The Minister, The Church, and Change…

In my previous post, I discussed the problem with trying to make what I call “cosmetic change” before “character change” among declining churches. It’s easier for the church to focus on external issues, seeking cosmetic changes such different worship styles, adding small groups, and so on rather than focusing on the internal character of the church. It’s easier because neither individuals nor organizations want to critically look in the mirror, so to speak,  focusing on the character of who they fundamentally are and what them needs to change.

Enter the minister, the one tasked with leading the church towards missional renewal. Similar to Timothy and Titus, who both were carrying on where Paul left of, leading the churches in Ephesus and Crete towards their intended purpose, the minister’s role here is equipping the church to live on mission with God. However, this task can be quite the challenge, especially when it involves helping a church that has been in decline towards renewal. The first part of the challenge is keeping the conversation focused the character issues such as the vision and purpose the church will live out of.

Yet keeping the conversation focused on the character issues often results in a second challenge. Describing what he calls the “chronically anxious family” as wanting the quick fix solution as a technique for reversing the problem rather focusing on the underlying symptoms of the problem which has to do with themselves, Friedman goes on to say:

“What chronically anxious families require, of course, is a leader who does not give in to their demands. Should such a leader somehow arise, these families will be relentless in undercutting his or her resolve, and outside the family circle they will continually try to adapt other systems and professional to their needs” (A Failure of Nerve, p. 87).

In other words, the minister should fully expect resistance and even possible rejection. In my own church tribe, the later is usually when the minister is encouraged (“told”) to find another church to serve with.

There’s the story in 1 Samuel 8 when Israel demands a king. This bothered Samuel, who took his trouble to the Lord in prayer. Apparently, Samuel felt as though Israel was rejecting his leadership but God spoke up and said, “…it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king” (v. 7). And so it is with churches. The resistance to change, which is often channeled towards the minister is not, in the end, a decision about the minister but one about God and his mission.

At the end of the day, the minister must simply decide to be faithful to the calling!

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2 responses to “The Minister, The Church, and Change…

  1. I appreciate your thoughts on the processes of church renewal. Your example of Samuel, however, surprises me. Are you saying that you yourself went to the Lord in prayer and were told that pushback from your church amounts to rejection of God by your church? It seems unreasonable to me to reject categorically the possibility of corrective feedback from the church to the preacher. To put oneself in the same shoes as Samuel, Titus, and Timothy may obscure the possibility that the minister can himself lose sight of the path. Assuming that we are right is not a sure path to renewal.

    • No I’m not saying that the situation of a minister is exactly the same, a parallel scenario, to that of the prophet Samuel. And for sure, the minister needs to be humble enough to know that he could be wrong on anything. However, the minister is one who God has prepared and sent to the church and just like Timothy and Titus, that minister usually does have a good idea of what needs to be done. Further more, in many churches, the problems at the church are problems that the minister has inherited in coming to serve with the church God has sent him to. So when churches or certain Christians begin “undercutting” (the language Friedman uses) the minister’s attempts to resolve some of the problems, it’s really not a rejection of the minister but a rejection of God — albeit in a indirect manner and one in which the church, like Israel, is often unable to see.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

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