Pay Attention to the Future

“The church had better pay attention to the future because that is where we will do ministry.”
Leith Anderson
     During my doctoral studies I had the opportunity to study with Leith Anderson. He is the author of Dying for Change and A Church for the 21st Century, as well as the Senior Pastor of Wooddale Church in the Minneapolissuburb of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, a congregation of over ten thousand members.
     The singular most important comment that he made to the twelve pastors in his class was, “The church had better pay attention to the future because that is where we will do ministry.”
      Anderson continued that yesterday’s successes (in the church) often are the greatest obstacles to today’s innovation. Simply, because it worked so well yesterday, the leaders of the church are reluctant to change the method for doing ministry. Trouble is, what was state-of-the-art yesterday is often obsolete today, much like my old record player.
     What is the church to do? One answer, of course, is nothing. The church can continue to do ministry like it has for the past number of decades. What is likely, however, is that such a church will then begin to behave like an older person: Taking fewer risks than in the days of youth, concerned with paying off the mortgage and making plans for retirement and death.
     Another answer is for the leaders of the church to revisit the church’s core values (the question of what is important around here), the mission statement (the question of why is the church here), the vision statement (the question of what will it look like when we have achieved the mission) and a development of a fresh strategy for realizing the vision (the question of how will we get there). Such an approach will infuse fresh energy into the church and enable a witness to Christ that is relevant to a changing culture.
     Your Long-Range Planning Committee will be addressing these questions as they begin their work. I hope you will partner with them by holding their efforts in your daily prayers as they seek God’s wisdom and direction for this church.

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