1 Cor 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
My wife and I had the marvelous privilege of traveling to Vermont with our family last month. Amongst all of the wonderful sight seeing was the realization that there are a huge number of wonderfully constructed church buildings some of which are several hundred years old. This would have been energizing for me as a movement leader of churches in WI and the Up of Michigan. However, what struck me over and over was that these churches were now either “relics” of a time gone by, or they had been “re-purposed” to something other than a place of worship.
An old church building makes for a great museum—especially if a former president attended there. An old church building makes for a great nick nack store selling coffee, trinkets, and local art work—the woodwork was awesome. An old church building can be re-purposed to any number of things but what is clear is that the gospel was no longer the focal point of the site. What a tragedy for the Northeast.
In a day when many churches are plateaued or declining, I wonder what will become of their buildings in 25, 50 or 100 years from now. Will they become relics, antiquey coffee and trinket shops, or wonderful structures to behold from the outside? What must happen in order for the local church to NOT be one and the same as its building? What must happen so that the proper safety gaps can be put in place to prevent the demise of a once rich spiritual movement? All of this is a candid reminder that the local church is only a generation or two away from extinction.
Here are 5 things every church must do to avoid extinction
- Relentlessly differentiate the church from the building
- Routinely preach the gospel to the convinced so we never forget our need for grace
- Passionately focus on health and not just growth
- Be determined to never tire of enfolding new people and welcoming them no matter their baggage
- Effectively make every weekend service an opportunity for people to connect with God and others
I wonder when those Vermont “churches” drifted away from the gospel. I wondered what had them get more involved in maintenance or social concerns or infighting and divisiveness. The local church is only ever a couple of generations away from becoming a farce instead of a force. When applied, the gospel keeps the heart broken, humble, and teachable. It keeps a congregation alive and focused and impactful. The gospel is the jet fuel for the passion for worship.
I pray that the Converge Great Lakes movement of churches will never drift from these 2 tenets and that the movement begun some 200 plus years ago by the Swedish immigrants will burn fresh and anew in current leadership. We are a movement focused on starting and strengthening churches worldwide.