One day I was with a young pastor who had just begun his ministry at an established church. After a few months on the job, he was devising plans to radically change the worship style of the church. He said to me, “If you know you are going to pull off a bandage, is it better to tear it off quickly or to remove it slowly?” The suggestion was that it would be best to do it quickly and get the pain over with. Well, the pain was great and it hurt many long time members for a long time. In my opinion, this is a bad analogy and a terrible approach to ministry.
There seems to be a tendency to think that you can package the approach that has been successful in a large mega church and apply it to every church setting. The promise and allure of attracting a bigger crowd and a larger offering seems to cloud the thinking in regards to whether the latest approach to ministry is really right for an individual church.
Isn’t this a sort of “cookie cutter” mentality. After all, if we can get the same sermons from the internet that have been successfully preached elsewhere, why wouldn’t it do just as well in our own church? And if you can use the same music, power-point, bulletins, outreach plan, fund raising ideas, etc… then it seems like a “slam dunk.”
Whatever happened to the idea of a pastor going to a new church and spending time getting to know his flock and then slowly implementing changes that are right for the people of his church? I have heard it said that it might take up to seven years before a pastor truly understands the unique stories of the congregation. However, many times when radical and quick changes are made without regards to the real needs of the people who actually currently attend, the long-term members feel disenfranchised. There even seems to be a tendency for some pastors to tell long-term members to “hit the road” if they don’t like it.
Don’t misunderstand my point; I am not opposed to changes in worship styles and approaches to ministry. But, let’s do it gradually and build a consensus among the people before completely doing away with traditions passed down from the saints before us. Let’s not be afraid of change, but let’s not buy our changes in a fancy box of marketed materials. If we need direction, why not ask the Eternal God for wisdom who says in James 1:15, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
James M. Stevens
Senior Music and Culture Advisor
Dr. James Michael Stevens is a prolific musician and published composer of over 200 songs. Winner of numerous ASCAP Standard Awards for Composition, he has formally served as President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), and currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee as Chairman of the Music Department at Free Will Baptist Bible College.