All Visible Churches Fail

    That's right. All visible churches fail. Just like all governments fail their constituents and all parents fail their children.

    I usually avoid using absolutes like "all," but in this case I will stick with it. This statement is similar to saying all weighted objects fall in a context of gravity. All finite entities do fall short in a context of infinity.

    Visible churches live in a context of infinite needs and desires, even in one individual created as he or she was to host the infinite God. Furthermore, churches aim to operate under the supervision and for the glory of the infinite God. A visible church is a finite entity in an infinite context. It will fail.

    Visible churches also live in a context of increasing and seemingly infinite obstacles: ubiquitous secularization, public breakdown of morals and mores and even morale, societal marginalization of the Bible and therefore rising biblical illiteracy, mushrooming demands of work or school on every family member hoping to get ahead or just to pay the bills, and continually fewer volunteers to keep the weekly services staffed. A visible church is a finite entity in an infinite context. It will fail.

    So grieve if you must, rage if you must, but let the church fail–fail you and your children, fail in its purpose and calling, fail one day even to open its doors perhaps. Let the church fail. God will not let His plans fail, so I as a pastor can take my hands off the church and see what God will do with a community totally surrendered to Him.

    I tell you this is not an easy lesson for me, not in my personal life and not in the life of my church. But I also tell you that the humility this attitude generates and the doors it opens to new depth and love in relationships is by far worth the struggle to learn. And I have discovered that if I ask for it, God, the infinite God, will assist me into surrender. I believe God will also assist any church toward surrender to God.

    What I mean in calling for this surrender is a giving up on the next method, ministries map, or management ploy, the next program, preacher, or policy, to save the church. Surrender is a giving up without despair. Surrender is a giving up with the newest and strongest hope you've had in years. Surrender is to keep on doing the churchly things if you have the means, but from a totally new and different perspective. Surrender is openness to God from a failed position. Surrender lets God in. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.)

    Therefore, the first and pervasive step and stance in visible church transformation is surrender. Because all visible churches fail.

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