By Bill Easum
When I first started preaching some 51 years ago, going to church was never considered to be anywhere near fun. The hard pews attested to that. Yes, back then, in the dark ages, it was a rare site to see padded pews; after all that would make them more comfortable and everyone knew back then that you were suppose to be uncomfortable at church.
I remember reading in Emily Post’s etiquette book that it was acceptable for people to nod to one another at church but it was considered unacceptable to speak to another person until exiting the church.
I also remember right after my conversion bringing a date to a church picnic. The problem – she was wearing shorts. I didn’t know that was unacceptable back then. The pastor took me aside and asked us to leave. Talk about egg on my face since I had just surrendered to preach the week before.
Turn the clock forward to 2007. I’m consulting with a rather large, fast growing church. As I turn into the parking lot I notice the parking lot team is having more fun than a barrel of monkeys. At the main entrance the greeters are smiling and welcoming people as if they enjoy being at church. I sit down in the auditorium (certainly not a sanctuary) and find that the theater seats are not only padded to the hilt but they also are accompanied by a built-in cup holder. The girl next to me is in shorts and has a ring in her belly button. When worship starts the music has to be turned up several notches to drown out the conversations. At various points during the teaching (not preaching) the audience’s reactions range from laughter to talking back to the teacher. And when it comes time toward the end of the service for some brief announcements the bantering between the pastor and the worship leader reminds me of the interaction between late night host David Letterman and his band leader, Paul.
Remember transparencies? I used to use them, and not too long ago. Well today they are the equivalent of a flannel board. Remember postage stamps? Oh, you still use them? I bet not as much as you use email.
I was cleaning out my office today (I do that about once a decade), and I ran across this transparency-
How Life Has Changed
I think: therefore I am
I Feel: therefore I am
I compute: therefore I am
If I were using this slide today I would add to it “I Google: therefore I am.” Google was little more than a gleam in Larry Page’s eye a decade ago; now it is one of the most valuable stocks on the market.
Now, what has all of this got to do with leadership and the church? Everything. I started doodling a few days ago on what all of these changes mean to leadership.
My Early World The Emerging World
Work Ethic Play Ethic
Centrality of Family Importance of Family and Friends
Winners and Losers Everyone is a Winner
Stability Exponential Change
I could go on but you get the picture. Sweeping change has occurred in almost everything. So how have you changed?
So let me ask you some questions?
-Do you preach the same way you did ten years ago?
-Is your worship the same as it was ten years ago?
-Do you lead people the same way you did ten years ago?
-Does your worship area look the same from week to week?
-Does your worship pattern remain mostly the same from week to week?
-Are you reading the same kind of books you have read for most of your life
-Have you failed to learn one new discipline over the past ten years?
-Do you read less than five books on month on average?
-Are you comfortable and content with where you are in life?
If your answer to any of these is ‘yes,’ then you are probably missing the mark with most people, especially people under 40. It’s probably time for you to shake things up and go out of some kind of a limb and do something you’ve never done if for no other reason than just to see how it feels.
The trick today is to be comfortable with constant, even exponential change, without changing the biblical message or what you are called to do. Not an easy trick to do especially when there are so many voices on the horizon begging us to morph into something other than a biblical Christian.
Our world is fragmenting- almost to the point of coming apart. One of the things leaders must do today is be found in the midst of the fragmentation with a world of stability. And there is only one stable thing a Christian can hang their hat on today – Jesus, the same yesterday, today, and forever. This is why those Christians who want to downplay Jesus and up-play God are missing the mark and have nothing to offer people who don’t know one God from another.
So let me ask a final question – Have you figured out yet what it is about your relationship with Jesus that the world can’t live without knowing? In the final analysis that is about all you have to offer this madly changing world.