Churchgoers enter the building for the last worship service held in North Heights Lutheran Church in Arden Hills Sunday morning, March 13, 2016, as the church has had a major schism and is shutting down.(Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

Mega Church Closes With No Mention That It Was The Last Service

A choir sings at the beginning of the last worship service held at North Heights Lutheran Church in Arden Hills Sunday morning, March 13, 2016. The church has had...
A choir sings at the beginning of the last worship service held at North Heights Lutheran Church in Arden Hills Sunday morning, March 13, 2016. The church has had a major schism and is shutting down. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)
A choir sings at the beginning of the last worship service held at North Heights Lutheran Church in Arden Hills Sunday morning, March 13, 2016. The church has had a major schism and is shutting down. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

After 70 years of funerals, a church held a funeral for itself Sunday.

North Heights Lutheran, the former megachurch of Arden Hills, closed permanently after a service that puzzled and stunned parishioners.

“This is like a divorce, or anything else that is going to mean a lifetime of healing,” said church member Zelda Erickson.

“God is still on the throne. But maybe God wants us to go to another church.”

The congregation did not know that the church’s staff, including pastor Mindy Bak, had been fired on Thursday. But Bak showed up anyway, and after she said the last tearful goodbye, she left for good.

“I am done here. I came this morning as a volunteer,” Bak said by phone after the service.

The church was once one of the biggest in the state, with 3,400 attending services weekly. About 10 years ago, attendance and income started to slide. In June, Bak laid off half of the 88-person staff and shut down a satellite church in Roseville.

Immediately, the church split. Roughly two-thirds of the congregation left and began holding services in a nearby hotel under the name “Bondservants.”

On March 6, before a crowd of about 250, Bak announced the closing of the church. Twice that many showed up Sunday — for a service that seemed to show a church in denial.

There was no mention that it was the last service. There was no sermon, no nostalgic look back at the past 70 years, not a single goodbye or even a thank-you.

The service was almost entirely music from the seven-piece house band and the 60-voice choir. The only hint that something was wrong was in the readings and hymns.

During one prayer, the line, “A time to be born and a time to die” from Ecclesiastes 3 caused a ripple in the congregation. When a line from another song appeared on the 40-by-30-foot screen — “greater things are still to come here” — spontaneous applause erupted.

Churchgoers enter the building for the last worship service held in North Heights Lutheran Church in Arden Hills Sunday morning, March 13, 2016, as the church has had a major schism and is shutting down.(Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)
Churchgoers enter the building for the last worship service in North Heights Lutheran Church in Arden Hills on Sunday, March 13, 2016, as the church has had a major schism and is shutting down. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

Church leaders have not told parishioners why it is shutting down, or what the church’s financial condition is. They have not said what will happen to the 43-acre church campus and the 1,350-capacity sanctuary.

The church’s K-8th-grade school will be open at least through the end of the school year, Bak said.

Bak’s term as senior pastor was short, she said by phone after the service, as the terms of previous pastors have been. “One of the things that churches in a death spiral do is consume leaders at an ever-hastening pace,” she said.

Out of 88 employees a year ago, said Bak, only three remain. “They will handle the final stages of the closure, or whatever else happens,” Bak said.

Some reporters and photographers were ejected during the service. Three security guards surrounded Bak at the end of the service, as congregants waited in line to hug her goodbye.

They used the same word repeatedly to describe the service: unbelievable.

“The message here is, ‘This doesn’t feel good. We don’t like it,’” said Mark Johnson, a choir singer and 15-year church member.

He isn’t sure what he is going to do on Sunday mornings. “I am looking for a place where God can use me,” Johnson said.

Some church members believe the church is out of money.

Church member David, a Minneapolis remodeling contractor who didn’t want to give his last name, said, “We got into debt, and we can’t resolve our differences. It’s a little embarrassing. This is not who we are supposed to be.”

Others blamed the members of the breakaway group, which held two services Sunday. But some said they were eager to join that church next Sunday.

Church member Erickson found the all-music service inspiring. She is moving on — although not as a part of the church. “I think the Lord allowed this. We are all supposed to be searching our lives right now,” Erickson said.

“God is saying to me, ‘Take my hand, Zelda. Stand up and go on in the world.’”

Sandra Olmsted was not at the service. She is a 21-year member who now worships with the Bondservants.

She said the closure of the church doesn’t mean it is dead. “Just because the keys are turned over to the bank doesn’t mean they are disbanded,” Olmsted said.

“There in no sense that this congregation is going away. We have just had some very poor leadership driving a wedge between us.” It might be possible, she said, that somehow the Bondservants could re-occupy the building.

But in the parking lot, stunned worshippers stood around aimlessly as earthquake survivors.

Three of them gathered by a minivan, trying to figure out what just happened.

One recalled the Old Testament tale of Solomon, who ordered that a baby be cut in half and split between two women — knowing that the true mother would give up and let the healthy baby go to the other woman.

North Heights, said one parishioner, has been pulled apart because neither side loved it enough.

“They just split the baby,” she said.

 

Source

Categories
Breaking News

Crystal Smith, CEO/ www.joy105.com
6 Comments on this post.
  • Mary
    8 April 2016 at 5:05 p04

    Praying the God help this church in the MIST of there difficulty

  • PATTY
    31 March 2016 at 5:05 p03

    This is not true. I’m a member at this church. Our next service is April 10th and then every Sunday thereafter.

  • Apostle Samuel Ugochukwu
    31 March 2016 at 5:05 p03

    Unfortunately, that is what happens when people are in control and not the Holy Spirit!!!! They needed transformation and no one saw it!!!! We must allow God to lead his church and not unbelievers who are religious in their pretence leading the house of the Lord!!!!

  • doc
    30 March 2016 at 5:05 p03
  • Gooberfish
    30 March 2016 at 5:05 p03

    LaShonda, Of Kings and Prophets was terrible. Totally unbiblical. Glad it’s canceled, and I only watched most of the first episode.
    Sad about the church…

  • LaShonda
    30 March 2016 at 5:05 p03

    That’s how I felt when abc cancelled Of Kings and Prophets after only 2 episodes. I encourage every Christian tosign this petition requesting Of Kings and Prophets return to ABC. We need 8 million people to show support for this biblical series. That’s twice the amount of its first episode’s ratings. Let us make this petition go viral. It will be heard by ABC and other news stations. Let us make a loud enough voice for this cause. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/restore-of-kings-and-prophets-to-abc

    Thank you so very much. Sign and Share.

    God bless you all.

  • Leave a Reply

    *

    *

    eleven + 6 =

    RELATED BY