For years our churches were program driven. The effects of that are still felt to this very day. Nearly every week a pastor is asked what programs do you have at your church? Do you have a youth program? Do you have a children’s program? Do you have a women’s program? Do you have a men’s program? Do you have divorce recovery? Do you have a senior adult ministry? The list could go on for some time. Beside the usual programs that are expected in a church each local church culture has raised up several other programs as well. Many know that something is wrong and many things have lived beyond their season, but few want to make the hard decisions pertaining to these programs. This is why it is essential to have an agreed-upon vision statement followed up by mission statements which are followed by goals and strategies to fulfill the mission. Then there would be a yardstick with which to measure ministry effectiveness. Does the long-standing program help us fulfill our mission? Naturally the people who are vested in the programs will answer a resounding yes! But that must never be the end of it, one must continually ask the question, how does this assist us in pursuing our God ordained mission? Be prepared for the pushback that is sure to follow! You have just entered the class of interlopers. You have failed to understand how we do things the leader will be told.
Often, if not always, culture trumps mission!
Since there is literally no serious evaluating happening in our local churches, many programs are about to fall under the sheer weight and enormity of yesterday’s excess programming. It’s not just the programming it’s the expectations that gather around them and the few people who over the years were helped, now have an allegiance all out of proportion to the program’s effectiveness today. I am not being critical, just pointing out the obvious that most of us ignore or fail to see.
Entering into this arena is the reformer. The one who has a vision from God! One who has spent time in prayer and purposeful planning. One who has engaged people in the process of examining, how might our future look with Gods help? How can these bones live again? Few enter this arena. The gravitational pull of mediocrity is difficult to resist. The drama associated with calculated change that honors God spreads the gospel and disciples believers does cause painful episodes in local churches. My grandma started that program, and I see no reason for it to be stopped! Are you saying pastor that my grandmother was wrong? No your grandmother was right, in that day it was appropriate and powerful and had a kingdom impact.
The message never changes, methods constantly change. Yet visit many local churches and we are living in a bygone era. Instead of honoring the spirit of our forebears who were serious about spreading the gospel and being a force for Christ in their communities, we have made an unfortunate switch, we now honor safety and live in fear of our world. We forget it ultimately was the message not necessarily the packaging that made the difference.
Unfortunately, you and I were not called to serve 50 years ago. We must pause and admit that a great many of our churches were more effective 50 years ago than they are today. Many reasons are given for this, but one of the primary reasons is the fact God did give a vision and the people followed a strategic plan and implemented goals that were God given! Christianity is all about change, in fact you cannot become a Christian unless you transforming encounter with Jesus. Most of the important words of our faith are synonymous with change: conversion, transformation, salvation, sanctification and a host of other doctrines as well. Since Christianity has at its heart the idea of change, it is amazing how difficult change is for most people. Never ignore the fact that change is painful and everyone who is called upon to change knows they are giving something up, and something quite dear usually. You may call it whatever you wish but please do not ignore the fact that change for most folks including myself is quite painful.
In order to change, God sends us reformers. Men and women who are up to the challenge, full of grace and the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ, and are committed to the cause and to loving the church. The task would be easier if I had a three step formula on how to implement change in the local church.
There is no such formula. Sorry!
God has raised you up to be a difference maker. You will have to prayerfully discern God’s will for the given situation in which he has called you. You will need to set a reforming agenda. Everything will be evaluated and scrutinized by the vision. No exceptions! Initially this will be uncomfortable and challenging. Most of us are by default status quo folks.
Every so often God sends a leader who possesses a heart for God and the people. These leaders love God and the church so much they cannot stand idly by and watch local congregations shrivel up and become places of yesteryear. Celebrate the past, celebrate the good things that God did in our midst in bygone years. And after the celebration, be diligent about the vision. Communicate it and let everyone know the vision determines what we do, who we are, and how things are going to be done around here. Not because it’s your way of doing things.
Most leaders live uncomfortable lives. A leader becomes uncomfortable because some things that the leader would like to hold onto have to be let go of as well. The leader has to model what change looks like, and has to have the integrity to serve the Lord and the vision for the congregation regardless of personal or corporate pain.
There is a reason there is not a army of reformers today. Reformers gather a host of complainers and, at times, hostile crowds. Hostile crowds who feel if we would just get rid of the reformer we could go back to the good old days.
Here is the truth: the good old days are not coming back! You must follow God in your day, in your generation and at this time. A portion of your leadership will be evaluated by your ability to reform your present situation. It is no small task and certainly not easy, yet it is what God has called you to.
This post was written by Dr Ron Blake. You can find his blog here: wesleyshorse.com