The most powerful strategy, perhaps, used by the Enemy of Christianity, may very well be the simplistic, one-dimensional thinking of church leaders:
- A one-size-fits-all, packaged program.
- A ministry modeled after a “successful” mega church.
- A packaged approach that electronically analyzes every church, which provides a “printout” without personalized guidance.
- A top-down strategy that trains leaders to superimpose missional culture on church members.
Dave is a seasoned pastor who has tried it all – and confesses, “Our church is basically the same…no substantive change – except we ran off some people.” Let’s face it: if it was simple, more well-meaning, intelligent church leaders would have moved their churches to vitality and impact a long time ago.
I’ve been thinking about this since reading an article by Rana Foroohar last June in Time magazine called “Your Global Economic Mess is Now Being Served” (June 18, 2012, pp. 40-43). The article quotes British Opposition Leader, Ed Miliband, using the word omnishambles to describe the financial challenges facing Europe.
Omnishambles is used to describe “…a situation in which an apparently carefully-crafted policy unravels in a bewildering number of directions, leaving all affected parties in a state of shock and despair” (page 42).
Avoiding the Quick Fix
We were talking in the car on the way to dinner. Keith, the pastor of a large church near Omaha, said, “Our church attendance has been flat over the last several years. The area is growing. We’re puzzled. Some of our leaders think we just need to change the times of our weekend worship services.”
I immediately thought about another simplistic disaster. I see this all the time. Then, the pastor continued, “I don’t think that’s the answer. I think we have a need for better discipleship.” I thought, “This guy is on the edge of breakthrough!”
New Testament Culture
Think again about the omnishambles definition: “…a situation in which an apparently carefully-crafted policy stance unravels….” Consider the New Testament teaching on the nature and purpose of the church as a “policy stance.” Now think about the rest of the definition: “…unravels in a bewildering number of directions….” I like to call this “drift”: from key values, beliefs, attitudes, priorities, and worldviews of the New Testament. (These are all intertwined into a culture that makes up the effectiveness of the local church – and the Christian Movement.) This “drift” has been occurring for centuries. Many churches have inherited this drift. This unraveling “…in a bewildering number of directions…” is the result. Here are a few:
- A consumer mentality that focuses more on “us” than “others.”
- An emphasis on what “I want” instead of what God wants.
- A replacement of one-on-one, relational discipling with secular volunteerism.
- A hierarchical, high-control form of church governmental decision-making.
- The erosion of relational accountability, “speaking the truth in a spirit of love.”
- Career church leaders who primarily “do ministry” rather than equip others for ministry, changing the Christian Movement from multiplication to addition.
- A church posture that is built mostly on a “y’all come” (invitational) approach, almost to the exclusion of a “go” or “sent” mentality.
- An approach focused on boards, committees, and elections rather than “body life” defined by spiritual gifts.
- A maintenance posture with limited emphasis on mission.
In most churches, these issues are the result of subconscious drift, not intentional rebellion. With proper guidance and spiritual transformation, most Christians and churches are not beyond revitalization. But it’s not a quick fix.
How is it going for you and your church?