I recently read an article about a church that made… and is making… a hard transition. At one time it was THE blowing and going church… but had fallen on hard times. As I read the article, I thought of at least three churches I’ve served that fit this category to one degree or another that would benefit from this process. Consider below how the current pastor described the church:
My mind raced through the 53-year history of Redwood Chapel, the church I had known since my junior high years. We’d had a glorious past: in 1962 the church founded and has since hosted the Bay Area Sunday School convention (BASS). We’d enjoyed strong music programs led by people like Tom Fettke and Joseph Linn. We were the second church in the nation to have its own cable TV station and broadcast services (from the 1970s through the early 1990s). We’d planted vibrant churches in other communities. We had dynamic youth ministries, a strong missions program, and an exemplary educational program for more than 50 years.
But now, after experiencing two difficult pastoral transitions, we were reeling from the loss of nearly half of our church family. Like the peeling of an onion, more than 500 people had departed between 2000 and 2006, one layer at time.
I had joked with some pastor friends that, over the past 30 years, our church may have been the greatest contributor to the church growth movement in the Bay Area. Hundreds of former Redwood attenders had migrated to other churches in local communities, largely due to pastoral transitions, leadership chaos, or inward thinking.
The church made the bold move to call in church consultant to help the congregation identify areas that needed to be addressed. Consider what was told to the congregation… (Here’s where a lot of churches would do well to listen):
You have departed from your historic calling and DNA.
Honest dialogue and processes are violated depending on the political agendas or prowess of individuals.
Gossip is rampant. Statements are often manipulated to make other people and churches appear unspiritual or to leverage opinion.
This is a church that does not honor confidentiality.
Many talk about the glories of the church’s past, and desire to “go back to Egypt.”
There is little ownership or accountability for the church’s current condition.
Tension still exists from the deacons-to-elders transition (10 years ago), but the greater problem is an ongoing lack of practicing the biblical responsibilities as church leaders.
Outreach is assumed to mean church events, but few take responsibility to share their faith personally.
Thirty years of unresolved issues will not go away merely by calling another new pastor. Previous transitions that have not dealt with the underlying issues still need to be addressed.
There is no current and clear mission or strategic ministry plan.
The church has lots of activity but little is aligned with a distinct mission and vision.
Redwood Chapel is not ready to call a senior pastor. To do so would be to merely repeat the past.
WOW. Imagine hearing those things about where you attend? To make a long story shorter, they were given these things to implement:
- Develop a clear Ministry Master Plan, defining mission, values, and strategic priorities. We were warned that this must happen before a new senior pastor could be considered.
- Clarify the elder role with external help to remove fear of personal agendas.
- Call a Transitional Senior Pastor to assist during the interim and coach the elders in their role.
- Schedule a Solemn Assembly for congregational confession, repentance, forgiveness, prayer, and open conversation.
The results have been… and are… a testimony to what God does when His people honor Him above their agendas (Click here to read the whole article!).
Personally… I believe many churches need to go through this, or a similar process… IF they are to regain their ability to be salt and light for the kingdom.