Churches and Transition (2)
How do churches make the necessary transitions to remain vibrant and viable in the face of sweeping changes across the culture? It is not easy, for sure. But, it is possible.
The church I serve was established in 1871. It is older than our city! Ulysses Grant was the President of the United States when a small band of Baptists organized our church in a small community forged around a stagecoach stop. The church eventually moved three miles to the north because the railroad was about to start servicing the area.
Think about all of the changes that have occurred around this church since 1871! And our church is flourishing today. We are home to about 2500 or so regular attenders. We sponsor Mission Arlington that has about 350 apartment churches that meet each Sunday across our city with another 4000 or so in attendance. We also host and support Living Hope -- the largest ministry of its kind in America that assists sexually broken people in their journey of healing. We also have a Child Development Center, a Center for Counseling and Enrichment (11 licensed counselors), Christian Women's Job Corps, operate an office building downtown and we have launched a church-based mission network called Restore Hope. We also are training and sending our own people to live long-term cross-culturally across the world. We are directly at work in Niger, Sierra Leone, Costa Rica, Mexico, China, Indonesia, Spain, India, Japan and New York City. Last year we were able to determine that our church had direct ministry contact with over 600,000 people in over 160 countries around the world.
All that to say -- God has blessed our church and it is flourishing.
How have we managed all of the transitions in both the broader culture and within our own body? Here are a few insights I have learned along the way.
1. EMBRACE YOUR ERA
This is a crucial insight. Many churches make the mistake of staring in the rear-view mirror. Many churches long for days long gone. I would challenge you to surrender any lament about "what used to be." You have to get over it!
In my office, I have a rug that reads, "You are here." I stand on it occasionally! If you want to go anywhere, you have to start where you are! You cannot start from where you wish you were. You have to begin here and now.
I could challenge you to embrace your era. This is not 1955. It is 2015. America is a different place than it was just 50 years ago. Your church (and mine) must recognize the unique challenges and opportunities of this era.
So - take some time to evaluate this era. What are the forces at work today? Recognize that pluralism, technology and migration have all had an effect on the culture. Churches are called upon to minister in the midst of the pluralistic realities resulting from massive people migration to the USA. We live in the day of the diaspora. This is also a day where churches are more focused on Kingdom endeavors than denominational initiatives. Churches are looking for collaborative opportunities based on shared affinities rather than geographical proximity.
Take some time to evaluate how the realities of this era can offer your church opportunities for ministry and mission. This is a great time to be alive and in ministry! Seize this day!