As thousands of churches die annually across America, the Rev. Paul Marzahn says he’s on a mission to save others from suffering the same fate.
“The best way I think about it is to try to find out which churches are on life support and catch them before they die so that developers don’t have a chance to get in,” the senior pastor of the Crossroads Church in Lakeville, Minnesota, told The Christian Post in a recent interview. “So as long as it’s still zoned a church it can be revived by repurposing it, reselling it, partnering with other nonprofits.”
“It is hard to fight the developers. … I’m helping churches to do some strategic planning. Just like a marriage, when it’s going on the rocks, go get a counselor, right? Same thing if your church is dying. Get some help and you can come up with a strategy or plan to keep the church or partner with some other nonprofits, some way to keep the financial model going,” he said.
Estimates from LifeWay Research suggest that between 6,000 and 10,000 churches die in the U.S. annually because they can no longer afford to maintain their buildings. And experts argue that the trend will continue to get worse unless congregations make dramatic changes.
Pastor Marzahn, 55, believes helping churches find new ways to generate income, like sharing their buildings with other churches or finding completely new congregations to take over old buildings is a better response than selling dying churches to for profit developers who have no vested interest in cultivating Christian communities.
The licensed commercial real estate agent, who has become known in recent years as a “church flipper,” says even though he understands his primary calling is to preach the Gospel, he has also felt a call to spread the Gospel of saving dying churches.
“I still pastor, I still preach. I understand that my primary role is preaching the Gospel of Jesus. But there is a business side to every ministry that sometimes pastors neglect and parishioners neglect,” he said.
Already, Marzahn has managed to save several church buildings from for profit developers, including the historic Wesley United Methodist Church in downtown Minneapolis where his church and several other nonprofits had been renting before learning that the UMC had plans to sell it.
One developer wanted to turn the church into a parking lot. Another was thinking of turning it into a bar.
“I thought wow, we should maybe think about developing it ourselves or taking it over,” he recalled telling the UMC.
“I found a church that was quite large already and tried to help them understand how this would be a great place for them to plant their church. And from there, I just started making connections with other church planters and other churches that are going out of business to kind of do some matchmaking, if you will,” Marzahn explained.
The Inver Grove Heights campus of Crossroads Church is another building Marzahn rehabbed and he’s also working on restoring an old Catholic Charities building in downtown Minneapolis to create an outreach center that will serve as a church and a space for urban missionaries.
To understand the Minnesota pastor’s vision for reviving dying churches, one has to understand how he began pursuing the sustainable church model after getting a vision from God and the price he paid.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair