Why Do Churches Close?
This past week I was surprised to learn from the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s web site that a local megachurch is closing its doors. North Heights Lutheran Church in Arden Hills, Minnesota is conducting its final service today. Founded in 1946 with a 450 seat sanctuary, NHLC had grown to a peak of 3,400 weekly worshippers that met at two locations. In recent years, attendance dwindled back down to a few hundred.
I first became familiar with North Heights in 1996. One of my co-workers at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was a member there. Later that year I visited the church for the first time when Randy Clark spoke during a conference. In 2000 I attended meetings at NHLC that featured videos by Bill Gothard. Nine years later, I got to hear John Paul Jackson minister there. Having been raised in a traditional Lutheran church, it encouraged me to see another Lutheran church having guest speakers who function more in the supernatural things of God.
Various reasons have surfaced regarding NHLC’s demise: financial problems, downsizing and congregation members not approving of a new female pastor. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “…and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Churches often close not because of outside persecution but from problems within. One survey cited the number one reason people stop attending a particular church is conflict and gossip (see James 3:6).
Then again, I have a friend in North Dakota who pastored a church there for a number of years but then felt led to shut it down and move his family to Oklahoma for a season. Instead of handing the reins to another minister, my pastor friend encouraged his congregation to connect with other local fellowships. He now attends one of those himself.
Still I believe it’s God’s best for all His churches to grow so they have a greater influence in their communities. But if a church strays from sound doctrine and teaches things contrary to Scripture or don’t allow the gifts of the Holy Spirit to function, then it should close its doors.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” - Psalm 127:1