Friday, January 29, 2016
I am part of many social media groups, on everything from restoring old engines to groups where pastors can have a dialog about things with other pastors. One interaction from the latter group caught my attention this past weekend. A pastor of an urban church was upset that the county had scheduled a marathon for Sunday morning, for which the route went by the church, impacting the ability of folks to get to worship. They were forced to reschedule worship for Sunday evening.
Helpful pastors from all over chimed in – they saw this as an opportunity for ministry – perhaps providing a water station for runners, or praying for them as they passed. Others saw it as a way to minister ‘outside the box’ or practice some evangelism. It’s a sad habit of pastors – we’re often in ‘fix’ mode when we should be in listening or considering mode.
Well, this pastor would have none of these fixes. He did not want to affirm the decision to run the marathon on a Sunday morning, a time once reserved for churches, even while others continued to affirm an opportunity in the marathon. I marveled at the sense of entitlement – somewhat taken aback at the idea that there were still mainline pastors who believed we had some special hold on Sunday mornings.
And the church held their Sunday worship service in the evening. It was lightly attended. But during the marathon? When thousands lined the streets? The church sat cold, empty, silent, and dark. Yes, rather like a tomb.
There was a time in our culture when Blue Laws and the like reserved Sunday morning for churches. Such laws and social conventions prohibited people from doing much of anything else.
I’m hoping you’ve noticed; that time has passed. Now, you can choose to tilt at these windmills, or you can choose to acknowledge that our culture has changed. We must change church culture as well if we want to be relevant for rest of the 21st century. But it will be about this basic choice: You can be outraged and try to re-establish long dead entitlements, or you can learn how to offer extravagant hospitality and a wide welcome to your whole community. Do you see it? Instead of using laws and social conventions to force people in, we will have to be relevant, noticed, and be a place people are transformed.
It goes without saying, but I guess I will say it anyway, that if that church actually served that neighborhood, getting to church wouldn’t have been an issue anyway.
You’ve probably heard this from me before but here it is:
All of the energy your congregation consumes trying to recapture your past is energy stolen from your future.
Be attuned to the ways your congregation attempts to hold onto the past. If you are using a lot of energy, is it energy you will need for tomorrow’s ministry? Help the church break free from habits that no longer serve your mission well (even if it feels like it serves you well).
Learn to let go, and:
· And Listen.
· And Hear what great things are in store for you.
Along with the Center for Progressive Renewal, I believe our best days are ahead - if you’re willing to risk – to be uprooted – to be open to the guiding of the Holy Spirit. Church must always be in transition. It always has. And that’s OK. Because we know our Rock and Redeemer guides us and grounds us.