This post isn’t about fish, it’s not about the number 42, and it isn’t about towels. Thought each of those are worthy in their own right. Instead, I want to share something that one of my favorite authors, Douglas Adams wrote.
In an article titled How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet, Adams points out how change works in our lives:
1. Birth - Everything that is in the world when we are born is just normal
2. Before 30 – Anything invented between birth and 30 is incredibly exciting and we hope we can make a career out of it
3. After 30 - Anything invented after 30 is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilization…
While he applied it to technology it can pretty well be said about all manner of things, including church programs.
The beginning of a church is often an exciting time. Everyone is aware of the mission and excited to see the church grow. New things can fail and it is okay because the mission lives on.
But, as time goes on people begin to get used to certain programs. Our outward focus wanes and we begin to focus on keeping the program alive or the people happy. At this point, the church is 30. Not literally (although it could be). To stop a program or start a new one can feel like it is against the natural order of things.
That is also a key indicator that your church is preparing to die. Once our focus turns inward, we’re in trouble.
I’m a fan of Awana, social justice, pot luck dinners, Sunday school, advocacy, and a number of other things that churches can do…however, these can never be central, only the Gospel holds that position. People can be Sparkies, well fed, clothed, well governed, and go to Sunday school and still wind up in hell. These program are tools to help the church share the Gospel with people – they are not ends into themselves.
When, in our desire to maintain, we object to the closing of programs or the starting of new church programs as if they are against the natural order of things, we would do well to ask the right questions:
Can church leaders explain how this will help us better reach people in our community (even if you disagree)?
If the answer is yes, then it’s probably a time of personal soul searching. Can you get behind the change? If you disagree, can you point to scripture as a resource or do you just “feel” that it is unnatural? Have you asked the right questions to the right people?
Change can be difficult. Remember, our culture changes and we change and sometimes that means that our church programs are going to need to change in order for the us to carry out the mission of the church: Faithful preaching and teaching of the Gospel message.