Sometimes we become hardwired to do things in a predictable way. This is often due to repetition without change, cultural expectation, and academic training. We are guilty in the church of conformity to well-worn programs, methods, and thoughts.
I’ve been in ministry now for in excess of 40 years. I’ve served as an evangelist, pastor with 25 years experience, on countless boards, and as an administrator. In all of these years and functions of ministry, I’ve noticed that very little changes in the way most church organizations and local churches do ministry. I’ve noticed that “group think” that leans to the status quo often dictates the lack of significant change. This is not to say that “new” programs and initiatives are not promoted by leaders, but it is to say that the “new” isn’t new at all. Most often that which is promoted as new is simply a slight variation of an existing idea. We have become quite capable of rehashing, renaming and repackaging well-worn ideas that weren’t overwhelmingly successful at their origin. Much of what we promote in the church today as fresh is 40-50 years old and has its roots in the Church Growth Movement of the 1970s. Does anyone remember Pack a Pew Sunday?
I am in no way suggesting that church growth is a bad thing, or for that matter, utilizing specialty Sundays as being a bad idea. Special days can have significant meaning and success. Church growth is a good thing. However, when church growth became a codified movement it established a paradigm of ministry with its own laws and expectations that pastors were forced to adhere to. Success had its own particular measuring stick; “everything that is healthy grows.” This carried the weight of “If it’s not growing it’s not healthy and it’s the pastor's fault. (Who else are we going to evaluate). So, the goal was for every church to grow upward like a majestic Oak Tree. The pastors of the mighty Oaks were applauded. These pastors were placed on boards, invited to speak in conferences and given premier recognition. Therefore, those who were pastoring the saplings were encouraged to be like the big church pastors, buy their books, and flock to their conference to learn their method. After all, if they can do it, you can too! The eager pastor of a small church was convinced that at some point they’d find their “silver bullet” and “it” would happen at his/her place as well. To the small church pastor to not “succeed” in growing the mighty Oak meant being viewed by some as incapable, lazy, or only pastoring a church as a hobby. After all, God wants every church to be BIG!
BUT WAIT A MINUTE!!! What if our whole concept has been wrong, or at the very least has become marred? Maybe we have become hardwired to an idea of ministry that is not sustainable. What if we have Gods passion to win the lost but not His strategy? Maybe the idea shouldn’t be church growth, but instead, Kingdom expansion. This is not merely a play on words! Maybe instead of trying to become a majestic Oak Tree, we should become vines that spread! Maybe it’s time to change the chip in our heads!
Let’s talk more about this at our Changing the Chip Pastors Symposium, October 25-26 at the Royal Ridge Church in Scarborough.