How have your life, church, family, business and community changed since Sept. 11th?
In many instances people will readily discuss the changes in their lives, businesses, communities and even families. But rarely do we acknowledge how our church has changed since Sept. 11th. If your church hasn't changed, I would ask some serious questions.
When we're at war everything changes in order to respond effectively to the devastation. I'm not suggesting that the Gospel changes, but the acts of terrorism and their impacts on families, children, marriages, businesses and communities surely call for a clear, fresh and relevant word from God and a nurturing, caring, responsive and even prophetic response from the church.
When we're at war there will be inconvenience, discomfort and a change of lifestyle.
In the movie "Pearl Harbor" the president's cabinet met to discuss America's response. Most of those leaders offered reasons why current ideas wouldn't work! The president, crippled by disease, worked diligently and deliberately to stand to his feet, through his own power, to prove the point that "nothing is impossible."
Does your church have that kind of bold response, courage and creativity? Do we as leaders exercise that kind of courage, faith and creativity in the face of challenges brought about by war? Why? Why not?
Challenges Our Churches Are Facing in the "New Normal"
- Economic struggles and decisions are brought on by the consequences of unemployment and an unstable economy. Some churches, for the first time in recent history, have to downsize staffing because of a declining financial base. Other churches, who are accustomed to using their entire building for meetings (even though their declining membership doesn't necessitate this – but their tradition does), are faced with realities anew. How is your church helping the unemployed retool and find anchoring during these difficult days?
- Congregations and communities are confronted daily with fears that often paralyze or alter behavior or attitudes. How is your church responding to these realities in your community? Are you ignoring them or seeking ways to minister to them?
- Communicating the Good News in such trying times is a real challenge. When life is "normal" the way we teach and preach are not so challenging, but today we are called to struggle with deep questions of faith, ethics, integrity and callings. What forums have your church created to allow church and community leaders to grapple with these deep issues of the Christian faith?
- Understanding the realties of our diverse culture challenges individuals, churches, communities and governments. What is your church doing to help others understand our diversity of customs, cultures and faiths? What forums and resources are you making available to help people process these challenges?
Far too many of our churches and church leaders are against changing anything in "their" church. Such a desire for comfort is causing many of our churches to become even more irrelevant than many churches already are.
Jack Welch in The Performance Factor said, "If change inside the organization is occurring more slowly than change outside the organization, then the death of the organization is imminent."
Our churches have a great opportunity to show to our community, our membership and our world that we can and do have courage and faith to become relevant in these challenging times. If we decide not to raise the bar of effectiveness for our ministry, if we choose to live in comfort, we are taking another step in the irrelevancy of the church in this culture.
Eddie Hammett (firstname.lastname@example.org) is leadership/discipleship consultant for Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Buy Hammett's books now from Amazon.com!
Making the Church Work: Converting the Church forthe 21st Century
The Gathered and Scattered Church
Reframing Spiritual Fomation