More from "Magpies"... Lessons 2 and 3.

January 19, 2010

  1. It is lonely in the fields.

The pioneer needs to brace themselves for the loneliness that will come from being the unpopular voice. If I desire to begin anything that has not been done yet, there is a likelihood that I’m the only person who sees this particular need this particular way and has offered this particular solution.

Many times we had meetings where we would express the need to a group of leaders. They would get excited. They would buzz about the possibility. Then they would go back and try to fix the problem using the same stuff they used before they discovered the need.

Luke talks about the problems of attempting change with the old materials. 36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.

My mind works in a few pretty comedic ways. I just imagine the church organist playing a song by David Crowder, while the choir sings. It is not working for me. Well, it does make me laugh a bit. An old school preacher can’t just go shopping and outfit himself with hip clothes, change his hair, head to starbucks and throw in the words “cultural shift” and “foshizzle” (Yes. I know no one uses those phrases anymore.) to become socially relevant. Change is something that requires… Okay, change.

If you want to discover a church’s, business’s, school’s willingness to change, just look in their closet. It resembles mine. I am amazed at how many pair of pants I refuse to give away because I am sure that I will lose weight and once again wear them. Frankly, I have pants older than my children.

I have been in far too many churches that are attempting that exact scenario. You just can’t get there from here. Besides, that won’t draw an entertainment-savvy world in. We need new material to fix the tears. Most churches probably just need new pants.

Get ready to be lonely if this is your message. There are many who desire change. There are some who will endure it, but, there are few called to be agents of change. The lonliness will not simply exist because a leader lacks peers however. The “call” to be a guide through change is lonely at the core of thought. You become aware that few are with you in your process of mind. You ultimately find that the only place you have company is on your knees.

  1. You need good help. There is another critical component to change. That is a commitment to risk for the sake of the whole body. We as leaders do a lot of talk about the body of Christ but do very little in order to work alongside others in that body. Pastors who have a sense of drive tend to envision a personalized kingdom at which they sit as the king. It is the way we have always done church. We don’t trust our work to others. Thereby, we have condemned our ministries to only go as far as our talents and our congregation’s talents can take us.

I can’t tell you how many times I have sat in a room with leaders who are trying to find a way to update their worship. The bottom line most often is that the rural church does not have the musical talent to update. Worship used to require one organist and someone who was willing to pick songs our of the hymnal and sing them loudly. This new era demands emotional attachment to the music. It expects quality. As a bit of a closet musician myself, that is extremely difficult to pull off with the average beginner on a Walmart guitar and a 57 year old pianist. Their hearts are there but their skill set may not be.

Music is not the only factor involved in change. Business models have shifted over the last ten years of struggle. I was involved in meetings with a large branding organization about a new concept of ministry for us here in the United States. Suprisingly, many missions organizations have already adopted something that I call “entrepreneurial ministry”. That is a system of ministry that provides jobs for its parishioners while supplying revenues for its operations. It is not a new concept though. Some church historians might say that John Calvin used this model during his second time to Geneva. Others may say that Paul raised funds needed for ministry by making tents.

Some churches have taken on daughter companies or encouraged their congregations to launch cottage industry as a means of reaching their neighbors with the message of Christ, while providing much needed job in depressed areas and raising ministry capital through tithing of these businesses. New coffee houses, day cares, charter schools, and manufacturing plants have come as a result of this new/old thought.

During my meeting, the CEO jumped up and asked permission to write on my presentation board. Up until that time, the marker in my hand had merely been used as a prop and a pointer. He told us that the new business model has switched from a bell, in which the low-end goods and high end merchandise took only 10-20% of all sales, while middle of the road franchises made all of the real money, to an inverted bell. Guess who was making money and who was losing money.

Business has had to rethink itself. There are two types of car still moving in America. Top dollar, high performance luxury cars and the kind I drive, low dollar, low performance rust buckets.

How does this affect the local church and its ministries? Simply in that church leaders cannot assume their congregations can write the checks for every ministry idea we think is important. It is change that we need and it is real, which requires talent and thought. New ventures are in the process of setting the new standard. I wonder why so many of the starters believe that you can begin something new, and do something better with less help, sweat and talent?

We need help.

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