“Why do we keep doing church the same way even when we know it’s in critical decline?”
“The problem is that our present evangelical ‘Come to us’ paradigm of the church has not been an appropriate missiological response to the paradigms that exist in our world.”
Both quotes from, The Tangible Community: Creating Incarnational Community
I agree that that second quote is fairly jargon laden. But the insight is an important one. The problem with the way many congregations do church is that they attempt to “institutionalize” the way church was once done, and the way we like it, and expect people to come and share our preference. Examples abound. We want worship that only uses music that suits our taste, Sunday School that uses traditional curriculum and programs offerings “like we remember it used to be done.” Rather than asking the important question, “How might we connect more people to Jesus Christ?” we become guardians of “old” church.
Consider this quote from another book, A Field Guide for the Missional Congregation. “The speaker was trying to be gracious, but he also wanted to be honest. Addressing a large number of pastors of a midsized mainline denomination, he remarked, ‘You know, if the 1950s ever come back, your congregations are well prepared to respond.’”
Fortunately, the numbers of people in our church who are discontent with “old” church are multiplying. They are persons who have a contagious passion to share Jesus Christ with others. And they are determined to do so even if it means developing new models for ministry.
This, of course, does not mean that everything old is bad. Traditional worship, with its traditional hymns, continues to speak to the deep needs of many persons. Traditional Sunday School curriculum can still be effective for some and programs that have been repeated for years may still have value. The conversation here is not about “out with the old and in with the new!” The point these books wish to make is that it is shortsighted to expect unchurched persons in our community to be spiritually nurtured in the same way that we are. Rather than wholesale dismissal of everything old and embracing only what is new, these authors suggest a principle of “and also.” This principal simply means that the church continue with what still works while exploring “also” other approaches to connect people with Jesus and nurture their faith.
In the New Year, your leaders will be wrestling with how we might keep our focus on the main thing, bringing more people to Jesus Christ. Celebrating what already works while developing new approaches will require much discernment and care. Your continued prayers for your Elders is solicited and appreciated.