The Church Wants to Die, But I Don’t! What Do I Do?
So on Facebook this morning a ‘Facebook Friend’ asked a really good question in a group that we’re both a part of, ‘What do you do with a local church that just wants you to keep them comfortable while they die?’ I imagine that there are as many different answers to that question as there are pastors out there dealing with that situation. I quickly wrote out my answer to his question in the comments section of that Facebook Group. And then tried to move on with my day. But the question keeps coming back to me… And while I answered the question truthfully with how I think I would handle it, I have to admit I’ve never faced that situation myself. The local churches I’ve had the honor of pastoring and leading have all been vibrant and missionally active churches. I feel like I’ve won the Methodist lottery time and time again. Yet, I know the situation my friend described is far more prevalent than I would like to admit. I know many pastors who are dealing with that same situation in their local church. So, here’s the advice I gave on Facebook this morning, let me know if it’s any good!
Here are my thoughts on what to do when the church just wants to be made comfortable while they die:
1. If they’ve actually expressed this verbally, and are truly aware of that fact and this is truly their desire, I let them know that I’m not that kind of pastor and then I inform the DS and Bishop (they probably already know) and ask for a new appointment during the next cycle of appointments. That may sound harsh, but it’s really better than trying to fight against that kind of mindset. It’s better for you and it’s better for them. There are plenty of pastors who view ministry as hospice chaplaincy that would be effective in that situation.
2. If they’ve not expressed it verbally they may not realize they’re behaving in that manner (it’s amazing how many good people in church just don’t get that choosing comfort and complacency is choosing to let the church die). In that case I gently but firmly confront it and invite them into a process of transformation. I would consistently preach on the mission of the church in as hopeful and inspiring manner as I could. I would also begin to introduce the leadership to resources and processes that are available to help in the necessary change. Not sure what’s available in your conference, but many conferences are using the Healthy Church Initiative with great success. You can find more info on HCI from the Missouri Conference. Your conference may have similar or adapted processes. Look into it. There are tons of resources available.
3. If all else fails…and the church resolutely refuses to embrace change…and a new appointment isn’t a viable option, then just do it yourself! Start a new worship service; you don’t need anyone’s permission to do it. Start an outreach to youth at the park. Do a Bible Study at the local cafe or coffee shop. Run an Alpha Course at a local bar after closing. Get busy doing the mission and ministry of the church even if the local church won’t join you in it! Because if you don’t, you will become infected by that attitude yourself and then what do you do? just wait around to collect a pension? I’ve met too many pastors like that…don’t do that! Get after it! You can do it! And hey, you may want to do this kind of ministry even if the church does join you in seeking change…
just a few of my thoughts….Rich
So those were my thoughts. What would you do? Anything different? Anything better? What did I miss? How can we help one another in this?
I’m praying for you, I really am!
Grace and Peace, Rich