Facing Grim Realities with Resurrection Hope

As we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus in this season of Easter, we are reminded once again of God’s power to bring the dead to new life! And God is alive! “Christ is Risen!” we declare with all enthusiasm and confident faith. This is Good News! I believe, trust, and celebrate it! But the troubling question I often struggle with in the face of the resurrection reality is why so many churches look closer to death rather than reflecting new life in Christ?
Across protestant denominations in the United States in the past two decades, 2 to 3 percent of congregations close their doors for good in any given year. If anything, this trend has likely accelerated due to the pandemic. Here in LCMC Texas, we have seen four churches hold their final worship services in my seven years in this position. Across LCMC a 2-3% closure rate would equal approximately 20 congregations annually that cease to exist. This reality may be masked as our total number of congregations slowly increase due to churches joining from other denominations and new churches being planted to numerically overcome these losses.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Years of struggling with weight and healthy physical habits have resulted in this present reality for me. Like the church, the statistics for diabetics are not great. I was referred to a doctor who has helped me to confront the reality of my unhealth yet did not leave me without hope. Instead, he pointed me in the direction of some lifestyle changes that, if I make them a priority, will greatly increase the likelihood that I live a full and healthy life.
Is there any hope for dying congregations? Yes! The answer is congregational revitalization. Missiologists define a congregation in dire need of revitalization as one that faces closure in the next five years. Statistically speaking, 10 to 15% of congregations will close in the next five years, which means this is not merely hypothetical! But it does not have to be this way for your congregation. There is hope for churches with leaders who are willing to confront the reality of their congregational unhealth. Churches can be pointed in the direction of making lifestyle changes that, if they become a priority, can greatly increase the likelihood that the congregation will remain healthy and vital for generations to come!
Much like the changes that I need to make to improve my health are challenging, the journey of congregational revitalization is never easy. It does, however, need to be a priority for congregations that are unwell. The Good News is that God desires to breathe new life into our churches and you are never alone! Christ promises his presence with you! And as an association of congregations devoted to the mission of Christ, we are here to help. If you find your church to be unwell and in need of revitalization, I pray that you have the courage to start the conversation today!