Yesterday I was having lunch with an old friend and we were discussing the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of churches. It was a great sharing of ideas, but more importantly experience. Between us we have over 60 years of ministerial experience (and more than a few war stories). After lunch I asked him to share some of his ideas on church culture, values and practices and one of his statements jumped off the page, “Both change for the sake of change, and clinging to tradition for the sake of clinging to tradition are limiting and enslaving.” AMEN!
I truly appreciate the balance in this statement. I have seen churches that never find their core or compass because they are always changing things up. On the other hand I have also seen churches who are so steeped in tradition (not truth), that they abandon any and every good idea based on the premise “we have always done it this way.”
A number of years ago I preached in a small island community in Florida. There were only 600 people and 4 religious groups on the island. We wanted to offer some special classes that might draw the attention of those uninitiated in a church, or even some of our religious neighbors. It was suggested that we change our mid-week service from Wednesday to either Tuesday or Thursday. The initial reaction was “it’s always been on Wednesday” and “everyone has midweek services on Wednesday”, which begged the question. Our neighbors in the community were already committed on Wednesday night. When we finally changed to a Thursday night service and offered special classes on parenting and marriage, our attendance nearly doubled.
On the flip side I have also attended what I call, “the flavor of the week” churches. They are never content to find a working solution to their ministry and therefore are shifting gears every week or month. You are always hearing about the next great thing to transform the church when in most instances it is a rebranding of some failed program. It soon becomes a situation of “all sizzle and no steak.”
These two extremes bring me to a few simple conclusions about church:
- Understand what your core values are. When making decisions concerning the church they should be based on two simple principles: 1) Are they Biblical; 2) Do they meet the core values of the congregation? (That was another principle my friend shared).
- Make decisions that glorify God.
- Make decisions that focus on people’s spiritual needs.
I am convinced that God made church pretty simple to understand, it is man that complicates things. A group of Christians should assemble for the purpose of glorifying God, encouraging the church and gaining some nugget of spiritual gold that allows them to live better this week.