As culture changes the message of Jesus stays the same, but the methods adjust. It’s a beautiful part of how amazing the message is. It’s transcendent to culture and time.
With the rise of social media, and the way we gather information I believe there are some adjustments that churches and church people need to make.
5 Things The Church Needs To Adjust
1. The way we connect people.
Years ago the church was a place to meet like minded people. If a single wanted to date a Christian the best place to look was at church. If you wanted great friends who influenced you to love Jesus you went to the local church.
Today people are connected without the local church.
Some parents choose to put their kids in Christian schools and that provides Christian friends for their kids. Most public schools have some type of Christian club to meet other Christian students.
Most people have some form of social outlet or they don’t want one.
There are a lot of adults who are introverts and would rather stay at home.
With dating websites like Christian Mingle people don’t even need a church to meet someone to date.
Here are some serious problems in the church.
We have people who attend but never connect relationally.
That means they are consumers but not contributors.
It also means when their world falls a part the only person they know to go to is the pastor. It’s who they feel a connection to at the church. That’s a major problem.
It also means that after a year or so when people start slacking on church attendance no one knows they are missing. That’s a major problem.
It also means that they aren’t using their gifts to inspire and influence people within the church they attend. That’s a major problem.
True life change happens when you live life with people who influence you to love Jesus, and in return you inspire them to do the same.
Okay, this is even more complicated because most people will become a part of 2 to 3 churches in the same area. Around the 3 year mark church people tend to get antsy. Often a person or family will leave a church they have been a part of and then join another local church. Not all of the relationships end after they change churches. And they shouldn’t. This is interesting when it comes to people joining a church small group.
I know lots of people who go to one church but attend a small group with another church.
That leads to a lack of relational connection with the people at the church they are attending.
People today live in crowded loneliness.
We are surrounded by people but are known by few.
We have lots of shallow relationships, but no deep friendships that inspire us to become better. Very few people know what we struggle with. Very few people know what we are like when we are not “on.”
So it’s no wonder that life change is not happening at so many churches. True life changes involves other people. It’s not simply hearing a sermon. Any difficult, true change, involves God, and other people.
As the Church we have to figure out ways to connect people to each other. And that leads to the second issue.
2. The way we help people.
I want to help people. Most pastors do.
But what do you do when people don’t seem to want to help themselves?
What do you do when people don’t seem motivated?
What do you do when people just don’t want to obey God?
The natural response is you use fear, threats, anger, or intimidation.
That’s how most of us parent.
If a child won’t obey we up our threats. We attempt to control by using force, fear, threats, or intimidation.
It’s the same strategy our government uses.
It’s the same strategy so many businesses use.
It’s sadly the same strategy the Church has fallen to.
There is so much fear in the church world. I was recently sent a post about a Christians opinion about the logo of an energy drink. Apparently if you break down the logo, and twist it a certain way…well…
When someone feels guilty the natural reaction is to go into hiding. Guilt and shame produce amazing actors who practice sin behind the scenes.
So the answer when someone gets caught in sin is to push them towards accountability. But accountability is limited in it’s effectiveness.
Because we are all relationally stretched thin we have become great at allowing people to see what we want them to see. We aren’t honest with ourselves or those who could keep us accountable.
And because we are relationally stretched thin accountability will fall away as soon as the threat of being in trouble wears off. So six months to a year after most people have forgotten about the incident that got you in trouble the accountability will go away because you’ll find reasons to avoid it.
The best form of accountability is to be around people who share your values and inspire you to live better. No guilt. Lots of grace. Lots of inspiration.
We become like the people we allow to influence us.
It’s why it’s so difficult to lose weight if your spouse is not on board.
It’s why it’s so difficult to budget your money if your spouse is not on board.
It’s why it’s so difficult to remain sexually pure if they people you date are not on board.
It’s why resisting peer pressure is so incredibly difficult.
So screaming at someone who is addicted to porn doesn’t help.
Shaming someone who is a gossip doesn’t change them.
Guilting someone to hang out with you because you are lonely doesn’t make them want to hang out with you.
Inspiration gets the ball rolling towards change. When a person is inspired and they are involved in a system that continues the inspiration, life change happens.
So as Christians we have to change how we deal with shame.
The church should be the safest place in the world to be imperfect. It should be filled with real people who inspire others by living for God through their failures.
Way too often all we show anyone is what we are against and how we have defeated sin.
When was the last time you had a conversation about a what you did the day after a major sin?
What would it look like if we inspired one another to be better humans?
This can only happen when people commit to grace, and walking through failure with others.
3. The way we communicate with people.
At one time in America if you wanted to learn about God you needed the church. Not today.
People have information overload.
Any information that is out there is now found easily on the Internet.
Most of our gathers at church are centered around information transfer.
Bible study is incredibly important, but so is Bible living.
We have great preachers and great curriculums for small groups. We need both. But we need something else today.
