The life cycle of a church: Is your church a movement, monument, museum, or morgue?
James Shupp has recently published an interesting and informative novel, Who Killed My Church? about a dying church and its pastor’s last efforts to turn it around. This is a fictional story yet you’ll recognize the problems as the plight of hundreds of churches across the country. And Shupp writes from his own experience as a pastor of a once mega church trying to reclaim its glory and significance in the community.
With humor and great storytelling, Shupp takes the reader through the fictional Green Street Baptist’s struggle to reclaim its purpose and mission. If you have been involved in a church for any time at all, you’ll probably swear Shupp used members of your church as his characters and just changed their names.
In the story, the church hires a consultant to help the leadership come up with a plan to revive their church. Shupp lays out the seasons of a church, starting as a movement, slipping into a monument, then becoming a museum and finally dying at the morgue stage. As the consultant cleverly explains this to the leadership of Green Street Baptist,
All churches that began as a movement have a way of getting stuck in a moment. When this occurs, they transform into monuments that do little more than honor the past. Nostalgia can roll through a house of worship like a heat wave on a summer day. A church that collects too many of these monuments ultimately becomes a museum. There are pastors and staff all across America who feel more like curators of a museum than men and women of God with a fire in their bones. If this trend isn’t reversed, these churches will ultimately become morgues. The frozen chosen are always the last ones to turn out the lights. Don’t let this happen to you.
I’ve experienced the slow transition from movement to monument while on staff of churches and have coached churches that were in the museum stage. So I can attest that although the book is fictional, the story is relevant, compelling and inspirational.
Check out the chart from the back of the book. See if you can identify which season your church is in. If your church is a monument or museum can you return to being a movement? If so, how? See how it’s done in this wonderful book, Who Killed My Church?
Visit John Walters’ blog, It’s Your Calling.
This powerful story reminded me of Francine Rivers’ novel And the Shofar Blew that portrayed a pastor taking his first church assignment; trying to do all the right things. He soon encounters unexpected obstacles to navigate; as he tries to not lose his family in the process. It also reminded me of another dramatic fiction – true to life story written by Randall Arthur titled Wisdom Hunter. This novel reveals aspects of an unhealthy church. It shows a legalistic pastor facing tragedy and for the first time realizes he’s played God in his own life and that of others. He then encounters God like never before, it’s a life changer.
Who Killed My Church? falls in line with these intense-true to life novels. This author grabbed my heart and attention from the very first page and never let go. Churches all across America are facing the same issues Pastor Pete is facing at Green Street Church. This scenario is all too common as pastors and church members lose their way and try to recapture the spirit and momentum of the glory days.
Pete’s been the senior pastor of Green Street Church for five years and in ministry for 25. Offerings were down, which led to pleading for money from the pulpit; which led to people quietly leaving the church. Why wasn’t this church growing? What was going wrong? He thought he was chosen to restore this church back to its spiritual heyday. This wasn’t supposed to happen on Pete’s watch.
The board was calling for a change, Pete suggests a direction they hadn’t expected. They needed help in uncovering why everything they tried at Green Street failed. In walks Marcus Cunningham, a church consultant, author, founder of Movement Strategies. Marcus talks to the board about the life cycle of churches. I found it fascinating and true. Marcus shares, “…Churches start out as movements; then they become monuments, next museums, and finally morgues.” “…changes are happening everywhere. I travel from church to church across the country, and the issues are remarkably similar. For every new church that opens, 4 close their doors. 85% of churches in America are either plateaued or declining…”
Green Street church is in the middle of a spiritual battle for its life and that of their community. Green Street has been a thriving church. What’s gone wrong? This author gives readers a peek at a church and its people who are willing to take God out of the box they’ve placed Him in. They start to see with new eyes and have a fresh awareness of how God is working in their community. They are amazed. It reminded me of the Bible study my husband and I did years ago titled, Experiencing God. It was a powerful and life changing experience. Just like the study this book will open your eyes and heart in unexpected ways if you let it.
I highly recommend Who Killed My Church? as a book club pick, there is so much to discuss. I also recommend it as a must read for the body of Christ. I wonder how many Christians have given much thought to the situation the church is in right now. Many churches in America are in trouble. This novel touches on just one scenario. It’s a fascinating, disturbing and hopeful read. You won’t look at church or your pastor the same. This author has a unique point of view on this matter because he has been in ministry for over 20 years and is currently in the process of helping to heal churches so they can be vibrant and meaningful again. I’m excited to see where this author will take readers in the next book of this series. Visit Nora’s Blog