- See more at: http://columbiapartnership.typepad.com/the_columbia_partnership/#sthash.epdkGaow.dpuf
In the midst of a region of the world where the impact of a churched culture is fading, many congregations in North America are stuck in an overly churched culture perspective. As a result these congregations become insulated, isolated, and inoculated from people who are preChristians, unchurched, underchurched, and dechurched.
These congregations did not mean for this to happen. It was not intentional. It just crept up on them over a number of years—even decades.
I have been deeply involved in church life and leadership all of my life. I believe in the Church. I consider myself a mature Christian. I believe God ordained the Church to join in the mission of God in the world. After a decade into the 21st century I am deeply concerned about the Church in North America.
While some local churches are growing and proving effective, there are many churches closing their doors due to lack of funds or participation or both. Some researchers indicate 90 to 95 percent of existing North American churches are plateaued in attendance, and about 75 percent of the population is considered unchurched. Others predict we may lose about 60 percent of our existing churches in the next 20 years unless trends change now.
Not only are Millennials leaving the Church, but there are a growing number of believers, church members, Christ followers who are losing interest in an active participation in the institutional church. They are not giving up their faith, but see the institutional church as a barrier to living out their faith in our ever changing world. I have observed this in friends, colleagues, pastors, denominational leaders, family and in myself.
I have been in church leadership most of my life. I come from a family of church leaders. I have served in volunteer positions, part-time, full-time and multi-career leadership positions in churches, denominations, and parachurch groups. I have seen and experienced the challenges and the celebrations of leadership. Throughout the last 40 plus years of service, I have noted and felt the pressures to care for the flock.
Too often members—and even the church leadership culture expectations—focus more on caring for the members through deep and wide pastoral care. Hospital, nursing home, and home visitation are essential in most churches—particularly those under 350 in attendance. Then of course, there are marriages, counseling sessions, crisis counseling, funerals, follow-up bereavement care and counseling. Not to mention membership and spiritual formation counseling. If the pastoral leaders, deacons, and elders do all the expected caring, we have little time to lead the church forward. There’s only so much time in a day and so much energy.
Beyond the ability to be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, what else do congregations want from their next senior or solo pastor?
At the request of a ministry friend I looked at the profile of a congregation where he hopes to be considered as senior pastor. When reading congregational profiles it is important to understand the meaning behind the content. Or, at least the assumed meaning ought to call for some powerful questions to be asked by the pastoral candidate during the interview process.
[Note: The first version of this article first appeared on the ABP News Blog and is available by clicking HERE.]
The long-term goal of many congregations is to turn their church into a museum. It is not intentional. It is unintentional. It is just that actions taken year after year may migrate them away from thriving as a missional movement to existing as an institutionalized organization much like a museum.
They honesty believe the pre-museum actions are the right thing to do. They fall prey to short-term thinking such as the following: We need that new building to keep and to attract youth. We need to refurbish the organ or install a new one. We need to revitalize our programs because worked so well in years past.
Or, our view of our pastor is one of chaplain. Therefore, as we get more older people we need to hire an associate chaplain. We have so many needs here that we cannot afford to give all of that money to missional engagement outside our congregation.
The more of these kinds of actions a congregation takes, the more they are winding their way up the steps to the front door of their museum. To illustrate this point, let us play the game, Morph Your Church into a Museum.