Once upon a time there were church people who volunteered a little or a lot or not at all in their congregations. But they would all gather in pews on Sunday mornings after Sunday School, and the pastor would lead worship and then everybody would go home or head out to brunch.
Those congregations are dying today mostly because their church culture hasn’t kept up with the cultural shifts in our world. 21st Century Pastors are called to be culture shifters in hopes that our communities look more like the Biblical Church. Almost every day, I hear colleagues tell me what they would love to do with their congregations:
- Expand a ministry to include disabled neighbors.
- Offer classes in radical hospitality.
- Re-work the Christian Education schedule to make it easier for new members to participate.
- Partner with other local congregations for community mission.
- Open an unused space for daily use by homeless neighbors.
- Invite unchurched teenagers to use their church gym after school.
Their churches have the capacity to do all these things to expand their ministry and their impact. But they don’t want to.
I’ve heard church boards hear about needs in their congregations and beyond, only to sit there with no response. There’s simply no energy to do more than what they’ve always done even if “what they’ve always done” isn’t working any more.
This kind of stuck-ness will be the death of the church – or at least the death of some churches. We have enormous power and opportunity to transform the world for good in the name of Jesus Christ. But many of our people won’t even try to be the Church we could be.
Jesus suggests that leaders shake the dust off our feet and move on but that seems unnecessarily dramatic if all the pastor wants is for the congregation to try something new.
- Is the issue trust? (They don’t trust the pastor?)
- Is the issue fear? (They fear they can’t afford it/someone will get angry?)
- Is the issue a failure of vision? (This is the worst.)
Where is your congregation in terms of vision? Do we really want to be the people God has called us to be or not?
Speaking for myself, as I seek a new call, I am excited to find people who are energized by being the 21st Century Church. God is doing a new thing! I hope you feel it too.