In the Oakfield Community on Highway 300 there’s an old church building that’s almost completely caved in. Mt. Zion Baptist Church has been vacant for a long time but had stayed mostly intact until recently. It was probably Hurricane Michael in October of 2018 that speeded up its slow demise.
I’ve ridden by the place numerous times over multiple decades. It’s been somewhat of a landmark on those trips, not the kind of place you stop to visit, but somewhere you wish you knew a little more about. I don’t know when the doors first opened, when they last closed, or anything that may have happened in between. It’s possible the congregation was so vibrant they moved to a bigger place. It’s more likely that shrinking numbers led to its closure.
Jane and I passed by the church on January 3, 2019, heading to her hometown of Thomasville. We were surprised to see it had collapsed in the middle, caved in beyond any semblance of a place with a purpose. There was a time when it could have been restored, but the demand for old church buildings is rather weak.
In our quick views from the road the church didn’t seem to change much over the years. It was obviously abandoned, but the flaking white paint kept stubbornly clinging to the old wooden boards. We didn’t see the leaks in the roof, or the decaying rafters hidden beneath. It’s apparent now that the long-neglected building has no structural integrity. That’s been the case for a while, but it happened so slowly it was almost undetectable.
I expect there are plenty of places to worship in the Oakfield area. I doubt the collapse of an old church building will impact the spiritual welfare of anyone. But as I looked at those crumbling walls it reminded me of a bigger problem that affects every community. It’s the issue of the church that is caving in spiritually, the church that has lost much of its spiritual integrity.
I’m not talking about any one congregation or denomination. We can all point fingers in almost any direction including toward ourselves. I’m talking about the church as a whole, the church as the body of Christ, the church as a group of born-again believers, the church that seems to have caved in to the pressures and alluring temptations of society.
Today’s church often seems more intent on offering a smooth ride rather than following the straight and narrow path. Our mantra could be “Ruffle No Feathers.” We avoid those issues where taking a stand is awkward or costly. We’ve almost quit talking about sin because that can easily become offensive. We’ve grown accustomed to the murders of unborn babies under the guise of women’s rights. We accept the glamorization of immorality through our remote controls. We let our children spend their allowances to elevate indecent behavior to rock star status. We choose to get along rather than stand alone. The Apostle Paul would not be welcome in many of our pulpits.
I’m not saying we’re all guilty of all those things. I’m saying too many of us are guilty of some of those things. I don’t have the answers to a myriad of problems, but I know what God told Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV). “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” God gave Solomon a four-tiered plan that can still work today. The prayer part is easy to embrace, but the rest of that scripture is problematic. It requires an inconvenient level of commitment.
The collapse of an old building in Oakfield is not very important, but it reminded me of something that is. A caved in church is just an accumulation of caved in individuals. God won’t hold me solely responsible for a caved in church, but He won’t excuse me for a half-hearted effort to shore up some sagging rafters. I’m going to try to do better on that. If you feel there’s a need, then maybe we can be partners in the effort.