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Stop Pursuing the Past

start over

If you are honest with yourself, the good old days were really not that good. Sure you would love to see your church’s worship center filled again. Of course you would love to see all of the people come back that you used to see for 20 seconds every Sunday morning. But in romanticizing the past, you’re forgetting about all the things that were broken and all of the things that you didn’t like. Now is the opportunity to start over and fix them.

Maybe this is not the season to rebuild your church. Maybe this is the season to start over. You’ve had daydreams about that. You thought about if I could start this church from scratch this is what I would do. Right now your church as it is as close to scratch as it’s ever been. Take this opportunity to start over.

If You Could Start from Scratch…

If you could start from scratch, what would you do? If you had a blank slate, how would you make disciples? How would you conduct worship services? How would you serve your community?

If you put all of your energy into regaining what you had in 2019 or 1995 or 1955, you are expending a lot of energy on something that just doesn’t work anymore. Don’t get me wrong. What worked in 2019, 1995, and 1955 worked back then. But, it won’t work now. The world has changed. The culture has changed. The church should change. The Word of God, however, never changes.

Now, moving forward instead of moving backward, how are you going to make disciples? How are you going to reach your community?

Look at What You Have

Your church has a facility. Your church has funds. Your church has committed people who’ve survived the last two years with you. Imagine if you were planting this church right now for the very first time. You’re in great shape! Most church plants start with no facility, a small core group of people, and little funds. You’ve got a huge advantage.

Let’s take a minute to look at your people. For the most part, your people aren’t newbies. They aren’t consumer Christians. All of the consumers “changed the channel” during Covid. This is not the group you need to entertain to keep them coming back. This is the group that fought the war with you. They are ready to serve. They are ready to engage. They are ready to do something significant in your community. Give them their marching orders!

Where Is Your Church’s Ministry Bloated?

It’s easy to add things to a church’s ministry. It’s very difficult to end things. Ministry creep is a real thing. But what makes a church’s ministry effective is often not adding more, but removing some things. When was the last time you and your leadership questioned why you did something? This is not to stir up trouble, but to make sure your church is getting the most out of your church’s investment in time, talent, and treasure. Sometimes you just need to ask why?

For instance, my family has had a connection to the church we attend dating back to 1969. Back then, the morning worship service started at 11 am and ended promptly at Noon. We sang three hymns and listened to a sermon. One hour and done! Then, the worship movement hit our church in the 1980’s. I supposed since you have to repeat the choruses of modern worship songs five times, the pastor needed more time on Sunday morning, so the service was extended by 15 minutes to start at 10:45 on Sunday morning.

Somewhere along the way during the 38 years I was away from my hometown, the church added another 15 minutes to the worship service. What was previously accomplished in one hour now takes 90 minutes. At this stage of my life, I think the whole thing could be tightened up. Half of the congregation can’t stand through the entire singing part anyway. I’m trying to figure out a polite way to ask why the 90 minute worship service persists. So far, I’ve only come up with impolite ways, so I’ll wait.

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Allen White consults and speaks in the areas of small group strategy, staffing structure, volunteer mobilization, and spiritual formation. Allen is the author of Exponential Groups: Unleashing Your Church’s Potential. He blogs at http://allenwhite.org.