Monday, June 04, 2007

Euthanizing the Local Church

Dr. Jack Kevorkian is out of prison and back in the news. This is the man who infamously "assisted" people in committing suicide because their lives were no longer worth living. The justification for this macabre practice follows along these lines:

1. The person's quality of life has vanished.
2. The person's usefulness is gone.
3. Death is imminent.
4. Dying is better for this person than living.

The problem with all of these excuses is that it assumes that we are able to make value judgments on the life of an individual. Fortunately, we are not in a position to impose our judgment of "life value" onto any individual, including ourselves. We belong to someone else, and since He stamped every individual with His image and likeness, each person ought to be treated with the dignity of something precious.

Anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ ought to understand the value of human life. Yet, I find that the arguments for "letting a church die" to be eerily parallel to arguments for euthanasia, as if the local church had no intrinsic value. Is it possible that a church planter could become a Kervorkian church planter? I'm not talking about letting a non-gospel believing church go its way; I'm talking about killing a church of "like faith and message," just so we're clear.

Look at a few of the arguments above for euthanasia and then apply them to the rhetoric often used in discussing church planting. One, existing churches that are not "growing" are thought to be expendable. They are virually ignored in church planting strategies and are "allowed to die." That's the thought, but in reality the new plant next door does more than allow an struggling church to die, it helps to end its misery.

But what about the dying church that is set in its tradition and does not want to do outreach and has lost hope? I argue that such a church has tremendous intrinsic value. Brothers and sisters, did Jesus shed His blood for the church or didn't He? It is the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ that makes a church valuable, not growth and evangelism. Therefore, the dying church itself has no business deciding whether or not she should continue on the path to oblivion. What she needs is a shot in the arm and someone who loves the church enough to die for her like Jesus did. To die a thousand deaths by committee, deacon boards, bad music, inbred discipleship and fellowship. And while this pastor is dying a thousand deaths he must cling to gospel and continue to offer its hope to the sick church and to any passers-by in the marketplace and on the highways and byways of life.

Why should he do this? Because the huddled group of twenty elderly, visionless saints have value, and I believe that God can do a miracle in the midst of that group. In fact, I believe that such a group has greater potential for growth than pastor plus zero.

In the next installment I'll begin to walk through what I believe it takes to restore health to a struggling congregation. I'll give you one hint: it has nothing to do with a re-vamped music program.


centuri0n said...

I love it that you're a pastor, Brad. More pastors should suffer for the sake of their churches rather than at the hands of their churches, if you see what I'm sayin'. After I finish the Zens paper, I'm going to come back to this topic at my blog.

Even So... said...

As I said last week, the timing on these posts is very providential to me...I look forward to your further thoughts...

Rebekah said...

I'm here by way of Lisa Writes....

As a church member who is struggling with quite a bit of discouragement and frustration in our local church, but still committed to her, I am greatly looking forward to what you are writing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have to say that the Lord is working in me - part of me has wanted (and honestly still wants) to leave our church and find a new home, but, from what you and Centurion have been writing, I'm praying more about my own attitude and how my husband and I can be good members where God has us. I want to discern if the struggle I'm facing is more of an attitude problem on my part, or if the issues are really serious enough to warrant a change in church home (I think I probably know the answer to that). I'm not saying it's easy, or that it's what I "feel" like I "want," - in fact this is probably the hardest time I've ever had in putting what I believe about submission to my husband and my church leadership into practice (my husband believes we are to stay put and I'm trying to work on my attitude), but I do want to be faithful to the Lord, so I look forward to your thoughts on this, though I know you're really writing more to pastors. I'll just glean what I can!