Church Closings are Cause for Alarm
The announcement that another Ohio church was closing barely made news last week. Church closings have become all too commonplace in recent years, leaving us to wonder what our world might be like if a day comes when there are no churches at all.
It may seem unthinkable that one day there may be no houses of worship, but we would be foolish to think that such a scenario could never happen.
The most recent church to close was St. Mary’s in Conneaut, Ohio, which has served its parishioners for the past 136 years. It is the ninth Catholic church in the Diocese of Youngstown to close in the past two years.
Sadly, church closures are not limited to one region of the country. The Diocese of Columbus is planning to close 19 churches this summer, and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati recently eliminated three-quarters of its parishes following a 20-percent decline in weekly attendance during the past decade.
We’ve seen plenty of closures in the Methodist Church as well during that same period, and the trend is likely to continue. Perhaps it is possible that the church as we know it will disappear from the earth as prophesized in the Book of Revelation.
Ryan Burge, a political science professor at Eastern Illinois University and a Baptist pastor, said that just 30 years ago, only seven percent of American adults identified as non-religious. Today that number has grown to 30 percent, and the future looks even more ominous.
“We’re going to see a massive change in American religion in the next 20 years,” Burge said. “We’re going to see whole denominations closed, just shut down and stop operating in any meaningful way. We’re going to see thousands of church buildings empty across America.”
Maybe he’s right. Maybe there is no hope. But we can’t afford to accept that. Our entire faith is built on hope, so we must continue to bring new life and new members into the church. It is, after all, what Jesus called us to do when he said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
We best take his command seriously…before it’s too late.
Until we meet again, Be Blessed!