Monday, May 26, 2008

The Churches of Podunk Township -- A Parable for our Time

I'm sure you've heard the old story about the churches in Podunk township....The first Church was "The First Church." But, they split and the new Church went down the road and became "The Second Church." But then that Church split and that little group formed a new Church and called it "Peace Church." Meanwhile, the First Church after years of relative peace (as in "rest in...") had another big fuss and they split again, and the little dissedent group went out to the edge of town and they started "Harmony Church." After a couple of years several families from each of the churches -- First, Second, Peace and Harmony -- found that their current churches were no better, and much smaller than was First Church. Not only that, but they weren't growing because the members were all fussing with each other. So this little group started a few "fellowship groups" and before long, they left their respective churches and planted "Unity Church."

Now, consider for a moment "church math." Back when the First Church was the "only" church, it ran 500 on Sunday mornings -- quite respectable for a town of 1800 people! But when they split, 100 folks formed the Second Church, and that left ony 300 at First Church....? Then, when Second Church split, 35 people founded Peace Church, and that left 50 at Second Church....? And when First Church divided again, 75 went out to start Harmony Church, and that left 150 in First Church...? And finally, when those noble folks saw all the carnage of the years of division and strife, 50 of them went out and started the Unity Church, leaving 110 in First Church, 45 in Second Church, 25 in Peace Church, 50 in Harmony Church, and 50 in Harmony Church. So now, 280 in Podunk attend church on Sundays -- 220 less than attended 20 years ago. During the same 20 years, the population has grown to 2000. There are literally 5 times more churches than there were 20 years ago, yet 44% less people in church....?

The Pastor of First Church says people don't come to church anymore because they are no longer loyal. The Pastor at Second Church preaches that people don't come to church anymore because they don't like it when the church preaches truth and takes a stand. The Preacher at Peace Church says that people don't come to church anymore because the world has got too much to offer and they indulge in the pleasures of the world rather than seeking peace with God. The Pastor at Harmony Church says people don't come to church anymore because the church isn't doing enough to make them comfortable and at home in the church. The Pastor of Unity Church (and his board of Elders) agree that there is just too much divisiveness and bitterness in the Body to attract people to the Churches.

So, the Churches of Podunk Township continue to hold "revivals" at which no one is really "revived." They hold "Evangelism Rallies" at which no one is saved. They have "Church Growth Conferences" after which no churches grow. They even have Christmas cantatas, and Easter Sunrise Services, and Homecomings, which pack out the Churches -- for one Sunday. And they still have Wednesday potluck suppers followed by prayer meeting -- and they gain weight, but not many people come to pray, and not very much happenswhen they do.

Is your town "Podunk?" Are you a member of one of these churches?


copyright 2008, J. Dale Weaver, M. Div. All rights reserved.

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