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Want to Choke the Life Out of Your Church? Try This.

I met with many pastor search teams to help them in that process while serving as an area resource minister.

The majority of the churches in my area were smaller churches, and many of them were looking for bivocational leadership.

One of the things that often hindered their search was the expectations they had of the pastor.

Here is a common scenario: The church averages 50 people on a Sunday morning. They want a pastor who will lead worship Sunday morning, Sunday night and conduct a Wednesday night Bible study.

In one such church, I asked how many people attended the church on Sunday and Wednesday nights. The answer was about eight to 10, which I presumed were probably the same people.

I then asked if they thought this was the best use of the pastor’s time or if that time could be more effectively used doing something else.

They were adamant that the church would have those three services. After all, they wanted their church opened at those times in case someone decided to attend then.

I grew up in a time when churches did have those three services, and I usually attended all three even as a child. However, we no longer live in those days. I would prefer that we did, but we don’t.

We need to learn to minister in the environment in which we do live.

Churches used to do many things in the past, especially if they were much larger than they are today, but that doesn’t mean they need to continue doing them now.

Trying to maintain dated traditions is choking the life out of many churches.

Insisting on three worship times each week, insisting on age-graded Sunday school classes, insisting on certain theological degrees for their pastors, insisting that only men can provide leadership in the church, insisting that the church conducts Vacation Bible School every year, insisting that we continue having revival meetings that are poorly attended. These are just some of the traditions that we need to question.

Are they really adding value to the ministry of our church today? Or do we continue to insist on them because this has been the tradition of our church?

Trying to relive the past isn’t going to end well for many of our churches. What we are doing isn’t working. It’s time to seek a fresh vision for God for ministry in the 21st century and begin to live into that vision.

If churches refuse to do that, they will continue to die off while God raises up new churches that will fulfill his mission on earth.

For years, I’ve heard smaller churches complain about the fast-growing church in town that is taking their members.

The complainers are sure these new churches must be compromising the Scriptures or doing something unethical to be growing so fast.

The fact is that most of them are doing neither. They are simply trying to do ministry in a way that relates to where people are today.

The very fact that God had to raise up a new church in your area says that such a church must have been needed to reach the people for whom Christ gave his life.

We can either hold tightly to the traditions of the past or grasp tightly to the ministry God wants to do today.

Which will your church decide to do?

Dennis Bickers is a church consultant and author. He served previously as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, for 20 years followed by a 14-year ministry as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. A version of this first column appeared on his blog, Bivocational Ministry, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @DennisBickers.