The Trap of “What Was” and Leading Your Church Out
Imagine if you woke up one day and everyone you saw was walking backward, and every car was driving backward. The insane ridiculousness of this thought is hard to imagine. What a mess! Accidents would be piling up while people tripped around you.
Yet, in so many, churches, this is the reality. Why are we so focused on moving backward? The desire of so many is to go back to what was. Traditions, comfort, and success of the past can become the greatest enemy of Jesus working in the future. While there is great wisdom to learn from history, the goal isn’t to repeat it. Jesus tells us to “GO.” This command is a forward motion. As followers of Jesus, workers in the church, are you living this command forward, or are you trying to drag it into the past where it is easy? How can we lead into the future of what could be?
Here are three questions to help us.
1. Am I pursuing Jesus or my comfort?
When Jesus called his disciples to come and follow him, it was an upheaval of everything they knew. There was no time for the disciples to sit in the same spots on the hillside every time Jesus talked. It was not a call to meet in the same building and follow all of the same rules. If fact, in so many ways, it was a call against that.
Comfort often leads to catastrophe in the church. A version of Christianity built on the comforts of the church is selfish at best. When we never see evidence of the Spirit’s activity and fruitful service, the responsibility lies in the mirror. Comfort breeds a lazy religion that does not accurately depict the grace, freedom, and joy of following Jesus. Unfortunately, many churches sit paralyzed by the comfort of what was instead of embracing the adventure of trusting Jesus.
“Comfort breeds a lazy religion that does not accurately depict the grace, freedom, and joy of following Jesus.”
2. Is it about the Mission or Me?
I was told once by a church member, “You are so focused on who doesn’t come to church that you have changed all the things I liked!” This individual has been a Christian longer than I have been alive. I kindly but truthfully responded, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but we are connecting more people to Jesus than we ever have.” It certainly wasn’t the response they were looking for, but as leaders, it is our responsibility to point people back to the mission of Jesus.
When all we do is focus on what we like in the church, the world-changing mission of Jesus gets lost. The power to set people free, bring hope to the hopeless, and healing to the broken takes a back seat to trivial battles of music preference, furniture styles, and antiquated ministry methods.
Leading focused on the mission of Jesus can’t be something we lead others in if we are not leading ourselves in it first. As leaders, we all have natural responses, aspects of leadership we enjoy, and preferences in the church that we would choose. Therefore, we must regularly evaluate ourselves and our leadership to determine our focus.
“Leading focused on the mission of Jesus can’t be something we lead others in if we are not leading ourselves in it first.”
Just because something worked years ago doesn’t mean there isn’t a new way to try it. Just because your preaching connected five years ago doesn’t mean that it is still connecting. Where in our leadership are we choosing what is easy and has yielded decent results in the past over missional progress that requires change, tension, and work?
3. What element of the church do I love more than my neighbor?
What is it for you? What element of the church do you love that you would be mad about if it changed? What is the program in the church that, if it didn’t happen anymore, no matter what it shifted to, would have you and your family considering going elsewhere? If Satan can get our churches so obsessed with themselves, their success, and their rich history that they forget about their neighbors, he has won. When we fight tenaciously with other church people to keep what we love in the church, but we won’t build relationships with our neighbors to help them find Jesus, what are we doing?
“When we fight tenaciously with other church people to keep what we love in the church, but we won’t build relationships with our neighbors to help them find Jesus, what are we doing?”
When all we do is fight for the church that used to be, we will never see the future church in our communities. Kingdom progress is brought to an abrupt halt when we are only looking behind us. If you only look at what was in the past, you will surely get there, but you might be alone when you arrive.
From leadrural.com. Used with permission.