Problems Were Reported!

Sunday morning, June 24, 2021, at 1:22 in the early morning, the 12-story beachfront condominium collapsed. The tragic and catastrophic collapse of Champlain Towers South resulted in 98 people killed, ages 4 to 92.

The most aggravating factor was that PROBLEMS WERE REPORTED! Already in 2018, an inspection had identified serious structural problems. Now in April 2021, just weeks before the building collapse, Jean Wodnicki, president of the condo board, wrote that the problems identified in 2018 had “gotten significantly worse.”

“Indeed, the observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse since the initial inspection,” Wodnicki wrote. “The concrete deterioration is accelerating.”

It is impossible to know the extent of the damage to the underlying rebar until the concrete is opened up. Oftentimes the damage is more extensive than can be determined by inspection of the surface.”

This tragedy parallels what happens before many a ministry collapse. It is not that the problems were not reported, but that the reports were ignored.

The “12 story beachfront condominiums” are the ones on the front pages of the news — RZIM, James Mac Donald, Bill Hybels, Jerry Falwell Jr., John Piper [1], CJ Mahaney, et al. These well established “12-story” ministries, at one time were believed to be powerful biblical examples that gave great hope for the cause of Christ. Until they weren’t. Until their leaders not only damaged or destroyed the institution but severely damaged the cause of Christ.

Many lesser-known “1 and 2 story condominiums” also face the same structural issues. The “collapse” will sound and look far different because they are smaller ministries. [2]

The “collapse” will be seen in diminishing attendance, tighter financial decisions, a reduction in church staff, fewer church ministries, less outreach, a drawing down on monies and assets, and even a change of pastors. Many pastors get out before the worse and/or final days of the “collapse.” Pastors move on; the people are the ones left to do the clean-up. [3]

The most aggravating factor regarding the “collapse” is that in most cases, the problems were reported! It is not that there were no signs of the structural problems. It is not that no one reported on the seriousness of the “weakening columns.” Rather, there were reports that were issued and ignored.  The reports were explained and dismissed.  The alerts were excused as one-offs.

Typically, the membership is not properly informed. The reports are sent to the “board,” and those who support the ministry are unaware of the issues — until they are not! Until 1:22 in the morning when they come to realize that the damage done by ignoring the reports will saddle their ministry for years, maybe for a decade and more. The long-term damage to relationships, and the ministry’s reputation as a whole, is not easily or quickly rebuilt. It took years to build it, and it will take years for someone to come in, overcome the damage, and rebuild it again.

There is an option . . . . 

 



1. “This was supposed to be a landmark year for Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, as the historic congregation, best known for John Piper’s 33-year tenure as pastor, marked its 150th anniversary. . . . Members who spent 10, 20, or even 30 years worshiping and serving there, who expected they would be part of Bethlehem for the rest of their lives, said goodbye to their spiritual home. “Bethlehem was the plan until we were going to be in Jesus’ arms.”
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/august-web-only/bethlehem-bcs-minneapolis-resign-meyer-empathy-rigney.html

2. One can argue with the accuracy of the numbers, but the numbers are not pretty.  In 2020, it was predicted that 1 in 5 churches will close by 2022 — “that as many as 20 percent of churches could close within the next 18 months.” [2].
https://baptistcourier.com/2020/10/how-many-churches-will-close/

3. Pastors move on to another ministry and explain to the new church search committee that the people, the leaders, a family, and/or the lack of spirituality caused the decline or collapse — not his leadership.

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