Tuesday, September 10
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
God may not change, but the world we are called to transform continually does. Oﬀering Christ in the midst of the changing culture has never been easy, but over the last ﬁfty years, the Church has faced as much, if not more change than at any other time in its history. The last decade has given rise to signiﬁcant social, political, cultural, medical, technological, and ecclesiological changes in our culture.
One result of constant change is the need for congregations to regularly evaluate their ministries to avoid falling into ineﬀectiveness. The programs that made a diﬀerence in the world ten years ago often do not work today. Healthy congregational leaders know that in order to share the love of Christ in the community, they must resist both being sentimental (holding onto past patterns that no longer function) and jumping on every ministry bandwagon that comes along.
We saw an example of this dynamic during the rise of contemporary worship services over the last twenty-ﬁve years. Some churches incorporated new contemporary services immediately; others waited to see how the services were received elsewhere before starting one of their own; some congregations discussed the situation and decided to not add contemporary worship services; and others never even had the discussion. Looking back on that trend and seeing the impact contemporary worship services have had on our culture, what steps should every church have taken along the way?
Another trend that arose during this same time was incorporating exercise facilities into church buildings. Many congregations envisioned hordes of people abandoning high priced gym memberships for a lower cost equivalent at their church. Many local congregations invested large amounts of money to provide quality workout equipment, extra daycare facilities, and indoor running tracks. Unlike contemporary worship services, the hordes did not come. Those congregations that jumped on that bandwagon (along with designated video gaming rooms for youth) did not see the inﬂux of people as they had hoped.
Every new trend and technology gives us an opportunity to examine who we are. For instance, since the early days of the internet, churches have had to decide if creating their own website is good or bad, essential or irrelevant. Almost all have decided having a presence on the internet is a positive. However, should we also switch to virtual Sunday morning worship experiences, with everyone logging into our website from home? (No! Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should!)
In order to fulfill our calling as Jesus’ followers, we must regularly ask, “how might God desire us to change to meet the needs of the community around us without sacriﬁcing our core principles or wasting money?” The answer to that question leads us to a discussion of “constancy.”
Constancy is a theological word most United Methodists do not use very often, but almost everyone understands the concept. When faced with the question of whether or not to incorporate some new technology, theology, or practice into the congregation’s life, we want to be open to new ideas without being blown about by shifting popular opinion. When deciding which changes to make and which to avoid, we must stay in touch with God.
“Constancy” is the ability of the community to maintain a vital connection to the Holy Spirit, which allows us to remain invested in life-giving traditions and yet open to God leading us into new, unexplored paths of faith.
• What are some examples of how the world has changed in your lifetime?
• On the whole, is the world changing for the better, the worse, or remaining generally the same?
• Why are some churches and leaders afraid to evaluate their programs?
• What are some other examples of churches having to decide whether or not a “new” idea was a good or bad opportunity?
• Is there anything FUMCOR has done which you originally thought was a misstep but now see as a good thing?