I’m sitting in one of my favorite coffee haunts, at one of my favorite tables, waiting for one of my favorite friends. Unfortunately, when he arrives we will be off to a meeting that is one of my least favorite types.
I cannot disclose a lot of the details, but suffice it to say this will be a “crossroads” in the life a congregation that has a rich history, but a sketchy future. Our mission was invited into the situation a little over a year ago to see if there was anything we could do to change the course upon which the congregation was headed. They had moved beyond plateau to the brink of a precipice. Without some major course corrections the fall is imminent.
After investing great chunks of time, some dollars, heartfelt prayers, sweat and tears — we were told by the influential stakeholders that our proposals for change were unworkable for them (even though they are proven to work elsewhere).
Of course those saying so have no solid alternatives. They also are part of the main reason for the church being where it is. Our mission group basically had no other option but to back out gracefully and pray for divine intervention. Which is apparently what happened.
Another option came out of nowhere. Our group was approached about being the mediator and catalyst for a totally unexpected “godsend” type of solution. Once again those in the seats of power and influence are about to thwart all hope of rebirth.
Our meeting tonight — like a loved one faced with a “do not resuscitate” situation — we will probably pull the plug. There is no joy in that. None at all.
So why does this concern you as a reader? Stick with me for a moment, please.
As I have sat back and reviewed all the reasons (spoken and implied) for rejecting the plans put forth they all center around personal preference and comfort. There has been little consideration to the mission of Christ and the possibility of continuing His work.
They want their congregation to survive — but on their terms. The task of winning the world for Christ? Ok, sure… Just as long as it is accomplished “my way” and on “my terms”. Don’t ask for any sacrifice, repentance, or commitment beyond Sunday attendance. Let’s move ahead with our eyes firmly fixed on the rear view mirror.
My question(s) for you ….. As a disciple how willing are you to accept sacrifice? How willing are you to forgo your comfort and satisfaction for the benefit of those who are lost? How often are the lost talked about in your church? In what context are they discussed? Are they the ones you love as Jesus did and that you exist to serve — or are they the outsiders (and aren’t we glad we aren’t part of THAT crowd!). Is the task of reaching the lost job number one? Mike Rowe used to joke about “safety is job 2”. Is evangelism for you and your church even that high on the priority list?
A friend of mine says with a fair amount of regularity — You can lead a horse to water but you can’t saddle a duck.
Yeah — it sort of doesn’t follow. But then again….
As a ministry we can lead those who lack any sort of vision or passion for making disciples to the water (a disciple-making paradigm), but you cannot ride them without a paradigm shift.
Saddling a duck is useless and counterproductive. Even if it is accomplished (why would you want to?) it is a waste of time since the duck is probably un-rideable (and you wont’s get very far).
We have tried through preaching and teaching, but bottom line — they want no part of learning discipleship. They want membership.
Church members who have lost their first love (Revelation 2:4-5) can be shown all sorts of great ideas, visions, paradigms, and models — but without a foundational shift in their heart — a reconversion if you will — you may as well try to saddle a duck….