While God’s Word will never change, and our churches should never compromise on biblical doctrine, there are changes that need to take place in our congregations. Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, has a name for churches that will die if they don’t make changes; he calls them “the urgent church.” In his article, “Urgent Church: Nine Changes We Must Make or Die,” on thomrainer.com he writes:
“If changes do not happen soon, very soon, these churches will die. The pace of congregational death is accelerating.”
He offers nine key changes that churches and their congregations must make, and none of these are easy. These changes are only possible through God’s power. Here are five of Rainer’s points:
1. Congregations must stop lamenting the death of cultural Christianity.
Did cultural Christianity make the lives of Christians in the West easier and more comfortable…yes—but is it necessary for continued church growth and gospel sharing…no. Christians can no longer sit in their churches and expect that people will come if they want to simply based on the fact that the church is located along the commute of a certain part of the area’s population. Rainer advises,
“Such whining does us no good. Easy growth is simply not a reality for many churches. People no longer come to a church because they believe they must do so to be culturally accepted.”
But when someone does walk through that door whether they stumbled upon your church, planned a visit, or were invited make sure they feel welcome. Look for new faces, don’t be afraid to ask people if they’re new (either way they’re new to you), and ask them if they’d like to sit with you or your family. As Crosswalk contributor Brittany Rust states, “This could significantly change their church experience.”
2. Congregations must stop viewing the church as a place of comfort and stability in the midst of a changing world.
God’s truth and His Word are unchanging, and He will always bring us comfort—but that doesn’t mean that churches can’t and shouldn’t make changes to how they approach growth or the traditions they implement. Rainer states,
“Indeed, we must learn to be uncomfortable in the world if we are to make a difference. “We’ve never done it that way before,” is a death declaration.”
Crosswalk Contributor Ron Edmondson explains,
“The old got you to where you are today. It’s not bad. In fact, at one time it was very good… the best. The old was once new. The new is simply where the most energy is at currently. (Someday it will be old.)”
3. Congregations must abandon their entitlement mentalities.
If we’ve been a long-standing member, a frequent volunteer, and a faithful tither sometimes we may feel like we are entitled to certain privileges in our churches. Yes there are certain Sundays where the music may seem too loud or too different (maybe even too old), or the temperature is too hot or too cold (it might be time to make those paper fans popular again), and maybe your stomach is starting to grumble after the sermon goes longer than it usually does.
Just this past Sunday, a pastor commented on how a member of the congregation had joking said to him, “The sermon today is going to be shorter with the March madness games right…ha-ha” I did a mental eye roll, as I have heard people make these “jokes” to pastors before. As annoyed as I get with these people, I am just as guilty in other respects. Everyone in the church is. We are far more similar to the culture, which we like to identify as separate from, than we realize.
“Your church is not a country club where you pay dues to get your perks and privileges. It is a gospel outpost where you are to put yourself last.”
4. Congregations need to start doing.
It’s so easy to talk about doing things; we can have numerous meetings and come up with elaborate plans before we realize we still haven’t done anything. This not only goes for evangelism and outreach, it also goes for serving in the church.
We seem to hear a lot of “the church needs to do this, the pastor needs to do that, and we need to have this available.” Sometimes, we have to be part of the change we want to see in our church. Many times the people voicing their opinions far outweigh the people willing to put the time in to accomplish these changes.
If the same group of people serves on a regular basis, they will eventually burn out. The work should be shared, and everyone is valuable and able to contribute. If you feel like you don’t have what it takes or that you don’t have the knowledge or experience that others who are serving do follow Rainer’s tip:
“Try a simple prayer and ask God to give you gospel opportunities. You may be surprised how He will use you.”
Every time I feel like God hasn’t placed an opportunity in my life that I think should be there, I stop and ask myself: Have I really prayed about this? Praying will help us see the opportunities God has placed in our lives vs. the ones we would like to see.
5. Congregations must stop spending so much time on minor issues.
Oh there are so many minor issues in the church; too many to even begin to list! There are committees on top of committees, weekly and monthly meetings, as well as sessions—and to be honest some of these are not productive and keep our focus too long on things that shouldn’t carry the weight that they do.
Why do we do this? Maybe because it gives us a sense of control, maybe it makes us feel like we are accomplishing things. This is of course not to say that some committees, meetings, and sessions aren’t important…they are! But we should reevaluate how much time is spent in this area and how productive the time is.
Rainer points out,
“Satan must delight when a church spends six months wrangling over a bylaw change. That’s six months of gospel negligence.”
To read Rainer’s other four changes that churches need to make please visit thomrainer.com.
“Around 200 churches will close this week, maybe more. The pace will accelerate unless our congregations make some dramatic changes. The need is urgent.”
Do any of these changes need to be made in your church? Ask your church to pray about these things with you.
Crosswalk.com Contributor, Scott Slayton, writes,
“In Ephesians 5:15-16, Paul encourages us to, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” We have limited time here on earth, have limited attention and focus to give, and limited energy to expend. Shouldn’t we give our time, attention, and energy to things that really matter while learning to ignore the rest?”
5 Helpful Tips to Cultivate Selective Ignorance
6 Ways to Reach Out to the Lonely Church-Goer
4 Hidden Issues that Divide the Body of Christ
10 Things I’m Learning Leading Church Change
5 Things Church is Not About
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Kalulu
Publication date: March 27, 2017
Liz Kanoy is an editor for Crosswalk.com.