Vision 1: The Ecclesiastes Church
I have always believed that when king Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes he was reflecting on the lessons he had learned over the course of his life as a wise man. Now, having reached the end of his days we find him bitter, seeing life under the sun as cyclical, not linear. Hence, his opening words:
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
–Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV)
Having tried every option in pursuit of happiness (Ecclesiastes 2) Solomon found himself wandering in circles, unable to discern a way out of his morass. Consequently, his next generation would divide and begin a descent into confusion and turmoil that would ultimately lead to the total demise of the northern tribes of Israel and destruction and exile for the southern tribe of Judah.
Churches can find themselves following the same cyclical pattern. Believing that they have arrived they lose the pressure to adapt and change to meet the needs of their community. They become internally focused, keeping house, doing the same things the same ways for the same reasons. They become cyclical in their thinking and attitudes. Nothing changes.
In cyclical churches you can sense the hopelessness and helplessness by their insistence on maintaining status quo, keeping things the same. New initiative ideas are squashed with comments like “We’ve done that before”; “We can’t do it”; “We can’t afford it”; “People will leave in anger if we do that.”
They have lost a heart for the community and the contrast between them and the people of their neighborhoods becomes more polarized. “If people want the truth they can come to us” they might say. Thom S. Reiner calls this type of church a ‘fortress’ church. * They have lost their zeal for the world and their budgets and plans are focused upon keeping things the same. Quite a contrast to the vision Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 9.
*Thom S. Reiner, Autopsy of a Deceased Church: And 12 Ways To Keep Yours Alive (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2014), chapter 4, Digital Edition.