I like Social Media. I really do. Over the course of a day I can keep up with huge numbers of people in the time it would take to complete a single phone call. I also like the fact that people read my stuff and listen to my sermons while I am doing other things. In the course of breakfast before work, I can share the Gospel with hundreds of people around the world while I am eating a chicken biscuit. This is crazy cool.
I like to ask all kinds of questions on line because I am interested in what people think but I don’t ever respond to the questions of others when things start getting heated…or personal. Partially because I think such responses add far more heat than light but mainly because I often have nothing nice to say and my mom told me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. So, rather than respond individually to a hundred church articles that I think are off base (some not even in the ballpark and others not even in a state containing a ballpark), I am going to toss them all into a blender, add some ice and pour out an ecclesiastical frappe.
Here are ten things pastors think are true that I don’t think are true.
- Churches turn around on their own Turn around’s happen when strategic leadership meets Holy Spirit power. They do not happen accidentally. Churches don’t turn around because they get “lucky.” They turn around because their mission becomes more important to them than their personal preferences.
- Committees should set the vision of a congregation God calls leaders, not committees. Pastors need to lead…not wait to be led.
- People have denominational brand loyalty If they ever did, they don’t now. Almost no one cares to know your denominational brand and if you are one of the few growing Mainline churches, it is probably hurting you more than helping you.
- Denominational dysfunctions don’t affect local congregations. You will never know how many people don’t pay you a first visit or quietly drift away because they have a negative connotation of your denominational brand. Denominations need to settle their squabbles, get on mission and “crack on.”
- Guilt, duty and obligation are effective motivation tools. If they ever were effective, they are no longer. Okay, perhaps on Easter and Christmas Eve but that is it. If people don’t want to attend church, they are not going to attend at all.
- Believing the right stuff makes a church vital I am a straight up evangelical but lot’s of dying churches have perfectly orthodox beliefs and are for all the right things and against all the wrong things. Churches have to offer a lot more than that…
- Music style has nothing to do with reaching new people Seriously? The Brothers Wesley got this, why can’t we? Musical tastes change but what doesn’t change is that connecting through music always matters!
- High church liturgy, well dressed parishioners and organ music are about to make a major comeback People love to write and read these articles but I simply don’t see it playing out in time and space. Sure there are tiny urban pockets of young liturgy fans but for the most part? Dream on. Organ music is not trending on iTunes. It’s not even trending in Branson. People come to church dressed like Jimmy Buffett.
- It is the community’s fault your church is dying This is like a restaurant about to go out of business blaming the community for their lack of culinary sophistication. It really doesn’t matter how good you think your food is if no one wants to eat it.
- Doing good grows churches. Most churches are literally doing good to death. They support missions but have forgotten that they are “missions” themselves. They give money away but making new Christians, growing them into disciples and sending them out to make new Christians grows churches isn’t happening much.
Over the years we have made many changes at Christ Church during our twenty-two year trek from 200 to 2,500. Some have been painful. Others have been risky but each has been implemented to better enable us to achieve our mission of “connecting people to Jesus Christ.”
I believe the greatest risk any church can take in 2019 is hoping that 1958 is going to suddenly return. Norman Rockwell’s America is gone. You may have liked that America better (I did) but it simply doesn’t matter. We have to reach this world for Jesus today.
The Great Commission demands it.
Discarding wrong headed assumptions is a great place to start…
Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist in the United Methodist Church, has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.