Hostage Crisis in the Rural Church
As a lead pastor for sixteen years in a small town, I have seen the good, bad and ugly. There were some great times and some not so great times. But I am thankful for all the experiences. They taught me things about myself I could have never learned otherwise. It's been especially helpful to me because I often work with smaller churches with The Unstuck Group. I understand their struggle. Small town America is a tough mission field. I am privileged to work with pastors because it gives me a front row seat to watch churches execute vision and strategy to reach people who aren't following Jesus. However, I have seen something else not so fun to watch...a hostage crisis.
When a church (especially in rural America) begins shifting from an insider focus to an outsider focus, it can cause a rift. People can't understand why worship and preaching styles have changed or why the Sunday language is different. In many cases, they push back; and when things don't return to normal, they leave the church. The pastor then becomes insecure, and without realizing it, is taken hostage by the remaining nay-sayers. This leads to a dangerous place of pleasing people. Plans are paused; action items are tabled; and the church goes back to Egypt where it's safe and predictable.
When this occurs, we usually find core values and vision become violated, all for the sake of appeasing people to close the front door to keep others from leaving. While closing the front door may keep church members in, it also keeps the primary customer out.
The Church is an Organism, not an organization
The apostle Paul calls the church a "body" which means we are classified as an organism, not an organization. Organisms typically do four things:
1) They eat
2) They grow
3) They multiply
4) They produce waste.
When we translate that into the church, we can say the church (a living organism) should:
1) Consume God's Word
2) Experience spiritual growth
4) And yes, there are times when things must "leave" the body.
As a pastor, you should never allow nay-sayers to hold you hostage. Leading a church through change requires you to "lose" in order to "gain." Sometimes you must lose programs; and other times you must lose people. That's simply the nature of an organism. Your leadership team is counting on you to make tough decisions that will move the church forward...and your primary customers are counting on you to introduce them to Jesus.