I once served as the interim pastor for a small church. This church could seat 400, but only 40 came. They’d fired their last three pastors and had changed very little for 40 years.
The church had been declining since its peak in 1965, and the average age of the congregation was over 70. They were bearing no fruit, and they were dying a slow death. Their “hope” was the money they had in the bank. They had over one million dollars, but wouldn’t spend it.
On Sundays when it would rain, they’d put buckets around the auditorium to catch the water that dripped through the ceiling. The money wasn’t really “hope” at all … it was life support. It was almost as if they’d forgotten that Jesus didn’t say, “I came to give them life and to give them life-support.”
This doesn’t just happen to old churches though.
It can happen to young, contemporary churches too. When our churches find security in anything other than Christ, we have started the process of sticking our heads in the sand and dying a slow death.
Mark 11:12-19 tells the story of Jesus cursing a fig tree for not bearing fruit, then immediately driving the moneychangers and merchants out of the temple. Both of these images are powerful reminders of God’s views of the local church:
1) God hates it when the church does not bear evangelistic fruit, and 2) the church does not exist for our own benefit.
All too often, the church becomes inward, focusing on our own needs, desires, hopes and preferences.
When that happens, we have become like the moneychangers; we’ve made the church about us. The tragic result of this is a church that bears less and less fruit.
I’ve seen these churches with my own eyes, and it makes me weep.