Hoping to see something or someone move in your ministry in order to influence your community for Christ? For many churches normal is the norm and tradition is traditional. Even the ruts have ruts. The only things that ever change are the creative lengths and ready excuses to ensure that nothing changes. Of course, not all small churches fit this mold. Some have willing spirits and eager hands with growing influence for Christ. Still, if this does sound painfully familiar, here are 4 New Normals for churches that resist change…
1) Change. Start by changing your attitude about change. Repeat after me, “Change is Godly. Change is good. I like change.” (Repeat 3 x’s) Okay, the last one may be a stretch.
Some of you are going to need convincing. Especially for those who see themselves as keepers of all things sanctified, sacred, traditional (or trendy), consider some thematic supports for the concept of change found throughout Scripture…
Dark to light. Old to new. Ashes to beauty. Judgement to mercy. Stranger to friend. Fatherless to adopted. Condemned to forgiven. Law to grace. Slave to free. Blind to seeing. Lame to walking. Night to day and death to life… just to hit the highlights!
The Apostle Paul instructed, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2, NIV) No doubt about it. Change is good.
Are we talking about change for the sake of change? Why not every once in a while, if nothing but to keep everyone on their toes and one their knees as the new normal works it way thoroughly into the new DNA of your ministry? Are we talking about Biblical principles or orthodoxy? No. The fundamentals of our faith (The Holy Trinity, inerrancy of Scripture, sanctity of marriage as one man, one woman, for life, the sure and soon second coming, etc.) are non-negotiables. The message of the Gospel remains unchanged even as our methods morph in order to meet the culture as Jesus modeled… at the point, place and time of their deepest need.
2) Pace. It’s time to pick it up. You know who you are. If patience is a virtue, you and your church are virtuosos! You make a snail look fast and furious. You are in no danger of violating the axiom of “haste makes waste.” The moment you face something new, something hard, something requiring someone to change in any way, you pull out the old, “Let’s table this so we can pray!” routine. It’s time to get things moving along with a greater sense of purpose. How do you do this? Keep reading…
BONUS CHANGE: Empowerment. Determine to do away with the “death by committee” system. This isn’t so much a “bonus” as it is all but essential to stay agile and keep up with the rate of change in our communities and greater culture. Seek out a coach to guide you towards a leader-led, people-empowered, fully-accountable, and highly mobile structure. This will require both patience and purpose but can be done with limited collateral damage. The question isn’t, “How many will we lose if we change thing?” The right question is, “How many will we fail to reach if we don’t change?” Ask me how to make this change and let’s partner to see this become a new normal for your ministry or organization. Hint: See Acts 6 and read about how appointed leaders empowered new leaders to meet a need and grow the church!
3) Excellence. When was good enough ever really good enough? We may not be able to invest in THE best (yet), but whatever we offer in Jesus’ Name should be OUR best. No, we aren’t talking about perfection. Nothing would ever get done. However, most churches are in no danger of this. We have set our sights way too low and created cultures where mediocre character and average execution is not only tolerated, but encouraged (even guarded) so that no one is offended and everyone is included. It’s time to “raise the bar!”
Some people protest, “You can’t require that. These are volunteers!” Make it clear that there is no difference between the glory God is due and the good that we should be doing based on paid/un-paid status. Besides, all the people God sends your way are “VIP’s” and deserve your best. Establish shared and clearly defined standards and “best practices.” In other words, “This is what (how, why, etc) we do here.” Then, encourage, encourage, encourage and equip people every step of the way.
4) Grace. With all of these new normals, amazing grace will be the order of every minute of every day. Mistakes will be made, everyone’s patience will be tried and it’s about time! You’ve been playing it so safe that you have created a culture where there is little need of practical grace because no one makes any mistakes or ruffles any feathers. The enemy of our souls perceives no threat, no need to do anything but hum a soft lullaby that keeps everyone comfortably sleep walking in religiosity. Instead, create the kind of culture where people are empowered, prayed up and planned for risks are encouraged, and creative ways to fulfill the vision and live out your values are celebrated as you reach your community for Christ.
These “new normals” are only the beginning. What would you suggest needs to be on the list? Share your thoughts in the Reply section below!