Summary: Stop trying to hold together what God is not holding up!
Looking for surveyors jokes/stories for my speaking engagement next month, I came across this one.
Surveyor: This house is a ruin. I wonder what stops it from falling down.
Owner: I think the woodworms are holding hands.
Rev 3:1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
I confess that I have been in a few church buildings where I thought the woodworms, termites or something was holding hands to hold it together. I was afraid to sneeze in some and wondered if I could make it to an exit if it caught on fire as I was sure it would burn like tissue paper. I wondered how they kept from being condemned as a fire hazard. No one wanted to shut down a church, I reckon.
I have a pastor friend that said that churches are like people. They are born, become toddlers then teens, then adults and at some point become nursing homes then die. I have seen many in the nursing home stage and many who are, as they said back in the day, "dead and too dumb to drop over." I know that sounds a bit harsh and the same idea could be conveyed in softer tones, but the picture would be the same.
There are so many buildings being barely held together by people on fixed incomes whose tithes can't fix the building when it is in need of repair or support a pastor. They have not won a person to Christ or baptized anyone in years, maybe decades. They have no real outreach as members, and if they have a pastor, are just too age and health challenged to do it. They may support a missionary or two at $10 a month. That is the closest thing called outreach unless they do some nursing home ministry. They have become a transitional point before they enter a nursing home themselves.
I understand tradition and nostalgia, but it is not good stewardship. It is also not good for those folks to be alone when they could have fellowship in a Body that is at the adolescent to teen stage of its life adding their wisdom to that Body and being refreshed by the youthful vitality of that younger Body. It is not good to be meeting in a firetrap or walking on floors about to give way. God does approve of safety.
It does no good to live in the past and if the heyday of your church is past, then let go and move on. What happened in the 50s-80s happened and it was glorious, but for whatever reason the glory has departed and so you should depart. Your faith is not strengthened when you try to worship in building that is in decline. Your joy and faith tend to decline with it.
Some churches are not very old and yet are in the same shape. Many came into being because of splits. My observation is that if there is a split, one side of the split or both will not flourish. God has called His people to unity, not division. If the split was not about sound doctrine, the split was not of God. It is was of the flesh and Jesus is not going to bless the flesh.
Thus if your church is 20 years or younger and it is not flourishing you have to ask yourself if it was truly founded by God or the will of men. There comes a time when you have to consider that the expense of funds and manpower is wasted when it could be fruitful somewhere else.
Yes, if your church is a mission plant where there has not been a viable church in many years then you may have to wait for fruit. Yet, most that I have seen in this condition are in the middle of a multitude of churches and not all of them are apostate so why was that one started? I don't question God, but I do question men.
I am 63, but not ready for the nursing home or even assisted living. I want to be in a Body that is alive and about the business that God called it to do. I want to invest my time and money where God is at work because that is where He would have me invest my time and money, not maintaining a museum or or mausoleum. You should want the same thing no matter if you are 63 or 93.
A flock should not be without a shepherd. If you are in a church without a pastor and have no hopes of getting one then you need to leave and find a church that has a pastor. Visiting preachers are not pastors. You may be surprised what God will do with you when you abandon the ship that is sinking or keeled over on the sandbar and get on a ship that is moving and making progress. Don't miss the opportunity to have more fruit in your life. Your last years could prove to be your best and most fruitful years if you transplant yourself to the garden where Jesus is working.