* The following blog is this pastor’s brief analysis of a trend I have observed in conservative, Bible preaching churches in the last 15 years. It is my plan to address the subject in future postings.
“He stole our church out from under us!” is a statement I hear too often these days from both Independent Baptist and conservative Southern Baptist church members.
The typical scenario is a trusting, aging church calls a young, dynamic pastor to take the helm of their church ministries following a faithful veteran pastor who retired, moved on or was pushed out by church members who wanted a change. Reasoning the young pastor would bring new ideas and the church would be blessed with an influx of youth, the trusting church settled into a familiar rut of “watch and wait” unaware they were setting a course that would inevitably abandon the legacy and heritage of the church, its traditional worship services and often its own membership.
Before I am misunderstood and taken to task, allow me to state emphatically I am not arguing against change. Change is an inevitable dynamic with the passing of time, membership and new leadership who bring different skills, spiritual gifts and their own strengths and weaknesses. It is impossible for a ministry to experience a change in leadership and not face the reality of changes within the body of that organization. [Let’s face it; some people oppose change regardless of how inevitable, necessary or valid the change.]
The changes I want to address are at first subtle, pragmatic and sometimes deceptive. The doctrine begins a subtle shift, the music style begins to drift, and inevitably unrest takes hold in the body of the church. Several examples come to mind where young pastors who, lacking an appreciation for the heritage of the church and its godly legacy, reasoned if a new generation is to be reached the church must “Change or Die”. Because the congregation dutifully followed the previous pastor for a generation, church members fail to question the young pastor. Church leaders participate in the changes without asking for the guiding principles behind the young pastor’s “Change or Die” narrative and what those changes might be.
In fairness to the young pastor, his youth, inexperience and the pressure to be successful sends him searching for the keys to a successful ministry. Seminars, conferences, headliner national speakers, peers and “Ministry for Dummies” books and blogs soon become his fare at the sacrifice of prayer, Bible study, and the counsel of older, experienced mentors. Like Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, the young preacher rejects the counsel and cautions of his elders and embraces the counsel and example of his peers (1 Kings 12:6-8) who flatter his ego and inflame his pride.
Too often the exodus of disavowed saints who were the pillars of the church and the failed influx of youth spells doom not only for the young pastor, but also the church. I close today’s blog with Paul’s challenge to Timothy that is both timely and prophetic.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 – “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith
* The above is a brief diagnosis of the “Change or Die” narrative that many pastors and churches are following, often to their demise.