How a church dies

Our death as a church – as with any church – comes only by separating ourselves from His Headship. If we remember the gospel faithfully then nothing can destroy us. If we forget the gospel, then nothing we do can save us, or should.

— Timothy Tennent, What Is the Basis for Church Unity


8 thoughts on “How a church dies

  1. I’m reminded of Wesley’s classic statement,

    “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”

  2. Crux of our problem is that we have so much attention to a hot button issue where both progressives and traditionalists believe strongly that Bible and Jesus’s witness are on their side.

    And those “sides” have trouble hearing the truth of that or hearing empathically the other side. And our largest UMC cohort is between those 2 “sides.” They are more ambivalent or conflicted about the hot button issue (who are people we should remember!) and prefer unity. I hope we can grow in accepting the hot button as adiaphora at the denominational level.

    I am one moderate-to-progressive who cares passionately about full LGBT inclusion and participation in our church. I need to be in an LGBT-affirming UMC congregation. But okay for us to agree to disagree at UMC global denomination level. I feel our connection is enriched by some considerable theological diversity and want to be in denominational connection with both progressives and evangelicals. There is much in common (including all historic orthodoxy and our core Wesleyan heritage) for most progressives and most evangelicals.

    1. I think you speak for a lot of people, but I have a hard time saying sexual sin should be a matter of indifference at any level. It seems to me that sodomy either is a sin or it is in some circumstances pleasing to God. If it is blessed by God then it would be wrong for the church to sanction the teaching otherwise. If it is not, then the same rule seems warranted.

      However a person reads the so-called ‘clobber passages,’ the consistent concern of Scripture with the moral and spiritual dimensions of sex make it very difficult for me to imagine adopting a stance of indifference toward the topic.

      There are few topics the Bible treats as regularly as the topic of sexual immorality. I can’t imagine we would take a position of indifference on the setting up of idols or giving false testimony or refusing to forgive. So I have a hard time seeing why it would be warranted on this topic.

      But, as I say, a lot of people agree with you on this.

  3. And we usually think of death as sudden like in an accident. It’s scary that it can be slow and subtle.

  4. The Christian Church is not going to die.
    The UMC may die. The PUMC may die. The Baptist denomination may die but the Christian Church will not die. For every Christian Church that dies another is born and usually before the death of the first.
    When Jesus made promises he said he would keep you can be 100% sure those promises will be kept. As long as one Christian is standing Christianity lives.

    8 Understand, you senseless among the people;
    And you fools, when will you be wise?
    9 He who planted the ear, shall He not hear?
    He who formed the eye, shall He not see?
    10 He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct,
    He who teaches man knowledge?
    11 The Lord knows the thoughts of man,
    That they are futile.
    12 Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord,
    And teach out of Your law,
    13 That You may give him rest from the days of adversity,
    Until the pit is dug for the wicked.

    14 For the Lord will not cast off His people,
    Nor will He forsake His inheritance.
    15 But judgment will return to righteousness,
    And all the upright in heart will follow it.
    Psalms 94

    The people of God will not be cast off and the Christian Church is Christ’s inheritance.
    Christ is not going to loose his inheritance and scripture teaches he will guard his church.
    That you can count on.

  5. …and God disciplines those whom he loves. That’s how we recognize we are God’s children. We should expect NOTHING LESS for United Methodism in this hour. We are being disciplined as children, and the corrective is painful, salty, stinging, sanctifying, cauterizing but curative. There is no way forward except through God’s discipline in love. We should not attempt to minimize or euphemize it. I pray for it daily in my own life.

  6. I believe many churches have become a very dim light, if any light at all, because of the consistent internal compromises made for member discipline. And by discipline I mean the accountability each member has to the church to make sure false teachers, false prophets, and sin does not have an opportunity to take root. I think compromise was made out of fear of losing members, fear of always being just a small church, churches in the same community vying for the same church goers, and guilt….because sin was a part of so many members lives. If we allow life style compromises to be acceptable within the church, then life style compromises will go unchecked Mon.-Sat. . Now a days you can pretty much live any lifestyle you desire and still be a member of a church and get some sort of “feel-good” covering over shame and sin by being seen going to church each Sunday.

    I think it would be beneficial for a lot of UMC leaders who are beginning to realize that God is calling them out from where they are….specifically….out from under the authority of an institution that has revealed itself to have broken away from God’s Word and headship, and study Abraham.

    God’s call to Abraham was not an option given….it was a demand. He demanded that Abraham leave the basis of his security, trade, and identity. Basically he was ordered to transfer his orientation from his “homeland” (denomination in your case) and his lineage to God and God’s promises.

    And what was Abraham’s response. Did he wait around? Did he ponder day after day, week after week, month after month? Did he endlessly analyze what he knew he had to do? Did he look for some middle ground option to pursue instead? No…but in unwavering obedience to the divine call….Abraham accepted the call and the new identity that came with it.

    Like him….all of you UMC Pastors and leaders should have the vision to see beyond your own lifetime and have the wisdom to understand the importance of making sacrifices for future generations……and expand your vision beyond your time to be eligible for your retirement pension.

    If you ask God to help you begin over, help you trust Him and His promises to you, and help you to overcome your fear of change….He will help. Ask Him for grace to make a fresh start and the wisdom to hope in the future….He will hear you….you know.

    In fact….why not do one thing today….don’t wait….one thing today to begin to live out the future God Has promised you. Take a step forward……nobody stands still for long….and stagnate water has no benefit to all those who are thirsting out there.


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