My pastor seemed hopelessly out of date. It was sad, really.
I’m sure that he measured up in his day. But things have changed. It’s time to appeal to a new generation. We need more relevance. We won’t change anything substantive, of course. We’ll keep the same theology. But the style has to change, everything from clothing to way we preach.
While we’re at it, it’s probably good to learn what we can from business. Let’s face it: churches have to learn how to market too. The business world has a lot to teach us. Every week, new books hit the shelf that explain how to lead better. Maybe we can think of the pastor as the CEO. That’s more relatable. Nobody knows what a pastor does anyway.
It probably wouldn’t hurt to keep up with conferences and trends. The problem with the church is that it’s so out of date. We need to make sure the music is appealing, and we stay current rather than always trying to catch up.
In my 28 years as a pastor, I’ve had every one of these thoughts. And, tragically, I acted on a lot of them, too.
The hidden assumption in what I’ve written above is that the church’s greatest problem is that it’s out of step with the times. The solution is that we must catch up with the times and appeal to the way that people think. But we’ve ended up with all the problems that go with the times: pastors who are better leaders than they are disciples; a focus on style more than substance; a consumeristic approach to Christianity; an entertainment culture that captivates but fails to transform. Every week we see evidence of this implosion in the news, not to mention in the lives of a many who have dropped out of something that’s lost its power.
What if the problem isn’t that we’re out of step with the times? Maybe that is the solution. I’m not arguing for a return to a certain era of ministry. I am arguing for what Daniel Henderson calls old paths with new power. I’m talking about a recovery of ecclesiology, a re-reading of old books like The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges, and a recapturing of our confidence in the Word, the Spirit, and the gospel.
The problem isn’t that we’re behind the times. The problem is that we ever tried to keep up. I long for a movement of people and churches who are committed to a ministry that bucks the trends, one that’s rooted in something that will last not just for this generation but for all time. Ironically, the kind of ministry that has something to offer today is one that’s blessedly out of step with our times.