Do you enjoy change? Is it a threat to you personally? We live in a day when everything is changing. Bob Dylan was right, “the times they are a changin.” It does not take very long for our cell phones, computers, TV sets, etc. to all become obsolete. Do you remember eight tracks? Cassette tapes? The job market is changing as consumers demand different products. Maybe that’s why some of our auto industry like General Motors went south and lost their world-wide market share. They got stuck on what used to work and what consumers used to want and did not plan for tomorrow’s needs. They lost their vision and failed to see the future. It can happen to companies, churches and people.
“The world around us is changing at an unprecedented pace. What worked ten years ago is already obsolete: cultural analysts estimate that our culture essentially reinvents itself every three to five years.” [George Barna, The Second Coming of the Church]
The church follows a leader who does not change. Hebrews 13:8 reads, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
The Bible and the Gospel does not change; however our methodology, how we reach people, do church, evangelize, teach, preach are all open to new ideas and innovation. Sometimes churches get the methodology confused with the theology. We think that we must do it just like we did way back then because we were personally impacted with those same methods. Many churches get in to internal battles because of personal preferences.
Worship style would be one of those categories. I must confess I love all kinds of musical styles and enjoy worshiping with all kinds of instrumentation but what I prefer is simply my own preference, not a biblical mandate. There are no musical notes in the Bible! Sometimes churches get stuck by preferences not convictions.
“Today’s church calls for leaders who drive beyond their headlights and who design churches for people ‘who aren’t here yet,’ rather than defending models designed long ago to reach those who have long since come and gone and who don’t live here anymore.” [Lynn Anderson, They Smell Like Sheep]
Wow! Maybe that is part of the reason why over 80% of churches are stuck. We are not driving beyond our headlights; we don’t even have our lights on. We forgot that the mission of the church is to reach those who have yet walked through the doors of our church. Churches that grow, intentionally create ministries and structures that allow it to fulfill the mission. They are open to change if the change advances the Gospel and the mission of the church. Jesus was an innovator who drew outside the lines. That’s why the Pharisees and religious leaders were so angry at Jesus because He did not play by their rules, He healed on the Sabbath.
I pastored a new church and we used all kinds of instrumentation. One guest who came quite regularly told me in private that he loved my preaching but hated our music style (which was strongly blended). He asked me if I was going to change it. I lovingly said “no” and then explained that our music was part of our strategy for reaching the unchurched. This does not mean we compromised the integrity of our worship in any way but that we intentionally used instrumentation that attracted the un-churched.
“Driving beyond our headlights” takes great faith, much praying, innovation, and attempting new things for the glory of God. Churches should not get stuck in their past successes like General Motors did or they will die. Don’t be afraid to try something different in the way you reach and disciple people. Don’t be afraid to bury something that has died.
As Rick Warren says, “if the horse is dead, dismount!”