneanother. The Scripture, intended to bring Life, now yields only death among the saints at thehands of all out civil war. Which groups convictions are from the Lord? When is an issue importantenough to abandon all attempts at unity and reconciliation? There was never any greater act ofinjustice than that which took place on Calvary, the day of our Saviors crucifixion. Peter didntspeak out against it. He wasnt the only disciple not to utter a word in protest. Jesus was led "as alamb to slaughter" and did not even attempt to defend Himself. Even God turned His head as Hecould not even look upon Jesus, Who became sin personified on the cross for our sakes.In light of this truth, what critical, all-important, "paramount" issues are we debating over in themidst of our own congregations right now? Folks, our commission is to "go and make disciples." Ifour focus were upon that and ONLY that, living our lives in such a way before men that we mightwin some, functioning as epistles read by all, there wouldnt be time, or the need, to lobby andlegislate against sin by political means. We wouldnt have the energy to debate the color of thecarpet. Were supposed to be making the world jealous for what weve found in Jesus. Instead,weve allowed ourselves to be transformed from a counter-culture to merely another sub-culturewith a political agenda, quoting verses at a world that doesnt even acknowledge the Book from
which those verses came.They see our disharmony and they are NOT impressed.GOING OUT OF BUSINESS, OR DIVINE CLOSURE?Many years ago, in Fort Worth, Texas, I had the privilege of experiencing an official, God-ordained, church closing. In this situation, the pastor testified to receiving a vision from God whileout of town at the same time the church leadership team was having dreams and confirmations, allpointing to the fact that God was instructing them to shut down their church. Both partiesconfirmed the testimony of the other that God was leading them to forever close their doors. Whywas God leading these people to do such a thing? The people were happy, they were reachingtheir neighborhood, they loved each other and had a good thing going. What could have been thereason? Quite simply, the Lord had new work for each of its members to attend to.The "closure" service was held in the presence of several other churches with whom this particulargroup had been relating to for some time, including the team on which I had served. Many peoplewere eventually absorbed into these loving churches with which they had established arelationship. The pastor spoke; the other leaders, too. One elder told of how God enabled them tobecome debt-free in a very short period of time and even give their long-time, faithful secretarysome severance money over and above her final check. Members of the congregation performeda one-act play, each actor displaying one of the many emotions that were surely being felt by thechurchs soon-to-be former congregants.Strangely, the number one comment I heard from the moist-eyed attendants was "I wonder howmany OTHER churches should have closed their doors years ago?" Frankly, I wondered thatmyself.Ironically, though I left the church I helped establish while it was in its seventh year to follow thecall of God to my current home town, two years later, in its ninth year, on Easter Sunday, thatchurch, too, had a closure service of its own.Though many people from my own prior congregation have scattered, the fact is, as the lovelyfaces of scores of people flash through my mind, to my knowledge, nothing but good has come ofthese closings. I speak with many of them via email and telephone and Im delighted by the praisereports Ive heard. Interestingly, the financial blessing that has occurred in many of their lives hasbeen the most obvious good to come of it.WHOSE KINGDOM IS IT ANYWAY?Folks, this thing we call Christianity is all about Jesus Christ. He alone is all anybody really needs,whether they know it or not. We can quote Scriptures till our halo burns out, argue and Scripture-whip the unbeliever silly. Its futile for we cannot intellectualize a person into salvation.If lost people need Jesus and Him only, guess what the Christian needs? Guess what the churchneeds? You guessed it.... CHRIST! And nothing else will satisfy. Not even a new carpet or re-striping the parking lot.
