We have all heard phrases like “The church needs to change” and “Change or die.” Nearly everyone agrees that change must happen or the American church will go the way of the horse and buggy, rotary phones and Sears. A friend of mine recently posted on Twitter this quote: “It is easier for church members to close the doors of their beloved church than it is for them to change.” Is this true? Is change the hardest yet most necessary thing for a church to do?
I don’t want to be the guy that says we don’t need to change. Clearly, the church in America has issues. As you probably know, every major faith branch in the US is in decline. Every. Single. One. The big question becomes: if the church is to “change” what are we to change into?
Change into a more progressive church? Progressive churches are dying.
Change into a more conservative church? They are dying too.
Change into a more liturgical church? Dead and dying.
Change into a cooler, hipper church? Who decides what’s cool? Today’s cool is tomorrow’s dead.
Of course, we want our churches growing again. We want them to be relevant. We want to reverse the downward trajectory in our attendance and influence numbers. We want our losses to change into gains. What change needs to happen that will lead to a reversal of our current path?
The Bible tells us: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8). In other words, Jesus doesn’t change. We serve the same Jesus that Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther and John Wesley did. Maybe the changes the church needs are not upping the cool factor, but getting back to the never changing Jesus. Could it be that in an ever-changing culture, the church should not be concerned with changing equally fast, but instead reclaim its original message. Maybe the answer to staving off our imminent demise is less about music style and coffee options in our cool cafes and more about Jesus.
What I’m suggesting is that the primary reason for our rapid decline is that the culture has rejected the church because we don’t look enough like Jesus. The remedy for the dying church in America is a healthy dose of “that old time religion,” where Jesus is preached and Jesus’ values are deeply imbedded in our church’s DNA once again. A church, like Jesus, loves all people including the “least of these;” shares with the hungry, thirsty, blind, and imprisoned; preaches the good news to the poor; and makes disciples and teaches them in the ways of Jesus. It’s less politics. More Jesus. Less Judgment. More Jesus. Less hypocrisy. More Jesus. Less pumpkin spice lattes in the lobby and more Jesus in every corner in the church. Our world doesn’t need another church named “the Rock” or some other outdoorsy sounding name, where outsiders don’t know if they are attending a concert, a geological appreciation meeting or a church. Our world needs the church of Jesus Christ to reflect Jesus Christ more and more.
If your church has gotten away from the Jesus message, then yes, you need to change. But not change for change sake. Change for Jesus sake.