Monday, January 30, 2012

Can this church survive?

I attended an SBC church down the road from me yesterday. It's a small church and I know one or two people who attend there.

My wife and I made up about 7% of the entire attendance, 30. I don't have any aversion to a small church. The worship was traditional and they had a very nice baby grand piano. The congregation is mostly seniors but with a couple of younger families and three or four kids.

When we walked in yesterday, all heads turned to check out the visiting couple. I smiled and said, "Good morning. Have you got a good back pew we can sit on, we're Baptists." One little kid waved at me. I waved back.

Hmmm, the choir loft seats 72. There is no choir. The sanctuary seats another 128 making for a capacity of 200. We attendees have our choice of seating - right, left, aisle, center, front, back. Most chose the back.

As a pastor, it always grated on me if on a Sunday or Wednesday evening Bible study or service the smallish group distributed themselves on the back half of the pews. In fact, I'd insist that folks shuffle on up closer. It just depresses me if the front half of the sanctuary is empty. "You folks in a hurry to get out?" "Are you close to the exit because you want to beat the Methodists to the restaurant?" "Scared of me?"

I hated it.

The pastor was 40ish, bivocational. He had a very nice tone and preached a challenging message. He conveyed an attitude of concern and care for the church. I like that.

Is this a church that can survive? I don't know.

I suppose that with no debt and no expenses except for those that concern the building and the part time pastor, it doesn't take much to keep it going. The last record I have available shows that the church gave nothing to the Cooperative Program or mission offerings. But that was just one year, several years ago.

Other Baptist churches nearby have improved their church facilities, added programs, and give the appearance of fairly vigorous ministry.

You know how ex-pastors think, don't you?

"What would I say in this church?" "What would I try to do here?"

It's highly presumpuous to do that. God hasn't called me to that church...but...if all the church resources are put into maintaining the present congregation...well, one shouldn't speculate.

There are thousands of SBC churches like this one. Folks who make them up enjoy their church, appreciate the fellowship, love their pastor, and, surprisingly, many are relatively heavy supporters of missions. God bless them.

Occasionally, someone will say that what the SBC needs is to close and shutter 10,000 of these small churches and put the resources where they can do more. Nonsense. No one tells even the smallest SBC church what to do, sometimes not even Jesus. They will have to decide for themselves at some point what to do.

I honestly don't know what the future is for my neighbor church. I wish the members and the pastor well.


Tim Dahl said...

As a pastor of a very similar church, I'll say this. If you decided to join, you and your wife could greatly benefit the church. Your tithe alone would increase that churches quality of life by %10.

But, will it survive? I think that a better question is, "what is the church doing to advance God's Kingdom?"

If it isn't doing very much, then tue Lord may be letting it take it's natural course.

Organizations will fight to survive, but even they may die due to stagnation, based upon their striving for homeostasis.


Jon L. Estes said...

Having been called from a large (300 on Sunday's church) to a small church (under 100 on Sundays), I believe these churches can survive, though they may be comatose in the process.

There are many churches in our association which are small in number, large in building and zilch in ministry to the community or world. Breathing but lifeless.

So what does it mean to survive? What type of survival pleases God?