Needs? Whose Needs?

Last time, I began to address the question, “What’s more important, a church that meets your needs or one of the proper denomination?”

I reiterate that the mere fact that so many should ask this question should cause every existing congregation to do some real soul-searching. And, that I have asked this question myself. My answer was to plant a new congregation.

But let me share something with you. When we originally planted the congregation, my purpose was to design a polity and a service that would be appealing to my childen’s generation.

Now, before the silly criticism starts, we didn’t “dumb down” our basic doctrines or theology. In fact, few congregations I have attended come anywhere near the theological content that we commonly experience. No, it was never about changing our beliefs, but about making them practical and accessible to people today.

Every church plant goes through growing pains. This was made clear by Bob Logan at Seeds ’96 (the first of eight I attended). Ours was no exception. And one significant cause for disaffection concerned whose needs would be made foremost. A number of our older members, dissatisfied with their previous congregation, were looking for a congregation that would put their needs foremost.

And, frankly, this is the question that keeps so many of our congregations from becoming vibrant and effective. And why so many of our young adults leave as soon as they can.

Many, many of our older members care only for their own spiritual comfort. I have seen this over and over again. One older mother (her children are my age), after lamenting to me about her children who do not attend  any church any more, then went on a rant about music and contemporary worship. I say it was a rant, but I must tell you I have a great deal of affection for this woman. Anyway, when the opportunity presented itself, I asked, “Would you be willing to be a little uncomfortable with the music, if that would help your children want to return to church.”

She thought for a moment before saying, “No.”

In our church plant, we did not ‘involve’ the young people. We gave them leadership. Did they always lead in ways and in directions that I felt comfortable with? No, they did not. Were they always right? No one is perfect– even older folks.  Have I grown spiritually and been blessed by their leadership? Yes, overwhelmingly.

Without reservation, I can say that I have grown more from the experiments and new directions from their leadership than I did in my entire life previously.

Somehow, older members have gotten the idea that we know exactly how God wants us to worship Him. Where could that idea have come from? For so many, they cannot tell the difference between what pleases God, and nostalgia for a past that never existed. They tell us of how much better things were back when–usually when they were much younger.

I always wondered, if things were so perfect in the past, why weren’t we all translated and taken to heaven? Obviously, because they weren’t that perfect.

What I have discovered is something very simple. If your religion doesn’t appeal to young adults and children, it won’t appeal to very many outside your church, either.

As I have argued in previous posts, for example here, the Advent movement is the movement of Present Truth, and if we aren’t speaking in terms which reach the present generation, we aren’t true to our spiritual heritage.


Needs? Whose Needs? — 1 Comment

  1. Ed, I couldn’t agree with you more. Too often we canonize our personal convictions as binding on the whole church–or worse yet, we deify our preferences as the standards that the whole church must live by. Such ignorance is exceeded only by its arrogance.
    God bless you, brother, for your courage and insight. Indeed it’s true that if the good old days were all that good, the Lord would have come way back then. Instead, the work is left for the younger generation to finish. So let’s get out of the way and share leadership with them. We gray-haired members should be increasingly content to see ourselves as empowerers and mentors of younger members.
    Martin Weber

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