7 Lessons from a pastor who has been tempted to stop changing.
Ive given my life to church ministry and leadership. It’s almost all I think about. In fact, I have to make myself think about other things in order to rest from the focus I put on church leadership, discipleship and ministry progression. I read for hours a day. And I’ve put in 13 full time years of education after high school on the topic, not to mention about 10 years of being mentored by leaders in the field.
I have also had the pleasure of mentoring and coaching about 25 Christian leaders over the past 10-15 years. Watching them learn, grow and produce great harvest with their lives has been one of my life’s greatest joys.
In all of the time, I’ve had a few clear things come to my understanding.
Satan is a sly and slick adversary. He lies in the most cunning ways. Little by little, he has led many, both inside and outside of the church, to misunderstand its purpose and function.
- Many American Pastors have allowed their role to be redefined from a biblical model. Somehow, the roles played by guys like Peter, Paul, Titus and Timothy have come to look like sweet little priests who are nice to everyone and hang out at hospitals and funeral homes. Instead of leading the charge to keep the lost out of hell… they spend their time praying that God will keep the saved out of heaven. It sounds all good and sweet, but our prayer meetings have stopped praying for revival and started praying for relief. “God help us hurt less. God keep my aunt from being sick. God make the pain go away.” Because of this I find that rarely do people in my life actually know what I do with my time. They make assumptions that I’m a chaplain or a priest instead of knowing that I’m making every attempt to be a Paul, Timothy and Titus. Pastors should be change agents who are pushing their people to embrace every personal and public change that God is directing. (Please know that I love and support pastors… even those theologically sound ones who do ministry with a far different style than my own. This is not meant to be critical, but honest. I hope to be an encouragement to pastors to stand up and lead. Our congregations need us to lead strong.)
- Many church going Christians are tempted to love the way they ‘do church’ more than what Christ has called the church ‘to do.’ In fact, they will often keep doing church a certain way even though the measurable facts are evident that things like long term discipleship, confession of sin, repentance and the growth of spiritual fruit and giftedness are not present.
- Sometimes church members will make an enemy of those who are trying to innovate to help produce greater results in those same areas. For some reason, things like discipleship and confession are actually ‘against the grain’ in many church contexts.
- Often people will make it very clear that ‘change’ is viewed as a bad thing. And this is one of the hardest things for me to understand. Christianity is a spirituality of change. It is literally about change. We are born dead… Jesus gives us life. That’s change. We are saved as fleshly people… Jesus disciples us to move toward Him. That’s change. We are to grow in Christ. That’s change. Over and over, we find change at the heart of the gospel. So without a doubt, one of life’s greatest mysteries for me is why it has become so normative that the older and more experienced many Christians become.. the less they like or are willing to change. If you have a good answer for me.. let me know.
- The church in America is dying. And often the majority of church goers still support the systems and regular approaches that helped to bring about that death. In the meantime, a small group of innovators are seeking to find a greater expression of life, hope, grace and joy in Christianity. We are seeking change. We are convinced of the classical understanding of the gospel (Penal Substitutionary Atonement) and due to the above mentioned things… we are often viewed in negative ways become of it.
- As these innovators grow older and find it hard to go against the grain, they often settle and stop innovating. Some of the most disappointed and depressed Christians I’ve ever met were people who once had great vision… But they quit. Things got hard and they just gave up. They became apart of the norm instead of trying to lead it toward helpful change. I know this has been a great temptation for me. Relaxing and going with the flow would simply be easier. It pays in this world. People like you more. It looks successful. But it simply isn’t what God called us to do.
- There are some people who are trying to lead a bad kind of change. I see some redefining the gospel in watered down ways. I see some who only speak positively and never mention sin or repentance. I believe this group is small. But it is loud. And it may be this rare occurrence of false teachers that cause the majority to ward off any change.
In the long run, the church must, must, must learn to differentiate between the false teachers who should be avoided and the innovators who seek to make the gospel more clear and accessible to the masses. If we do not, we will continue to make life hard on those who God has sent to lead us forward. And our fear of change may very well be the final nail in the coffin for many churches.
These are a few of my personal observations and opinions.