It recently came to my attention that there are more than 800 churches in the city of Cleveland, and if you were to consider the whole of Cuyahoga County that number increases to more than 1,200. Last week while driving along Kinsman Ave. from 55th St. to 154th St. I counted 45 churches along that one avenue. Not only is there a church on almost every corner, but also on some blocks there are four churches sitting right next door to one another or facing one another across the street.
The same fact would be true in other parts of the city. If you were to drive along Cedar from Stokes Blvd. down to 71st St. you would pass 10 churches. If you traveled 105th St. from Superior to St. Clair you would pass another 12 churches. If you drove along Lee Road between Bartlett and the 480 overpass you would pass another 12 churches. If there is one thing that Cleveland has a lot of it is churches.
Let's assume Cleveland is not unique in this area; let's assume in cities and towns all across America there are a great many churches of all denominations and all styles of worship and all types of architecture. The question I want to raise with you today is, How we can have so many churches, and so much sin and suffering at the same time? How can we have so many churches and still have so much crime, so much drug abuse, so much alcoholism and so much violence? You would think that with 800 churches throughout the city the conditions in Cleveland might be a lot better than they are, but that does not seem to be the case.
The church is supposed to be the city that sits on a hill whose light cannot be hidden. The church is supposed to be the salt in the earth that brings seasoning and preservation to the whole community. The church is supposed to be the wellspring of hope and help and healing in a sinful world, but that does not seem to be the case.
On the surface of things it would seem that we have enough churches and enough Christians to get the job done. There are only 6 police precincts in the entire city of Cleveland, but there are over 800 churches. There are only 21 political ward clubs in this city, but there are over 800 churches. There are now fewer than 100 schools in Cleveland, but there are over 800 churches. If you were to add up all of the members who attend all of the churches in Cleveland it would seem that we have more than enough people to get our message out, and make our presence felt and transform this entire city. But despite having over 800 churches, our influence is limited, our effect on civic life is minimal and our ability to prevent social problems is negligible.
I have only one thing to say about this situation; the church needs some power. We do not need new music or new pews or new instruments nearly as much as we need new power. We do not need new buildings as much as we need some spiritual life in the buildings we already have. We have choirs and preachers, but they have no power beyond the walls where they operate. We have auxiliaries and activities, but we cannot or we will not alter the circumstances in the lives of people who are sitting just outside the doors of most of our churches.