Change or Die?

Here’s a new Tom Ehrich article  someone sent me.   If you’re from a traditional type church, this article may alarm you.  But I think Ehrich is on the mark when he talks about ways to speed the death of a church:

Keep putting your energies mostly into Sunday morning…waiting for people to walk in the front door… choosing the same people for leadership… focusing on the needs of longtime members…

These strategies may keep your church doors open for awhile, but they will not bring new life and vitality to your ministry.  Only risk and investment in a ministry beyond yourselves will do that.

I also agree with his somewhat harsh judgment on the facilities-focused church.  I suspect that churches who lavish attention and money on their facilities do so because they don’t have a clear sense of their mission and the building is such an obvious thing they can poke at when they get restless for meaning.  While buildings are a lovely  asset, they are only as good as their ability to serve the church’s mission.

I take issue with what Ehrich says about a church changing its identity.  I don’t know if it’s possible for a church to do that.  Churches, like people, have a true self, and they can’t pretend to be otherwise.  However, they can grow more fully into God’s dream, building on who they already are and the mission God has entrusted to them.  I wouldn’t want to scare a church into thinking it has to change its entire identity to survive.  I might ask: What about your character and history can be translated into a changing culture?

I would also question Ehrich’s assertion about “what people want” from their churches:

Now people seek God, not socialization; they seek to serve, not belong, he writes.

I think people want both God and social engagement, service and belonging.  There are some people who lean more toward active mission projects, some toward building relationships, and others toward spiritual fulfillment or intellectual stimulation.  These are all good reasons to be engaged in church life, and every healthy church has some of each motivation.  Why judge any reason a person wants to be part of the church?

Just my thoughts.  What do you think of this article? Talk to me!

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