Monday, September 14, 2015

Change or die

About two years ago I met with the pastor search committee of a smaller church to assist them in their search for a new pastor. I usually begin these meetings by asking what they are looking for in their next pastor. The committee chair gave me the answer I hear most often, "We want a pastor who will grow our church."

I did something I had never said before. I asked, "Are you sure about that?" She looked at me kind of odd like I wasn't supposed to ask that question so I continued, "You do realize if you could grow your church by doing what you've been doing, you would already be growing. So what you are telling me is that you want a pastor who will come in here and change everything you've been doing. Is that what you want from your next pastor?" She got a funny smile, looked at the other committee members and said, "Maybe we need to talk about this a little more."

What I said to that committee needs to be shouted out to all churches. I hear church after church complain about their inability to grow, and yet they refuse to do anything different that might encourage such growth.

Change is happening everywhere at warp speed except in the church. I understand that change isn't fun. I'm an old guy. I still have a landline telephone although I communicate much more through my smart phone than I do the phone in my home. And much of that communication isn't through calling people. More and more it's through Messenger, texting, and direct messages on Facebook. That's how people communicate today, and chances are, before 2016 ends I'll have to learn new ways of communicating through social media.

I still get a daily newspaper although I get most of my news from the Internet. In fact, it takes me very little time to read my paper because most of what's in it I read the day before online. I understand that giving up things we are comfortable with isn't easy.

I also understand that if the church isn't willing to make the necessary changes that will reach out to new generations of people it is going to become even more irrelevant to people's lives. It will eventually die. It may take a while, and it might not happen in your lifetime so you won't have to worry about it, but it will die.

But, there is something much more important than whether or not your church remains open. That's the least of my concerns. I am much more concerned about the dozens, perhaps hundreds, maybe even thousands of people who won't have the opportunity to hear the Gospel because your church refused to make changes that would touch their lives.

What needs to change in your church? I don't know, but I would challenge you to find the walls that exist in your church that is keeping people out and do whatever it takes to remove them. How can you identify those walls? Maybe you could ask some folks who don't attend your church if there is a reason for that. Maybe you could ask some folks who used to attend there and have left. Maybe you could ask your own young people who attended there as children but have chosen not to return as adults.

Two warnings. Don't get mad if they tell you the truth as to why they aren't attending your church, and don't ask if you are not willing to make some changes.

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