Church in a Season of Change (Part 3)
The challenge I’ve seen in my work in a traditional church is that the pattern of church life is deeply ingrained. Changing things, even slightly, is met with tolerance at first, but there is tension. It’s a bit like a dog on an elastic leash that is tethered to a stake. The dog can run to the limits of the leash, even stretch it, but the tension is always pulling back toward the stake. In the church, the stake is, explicitly or implicitly, ‘the way church ought to be’ or ‘the way it used to be,’ and all change must stretch from that point.
So far, I’ve not seen it break free.
Furthermore, change comes nowhere near the paradigm shift that will be needed in the next decade. What I’ve been seeing is along the lines of, “we’re really doing pretty well. Let’s change by continuing to do what we’re doing, but do it even better.” Asking the hard question of whether we ought to be doing what we are doing at all isn’t easy to ask.
How to approach needed change is the key question.
My neighborhood was the location of a most interesting building project. Somebody bought a piece of property, a city lot, which had a small house on it. The buyer intended to build a new house there, but needed a place to live as he did so. The solution? Build the new and bigger house around the small one until the first house was inside the second. Once that was done, the small old house was integrated into the new by tearing down some parts of it and incorporating others.
I think a similar thing will need to be done with many churches inherited from the mid-twentieth century. I am becoming convinced that building a new community around the old one may be the best way—or at least a good way—to bring about a shift of church-life paradigms.