Tag Archives: transformation

Embrace Change

IMG_0072It’s been said, there are 2 things that you can count on for sure – death and taxes. Well, obviously, there are more things than this that are inevitable. The love of God, the power of the cross, and eternity are for sure. The Bible says, “Heaven and earth may pass away but the Word of the Lord remains.” I would like to humbly add one more thing to this list: CHANGE. Regardless of whether or not we like it, change always comes. There is no denying it, avoiding it, or outsmarting it. Change happens.

Some change is bad. Deteriorating morals, new definitions of right and wrong, and adding to or taking away from the Bible are most certainly destructive. What is socially acceptable, which is subject to change, is not the standard for believers. We must hold tightly to the standards of God’s Word and His expectations of holiness are never to be compromised.

We must never consider changing the meaning of the Scriptures. But not everything in our church is sacred. Not every method of our worship is holy. The Bible doesn’t indicate if chairs or pews are better, if the Holy Spirit prefers a particular version of the Bible, or what color the carpet in the sanctuary should be. The Message never changes but at times, the method of the delivery of the message must be adjusted. A good example may be music. Music in the church looks and sounds completely different today than it did 100 years ago. A few very large churches back then had pipe organs. The smaller churches had few instruments, but those that did featured primitive acoustic guitars, banjos, and an occasional out-of-tune piano. The fact that there were no sound systems changed the approach to worship, at least how we are familiar with it today. Crowds were generally smaller. People sang loudly because there were no microphones. No electricity or air conditioning created challenges we no longer have. Now, some people prefer things the way they were back then. But guess what? Things changed. Good or bad, times brought about advancements in technology and innovations that resulted in more people being presented with the opportunity to hear the preaching and engage in worship. Some changes are bad, but some changes are good. We must know the difference.

Those who refuse to change really have no choice, change comes to us all, like it or not. Digging one’s heels in only results in being left behind. And even worse, when we refuse to adjust our methods, our voice to the culture gets silenced because we lose touch with the people in the culture.

I encourage you, stay true to your convictions. Never compromise on the integrity of the Bible. Don’t sugarcoat the truth. But let’s not get stuck fighting for an opinion that is merely an opinion. If the Bible says that a particular behavior is sin, it is. But if there is room for interpretation, please respect others and their ability to make decisions as the Lord leads them. One of our fathers in the faith, Augustine of Hippo said, “In the essentials unity, in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” I interpret this to mean that we must stay together in the unquestionable issues – like the basic doctrines of our faith. But in areas where the Bible is not black and white (like preaching styles, types of worship music, or the design of our church buildings), we should allow people to choose their preference. And regardless of what other people think and do, we must love them. Let’s not go to war with one another over tastes, opinions and preferences.

I believe we have a responsibility to know how to apply the Bible to every generation. If I weaken the effectiveness of the Gospel by the way I present it (if no one ever gets saved or discipled), I am wrong if I don’t adjust. If what I am doing no longer works, I must seek God for the changes He wants me to make. My excuses of stubbornness or inflexibility will not stand on judgment day.

Once we die, things will finally quit changing. But until then, brace yourself for change, and lots of it. Don’t allow the pace of change in this world to leave you behind. The world needs us to share the eternal truth of God’s Word in new, creative and innovative ways.

The world is changing rapidly but the Truth of Jesus is eternally effective. Let’s do whatever we can to reach as many as we can for Christ!

Advertisements

Why Some Churches Don’t Grow

why some churches don't grow 2

It’s not a perfect science. Increasing the impact and influence of a church can be very difficult. We all agree that numerical growth does not necessarily mean spiritual growth. But it is vital that churches around the world reach more people for Jesus. The church is God’s “Plan A” to reach the lost – and we are surrounded by lost people.

Here are 10 simple reasons why churches don’t grow. The list is not complete and these reasons are not written in stone. This is not an attack on pastors who lead plateaued churches. I simply wish to provide some discussion for churches and church leaders who hope to grow.

No passion for growth. Some churches stay the same because there is no desire to reach more people. Possibly there is a lack of awareness or maybe there is a disconnect with the surrounding culture. Many churches seem to be okay with the status quo. It’s business as usual. The tendency is to rely on our abilities more than we rely on God’s miracles. Spiritual lethargy sets in and corrodes a church. Churches that do not want to grow won’t. A lack of intensity will ensure that we stay stuck. We must pray until we receive the fervor; it takes passion to get “unstuck.”

No strategy for growth. It is rare to hear a pastor say that he doesn’t want the church to grow. But without intentionality, a church is not likely to grow. Even when specific strategies are followed, there is no guarantee of increase. But no plan will quickly lead to stagnation. Rather than thriving, our goal becomes to maintain and survive. Have you outlined your blueprint to grow your church?

