Okay, I’ve warned you against just buying the hot new evangelical book and making it the short-term vision. It doesn’t work. Well, actually, sometimes it does. But not always.
Back when the church growth movement was in full swing, those methods actually worked for a while. Now, they’re about worn out and — more importantly — we’re beginning to see theological problems with them. Many church growth methods led to consumerist churches, catering to “felt needs” rather than recruiting people to join in God’s mission.
Therefore, we need to spend a little time in theological reflection. It’s not that hard. We just have to get back to elementary principles — and away from the books.
Now, I have an idea. It’s not the only idea that’ll work. It may not even be a very good idea. But it’s an idea.
I have, of course, already talked about it. What if we decide to turn our church into a planted church? What if, rather than asking our motivated members to leave and start an effective church, we ask them to stay and give them permission to do what it takes to be effective right here?
What if we really just forgot about the politics and turf wars and silos and did what we all know we need to do?
Sit down with your leadership team and ask them, “If you were part of a church plant here in our hometown, how would you proceed to make your plant a success?”
What if you got with the professional, experienced church plant experts with Stadia or Kairos and let them teach you how a church plant works?
What if you then did it? What would happen?
Well, I’ll tell you: silos, politics, and turf wars would immediately get in the way. And you can either try something else, or split the church between effective and ineffective with a church plant, or overcome the silos, politics, and turf wars. But any change from ineffective to effective will put you on a collision course with silos, politics, and turf wars.
Of course, churches aren’t businesses, and you can’t fire the members who refuse to cooperate. Well, actually, you can. You can lovingly tell the members that this is our goal for the next three years and it’s not optional. Some will leave, but they won’t leave the church. They’ll just transfer to an ineffective church where they can be comfortable.
Obviously, this is last-resort kind of stuff. And if you are very thoughtful and prayerful, and patient, you just might move nearly the entire church to become what the plan requires. But you have to start by deciding that you won’t kill the vision because 5% of the church is unhappy about it.
Ironically enough, by being firmly convicted on this point, fewer people will leave, because they’ll have less incentive to rally friends in opposition. Of course, this assumes you’ve properly prepared your church, as we’ve discussed in earlier posts.
But any short-term vision requires an iron will, because no one gives up political power and the right to go his own way easily. There will strong-willed people screaming about theology and authority when all they really mean is, “I don’t want to give up my privileges.” I mean, if people get upset over singing during communion, they’ll really get upset when we insist they help with God’s mission.
Notice, that the problem with politics is not peculiar to trying to act like a church plant. You’ll have this problem with any transition from being served to being servants. And any short-term vision has to move the membership in the direction of greater service. And even if your church is filled with great servants, they’ll be unhappy when their favorite ministry is killed to make room for something more central to God’s mission.
So, as my partner used to say, “Get your grip!” It’s going to be a wild ride — but I’d far rather have a few members unhappy with me than be a contributor to the decline of conservative Christianity in America.
I’m absolutely convinced that the decline can be reversed. It’ll take prayer and a deeper commitment and servant-hearted people and some creative ideas. And the transition is going to be difficult because we’ll all have to give up some things we’re very comfortable with — like having our own way. But that’s a small price to pay to be called a “good and faithful servant.” (And it sure beats the alternative!)