This blog is supposed to be, as much as I can, my daily journey through life as a Christian. I hope it to be my thoughts and feelings on life but be as grounded in the Christian message as it can. My intention is not to create a daily readings or bible study guide but to look at my life in terms of a Christian trying to find and follow God's mission using his Life User's Manuel AKA the Bible.

Matthew 10 19-20

And don't you worry about what you'll say or how you'll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words. - Matthew 10 19-20

Friday, September 02, 2011

Cutting back

Pruning - To trim (a tree, shrub, or bush) by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, esp. to increase fruitfulness and growth.

After a conversation with my flat mate and having being forced to watch a TV program about attempting to revive a dying village in Wales I have been thinking about dying Churches. These thoughts have been running round in my head for a number of days in a different form. This has brought me round to thinking about how we deal with small, shrinking and dying Churches.

In the UK we have a problem with shrinking congregations, reduced Church attendance and Churches withering and dying. In towns and villages up and down the country groups of Christians are fighting a losing battle to keep their Churches alive. My question is, are they wasting their time and is there a different way to tackle this problem.

John 15:1-2
 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."

Now for me it seems obvious that when something dies and has no life left in it something needs to be done. As in plants or indeed bodies if a portion of it dies then it should be cut off. If this is not done the dead or dying portion sucks up valuable resources and deprives the healthy areas of the things they need to survive. It can also be the case that these dead and dying portions become rotten or infected and because they have not been cut off they infect other areas.

As in gardening and medicine the Church should also be aware of areas of itself that have died or are dying. It is not that Churches can not be saved, unfortunately some can not, but once they are past a point is it wise to pour resources down a black hole when they could be spent expanding work elsewhere. As Jesus said, if a branch is not bearing fruit then it will but cut off, Jesus even tells us that these branches will be left to wither a dry up and then be cast on to the fire, they are no good for God if they are not doing his will. Even those Churches who are strong will be pruned back from time to time in order to bring them renewed strength.

The point I want to make is not that shrinking Churches are a bad thing, sometimes good can come from this and a Church that is pruned back to healthy stock can flourish again. However a dead a rotten Church is doing no one any good and could in fact be doing harm. I can't be the only one who thinks that the hard decision should be made to shut down dying Churches and use the money in different ways to extend God's kingdom. It is not even necessary to remove the money from the community it is in but perhaps use it in a more constructive way in a community than shoring up a failing Church.

When I think of Jesus and his ministry I see someone radical who pushed the boundaries of the status quo. I see some of the situations in the modern Church causing him to display the righteous anger from the temple. The way we are running the Church is not in my eyes in the spirit in which it started. The reason I think we see the problems we do is because we have turned away from God and are ignoring the Spirit. As I have already said they best way I see to remedy this is to return to the early Church, return to the Churches true calling. This is not going to happen if we continue to pump money into failing projects, dying Churches and continue to push our own agendas rather than follow God's.

Let me know what you think about this subject, do you have a better idea for a solution, or do you have any other thoughts on this subject. Please leave a comment below.


  1. I don't believe this is a problem limited to the UK. I know we have a similar problem here in the US. There are even churches that appear to be growing and flourishing but if you pay attention you discover that is not the case. Without strong, healthy growth the church is in trouble. Yes, pruning is necessary. Resources should be utilized wisely. We need to return to the values and purposes of the early church. Sadly, the decisions are too often made with an eye towards the bottom line rather than what the church or the community really need.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I truly think the Church as a whole is going through a very rough time and unless true believes do something to turn it around we are in trouble. Many times in the Bible God let his people struggle and suffer to learn lessons and we really need to learn ours fast. If we are not doing God's will he will find a different group who will. We need to stop worrying about the world and get on with that which we have been sent out to do.