Summary: Are you wasting God's resources and gifts propping up a dying church?

1 Cor 4:1  Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 

2  Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 

1 Peter 4:10  As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 

If your church were a business would it be foreclosed or filing bankruptcy? When interviewing you are often asked where you see yourself in five years. Let's look back five years.

Has your church increased in membership or declined? Has anyone been saved or is your baptistery a home to spiders, dead crickets and lizards? Of any new members you received were they new converts or just folks disgruntled or bored at other churches? How many major expenses would it take to totally defund you and force closure? How many members leaving or dying would it take to make you close because you cannot pay the bills?

If these questions fit your past five years what do you think the prognosis might be for the next five, if you make it to five years? Can you honestly say that you are being a good steward of God's resources and spiritual gifts by maintaining your current practices? If someone would ask you to invest in a business and the prospectus given you looked like your church situation would you invest in that business? Would you continue to put money into a business that has declining sales, cannot keep employees and whose capital assets are declining and the real property is deteriorating? Unlikely, unless you would gain some sort of tax advantage by buying a failing company.

You say that the Church is not a business and you are correct though many run their church like one. Still a steward is one who manages assets. As a pastor, you are an overseer/manager or under-shepherd of God’s people and His resources. As a member, you are using God’s gifts and resources to support a ministry. You will be accountable for your stewardship at the BEMA. Thus it makes sense to evaluate if those gifts and resources are being wisely used and if there is no outreach, conversions, baptisms, growth or positive impact to the community are you then being a good shepherd or steward?

A good shepherd would lead his people to where God was working rather than just holding on to his position. Indeed, in a thriving ministry he may find a place where his gifts would be better used and he would be more fruitful and fulfilled. Indeed, several churches merging with the pastors co-pastoring might well see more interest in Christ as it would shock the unbelievers. Seeing your people in a place where they can grow and be fruitful as well should be a rewarding experience.

I know a few churches where five years might be stretching it. Members transferring to nursing homes and cemeteries will cause a closure. Why wait until the bitter end when you can do better? The Churches in Revelation did not make it out of the first century. Many churches are hung up on their being a hundred or more years old, yet if there are only seven members trying to maintain a building it is really a museum, not a church. It could possibly be repurposed into a rescue mission, homeless shelter, food pantry or something else to carry on its memory or legacy. It could be sold and the money given to those types of ministries or missions.

I have been in small church ministry most of my time since my salvation in 1975. I have seen the struggles. I have seen the frustration. I have seen the discouragement when someone leaves the church and no one comes in to replace them. I have been involved with financial struggles. I have been in some very rundown buildings that I felt if I sneezed too hard it would fall down and I have walked on floors that were almost trampolines. I have been in poorly lit buildings that still had the old dark wood paneling and there was no money for remodeling. None of these places would have still been open if the people were good stewards.

I am not talking about the only church of a given faith in fifty miles. I am talking about churches where there are numerous churches of the same faith sometimes within three miles or less in any given direction. I once tried to merge a church of thirteen and one of seventeen that were three miles apart and neither church had a pastor. That was some years ago and I suspect neither may be open now. There were six others that all eight could have merged and had a moderate membership that might be able to grow. None were open to that and yet they will want to be be in Heaven together just not in the same building. They would rather go down with the ship then continue to sail for God. That is sad.

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