church cannibalism.

kathyescobar church stuff, crazy making 10 Comments

I’m going to be blogging a little bit more than usual over the next few weeks because this summer I’ll be taking a break here and I want to get out some of the things that have been swirling around in my head before then. If you get sick of hearing from me now, you can always come back in the summer when there’s nothing new here and read some of these posts then, ha ha.

This will be short and sweet, well, not so sweet.

The other day a few of us were talking about a growing church here that just keeps expanding and killing off smaller churches. He said, “it’s kind of like cannibalism.”


I like to call it church cannibalism.

To me, church cannibalism is when a new or crazily-dedicated-to-growing church comes into a neighborhood and sucks a whole bunch of Christians out of existing churches, causing those communities to die or struggle desperately to survive.

I see and hear about it all of the time, and it makes me feel a little sick to my stomach. I’ve seen so many dear pastors come and go, so many well-meaning churches who have lost people to the megas when their smaller communities tried to become more missional and relational and dedicated to the simple and small. I’ve seen the carnage that church expansion can leave behind. I’ve seen church travelers move from one cool place to the next, in search of the best teaching & preaching & kids programs & best-team-to-be-on.

I am extremely grateful that The Refuge doesn’t suffer from church cannibalism because the reality is that we are the church of the last stop for most everyone here, and so there isn’t a draw to whatever’s new or shiny or trying-to-attract. Plus, most of us don’t exactly meet the church-draw-demographic.

However, it is so painful to see so many dear and amazing communities I know here and in other places around the USA lose their identities because people flocked to the next-new-thing and left them behind, leaving their former churches with decreased budgets and empty buildings and all sorts of baggage.

Oh, how I know that it points to a broken system on a macro-scale, and that there are so many things wrong with the overall system, not only this one small issue.

And it’s definitely not just one-side’s fault.

It’s easy for me to blame the big churches or the exciting growing church plant, and there’s no question that I wish that there would be so much better collaboration and cooperation and working together as churches in the neighborhood. That everyone would play nice and be dedicated to the common good instead of empire-building-and-hoarding.

However, I can’t blame it all on the churches. It’s also the people-leaving-to-find-the-next-high’s fault, too. The draw of the grass being greener, the music being better, the preaching being more inspiring, the kids program being cooler is so enticing. Until people wake up and break their addiction to inspiration and being on the winning team, the same cycle will continue and new big wow churches will gobble up the small simple humble ones. Survival of the fittest will remain firmly in place on a communal level.

I’m not saying that everyone has to stay in their churches forever and never leave. Of course, sometimes it’s just time to make a change.

But I do want to highlight that a lot of churches are continually being cannibalized by church cannibals, as believers are enticed to seek the next coolest thing and draining the life out of existing communities.

I was going to make a vegetarian joke but I think I’ll just leave it at that.

What do you think of this idea of church cannibalism?