The Church is dying.
But you probably knew that.
Now the tricky part: what will be the cause of death?
Option 1: The Church went broke. Certainly a very real possibility, many churches, no matter what their locale or their membership are struggling. The cost of health care and other benefits are out of control, and monopolize a congregation’s budget so much so that other things need to be cut. Combine this with the cost of property insurance, and the cost of just doing mission work, and it would be very easy for someone with even the smallest amount of business knowledge to easily conclude that operating a church is no longer financially viable in any location.
Option 2: The culture strangled the Church. Again, a very real possibility, the culture would like nothing better than to tell the Church what it should believe, and government regulation is making it so that the Church either conforms or be put in prison for hate speech or openly disobeying the law. The Church by definition is calling people to put aside the ways of the culture and to take up the things of God; yet the world is constantly pushing first with popular opinion, and then with the inclusion of false religions, that the Church is that still small voice that is being drowned out by the noise of society.
Option 3: The Church committed suicide. The membership of the Church became fat and lazy and no longer showed concern for the unbeliever; the number of in-actives greatly exceeded that of the actives; and even those who are active do not study the Scriptures, they do not do daily devotions, they do not practice their faith in any way other than to attend worship services, if and only if, there are no other conflicts. Those who do attend worship services are more interested in making concessions to false beliefs, then they are to defend the true doctrine of the Church.
What is your guess?
There really is only one option however. The Church may suffer financially, but the Church is not supposed to make millions, it is supposed to devote its resources to the furthering of the Gospel throughout the world. And while money may make spreading the Gospel easier or more comfortable, the reality is that the Gospel is spread through one-on-one contacts; not flashy pamphlets or big production videos and websites. The Gospel does not need money to survive, it needs people.
The same is true with the culture. The Church is the voice crying out in the wilderness calling people out of the culture to repent and believe the Gospel. The culture will always want to go against the ways of the Church; the Church’s job is to be a strong confession of faith in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation. The Church is to cling to its confession that it should be willing to go to prison and even die for the Gospel.
Which brings us to option #3: the Church will not die because it went broke; or because the culture overwhelmed it. The Church will die because the people, the believers, stopped believing, stopped practicing the faith, stopped clinging to the Word.
Despite claims to the contrary: the Church can survive and even thrive wherever it is established; but the Church dies, regardless of location and population, when the baptized stop living like the baptized.
The Church is dying a slow and agonizing death, not because of finances or culture, but because of the membership. This is not a terminal disease, the Church can be resuscitated by repentance and forgiveness, but the medicine is bitter to swallow.
Will the Church take its medicine?