While getting my oil changed at my local car garage, I relaxed in the slightly broken in red couch and read the entire 100 pages of the book Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive by Thom Rainer. The book was simple to read. Easy to comprehend. And stomach churning to digest.
Having been involved in working with a local church (and some of its sister-churches) that was convinced that it was struggling (but not convinced that it was dying) and temporarily convinced that the idea of resuscitation was a good thing, some of the elements of the autopsy were all too familiar.
Slow erosion. The past is the hero. Refusal to look like the community. No longer gospel-driven. Preference driven. Purposeless. These are some of the familiar elements mentioned in the book.
No matter if you think you church is healthy, symptomatic, very sick, or dying, Autopsy of a Deceased Church is worth a read. The chapters could wake you up to warning signs. Or the chapters could help you pinpoint specific problems undermining the health of the congregation. Plus, the book offers hope for symptomatic and sick churches and excellent pastoral advice for terminally ill congregations.
In fact, if I have any qualms with the little book, it is that the second half, 12 responses to the question, “Is there hope for the dying church?” could have been longer and more fully developed. The responses for three stages (My church has symptoms of sickness, my church is very sick, my church is dying) are thoughtful and clear. I only wish that there had been more body to the responses.
I wish that Autopsy had been written years ago so that maybe, just maybe, the book may have been welcomed as a healthy reality check. A few of the sister churches have died. My old local church, that I served for years, is still around; and I still pray that the remaining members and new leadership blood can break free from the habits that were slowly eating its life away in the past.