Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Changing Churches Part 2

My book, Changing Churches tackles the issue of tremendous change in churches in recent decades. Changing Churches Part 1 gave an overview of the extensive changes in our culture in the last twenty to fifty years. Today in Part 2 I focus on changes in churches in the last few decades.

Part 2: Change: Good, Bad or Significant?                                                          

Back in the 1990s someone advised a new pastor, "Don't change anything until you know how long it's been there, and who it belongs to--even if it's a dead dog under the front pew." In other words, Don't rock the boat. Keeping things the same was the prevailing wisdom in churches two or three decades ago. Many churches were stuck in sameness.

This is not true today. Changes in church are now the norm; the changes are massive, even exponential. In my book I explore in detail many changes in church and how our changing culture has impacted and even infected the church. Some of the changes have made the church better. Some have hurt the church. Some have simply made it different.

A change for the better has been the updating of hymns with new music for old lyrics and the creation of many new God-exalting hymns. A change that has hurt the church is separating congregations into traditional and contemporary worship. This essentially divides the congregation by age. Another questionable change is marketing the church. This is often pragmatic, divisive and unbiblical. David Wells in The Courage to be Protestant tells of a church that advertised itself as "not your grandmother's church." This suggests anyone over fifty-five is excluded!

Christians need to ask, have the changes adapted the church to the culture? Have the changes diluted the message of the gospel to make it acceptable to seekers? Have the changes deepened the faith of believers? Have the changes won more people to Christ?

Change That's Needed
The mission of the church is to change lives through knowing Jesus Christ. The mission of the church is to teach and lead us in life-changing directions. The church needs radical change empowered by God. The church needs the kind of change David Platt suggests in his book Radical. Here's a quote from him about the church:

What is strangely lacking in the picture of performances, personalities, programs, and professionals is desperation for the power of God. God's power is at best an add-on to our strategies. I am frightened by the reality that the church I lead can carry on most of our activities smoothly, efficiently, even successfully, never realizing that the Holy Spirit of God is virtually absent from the picture. We can easily deceive ourselves, mistaking the presence of physical bodies in a crowd for the existence of spiritual life in a community.
A. W. Tozer puts it this way, "Look into the churches and you will find groups of half-saved, half-sanctified, carnal people who know more about the social niceties than they do about the New Testament."

Read Radical if you dare! Read and study the Word of God and seek Him with all your heart - if you dare. We need change that is significant!

Another book by David Platt, Radical Together, takes the ideas from his book Radical and applies them to the church. Platt asks what happens when a church unites in exalting God above all else? “What happens when our primary aim is not to make the crowds feel comfortable but to exalt God in his glory?” This book can change our churches if enough Christian churches read it, study it and put it into action. Radical Together includes a group discussion guide.

Blessings, Dottie

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