Signs of Rigor Mortis

For the past thirty years, as a nonstipendiary Episcopal priest, I’ve been watching the institutional church’s demise, wondering if it will die or reform as part of the quiet Reformation the church is going through.

What are some of the signs?

  1. The institutional church is badly fractured. When I came into the ministry in 1957, just over fifty different Christian denominations existed. Today, there are over 40,000 different kinds of Christianity. This causes infighting and division. I find it difficult to even define the word Christian, much less be labeled one.
  2. This is the twenty-first century. Most people do not relate to the Bible or what happened 2,000 to 5,000 years ago. The Bible is religious history, not a behavior manual. It has become more of a weapon than a source of inspiration.
  3. The institutional church is big business and has to make money or go out of business. Jesus and his primary message of agape have been lost in the efforts. Many folks see the church today as more of a cult, a political machine, and a self-serving, irrelevant, and negative influence on our society. Those inside the institution have a difficult time seeing this.
  4. The institutional church does not like change or science. It keeps hanging on to the past. For example, the church becomes unbelievable when members insist that the earth was formed 6,000 or 7,000 years ago, no matter how much proof exists that proves it’s well over four billion years old.
  5. The church has become so political that many are leaving and few are joining. A large majority of the people who have marked “none” on the religion portion of their census have no interest in becoming involved in such negativity.
  6. Even the present structure of church buildings, often with costly edifices and large properties, has become a negative. Folks are no longer willing to give money to fund staff and property maintenance, especially with a small congregation and empty pews.
  7. Most people don’t relate to the institution’s antiquated, unbelievable theology. To an outsider, most of the church’s theology is preposterous.
  8. Because the church is in survival mode, it doesn’t place much emphasis on helping the hurting world or giving outside that church. When new people walk into a church service with only a small number of “white heads” (a.k.a. old folks), they aren’t interested.
  9. In the past, churches counted on the idea that the next generation would take over the leadership and carry on. Today, that next generation isn’t even attending, leaving a church with little hope of a future.

All the above signs don’t attract folks but repel them, but it’s not hopeless. In my next blog post, “A Peek at the Future Church,” I hope you will be able to sense my optimism.

How do you see it?

Peace Love Joy Hope Kindness



Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

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