Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tough questions

I've been really impressed with Reggie McNeal's The Present Future and by the tough questions that he has for the North American church:
  • Is the church the mission or the missionary?
  • Are we "doing" church at the clubhouse, or "being" the church in the world?
  • Are we measuring our effectiveness with "church culture yardsticks" like, "Was the sermon well received?" and "Are church programs staffed and operating with good customer satisfaction?" or do we measure our effectiveness by our impact beyond the church walls?
  • Who gets more applause in our church: people who fix food for special occasions or people who introduce people to Jesus?
  • Are we so busy getting people involved at the church that we've neglected the fundamental agenda of spiritual formation?
  • Is our growth occurring because we're the best "church game" in town or because we are impacting the lives of pre-Christians?
Like many established churches, South Lansing Christian Church finds itself asking tough questions like these. We are a church in transition.

Truth be told, we have been a church in transition for well over a decade. Like many congregations, South made significant transitions in the late 1990s and early part of the the new century. The church moved from a more traditional style of worship to one that is more contemporary. "Under performing" programs like Sunday night worship were pruned away. Small groups were introduced as an alternative to traditional Sunday School.

This new reality we are facing, the next-level of transition, is perhaps tougher than all of the previous challenges, however, because it confronts the core values on which we are based and not just the methodologies with which we operate. Rather than ask, "What sort of music most appeals to our members?" (a question pertaining to people in the church) this transitional period deals with much deeper issues. Issues like: Are we willing to change in order to reach unbelievers? Are we willing to scrap that which is our definition of "church," if need be, in order to become "all things to all people so that we might win some?"

This may be the most difficult transition that any church will face. Clearly it is the most important, in that it is not only a matter of our church's survival, but also a matter of our relevance to a Christ-less world.


Richard said...

I am careful to distinguish between Christianity and church-ianity. Church-ianity is a belief in buildings and man-made social constructs, it's a belief in tradition.

As Christians we're called to be lights to the world, to shine like stars in the universe. If we're not, then we should revisit ourselves and adjust prayerfully.

chop said...

I totally agree. Church is an instrument/vessel to bring us closer to God. God does not dwell in the church but in individual christian. Jesus himself said we are the living temple.

We much watch and pray constantly.

Richard said...

If you bring individuals together who have God in them, there is a benefit to that. God teaches individuals through the communal imperfections.