Survival Mode Ends in Destruction

Last night, I had a conversation with a friend from another church whose church is in a similar state to where the church I minister at was just a few years ago.  The poor state of finances at this friend's church has caused them to hire a part-time out-of-town pastor rather than a full-time pastor who will become part of the town.  This seems to be a growing trend in the poor rural communities around here.  The money is not there to fund a full-time minister, which causes churches to make a safe yet faulty decision that will insure their death.

The church I am at had a minister who was here for three years but never moved to town.  During this ministry, he commuted fifty minutes every day he came to the church.  The result was that the church crumbled.  After he was let go, the church then decided to not hire a minister and had competent people in the church rotate to do the preaching.  However, the church failed to have a vision cast and a shared direction to head in.  Growth disappeared, visitors never visited, and the impact on the community for the gospel vanished.  Pulpit rotation with a full-time minister might be good at maintaining the status quo, but I have never seen a church flourish under it. 

Then the leadership decided to step out on faith and hire me to do full-time ministry.  That was a bold move for a church in the situation they were in.  Now, we are growing, people are getting excited, visitors are showing up and coming back, and ministries are showing fruit.  This is because the church decided to stop dying in survival mode and chose to attempt to live.

Survival mode causes a church to not change things because it might offend people.  It encourages doing things the way they have always been done.  It creates an environment of inward focus rather than outward focus.  In survival mode, a church might get sermons preached, lessons taught, etc., but the fails to reach the community for the gospel.  It leads to focusing on not losing people rather than reaching people.  The church stops taking risks and starts to just go with the flow.  In the end, survival mode does not cause survival but dwindling as the church forages around the wrong well, the well of human desires and demands rather than the well of Jesus.

I tried to encourage my friend to spur his church on to taking risks.  Throw off the shredded survival clothes and risk it all to grow.  Because if they don't, the church will die anyway.  It is dangerous trying to really live rather than just survive.  But in the end, we serve a mighty God who wants His Church to flourish.  It takes valuing Him and His will more than anything.  Despite the near moments of implosion, the risk is worth it even if it fails because we are doing the work of the Lord. 

The same is true with our lives.  If we go in survival mode rather than continue on living, we will miss experiences that God has planned for us.  We need to live a life of risk, go wherever God leads, and do whatever God prompts us to do.  We will see that struggling to live was worth more than surviving because through struggling, we will learn how to truly live.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" Jesus in John 10:10 (ESV).