Jesus is faithful to complete what He began. He will never leave or forsake us. He didnt come toestablish a denomination or build a cathedral. He created this thing we call "The Church," theekklesia in Greek (meaning "called out ones"). As with creation in general, Jesus created it and Heholds it all together.Heres a newsflash: No matter how overwhelming your personal or corporate churchcircumstances may appear to be, theyre going to get worse.You read that correctly.As we grow in our relationship with Christ and He increases in us, He also increases the scope ofHis dealings with us. Again, its character, not comfort that God desires for His kids. He wants toconform us to the image of His Son and nothing burns away human flesh like a baptism by holyfire.When the seas of turmoil and confusion begin to swirl uncontrollably within your church, forgetabout digging into your church leaderships bag o tricks. Instead, find your true north. We mustdetermine how Jesus would have handled the matter (in a word, "crucifixion"), and do likewise.Heres the battle plan: 1) love unconditionally everything with a pulse 2) relentlessly forgive, rightand left, preferring others to ourselves 3) with wreckless abandon, empathize with others andstrive for unity, and 4) focus entirely on Jesus, the Way, as the sole solution.Find out what the opposition needs... and GIVE it to them! Go exceedingly beyond what they couldhave ever expected you to do. Then, hide and watch.What God does next will amaze everyone concerned.Part 3CHURCH WARS: A KINGDOM DIVIDEDThere are many reasons why church wars begin. Though there are times that the issues may becritical and involve the spiritual integrity of the church., generally, we choose sides over veryinsignificant issues.For example, Ive been told there is a church down South with a roof thats green on one side andred on the other. This was done because some members of the church adamantly wanted greenand other members adamantly wanted red. The disagreement was so intense that the church wasgoing to split because of it. Finally, a compromise was reached. Unfortunately, the red and greenroof is a monument to the community of the kind of silly disjointedness they might find if theybecome a part of the Body of Christ.In relationships, whenever we see "the other side" as the problem, weve been deceived. Peopleare never the problem. The PROBLEM is the problem. We attack each other when we should joinforces in attacking the problem. Likewise, church problems are NOT the Churchs real problem.They are a symptom of a much deeper problem. The color of the shingles was not the issuetearing the church apart. Yes, it may have been the issue that caused the friction, but the churchhad other issues that needed to be addressed, and probably still does. Yet, in our desire to choose
the path of least resistance, we opt for putting band-aids on that which requires major surgery. Inessence, we prolong the agony of the inevitable. Usually, the underlining problems are verycomplex and have been in development for generations.A congregation experiencing significant problems over "superficial" issues should seek outside,objective help. This is where the role of a church-planting apostle can be invaluable. If this is notpart of your denominations organizational make-up, a trusted senior leader may serve just as well.Sadly, just as some struggling married couples are reluctant to seek help, most churches functionin the same way. They see a request for outside help is an admission that they cant handle theirown problems. They see it as a sign of weakness rather than a potential position of empowerment.A church pastor or leadership team believes they should be about the business of helping othersand dont want to admit that they need help themselves. The sad reality is that, by NOT seekinghelp, those they thought they were helping may be hurt beyond repair as the result of a churchsplit.Though I pray Gods grace upon you should you ever face the ugliness of a church split, the realityis that most Christians will have this experience at least once. Whether you define "church" as thesteepled building or whether yours is of the cozy "home group" variety, where humans areconcerned, disagreements are bound to erupt. Theyll know we are Christians - not merely church-attenders- by our love for one another. When we who have the Bible and the Holy Spirit as ourGuide and Teacher openly display to our community that we are unable to get along, what hopecan we offer to the world? We must make them jealous for what weve supposedly discoveredthrough our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.Otherwise, the Church shall remain the #1 cause of atheism on planet Earth.ABOUT THE AUTHOR Michaels mission is to bring Discipleship and Encouragement to the Bodyof Christ. Since 1999, he has broadcast over 300 hundred inspirational articles and a dozenbooklets on subjects that will interest the thinking Christian, all designed to accelerate the processof spiritual development in Gods people. He is the founder of t.e.a.m. ministries(firstname.lastname@example.org). An Author, Pastoral Counselor and Teacher, his eMail broadcasts, knownas "Your Town for Jesus" are reaching millions around the globe WEEKLY. Writeteam1min@aol.com if youd like to SUBSCRIBE. A licensed/ordained minister, a CertifiedWorkplace Chaplain, and a Professional Member of NIBIC, he has ministered in Methodist,Pentecostal, Charismatic, Baptist, Disciples of Christ, College and Cowboy churches. He is also aSpeaker on the Christian Speaker Network and may be available to speak to your church orChristian group.Article Source:http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Michael_Tummillo
==== ====What to do when your church is closing? Find out here.http://churchrealty.com==== ====