Talk about this stuff in the classrooms. When the preacher launches into a sermon series on these topics, no one has the chance to respond. No one can ask questions. No one can offer what they consider counter-arguments. There is no dialogue — and these topics require fleshing out face to face in dialogue — slowly and carefully.
5. People fill gaps in their knowledge with their fears. Always.
Therefore, answer even the obvious questions. No, we have no immediate plans to add an instrumental service. (Or, yes, we’re thinking about it but have made no decision.) Yes, if we were to do that, there would be an a cappella service. We will not abandon or look down on our more conservative members. We love them too much to consider any other option. We are talking about these issues because we are worried about our lack of baptisms. We are not being effective in evangelism. We had a great run being a better Church of Christ. But that is no longer where we think God is leading us.
6. We are a doctrinal people, but our people are not doctrinally driven. They are emotionally and socially driven. Express your love. Hug those who come to complain or express concerns.
Talk frankly about the social cost of the hard decisions. The problems will be very real and concerning for your members. Be upfront. Don’t sugarcoat it. Be honest about the price you’re asking them to pay. And be upfront about the cost the leaders are having to pay among their friends and families.
7. If someone is upset with the discussion, deal directly with him or her and do so quickly. Answer his or her questions. Confront any sinful attitudes. Don’t let falsehoods, rumors, and speculation fill the air. Cover the members up with information so the rumormongers have no power over the church.
8. Be humble. Listen. Take the time to hear the opposition out. Don’t get defensive. There’s no hurry. There’s plenty of time. In fact, time is on your side.
9. Be patient. Many people just need time to get used to the new reality. Give them that time.
10. There will be challenges to whatever process is followed, because people typically resist change by challenging process. They really dislike the substance but find it easier to attack the process. So think long and hard about the decision-making process and find a way to be as inclusive as possible.
The biggest complaint will be that you didn’t give the church enough time or opportunity for input. Therefore, give the members an overwhelming opportunity for input — in focus groups, classes, surveys, etc. Make them feel that their views matter and are appreciated because they do matter and are appreciated.
Now, the risk you take by going slowly and being inclusive is that the opposition will have a chance to get organized and make threats. The immature among the members will threaten to leave or cut off contributions or to stop volunteering. In fact, many a Church leadership has been thwarted by exactly these tactics.
11. The usual response is to ask for more time to study. I have a better idea (I think). Tell those opposed to the change that you’re willing to put the idea on hold — conditioned on seeing effective evangelist growth. The decision will be made based on baptisms. If we start seeing the unchurched filling the pews and Sunday mornings filled with baptisms, well, why would we change anything if that was happening?
Immediately offer training classes on evangelism, schedule “bring a friend” days, and otherwise make every effort to bring in the lost — and see what happens.
If the church has been led to be evangelistic solely for the sake of evangelism, and if it fails, then perhaps hearts will then be open to further changes. But you can’t use evangelism as a tool to get instrumental music. Rather, evangelism is its own end, and the goal is evangelistic effectiveness, not instrumental music or whatever. And if the church manages to be evangelistically effective without making all these controversial changes, then thank God and move on with what God is blessing.