article reminded of my first Kodak an Instamatic with the spinning cube flash on top. No one under the age of 45 has any idea what I'm talking about, but in a way that's the point of this post. To everything there is a season, that goes for Kodak, Pan Am, and Woolworth as well as your local church.
Leaders are always shocked, SHOCKED when a church begins to decline in attendance. The interesting thing is that every church eventually stops growing, if not then we would see churches with millions of members that are hundreds of years old. And if its God's will that churches should grow forever then every church Paul planted was out of God's will because none of them are around today. Just like businesses churches have a life cycle. Most newer churches grow for 15 years and then level off. Some exceptional churches grow for 20 years. There are very few examples of churches that actually grow for more than 25 years.
But there is hope in Kodak's legacy. From the CNN article "...there are the people: Even though the company has cut thousands of jobs, much of its generally well-educated workforce has stayed in the area, many starting tech-related businesses." Though their core business is gone (have you bought a Kodak camera lately) the pioneering legacy of founder George Eastman lives on in the entreprenural spirit of Kodak's final generation of employees. In a way Kodak will never really die.
And that is the hope for every church. We can vow to break the mold and pour all of our resources and energy into sustaining a growth curve for 15, 20, 25 years. Or we can begin now sowing substantial time and talent in discipling and training a new generation of church planters who will take the seeds of our oak tree and plant an orchard (via @johnworcester). If you want to see your church live forever invest in young leaders and send them out into the field well-prepared and richly resourced. Be like Kodak.