Hospitality or Theology: What causes Church Decline?

Posted: January 15, 2012 by Ty in Musings, Spirituality
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I know when one sees the church in the media it is easy to believe that the division and leading cause of congregational closures (deaths) is due to theological issues ala scriptural interpretation, marriage doctrine, et al… this would be a fallacy from my experience.  I have been traveling with renewed vigor within the church for the past 15 years in both quote/unquote Liberal & Conservative churches, what have I discovered?

That the sins of Sodom & Gamorrah which was not homosexuality as so many have espoused but rather a failure on the cities to care for the stranger, the traveller (inhospitallity is never clearer than desiring to gang rape to travellers let me tell you)…this is coupled then in the Gospels when Jesus sends out his followers 2 x 2 and tells them that towns that won’t welcome them in (being hospitable) and the theme is once more picked up again within the letters of John.

So where does this leave us? Simple, the love of neighbour that God commands us too, is shown through our hospitality so, I guess truly it is a theological argument, because to love God we must love our neighbours as ourselves…

What does this mean? Well I have been well travelled in life, and served/been discipled in many different church traditions to name a few:

Youth Pastor within the United Church of Canada in Calgary (Specifically: Foothills, Symons Valley, Campbell-Stone, helped out with Central).

Youth Pastor with the Presbyterian Church in Canada (specifically: Centennial (also attended their Vacation Bible School as a young lad)).

Director of Youth & Children Ministries with the Anglican Church in Canada (Specifically: St. George’s—also I was the first baby baptized there).

Pulpit supply with Centennial Presbyterian, Campbell-Stone United Church,

Adult Bible Study Instructor at King of Glory Lutheran Brethren Church

Lay Professional Leader at Prince of Faith Lutheran Church (was also on the board).

Also served as a board member with Foothills United Church, and a Warden at St. George’s Anglican Church.

Was a Lay Minister of Praise and outreach volunteer at St. Thomas More Catholic Church.

Was a Young Adult group leader at Rockyview Alliance Church

Aided with the youth at Calgary Church of Christ

Week of Service with Rosscarrock Church of Christ

Taken Spiritual Directions Training, Global Faith through Emmanuel & St. Chad in Saskatoon Theological Union

Also part of conferences at St. Andrew’s at STU

Earned my B.A. from Alberta Bible College

My M.A. from Canadian Theological Seminary

and I have been a visitor/preacher in several small churches across Southern Alberta.

So this has been my experience of the bad (I will let you reader connect the dots on where you think this has happened):

  • Children dancing and playing in church compared to the den of thieves that the Pharisees had turned the temple into (mass spam e-mailed out to the whole church).
  • Elder members stating “Children do not belong at Good Friday service”
  • Priest apologizing for children being at Good Friday to appease
  • Spam e-mail to church members about the evil of their youth pastor teaching youth to live their faith, love God, read their bible, pray, and ask questions…labelling youth pastor with term “messiah complex”
  • Church board ordering the youth pastor to ask community youth to leave the youth group as they were an “untoward influence upon the other youth”
  • Seniors in the church adopting community youth at the 8 a.m. formal BCP service and sharing worship together
  • Baby Boomers telling youth to leave church service as they did not fit in.
  • Accessible ramps built outside the church so those who are differently abled, and not phased if they cannot join into after church activities
  • A Priest standing up during offering and stating “I served this week overnight at Inn from the Cold with our guests. It is not right that these hard working families have to bathe in sinks, so I ask you to give from the heart as there is a plumber downstairs right now putting in showers for us, and well we need to pay him”
  • We can’t have addicts in here, they just make the place trashy, and smell of smoke
  • We have a member in a wheel chair that can’t join us for potlucks, so we have put in an elevator, today’s offering is to pay for it.
  • A spam e-mail about what was learned in church as a written attack that children are out of control, parents are disrespectful, and there is no Godliness in the younger generations
  • A youth pastor who renewed the sunday school, and planted the youth group, told when the position became paid that he would have to apply as the church council was not sure that he was qualified for the job.
  • Families, and church members opening their homes to host youth events, bible studies and youth retreats as the church does not have a building.
  • A board stating that a ramp was not needed as the end of the parking lot sloped downwards for those who had mobility issues.
  • A church having a few members with walkers putting in a lift between floors so the entire church family can be together
  • Offering their building space to new canadians to grow their community together.
  • Long term members walking out on sermons and meditations
  • After leaving the church to go to another church to aid a family member, having the former church use myself as a scapegoat for all that went wrong with the church.
  • Professor equipping new pastors by clearly pointing out which denominations are cults, and which ones should cease to exist or die.
  • Church splits and arguments where pastors are publicly lynched, fired.
  • Members stating that children should not be in church
  • Maintaining a church’s youth and sunday school, offering to continue as unpaid staff if the money is used to invest in curriculum materials and the offer being rescinded because at 31 and 12 years of building ministries, working outreach was “unqualified”.
  • A strong differently abled young adult population that was active in the youth group still, the church education council deeming that they no longer could attend (killing the youth ministry) and leaving 3 members wondering why the church hated them.
  • Leaders of churches debating on what made a valid baptism, and stating this or that made the believer invalid

Each and all of these things happened in the myriad of different churches and circumstances, yet there was a core ethos the name on the building did not matter, it was if the believers in the pews and their leaders were living into and out of the love that is God the fruit was healthy, for the harmful fruit it was congregations and leaders that paid a lot of lip service to the idea of family, community, and trusting God (i.e. more impetus on the money coming (or not coming) in, rather than what the church is called to be…the soul of the community.

Further thoughts:

  1. Is your building a useful tool of ministry and outreach? A gift to the community? or an albatross that has become a money pit?
  2. Are your council members people who are called or just the ones that make eye contact and you take them to keep charitable status?
  3. Would church members give money even without the tax credit because they believe in the ministry of your church locally, nationally and internationally?
  4. Is your pastor spiritually healthy? Living a well balanced life? or burning out? Do you know the difference?

More to come on this journey through recovery as I continue to look at what the idea of hospitality means, later though…


  1. giocare black jack says:

    Anyone could not consent more considering the concerns anyone introduced upwards.

  2. Hospitality is Theology: Turning Decline into an Incline « A Robin Hood's Musing says:

    […] Hospitality or Theology: What causes Church Decline? […]

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