In my last blog (Tearing Things Apart: Part One), I gave you a couple examples of taking things apart. In one example, a broken thing was reassembled (and functioned once again). In the other, it never worked again and got tossed. Disassembling something can be a very unnerving (even scary) prospect. That’s one reason why most of us avoid any kind of process where tearing something down to its bare parts is involved.
The things that always get me about the first example are the parts that are left over. How can something work when there are parts left over? The reasonable answer (at least to me) is that those parts were unnecessary in the first place.
It puts me in mind of our Federal Government. I live in the DC area, and every time there’s a big snowstorm, it’s announced that only “essential personnel” are required to attend work. Essential personnel? Why do we have non-essential personnel? I’d hate to deny someone a job, but if his or her position is an extra part, why does it exist? If we took government apart and reassembled it without those positions, it would still work just as well (and maybe more efficiently).
But all these things are mere examples and illustrations of what I’m really driving at—the church (surprise, surprise). After spending my entire life in and around the institutional church, it has become more and more evident that we need to tear it apart and reassemble it.
Why? I’m glad you asked. The answer is simple. In most cases, it doesn’t work anymore. If something doesn’t work in life, we have three basic options. Option one is to attempt to fix it. Option number two is to toss it onto the rubbish pile. Option number three (the one that most of us avoid at all costs) is to tear it down to its component parts and start all over again.
Insanity–Doing the Same Thing Over and Over
The first of those options is what we in the church have been trying to do for the past several decades. We attempt to get it fixed. We do this in various ways with various people and various methods. What we’ve found, in my observation, is that very little has changed.
Depending on which statistics you believe, four to seven thousand churches close down every year. Fifteen thousand people leave the ministry every month. And maybe worst of all, about 2.8 million church members fall into inactive status each annum.
In other words, somethin’ ain’t right, folks. It’s not working. The question becomes, should we keep trying to patch it up (which doesn’t seem to be helping at all—maybe hurting), should we chuck it all (which seems to be the option 2.8 million people are choosing each year), or should we tear it apart and use the viable components to build something meaningful?
Call me naïve, but I think option number three is the way to go. I know it’s scary, but what have we got to lose? (To be continued…)
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]