I do not preach a lot on Sundays these days as I serve my local church leading our Young Professionals. But I do love to preach, and some days there is a fire in my bones that drives me to preach! So, today I spoke at an area church with several of my former students serving in various roles, including the pastor.
I spoke in two services followed by a Q and A with leaders. We had great services with a sense of God’s presence in both. While quite conventional (the earlier service was a bit more contemporary than the latter), the church responded favorably to my challenge to be missional.
Most who keep up with church life in America (which would include most everyone who reads my blog) recognize the church overall is losing ground and is decreasingly effective overall in reaching people today. But what may not always be so clear is this reminder: many of the people in these conventional churches also know something must change. But they need leadership.
The people at the Q and A were mostly older than I. They have been faithful church members for decades. But their questions were the same questions students in their 20s ask me in seminary class. They see that we (mostly pastors, honestly) have overemphasized getting people to church services and underemphasized relating Christ to people outside the church. They recognize the poison of the Christian subculture, which offers a plastic, knock-off version of the gospel. They see how many today do not believe first and then belong to a church, but must help many who are lost to belong before they will believe.
I would submit that people over 60 in our churches often see the same reality younger leaders do. So here is my simple reminder: if you serve a conventional church, or plan to do so, do not assume most of your people want to show up, do the minimum, and just live moral lives. Most really do love Jesus. They really believe He is worth everything. But they also simply live out their faith as they have been taught to do.
The issue is not always that we have been poor leaders or teachers and the answer a new vision of leadership or better teaching. The issue sometimes is that we have been very good at teaching a poor kind of Christian living, one that is more intent on getting people to score on our church attendance spread sheet than to succeed in gospel living daily.
So lead people to change. But do so knowing that many want to run that race with you.