Today I got to fulfill one of my more challenging responsibilities. This part of my responsibility goes by several names: the closer, the heavy, the undertaker and to some just that mean man in a suit. Today it was my responsibility to go to a small church pray the morning prayer, receive the offering and preach the message. Then at the end of the service I had to make an announcement: Your church is closing. Fortunately we believe we have identified a pastor and a small group of people out of another church who in a few short weeks or months will begin having services in this building. Yet in the meantime the church is closing. In the congregation today were eight folks, seven are older than 75. the ninth person in attendance today was someone walking down the street who happened in to visit our service. On the platform of this church there are no musical instruments. There was no one to sing or lead in worship, there was no choir or worship team. As in most churches everyone sat in the last two rows. one gentleman was the usher. I did everything else. Including making the announcement that brought me to this place today.
This church building sits two blocks from the most famous sports venue in the world. It sits in a part of our city that is undergoing revitalization. The sanctuary of this church is lovely. The building is clean and comfortable. Let me tell you about the eight people that call this church home,they are the hardiest, most resilient, most kind people I have known. Today there were six in Sunday school and nine in morning worship. Over the years this congregation was considerably larger. Several of the pastors have been friends of mine. It is one of those churches that has been a witness for Jesus Christ. They have indeed fought the good fight. But today it was apparent there’s not much fight left. At one time it was thought if we just bring in a young pastor with children, we will attract young families from the community. That was two pastors ago. The slide began some time ago and we have come to this place today.
I made the announcement that this would be the last Sunday that they would be holding services, I gathered the people and thanked God for their faithfulness and for the untold good things that have happened down through the decades that this church existed. I have had to make this announcement on a few other occasions and it’s never easy for the congregation. This group was as kind and resilient and godly as any group of people I have been around. They gave me a key to the building. The lady who has been acting as treasurer said I’ll continue to write bills and pay things as long as you’d like me to, another said I am willing to continue to clean the building for free as long as you need me to do that, I will be available. At the end of the service all eight of the individuals indicated that they wanted me to have their phone number and addresses so that when the new church starts they would like to come and be a part, because they want to see something happen in their community. Even the gentleman visiting gave me his phone number and address and said he is excited to be part of what the church is trying to do in this community.
So I haven’t conducted an autopsy, and I have not assigned blame, I just once again thanked God for faithful, good people who serve the Lord and stay faithful to their local church even when it’s painfully apparent that something is seriously wrong. These people are not to be criticized but rather commended for their selfless example. Yet we are aware that we are going to have to find more effective methods to reach this community. You see it’s not just the church that’s changed, the community all around the church building has changed as well. The message remains the same but our methods absolutely must change.
Today was bittersweet, there’s nothing more sad than when the guy in the suit says ‘we’re done and we’re going to need to move a new direction’. The little crowd that I was with today displayed the characteristics of holiness better than many people I know. Please keep this congregation in your prayers as we seek to re-organize and move forward. You might also pray for your church because the goal is to make Christlike disciples in the nations.