My mentor and friend, Mark Elliott, made a statement that will stick with me and is likely one I will repeat. In a conversation about the death grip of status quo and resistance to change in many churches, Mark stated, “I’ve visited several churches over the years and if the 1970s return these churches are ready.” In other words, these churches have not adapted to new ways and means in reaching the lost and discipling them in their particular context. And by the way, it wouldn’t hurt to upgrade that green and gold bathroom and replace those 50 year old plastic flowers in the foyer.
Just in case you’re already nervous about where this article is going, I’m not talking about watering down or compromising the message. Instead, I’m saying we have to reevaluate how to best reach and disciple the people in our community. Maybe the most glaring mistake we are making is that we are expecting people to magically show up on Sunday and Wednesday night. I admit, we will see a few new faces of people that have moved here from out of town and they know what they’re looking for. However, by in large, the average family isn’t just going to show up at church because we are gathering for worship. For that matter, they aren’t going to bring their kids to activities and Bible study either. In fact, they’re not even concerned that they’re missing worship on Sunday. In many cases, God and church is absent from their thinking. You might say, they don’t even know they’re missing worship on Sunday.
In case you haven’t noticed, we are living in a post-modern and post-church culture. According to the man that was the first to write about the subject, Professor Ihab Hassan, postmodernism “means that we tend to disconnect from mainstream society and embrace antinationalism, anti-Christianity, and opposition to traditional moral law.” In conjunction with that, according to the dictionary, Postchristianity is “the loss of the primacy of the Christian worldview in political affairs, especially in the Western world where Christianity had previously flourished.” Allow me to put this in terms that we all understand. They don’t like us. Many are angry with us. They are somewhat suspicious of us. And, for sure, they aren’t going to wonder in to participate in church activities on Sunday or Wednesday night. And, for the most part, they aren’t going to bring their children or allow them to come with someone else.
Now, if you think that quibbling over which translation is the best, grinding each other down in the midst of worship wars and fixating on our preferences is going to fix the modern American church, you’re simply hallucinating. And, by the way, according to research led by Thom Rainer, former president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, “65 percent of churches are declining or plateaued.” What does this mean? Largely, we are gripped in the muck and mire of status quo. So, at the very least, status quo must go. Obviously, we got lazy when America enjoyed a culture that embraced Christian values and when worship was the thing to do on Sunday morning. Well, those days are long gone and we haven’t adapted. But let’s remember, the call to “make disciples” hasn’t changed. And since, for the most part, we weren’t making disciples, even in the midst of a Christian culture, it is really showing now.
In looking for solutions, we don’t need to look back and try to restore the good old days. That will just lead us to continue the status quo. We don’t need a return to the 1970s. Instead, we need to get back to our purpose as a church. Jesus makes it clear, “go and make disciples of all nations.” In obedience to Jesus, we are called to make disciples wherever we are going with whomever we are in contact regardless of the circumstances. With that said, allow me to outline a game plan to bury the status quo and lead us into alignment with Jesus.
- Pray for yourself to obey Jesus
- Pray for the lost
- As you go, witness to those you meet
- Serve the needs of people as the hands of Jesus
- As the Spirit leads, follow up where God is at work
- Disciple those who are willing
- Connect your new friends with other Christians
Are you with me? The status quo must go. Instead, in short, we must go and meet people, serve people and share our faith. There was no other way and there is no other way. Jesus commanded it and we must obey it regardless of the culture and the mood of a nation.
A Work in Progress,