Is the Church Dying?

Tree in WintersmPew research, newspaper articles and a quick look around many sanctuaries in America have given rise to the question, “Is the church dying?” That question has been asked for decades now, but I’ve heard it far more frequently in the last two years.

My answer is, “I certainly hope so.”

Now, before you burst a blood vessel, let me explain.

I’m not talking about the gospel. I’m not talking about God’s mission in the world. I’m talking about an institutional expression. I love the church, but in order for the church as an institution to thrive I think it has to be in constant re-formation mode. The church needs to die in order to experience resurrection. If that weren’t true we’d still be doing the mass in Latin (don’t hate me if you love the Latin mass!) There’s something about new wine and old wineskins in all this.

As I look out my window the trees in my front yard are thriving, a veritable explosion of green growth. But it won’t be long before those same trees will appear to be dying. Brown. Leafless. On those days I choose to trust that spring will again follow winter.

As we look across the landscape of churches in America I also choose to trust that life always follows death because the power of resurrection is woven into the very fabric of creation.

How do you see God hard-working your church? Where do you see signs of new life?

Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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