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Declining Church? Try Selling Aerial Yoga!

People aren’t coming to White Rock United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas like they used to. Attendance had gotten so low in recent months that leaders were wondering if they would even be able to keep the doors open. But then they had an idea.

Tai Chi.

Zen meditation.

Yoga.

And aerial yoga. Whatever that is.

Mitchell Boone is the church’s senior pastor and he says that, “We were spending way too much money to keep the doors open and the lights on and the staff paid and Sunday morning going, and so it was clearly a move out of desperation. We were close to death.”

You could make the argument that the death had already happened. It’s just that no one at White Rock United Methodist Church realized it. When a church sees its primary mission as keeping the doors opened, that church has already died. When leaders forget that the church is a body, not a building, the pulse of that body is gone. The breathing has stopped. And it’s likely too late for resuscitation.

Boone said that it got to the point where, “We could no longer afford to maintain a 60,000 square foot facility.”

There are a few ways to solve that problem without having to resort to bringing in goats for a Tuesday morning yoga class.

First, you can get rid of the 60,000 square foot building. Despite the reports you read, not all churches are declining. There are plenty who would gladly pay to make good use of that space. On top of that, remember that the growth of the church that is documented in the book of Acts happened without the modern trappings that we tend to associate with the church today. People were just moved by the Spirit and meeting in each other’s homes and as a result the world was changed. All without a large fellowship hall and gymnasium. Imagine that.

Second, it’s important to consider the reasons for the decline in attendance. Notice that I said reasons. Plural. Because no two churches are the same there are a host of factors that impact attendance. But one of those factors is usually the teaching of the church. Over time, as a church abandons the gospel, people tend to vote with their feet and find somewhere else to go. Who wants to get up early on a Sunday morning to hear a sermon, sorry, I meant talk, on how the resurrection of Christ is really just allegory for resurrecting our personal awareness and self-love? I’d rather stay home and do aerial yoga.

Leila James is a long time member of White Rock who loves the church’s new plan for keeping the doors open. “I attended the yoga class and I remember one day we got the giggles because we were just enjoying it so much and we thought, ‘Well, this is the way church should be. We should be able to have other aspects of our lives here.”

No it’s not.

Church should not be boiled down to “getting the giggles” and spending more time in a building.

I’m 100% in favor of laughter and I have no problem with buildings. Both are great but neither should be the primary mission of the church. Jesus gave us a better mandate than simply keeping doors opened, the calendar busy, and the people entertained.

The health of a church cannot be measured by its attendance or the size of its buildings. If you really want to know about a church, find out what they teach when they’re inside the building and how they live outside of it. If either aspect is not centered around the truth of God’s word, it’s no wonder that the church is declining. In fact, the surrounding community would be better off if the doors of that church were closed.

What’s the point of being a part of a body that has denied its head?

And he is the head of the obeyed, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Colossians 1:18 (ESV)

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