People don’t need more information. They need an experience.
I’m not writing about smoke machines, lights, and or animatronics that sing to our children.
People need ways to encounter God. Real life ways.
We need Godly people to share life with people.
So much of Jesus’ teaching was around meals. A lot of it was around festivities or parties. Some of it was doing work. At times it was while fishing. The teaching in the synagogue was crucial, but the experience of God was everywhere.
We need to experience God.
I’m convinced, one reason people are prioritizing church less is because the ease of information. On a weekly basis I see people who live no where near Charlotte, NC say they attended church with Steven Furtick. The same is said with people who live no where near Atlanta, GA, and Andy Stanley, Texas and Matt Chandler, or Oklahoma and Craig Groeschel. Information is easy to come by.
Information is easy to come by, but experience is not.
We have to find ways to create experiences for people. We have to move people from spectators to participants. We have to help people overcome their fear of praying to praying bold prayers with others. I don’t know all the answers, but together we have to do better.
4. The way we fund the local church.
A lot of people live pay to check to pay check. A lot of people are on tight budgets. A lot of people still find ways to pay for entertainment.
It is fascinating to me in the church how Christians will pay top dollar for a Christian concert, speaking tour, cruise, or conference, but not for their own church.
That’s something we aren’t going to change.
So pastors have to not only learn to be great teachers, theologians, and leaders, they now have to learn to become chief fundraiser.
There has to be another way.
I don’t know this answer.
I think it could be something like this…
What if members of a church provided a paid resource for the community?
It would have to be something the community in that area needs. It couldn’t be a Christian theme park in Disneyland’s backyard.
This is probably not the answer, but it might spur on one of the answers…
At most the churches I have been a part of there are a lot of photographers. They all have their own businesses. Most of them are side businesses.
What if a group of business leaders and photographers partnered with the church to create an indoor photo experience? This could take place in a room or part of the church that is not being used.
Lighting is difficult to control and so is the weather. So what if you created amazing photo ops for wedding parties, graduates, families etc. Build sets, scenes, and experiences that would blow people’s expectations away. Create something no one else is providing and no one can get anywhere else.
Open this up to the public. Provide amazing customer service and build relationships.
Charge an amount for the experience. The photographers could donate their time with the idea of giving their information for other shoots outside of the experience.
The money that is brought in would go back into the church to fund the mission.
People still need to give back to the local church. It’s a spiritual principle! There is a connection to our money and our heart. But every church could do more with more money.
Provide a service and it betters the community and helps fund the mission.
That’s just an idea.
I want to have a best selling book simply so I can take my salary off the church books. I’d love to hire more staff, give more towards missions, help more families, build a new building etc., but it all takes money.
5. The way we handle suffering.
No where is suffering more awkward than in the local church.
Our Sundays are filled with celebratory songs. The music Christians produce for radio always resolves in a way that promises pain goes away instantly. When someone struggles we often shove Scriptures down their throat in attempts to heal the pain instantly. We don’t know how to deal with someone who isn’t over a real life pain after a few weeks.
The Church loves the story of a lost person becoming a Christian. We hate the story of a Christian who struggles.
We try to attach a why to every struggle.
We try to solve every pain with a quick verse like it’s a pill.
There is a place for sorrow.
A lament is a passionate expression of grief or sorrow, and it makes the Church feel so uncomfortable.
We like to believe that with Jesus you will always be a shiny, happy person.
So we avoid admitting we are depressed, refuse medication because Jesus doesn’t need that, only talk about struggles like they are in the past, and wait to deal with our problems when we get caught or hit rock bottom.
I don’t think we need medication for everything, but I also don’t think we should avoid help.
There is a pride that comes with following Jesus. The disciples had it and we do too. We think we are more important and better than we really are. We forget that we are following perfection in a broken pattern.
As we look to Jesus we have to admit that not one of us have it all figured out.
At a glance it can seem like the local church doesn’t welcome grief. It makes us feel uncomfortable. Sadness isn’t attractional, so Christians avoid it like the plague.
It’s difficult to market your church when your products are broken. And yet the product of the church is broken people becoming whole. Until we reach Heaven there will be something lacking inside all of us. We all feel the affects of brokenness, so why do we hide it from each other?
Creating safe places to lament has to be something the Church becomes comfortable with. We have to let people know it’s okay to not be okay. Together we will allow Jesus to wrap our injured souls around Himself.
We have to be able to cry without having an answer shoved down our soul.
We have to be able to know sadness is an emotion God uses and not something to feel guilty about.
We have to know that Jesus doesn’t instantly heal all issues.
So sometimes we struggle…but it has to be together.
We have to stop being shocked that people struggle and start embracing the pain.
And, we do find healing. We do find help. We do need the Scriptures. But there has to be a safe place to lament for a time or season.
So those are my thoughts.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Which one resonated most with you? What ideas do you have to help Christians work on this?