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Churches shouldn’t wait to have end-of-life talks


Three years ago, in response to your requests, we launched a series called “Blessed be the Caregivers.” We talked to countless Christians who sacrifice their time and resources to be Jesus to the aging and the disabled among us.

Many of you shared stories of the difficult but necessary conversations you’ve had with your families about end-of-life issues. We appreciate your honesty and forthrightness.

Now we must have those same, difficult conversations with our churches.


Related: Can Churches of Christ be saved?


Our Page 1 coverage, part of our “Big Questions” series, asks “Can Churches of Christ be saved?” We tell the stories of three congregations — one thriving, but two others dying. We know there are thousands more across the U.S. in danger of closing.

Churches, like people, have life cycles. Some survive well past 100 years. Some revive. We’ve written about many of these churches and want to share more. Please send us your church’s stories of renewal.

But we know that many congregations do not revive. Mike O’Neal, board chair of the Heritage 21 Foundation, warns of “an avalanche of congregations whose life-cycle is nearing the end but who are woefully unprepared.” The foundation is one ministry mentioned in this month’s coverage that is dedicated to helping dying churches.

 “The tragedy unfolding in our fellowship is not that congregations are reaching the end of their life-cycle. It is clear from Ecclesiastes that sometimes it is ‘time to die.’ What is tragic is that many congregations are doing so without dignity and good stewardship.”

“The all-too-frequent outcome of declining congregations is that resources that could be used for church planting and other kingdom purposes are often just deteriorating or are being taken over by other groups with a different spiritual ethos or are being sold and the proceeds being used illegally for personal purposes,” says O’Neal, who also serves on this publication’s board of trustees.

“If there is any message we want our brotherhood to hear,” O’Neal says, “it is that all congregations, particularly those with 100 or fewer members, need to take preventive action while decision-making is less emotional and all options can be evaluated objectively and in view of what is best for the Lord’s kingdom.

“The tragedy unfolding in our fellowship is not that congregations are reaching the end of their life-cycle. It is clear from Ecclesiastes that sometimes it is ‘time to die.’ What is tragic is that many congregations are doing so without dignity and good stewardship.”

It’s too easy for us to close our ears to this message or to lash out in anger and indignity at the messenger.

That won’t change anything or bless anyone.

Can Churches of Christ be saved? Of course. With God all things are possible. Let us do what we can with what we have to provide for a divine legacy.

Filed under: Big Questions Church decline Churches of Christ Editorial Opinion

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