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To Reach A Changing Community the Church Must Change

Friday, September 12, 2008

This post is in response to a question raised by John based on “Diversity is Not Just About Intentionality”

If the point of the article is that every congregation must focus more on the needs of others than on the needs of its own members, then shouldn’t “the church down the street” (presumably a Spanish-speaking church with Hispanic worship styles, Hispanic music, etc.) ALSO be urged to *change* in such a way that “people like John” would be made to feel “comfortable” there? What about the English-speaking church out in the suburbs that is totally devoted to new, “contemporary” worship? Must they *change*, too, in order to be able to reach the “traditionalist” folks? Or are the “traditionalist” folks the only ones who must do all the changing? If so, is that because they’ve had their turn, and now it’s time for them to move over so other people can have one? If that’s the case, then don’t THEY become the downtrodden “minority” group in whose needs no one takes any interest? In that case, wouldn’t it become everyone’s responsibility to *change* in order to accommodate them?

If “diversity” means that ALL viewpoints are welcomed, what happens if all the viewpoints EXCEPT JOHN’s are welcomed? Does that negate the commitment to diversity, or does it mean that John is just a “bad” person who needs to repent of his sinful desire to have his viewpoint counted (in a world in which everyone else’s desire to have their viewpoint counted is NOT sinful)?

Truett Cathy the founder of Chik-fil-A Restaurants and inventor of the boneless breast of chicken sandwich was asked why he was expanding his menu when it was his chicken sandwich that made his restaurants famous.  His replied, “If external change is greater than internal change disaster is imminent.” Bottom line, organizations that fail to change to meet the changing needs of their communities will become obsolete.  Chick-fil-A has annual sales of over 2 billion dollars I believe that by expanding his menu he was reaching a clientele  and generating sales he could not have done had he only relied upon his chicken sandwich.

A local church that fails to initiate the necessary changes to reach a new generation with the Gospel will eventually die.  People don’t like change even when death is staring them in the face and they are not happy with change agents. President Woodrow Wilson, said, “If you want to make enemies change something.”

People don’t like it when their pastors make changes in the church to attract their changing community, be it relaxing the traditional dress and grooming codes, shifting from traditional to contemporary music, dropping the denominational label in a name change, allowing more expressiveness in worship, changing the form of government or seeking to reach ethnics.

People have very strong feelings and attachments to their traditions. Just like John.  Is it sin if they don’t want to change? You decide.   A local church can continue to do business as usual while ignoring the demographical changes in their communities. But in doing so they put the preservation of their preferences over the mandates of Christ, essentially putting an end to their outreach and ensuring the death of their church.

You ask, “shouldn’t the church down the street presumably a Spanish speaking church with Hispanic worship styles ALSO be urged to change in such a way that people like John would be made to feel comfortable there?”

First of all people like John wouldn’t attend any church that doesn’t meet their standards much less an immigrant church.  However, I believe that every church red, brown, yellow, black and white whether American-Born or Foreign-Born has the same mandate, “make disciples of all nations.”

Realistically, not all churches will.  Those who attempt it will loose members who won’t handle the change.  The question every Pastor and church leader must ask themselves is “Do I base me decisions on the preferences of church members or the absolute mandates of Christ?”

That’s my opinion I welcome yours.