Unwillingness to change. Some churches know what to do in order to reach more people but they are unwilling to make the necessary adjustments in order to do so. We do the same things the same way – because of tradition. The past is more important than the future; our rearview mirror is bigger than our windshield. This kind of ministry atrophy is especially difficult to overcome. Lack of change will result in lack of growth. Lack of growth will result in extinction.

Lack of “know how.” Don’t believe the “experts” who tell you that church growth is a matter of taking “these 3 easy steps.” You can do certain things that will gather a crowd but true church growth is much more complex and spiritual than simply amassing warm bodies. Many pastors and leaders would gladly do whatever it takes to grow. Many times, church is a matter of doing the right thing the right way long enough that the results finally come. If you don’t know what to do, keep trying. And find out what to do! Leaders must approach the acquisition of this kind of expertise as a life-long ambition.

Intimidation about culture. The world is becoming a scary place for Bible-believing churches. There is now a level of resistance and animosity that many of us have never experienced. It can be easy to see the church as a fortress that serves as a safe place from the evil world. Jesus did not establish His church to be a hiding place. The church is to be a force in our culture. Only the ministries that are confident enough to engage our culture will impact it. Be bold! God has given you the courage you need to overcome.

Fear of increased responsibility. Some leaders dread the responsibility that comes with more people. Let’s face it – fewer people = fewer problems. However, God did not call us to an easy task. While a larger church equates to more pressure and stress, the rewards are that more people find Christ and experience the joy of being His disciples.

Desire to control. There are a few (or many) control freaks who must hold the reigns on everything that happens in their organization. Growth means shared responsibility and authority. Unless a leader is confident and competent enough to share control, new people will be a very limited commodity. A pastor who is in charge of everything won’t be in charge of much. Please don’t limit the size of your ministry to only a few.

Misidentifying relevance as compromise. This one is touchy. Some churches do not grow because they mistakenly think that if they connect with culture, they are somehow being less than true to the Gospel. This simply is not true. Jesus is always pertinent. The Gospel cannot be irrelevant. The church can, however, make the Bible irrelevant. Our job is to stay true to the Scriptures but to preach them in a way that makes sense to the people who hear it. That is not compromise, it is effectiveness. It’s what Jesus did and that seemed to work pretty well.

Ministry schizophrenia. This is where a church gets its identity from other churches. Whatever the next big ministry bandwagon is, they are jumping on! I am all for successful ministry models and I believe that there are principles that apply across the board. But God does not wish to duplicate in every church what works in well-known churches. Be true to yourself and to your calling. Know what will work in your neighborhood, and do it. Know who God called you to be and whom He called you to reach.

A lack of missionality. Churches that exist for their own good are doomed to fail. Inwardly focused ministry is a major turnoff for people who do not go to church. Jesus came, not to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:28); the church must give itself to God and to the needs of the people He loves. We are on a mission from God; if we fulfill it, our churches will grow.

Here is the truth about church growth: churches that don’t grow will shrink and eventually die. In our post-Christian culture, church growth is getting more and more complicated. We need to pray and work like never before. It is possible that you can pray and work hard and your church may still not grow. But we do NOT want to be the reason our church doesn’t grow!

Let’s get on with the responsibility of reaching the world for Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:19-20).


can a person really change?

An age-old question in life is: can people really change? Can a bad guy become a good guy or can a true jerk become a nice person? While I try to be optimistic about redemption and fresh starts, my experience is that most people are pretty much who they are by the time they are 25 or 30 years old. That being said, I do believe that people can make transformations in their lives. But these transformations, if they are legit, are usually motivated by one thing:

A major crisis.

In order for a person to truly change, something big has to happen. I am reading Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Here is a quote that will let you in on his thesis: “first, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future” (loc 454).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(the “habit loop”)

Duhigg says that if we are going to change a habit or behavior, we must first change the reward. If the payoff is big enough, we will change. So crisis may not be a tragedy. Crisis is simply a point of experience that motivates us to do something different.

If you are a 40 year-old male who is still addicted to porn, you haven’t yet experienced a moment of true crisis. If you are a 50 year-old female who has no real friends, you have not yet reached the crossroads necessary in order to make real change.

I am praying that we can all create our own personal crisis that is required for us to engage in real change.  If we don’t we may be doomed to being who we are. While we may not be all that bad, the idea of no positive change is depressing.

Jeremiah 13:23 asks, “Can a leopard change its spots?” I don’t think so.

But I do think we can change – if we want to badly enough.