I read an interesting comment the other day from the captain of the Australian Cricket Team, Ricky Ponting. Australia has been the dominant nation in cricket for the past 15 years, being ranked no 1 for most of that time. Just the other day they lost the 2nd Test to South Africa here in Australia, and its the first time in 15 years that they have lost a series at home. As you can imagine that when a giant falls the fingers start to be pointed, and there was accusations flying thick and fast. Ponting’s quote struck a chord with me because its something that I am dealing with as I seek to live a truly authentic life. He said:
“Things are going to be different and we have to look at different ways of going about things,” Ponting said as he reflected on a difficult 2008. “We can’t sit back as leaders and coaches and keep doing the same thing because it hasn’t been working for us. We have to learn from the way other teams are going about things as well. That’s not something we’re accustomed to.”
The biggest accusation towards those responsible for the management of the team is that for too long they have been sitting back and relying on what has worked in the past and haven’t made the tough choices to introduce and give younger players the experience needed to succeed at the highest level. The result has been an ageing team with players out of form or retiring and there being no ‘great’ talent nurtured to fill the void. They have let it run with little thought for the future and with next to no thought about learning from those around them.
The reality of life is that what works today wont necessarily work tomorrow and we need to be prepared to change with the times. Our core beliefs and values remain unchanged but the way in which we make ourselves known has to change if we want to continue to be successful. Take a look around and you will see it in all areas of life, people changing their habits and professions, business changing their approach and marketing and even some churches changing the way they do ministry, all so people ‘out there’ will see and hear what they have to ‘offer’. Understanding culture is the key.
Places that embrace change, who strive to understand culture in order to effectively reach it, have leaders who look ahead. They are led from the front by people who embrace the fact that what has worked in the past, what works today will probably not work tomorrow and they actively seek new ways to communicate their message. They learn from each other, they look at what others are doing and adapt their ideas to suit their niche areas. They realise that they cannot afford to exist in a vacuum, they must immerse themselves in the day’s culture in order to effectively share their values/products/ideas with the world. Our goal as the Church is to share the Truth of the Gospel. In order to do so we must understand culture if we want to effectively communicate with it. We need these types of leaders in the church today, men and women who are not afraid to honestly evaluate their ministries and bring change in order to share the Gospel with more people.
Unfortunately it seems that the majority of churches live with their heads in the sand reluctant to look at the need for change. Their mantra seems to say Things are going fine, this has worked for us in the past why should we look at what others are doing and why should we plan for change? I’m not advocating change for change’s sake but a quick survey of the Church returns alarming results in the number of churches who have lost touch with those they are called to reach. Their (perceived) lack of forward thinking and planning for the future, coupled with their desire to hold on to the past has meant they have become little more than a place for ‘christians’ to gather once a week, do their ‘duty’ and feel good about it. Places like this do nothing to further God’s Kingdom, in fact they can do more harm than good.
I don’t want to harp on about the who’s or what’s, I want to ask the following questions: Who is going to stand up and lead our churches into this century? What is it going to take for our churches to get off their spiritual backsides and get on with God’s business? Where are the leaders who are willing to take a risk of faith to step out and do something radical for God in order to reach those who don’t yet know Him? Where are the leaders who are more concerned with displeasing God rather than displeasing their congregation?
Times have changed, society has changed, but the church seems reluctant to make the necessary changes in order to connect with it. The Truth of the Gospel NEVER changes, it is always constant, reliable and trustworthy… but what good is knowing the Truth if you have no means of making it known to those that need to hear it the most?