Thinking ahead

"A thriving church can easily assume that it 'has it covered' because its current elders are doing a fine job and its current pastor preaches well and looks healthy. Everyone has trouble imagining what the church will look like in fifty years when none of the current leaders is alive. No one even thinks about it. But Charles de Gaulle put it well when he said that the graveyards are full of indispensable men. That day will come whether we want it to or not. A church that does not think of establishing continuity with the future generations of that same church is, in principle, a church populated by short term and anti-covenantal thinkers."

The Paideia of God, p. 110, Douglas Wilson.


  1. Certainly what Doug says here is true. Churches sure are fragile entities. It does not matter how old they might be (ours is pushing 175), sometimes you feel as if the whole thing could wash away tomorrow. Today's teeming throngs give way to tomorrow's twelve old people longing for the good old days. Cavernous sanctuaries sit almost empty.

    I remember visiting an old RCA church on Staten Island. It probably seated 800 people, had a magnificent organ, etc., and 17 members. It lived on endowments. This happens to mainline and evangelical churches alike. 10 years ago, Seventh added several hundred seats because it needed them. Now, even the main sanctuary is far from full, so I hear.

    The question is, in our day when even self-professed Reformed people trade churches on a whim (this happens to me all the time --our gung-ho Reformed types are the first to bolt when things don't go their way), is how to build any kind of continuity whatsoever.

    Doug clearly has his finger on something important, but so often what we pour into others to replicate "our" ministry winds up benefitting other congregations, which I suppose is alright, but makes life tough here. I keep training leaders, and then they move or are moved by their companies to other pastures!

    Does anyone have any answers?

  2. One response would be not to lose sight of the kingdom of God for the sake of the institutional survival of a local congregation. It's sad to see, but as I'm looking more at the broader Church, I see her vitality shifts over time from this kind of denom. to that one, from this location to that one, from this generation to the next one.

    From my view there are too many (pastors included) who put their congregation first, the Kingdom second. So praise God for the leaders you've raised who are serving somewhere else right now!