I started thinking about this topic last week. I do not have a church I belong too. What I do have is what I have learned through life and my friends and family to give guidance (and if you know my mom – she’ll guide me weather I want it or not)! It is interesting talking to friends and acquaintances when they ask “Do you go to Church?” My response is usually “No – I do not.” Simple and to the point … until they ask WHY? I take that question to mean “please tell me more – I am interested in your views” … and so I respond … I believe organized religion and “Church” is good for some people, but not for all. I have a hard time listening to someone tell me how to live my life … because 1. The Bible says so and 2. I am your pastor. In my experience … the sermons I have listened to were watered down religious vomit shoveled down onto the congregation by some guy who stands up and says “Listen to me – ‘cause I am a better Christian than you!”
So … would you classify me as bitter towards the church? I would say I am skeptical … and yes, bitter would be a good term to use. However, if a church wants to grow (and they should always want to grow) I am thinking they might want to think about reinventing themselves. I think about the Catholic Church … what are the largest obstacles this organization is facing? How are they reaching the young generation and attracting new families? Not only the Catholic faith – I am sure other religions are feeling it too. How are they going to reinvent themselves and their “brand” in order to get new butts in seats?
Bottom line … Church is a business. They have expenses and income … they have target goals and stretch goals … they need money to survive and in order to make money they need members. In order to attract, they need to change and in order to change – they need to think and behave differently.
“People who cannot invent and reinvent themselves must be content with borrowed postures, secondhand ideas, fitting in instead of standing out.” – Warren Bennis
If a Church takes the “well they (the masses) need to conform to our methods, ideals, doctrine” stance they will never grow. Growth happens when an organization takes complete advantage of the climate and resources available. It is in the best interest of the organization for them to stand out and become the “light” – but what does it take and what does it mean for those leading Churches?
I sent out an email to a few friends last week asking what their opinions were regarding Church and the Churches they attend. I limited my emails to those I know very well and those I know are involved in their Church in some capacity (meaning they don’t just go to church on Easter and Christmas). I had some expectations on what I would hear – but it was cool reading the concerns and issues of those I consider friends of mine. My question was “what would be the 3 things Churches are doing wrong and right these days?” I didn’t go into much detail regarding what answers I was looking for – I left it vague on purpose.
I had quite a few responses that talked about how churches need to develop a more welcoming environment for newcomers, spending more time discussing the theology topic and comparing various religions. There was also a lack of small group support, bible studies and the facilitation of intimate group discussions “where real sharing can happen.” Programs were also mentioned in some responses … “Programs don’t reach people for Jesus, people in love with Him do.” Seems like they need to lighten up on the meetings and management of programs and allow time for families in the church to invite their neighbors and friends over for dinner and fun and eventually maybe even Jesus.
Pam hit a strong nail on the head regarding what is wrong in some Churches – “Making church about building the pastor’s vision instead of the pastor finding out what his people’s vision is and coming along beside each one to support him/her.” Too many times the leader of the church has their own personal agenda and they use that agenda to drive their sermons and teachings.
My other friend Pam brought up a few things that I believe is part of the reason why I have a hard time lowering my guard with organized religion … Guilt, Shame and Judgment! HUGE issues for so many people … from not attending church every Sunday, Sinning, Wearing the “wrong clothes,” talking the wrong way, sexual orientation (homosexuals). Why would the leader of an organization that teaches forgiveness, acceptance, love and compassion – stand up and allow those in that organization to behave in a contradictory way? Is it Hypocritical? Are they acting on their own and “judging” others or are they following the teaching of the organization? I have no idea – what I do know, is no matter what the pastor preaches … how the “church” behaves outside of the building they worship in is what will or will not help grow the congregation.
My suggestion … If you want to grow and build … you gotta BE the growth! You MUST change every part of your organization if you want to grow.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” — George Bernard Shaw
Now – some of the things Churches are doing right? I think most of the responses I received somehow had a mention of activities and volunteer opportunities. Making church more about “real people” and how the struggles going on today are not only happening to you. Everything from losing a parent, cheating spouse, gambling problem, fight with your kids, etc … God loves us all and it’s the real people in the church that take this ideal and help others.
Benevolence inside and outside of the church for the poor is also a tool used to spread the example of compassion and love. Reaching out and helping those who need help … that is what I mean when I say “Be” the example.
Another good way to attract new members is through music. My friend J.T. told me the move away from the traditional piano / organ / choir setup to the “praise band” model. I’ve been in some churches where it’s done poorly simply because of a lack of talent. And when a church band is lame, it’s REALLY lame, which is too bad. But when they have good musicians with decent chops, it’s a whole different thing and much more enjoyable. Music draws many people together for many different reasons, I think by looking at new music and understanding the art music is … some Churches know this and use this to offer an experience to its members, old and new.
I read about the good way to focus on the family – not the James Dobson group … the “family” that gets up, showers and dresses, packs the car and drives to the Church. It is about the families that support each other … the teen groups that meet and teaches young adults how to feel good about themselves and equip them to go into the world and be accepted for who they are. Sunday school and their mission of focusing on the spiritual growth of little kids by boiling the “word” down to the basics and establishing a foundation for these young kids … Who has heard the stories regarding how a Sunday school teacher affected someone’s life?
Finally – the foundation of all Churches and what they should strive for every day! Forgiveness and Love! The fact that God gave his son to die for us so that we are forgiven! Period. Done. There is nothing you can do that won’t be forgiven. HE loves you. There isn’t anything you can do to get to heaven. No works to be done. No hoops to jump through. No monies to be paid. Nothing. All you can do is believe! Easy? Not really … possible? Absolutely!
I think if you are involved in an organized church and you feel it is time to reinvent the mission, ask yourself – “if I were creating this church today, given what I know and given current technology, what would it look like?” If you were charged with designing and creating a new denomination – what would you change about the current one you are in? What if I were to guarantee success … with failure not in the picture what would you change in your churches organization?
I am afraid there are two obstacles that are very hard to overcome. 1. Churches and the leadership being threatened by its “members” trying to bring on change and 2. Members of a church being so heavily indoctrinated their own imagination is crippled beyond their own realization.
How are you bringing in change … what change does your organization need and how are you working towards that change?