Does The Church Have A Future?

A couple months ago, I received an invitation to join my church’s executive council.  I felt bad about it, but after considering it for over a week, I said ‘no.’ I had received warnings about being on church councils, and unlike my decision to be involved in politics, I heeded my father-in-law’s advice this time.

Still, it was hard to say no.  I felt like I could have been a valuable member on the council.  Our church is having some issues, we have been without a senior pastor for years and the church’s finances have been worrisome.  But I didn’t refuse because of those problems.  I refused because I was afraid I would be frustrated.

A pastor and finances could be frustrating, but I think in one sense, most of our church’s financial problems will be solved once we have a stabile lead pastor to give members faith in committing their hard earned dollars.  The church seems to be very similar to what I have seen in political organizations and candidacies I’ve been involved with.  If there is doubt that a candidate is viable, or doubt that there is a commitment to a similar position, people are hesitant to really invest financially.  If the church gets a young and energetic pastor who will grow with the congregation, then I think the current financial problems will be solved.

I think frustration would result from what I would call the church’s unwillingness to go out on a limb.  By that I mean an unwillingness to change music styles, worship styles, who leads worship, what we confess, how we interact with the community, what our plans are, who we invite to worship, etc., mainly out of fear of offending current members or maybe more specifically, big donor members.

There will be a future, and organization evolution is part of being in that future.  I sat in our Grandma’s church and looked at the congregation filled with aging and aged members and wondered what will happen to this building in 10 years when these people are gone.  Obviously that isn’t a problem in my church now, we are a growing church, with a young congregation, in rapidly growing community.  But, why shouldn’t we be progressing toward the future anyway.

I have been very lucky to have been a part of an exciting and growing seed church in the Prior Lake area.  The emphasis isn’t on a building or a tradition that modern churches have always done.  It is a mission based church that works really hard to impact the community.  The goal isn’t to have 4000 members as much as it is to impact 4000 people.  I think that the little seed church in Prior Lake consistently has more people regularly involved in community mission work than my official membership church does that might have 15 to 20 times the number of members.

I attended a youth ministry conference a couple months back and was introduced to the term “conveyor belt church.”  Grandma’s church was an example of it, and without change, my church will be too.  If churches don’t respond to changes in the community or society, eventually members start falling of the conveyor belt until the church has to decide what to do with the empty building.

I love this video.  This short 6 minute video is a great way to start a conversation about the future of our churches, and about how we plan to respond.  At my church we are relying on a financial “leap of faith” to get us through 2012.  But praying and hoping alone is not a good solution for a sustainable and impactful future.  Action needs to be an integral part of the church’s being.  The thoughts in this video or meeting some of the attendees or the pastor at River of Joy Lutheran Church in Prior Lake can lead to a big impact on how you view church, at least in my mind.