On Creating a Church that Lasts: Becoming a Generational Community

   

Rising and falling, church buildings and groups of followers have risen up dynamically in their time only to fall into decline and decay. It is a common story. And it is one which is told across this nation every day.

Long ago the church had a vision—to create churches and church communities that lasted. They would be united as one, universal church that would stand the test of time.

The Catholic Church.

Catholic, or “universal,” Christianity dominated the west for the better part of a thousand years and is still today a global and influential church. And while many may have theological and scriptural issues with Catholics, the reality is that they have done an incredible job of being united and standing firm for hundreds of years. Their church has stood the test of time, surviving through various international struggles and strife as well as those created internally which usually lead to fracturing.

The Protestant church was created as a “protest” against the various theological and scriptural interpretations of the Catholic church in the 16th century. Since then, the protestant tradition has continued to fracture and to “protest” against various other churches formed—all springing from this singular moment of splitting from the universal church.

Denominations of every stripe and color. Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Non-denominational evangelicals, all trace their origin here.

And while the issues over which the “Protestant” church split from the Catholic church are good and solid reasons why one would want to fracture, this church movement has continued this behavior to everyone and everything it encounters. Like some sort of ingrained and unbreakable habit, Protestant churches are fractious. They don’t last. Nor can they.

On average, a church in the United States rises and falls over the course of 60 to 70 years. Others do it in less time. Some beat the statistics—but not by much. But why do these churches have such human lifespans? Why does something that should be eternal, lasting, and a testament to the holy spirit living within humanity have such a normal, short, and earthly expiration date?

Many times I have felt a burden to form a church. Like many out there, I have had a vision of what might work and long to see God move in and through a community of believers in such a way that a church arises, meeting the needs of its community and existing as a vital organ of the city which, if removed, would result in the death of that region.

This was the way the church was but is no longer.

For a thousand years, the local church was literally the heart and core of the village and city. There were no governmental social programs to which the poor, the hurting, the broken, and injured could turn. No. It was the church who took care of everyone and everything in a community. All the life and spirit of a community found it’s source in the halls of the local church.

But today the local church is some tiny, even microscopic, element in our communities and cities. And they only last for some 60 years.

Our churches do not last.

And they do not last because they are not about Christ. They are about us. And so they deserve to die.

The average church rises and dies with it’s founding pastor. Very few churches survive beyond the life of it’s original founders and visionaries. How these churches prospered for a time was because of some dynamic speaker or devoted following of one or more preaching personalities. And these churches cling to the traditions which they established. And though the world may change around them, these churches refuse to change. They lay stagnate. Unmoving. Unwilling to hand over the church, it’s preaching style, appearance, mission, and music over to the next generation. As so these churches whose original communities labored so hard to build and create slowly dies as its’ members get older and the pews get more empty.

To create and be part of a church that lasts, that stands for thousands of years, should be our dream and goal. Our church bodies need to look past this current generation which we are serving and begin to empower and train the next generation to take the church in it’s next direction.

Our churches need to become generational communities.

How beautiful and worthy would our efforts and labors be to have a church community stand for hundreds if not thousands of years and is still thriving and healthy when Christ returns.

The difficulty is that we make church all about us and not about others. What music do I like? What preaching style do I want? What ministries do I think are the right ones? While a difficult task, we need to stop being selfish churchies and start creating our own generational church communities—one’s which will stand the test of time and whose community will greet our coming Lord with open arms as we hear those sweet words, “Well done my good and faithful servant…”

THEOLOGY21 is a co-op of authors dedicated to renovating theology for a new generation, taking the ancient truths of scripture and theology and speaking to the post-Christian culture of the 21st century. To keep up-to-date on all things THEOLOGY21, Give our Facebook page a “like”, follow our twitter page, add yourself to our email list, or subscribe to our feed!
 
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