Navigating Church Change: the May/June Outreach
There’s this tenacious idealism that doesn’t want to let go: If the church is the body of Christ, it ought to be perfect—now. The bride of Christ ought to be spotless. The temple of God should not be shabby.
Then there’s the church we attend. Or lead. An imperfect people moving through an ever-shifting culture. We face change. And change does not necessarily bring out the best in imperfect people.
On Dec. 14 at 10 a.m., the Outreach editors met to refine our discussion of the May/June 2012 issue. How do we negotiate church change? How do we thrive in transition?
We talked about ethnic shifts—the challenge of creating a multiethnic expression. We considered church mergers—when are we “better together”? We discussed the painful process of rebuilding credibility and picking up the pieces following scandal. We looked at new leadership, new vision, new focus—and we reaffirmed the church’s call and its great opportunity: to turn its eyes outward to a community and world in need.
And we looked at history vs. current events—transitioning a traditional church—and made plans to interview Charles Jenkins, who was called to reinvent a landmark Chicago church.
Five transitions. Hardly an exhaustive list. We know, for instance, a church goes through rather daunting changes as a natural part of its life cycle—from birth to self-sustaining and self-propagating. There are the external pressures of cultural shift. And there are those Phoenix churches, up from the ashes and back from the brink.
But for all the talk of navigating church change and thriving through transition, it is first and primarily a spiritual challenge the church confronts. And here’s the encouragement: It is a building project with Jesus Himself as the chief architect. It will not fail.
No one will mistake the church for “perfect”—not yet. But just wait.
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