Op-Ed: Church in Recession – Is This Your End?
Church In Recession: Is This Your End?
By Vinnie MacIsaac
Every so often an economic recession comes to our great nation; recently we have had some. Recessions in our economy can quickly snowball into depressions. Thank God, (yes literally) we have dodged that bullet for a long time now, even if not by much at times, recently. But lets talk about how recessions get started and why they are so hard to stop! The way it happens is when a recession is even hinted at hitting, people stop spending, stop buying, and stop trusting the market. The problem with that is the lady in the morning at the coffee shop you stop by needs her job to pay her rent. So, when you cut back, she gets laid off (fewer coffee workers are required), and when she gets laid off, she does not pay her rent. When her rent is not paid her landlord can’t pay the mortgage, and the bank forecloses. Now the former landlord can’t buy his morning coffee, and even fewer coffee workers are needed. At the same time, property values keep dropping, and people start panicking, and it keeps snowballing. It is not all that simple, and the economy will not collapse because you give up coffee, but the basic idea is when you pull back from a broken system, you make the broken system worse for yourself and others.
The same is true for the church. When a church gets into a spiritual recession, as all churches sometimes do, and the church members start cutting back on her spiritual investment, the economy of saving souls and making dynamic disciples for Jesus starts to head towards a massive depression. It can quickly get bleak. When a church gets into bleak times, you can tell quickly by a number of people who jump ship.
Every pastor is famous for that one saying he keeps saying that annoys everyone, but he refuses to stop saying it until the Saints "get it." Guess what? I am a pastor, and I have one of those sayings, and it goes like this.
God is a million times wiser than the most prudent banker on Wall-street. God’s economy works like this:
When it is a safe investment, God invests his most treasured resources (people) into the church. And when it is a bad investment he gets them out of there before the crash comes.
Is your church headed for a recession or worse, yet, depression? Should you stay or should you go?Is your church headed for a recession or worse, yet, depression? Should you stay or should you go? Here are suggestions to help you if you are facing such a battle.
1. No, don’t go! They need you! You can’t leave them at a time like this! Yes, I know I just said, God pulls people out when it is a bad investment but guess what? You’re not God. So unless He says, “Go!", He has you there for a reason. Yes, I know John the Baptist said, “I must decrease so He can increase,” but that is not what he meant!
2. Get out and do it now! Yep. Wow, only on number 2 and I am already contradicting myself. But I have lived it. I was once in a church where I thought everyone else was the problem, not me. If that happens to you chances are you’re the problem! God, moved me, and I ended up planting a church with a group of like- minded believers and many souls were saved. Oh, in case you missed it, the point was God moved me. Don’t leave a church that is in trouble unless God clearly calls you to another church that really needs your help even more.
3. Step it up and shake it up! Our tendency in sick churches is to step back, move away, come less. But guess what? That is why they are sick! Why not try, instead, something new. Invest more but maybe in completely different ways and ministries.
4. Pray for people to leave. I know, I know; this again sounds like a contradiction. But it is perfectly in line with #1 and #2. You should not move, nor cause others to move, but God can. You don’t even have to know who He is doing it too (no, you can’t make suggestions). Why not pray, “God, if there are people who refuse to heed your mission, impress it upon their heart three times as much as ever before. However, if they refuse and they continue to attack your mission, please send them elsewhere so they can be happier.” Warning, if you’re the problem person and don’t know it this prayer could still work.
5. Pray for the right people to come. The church is, too often, already filled with unconverted seculars and cultural Christians. Pray for God to bring you these three key groups of people: 1) Mature believers who are utterly sold out in love to God and his mission. Pray for a) Young believers or seeking nonbelievers who willfully energize the church and b) Nurturing and healing souls whose spiritual gift sets help to resolve the conflict.
6. Eat more… I mean it, and I mean it. Invite people from your church over to eat with you more. Invite them out to a restaurant Saturday night. Get together and do decaf Starbucks. The early Christian church ate together daily. We barely see each other weekly, and then, only in one context (worship) and we are then expected to love one another. Yeah, that is not likely, unless you spend more personal time with each other. Nothing breaks up a good church squabble like a pan of hot chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven (unless you’re fighting over health reform). Seriously, though, eating together is a time of intimacy that aids the Brotherhood connection at churches.
7. Take a break. Yes, I said break, not a departure; unless #2 applies to you. But sometimes we all get burnt out and contribute to the low morale. Take a break, not many breaks, not breaks on and off all the time, just a break one week, two at the total max, rest up and come back knowing you are ready to practice the steps above.
Jesus, best said it this way, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34 If all churches did this they would not be dead. If your church does not do this, why not let is start with you. Your spiritual recession may end when you start spiritual spending again and jump-start the economy of the church! At the end of the day, this Ship belongs to Jesus. Be careful how you treat, and most certainly what you say, about it. Don’t jump ship. Dump your doubt and that way you can know you are not part of the problem.
Vinnie MacIsaac is the pastor at Solid Rock Seventh-day Adventist Church in Arlington, Virginia. He blogs about church life, pop culture, and anything else he finds interesting at SimplyVinnie.com, which is where this article first appeared.