Church plants are springing up every five miles all over the nation. Each has the same basic purpose, but with completely different motives. This concerns me. I agree with the basis of the idea that church needs to change. However, I think we need to be very very careful as to how we approach it.
Movements have been labeled Missional, Emerging, Reformission, etc. We’re not dealing with movements. We don’t need a name. We’re dealing with people. By labeling these movements, we’re boxing ourselves in. We must be very careful to not build cookie-cutter approaches of how to “do church” into these movements. Challenge all you want, but understand your audience before you just plain make things worse.
There is a book by George Barna titled Revolution. I won’t write a book report or even review it here (maybe later). However, he labels this group of people rethinking church as “revolutionaries.” I love the term. My mom thinks it conjures images of war. Webster defines “revolution” as:
a sudden, complete or marked change in something
Culture has changed since Jesus’ time. Culture has changed since your church was founded. Culture has changed since you were born. We need to embrace change or we’re going to be seriously irrelevant if we aren’t already.
Where we have to be extremely careful is the fine line between revolution and rebellion. I’ve spoken to too many people involved in planting a new church that say something along the lines of “We’re going to be a church for people burned by the church.” Right away you’re founding your body on rebellion, a dangerous ideal. You’re saying that church is bad (it probably is), and we’re going to do it better (you probably will). What you’re also saying is that “church pissed us off, so we’re going to show you how church really should be done.” Stop now.
I’ve actually heard the statement “church should be done like this.” Church should be “done” however best addresses the needs of the culture in your community.
God can’t bless a bitter attitude. What God can bless is meeting people’s needs. Take that exact same group of people who have been “burned” by the church and find out what else they have in common. Just take out the “we’re frustrated” piece and focus on building honest, positive relationships. So what if they’ve been burned by the church. The point is building a relationship with the one true God, not a group of people called a church.
Yes, church needs to change. We need to get up out of the pews and make a difference in whatever culture is around us (there are probably several vastly different cultures within a five-mile radius of your church building or your home – pick one).
We need to be smart about how we spark change. Saying “church sucks” may work to inspire some folks (it did me), but it would anger others, backfiring completely. We could spend weeks talking about who’s problem that is. Sure, the people who get angry when challenged shouldn’t be angered by the idea of change, but I have a feeling we can make much more progress with more effective communication.
Understand your culture. Build relationships. Change what needs to be changed. Just please, please, please communicate effectively. Your message may be right on, but if you don’t understand your audience, or you communicate that message poorly, you’re going to have bigger problems than you started with.