By Bill Easum
I doubt if anyone would disagree that the world has become more complex over the years. Not only that the level of complexity has exponentially grown in the past decade. Things that were simple a few years back are now much for difficult to figure out.
Just take the telephone for example. When I was growing up all you had to worry about was getting Ma Bell to install a phone and you were ready. Today the choices are unlimited. Do I only use a landline or a cell phone? Do I bundle my phone with cable or do I use it through the Internet? I could go on but you get the picture. And this is something simple and basic to life.
In such a world it’s important that leaders and organizations are able to do three things: Balance may diverse balls at the same time; be flexible to change on a dime; and lean on their intuition more than their education. Such feats are usually a nightmare for the established church. That’s why I prefer church plants and multiple sites over trying to turn around a dying church. The problem is we simply can’t write off all of the established churches that are in trouble. There are too many of them. So we need to develop some guidelines for turning them around. Here are some.
Step One: Realize that fast changing, complex systems always lead to chaos before order. Just accept that fact and learn to live in the midst of confusion. A great book at this point for your leaders to read is Dee Hocks book, The Chaordic World. It will give you an insight into the kind of leadership needed to thrive in the world today.
Step Two: Be will to change horses in mid stream. The Apostle Paul gives us the marching orders here when he says “I have become all things to all people in order that I might save some” (I Cor.9:22). Most churches die, not because of their theology, but because they are more committed to tradition, or style, than they are to mission. If mission trumps everything else a church will be will to change horses in mid stream even if they have spent months preparing a plan of action that isn’t working.
Step three: Drop those ministries that are still working but your intuition tells you they won’t work much longer. Case in point: praise music became popular in the 1960’s in the Jesus Movement. It has worked very well for groups like the Vineyard. Now mainline churches are beginning to move into praise music at the very time that it is beginning to have limited appeal. Many of Vineyard churches still hang to the style of music that made them what they are today but can’t see the handwriting on the wall. Tradition blinds them to any intuitive feeling about what is happening today. So if something is still working for you but your gut tells you its days are numbered, drop it or morph it into something your intuition tells you will work.
Step Four: See new things in old places. One of the problem with so many pastors is they are so busy they don’t have time to see new ways to do old things. In order to see new things in old places we have to get off the treadmill long enough to focus on what is really happening around us.
A Case in Point: most established denominations have some form of official Women’s group and most of the ladies in them are over 60 now. Most non-denominational churches do not have an official Women’s group. Guess which group has the most women in ministry? You guessed it the non-denominational group. The reason: most denominational groups still see their task to be studying foreign missions and raising money to send overseas while most non-denominational group equip their women to do missions in their backyard.
Step Five: be secure and humble enough to learn in very unlikely places. In order to do the steps above a person has to have a secure call as well as realize that ministry isn’t up to you as much as it is up to God. Being clear about one’s call is so essential to effective ministry. If a person is clear about their call they won’t allow a church to turn them into something they were not called to be. If a person is clear about their call they know how undeserving they are of it and that equates into a humble spirit that never feels as if it knows it all.
Step Six: effective leaders in the new world will intuitively know when they are about to reach the tipping point where addition turns into multiplication and at that point they pull out all of the stops.
Case in Point: The new Exponential Conference held every year is lead by a group that intuitively sensed that something very different is underfoot in this country – multiple sites and church planting machines- and they stepped out at a time when very few ultra large conferences are happening in this country and pulled off two of the largest events in recent history.
So, look around. What is God doing in your area of the world that you haven’t taken time to investigate? Don’t tell me God isn’t doing anything in your area. I don’t mean your church or denomination; I’m referring to your area of the world. I guarantee you God is at work in your area. All you need to do is see through the layers of complexity that make this world difficult to decipher and you will see a multitude of movements underfoot. My hope is you will see one of them and jump on it. It will be the ride of your life.