One of the most dangerous situations any church can face is comfort. When we’re comfortable, we can lose sight of reality. Someone riding on a raft on the Niagara River could be enjoying the ride for a while, but eventually, that is going to come to an abrupt end. Similarly, too many churches are riding along feeling very satisfied and enjoying the ride, seemingly oblivious or maybe just not concerned enough about what awaits them to do any more than go along for the ride.
The end of that joy ride is too often devastation. Since I have been the Executive Director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention, I have witnessed too many of our member churches reach the end of their ride. In fact, in just the last month, three of our churches have decided to close their doors. There just weren’t enough people left to keep going. While the sudden loss of three churches is alarming, we need to understand that this has been going on for years. Today Montana Southern Baptists have essentially as many member churches as they did 10 years ago, despite starting more than two dozen new churches during that time.
The reasons that churches give up are probably a little different in every situation. One church I visited with a while back said they were just too tired to keep going. They were without a pastor and the leadership was keeping everything going, but they couldn’t get the few remaining members to do anything to help lighten the load. The few other members were getting what they wanted and apparently that was enough for them.
Sometimes, churches just die. Maybe the community dwindles down to nothing or too many key people in the church move away too fast for the church to recover from the loss. Too many times, there is just too much conflict among church members. Other times, though, there’s just too much comfort. People are satisfied with the way things are and they don’t want any change.
One thing we can all be sure of, churches are either growing or they are dying. Now, just like our bodies, it can take quite a while before we realize our bodies are dying, but they will let us know eventually. The same thing can be said for churches. Often a church can go along for quite a while without doing anything to add new people. There are enough people there. Everyone is happy and all is well. In these situations, the people in the church can be lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that this can go on forever. It can’t.
Eventually a church that is not reaching new people is going to find itself in crisis mode. Then it will rush about trying to make up for lost time, desperately looking for that magical thing that will pull them from the brink. Usually that never comes along, and that church just slowly loses energy, and people.
Don’t let this be the fate of your church. Enjoy what you have now, but don’t get too comfortable. Reach out to new people and be constantly adding to your numbers. You may not have the same cozy, familiar church surroundings that you’ve come to enjoy, but you’ll have a better chance of always having a church to go to and some good Christian friends to worship with.
Christmas and the New Year are some of the best times of the year to meet new people and bring them into the fellowship of your church. Look around in your church the next few Sundays. You’ll probably see someone you don’t know. Welcome them. Have a meal with them. Get to know them. Some of them may very well be your church’s future.