As church leaders, we need to rethink again and again the assumptions behind the ways that we proclaim the unchanging truth of God’s love to a constantly changing world. What worked in the past will not necessarily work in 2013. God is still the same but leading God’s church requires new thinking and rethinking just as it has since the beginning of Jesus” ministry. The purpose of thinking and rethinking is for action.
Many of the assumptions that we have about how a church should operate are outdated and no longer work. The dilemma is that we are reluctant to transform the way that we think because we are comfortable with what we have learned in the past. When stress attacks, “the only things that win are what people already know and do even if those things are flawed and inefficient.” (Page 13 of Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson)
Currently, AT&T is running a series of advertisements for their 4G cell phone service that builds on the assumption that “Bigger is Better.” For too long, people have assumed that is true but bigger is not always better. Bigger is simply bigger. Bigger is definitely not better for service. You have no local place to call and talk to a real person about your problems. I have AT&T and when our phone and internet service went out recently, they taught me quickly bigger is not always better. The first time I called the 800 number, I waited for 27 minutes and 58 seconds before I got cut off and the signal went dead. Since I did not have internet, I called son Bob and asked him to go to the AT&T website to leave a message for them to call me. Bob called back and said there was no place to leave a message–only the 800 number. I tried calling the local AT&T Store where I signed up for service but they said they could do nothing. “It is out of our hands. Call the 800 number!” I tried the 800 number again and pushed the “0″ button 12 times until I was connected to a real person. I thought to myself, “My problems are over.” Yet, AT&T trumped that with a “Not so fast!” This human voice put me on hold for the service department. Over 40 minutes later, service picked up the phone. The experience taught me that BIGGER IS NOT NECESSARILY BETTER. BIGGER IS BIGGER. I was left thinking, SMALLER CAN DEFINITELY BE BETTER THAN BIGGER. (All caps are big signs of frustration!)
A congregation does not have to be a large congregation to deliver effective ministry. A small strong church that is a strong family can be just as effective as any large church in delivering God’s love to the world. Instead of seeing size as a detriment, the small congregation can easily provide personal contact for an amazing advantage. This is the type of rethinking that leads us to understand that numbers are not nearly as important as ministry with a family atmosphere.
Over the next several weeks, I’ll publish a series of observations, ideas and concrete suggestions for how start rethinking our assumptions about what it means to be in ministry today.