What’s the right verb to describe the end of a church? [God Talk]


The Arizona Daily Star reports that the last remaining drive-in church in Tucson will conduct a goodbye ceremony this Sunday.

Hazel Coatsworth, a church trustee, said Sunday’s event will be a sad occasion, but an inevitable one since the church has been on wobbly ground for years.

She said the church has struggled financially and membership has dwindled to about 10 members. Snapp said most of the members are elderly, and what few newcomers the church could attract didn’t stay long.
“We’ve exhausted our (checking) account and most of our savings,” Coatsworth said. “I could see it coming for two years. I felt very depressed at that time. The real work of closing basically started last fall.”

“Closing?” If the church is primarily a business or non-profit organization, then closing might be the right word. If the group of believers gathered together is a building where God dwells, like Peter describes, then the correct word would be “demolishing.” If the church is Christ’s body, like Paul describes, then the correct word would be “dying.”

I’m not convinced that the dwindling of membership, the exhausting of monetary accounts, or the paucity of newcomers necessarily signifies the death of a church. Perhaps the drive-in worship service program needed to be killed, but those ten believers could still continue to gather, pray, and obey together. It’s entirely possible that those ten believers really sensed God leading them elsewhere, but I didn’t get that sense. Certainly, the Arizona Daily Star is not equipped to report on the nuances of the decline of a church, but the pastor was no where to be found to explain God’s leading in the situation. My completely uninformed guess is that this church had much larger problems than just money.

I would love to learn more from the people trudging through this.

One other point from the article that struck me: the selling points of a “drive-in” service seem eerily similar to the benefits of the “contemporary” services held at most mainstream evangelical churches each week.