Why Should/Shouldn’t My Church Embrace Change? Part I
In the archives room of old denominational church I starred at a 1911 black and yellow photo of the Sunday School orchestra, 100 strong! Incredible. Now only a handful over 100 people attended this church regularly on Sundays. Where have they all gone?
I recall hearing Larry Lea call the nation to pray the Lord’s Prayer while offering books, workbooks, teaching tapes, etc. on the topic. His popularity propelled him into the forefront, as his Texan congregation swelled into a mega-church until scandal brought a collapse, and numbers drastically fell. Where have they all gone?
A local pastor took his church from humble beginnings and built it into a mega-church seating thousands. A choir of over two hundred sang in one of two services. After years at the helm, the founding pastor decided to retire. His replacement immediately faced challenges as soon as he took what appeared to be a prestigious position as Senior Pastor of this large church. Scandal broke out in his staff and worship team, and today only 1/3 of the seating capacity is used in only one service. Where have they all gone?
Mark Driscoll started in his garage, and grew his ministry into a multi-campus Mars Hill network of churches in the Northwest, boasting over 12,000 in attendance before the rubber bands of an abusive leadership environment snapped bringing its downfall and his resignation in less than a year.
The largest local evangelical church in our area, who even hosted a young Billy Graham, released their pastor for not giving enough altar calls. He had more of a pastoral heart as a shepherd rather than being an evangelist. Half of the congregation left with him forming a new church, now a mega-church. The former church has since dwindled to under two hundred attenders and even did a name change. Where have they all gone?
There are so many other examples that I could give. As churches grows in number, they begin to believe that they are infallible, maintaining their large numbers forever. History will prove them wrong. Many large churches often have a charismatic pastor. When he leaves or retires, numbers dwindle. Churches who offer excellent programs, professional sounding music, and highly entertaining sermons see their numbers dwindled when people feel like only a number. Still others have phenomenal children’s ministries and high powered youth programs, yet they dwindle when the twenty-somethings leave for college, career, and to experience their own spiritual journeys.
History records that a church unwilling to embrace change is doomed to become traditional and eventually will see their numbers dwindle. As a local church becomes highly organized and institutionalized, it loses its identity as an organism. Churches are not infallible. Many American cities now host an abundances of church buildings that have witnessed suburban flight, reducing their numbers. Many majestic edifices of past glory days now sit as beautiful mausoleums of stain glass and empty wooden pews.
In the following series of blogs I will ask you, “Is your local church willing to embrace change?” Historically the church is reluctant to embrace change, opting to remain steeped in tradition, guided by institutional regulations, and cemented in unbending theological doctrines, tenants, and beliefs. Let’s look at the state of the Church today and what it may look like if it is willing to go through a period of transition and change. What will that change produce? What will that change look like? Are we willing to embrace change, or will we continue to sing with conviction the old hymn Give Me That Old Time Religion because “it is good enough for me.”