Following my blog announcing to the Church of the Nazarene, “Lenexa, We have a problem,” I received several responses that said in effect: “Lenexa IS the problem.”
I disagree (in part).
I disagree because I don’t think the good people at the Global Ministry Center want to be the problem or intend to be the problem or in some cynical view are enjoying the problem. The people I know in the building on Prairie Star Parkway are smart. They love the church. They want the church to move forward. Moreover, what I’ve reported is not rocket science They can read the signs in USA/Canada too. Our pastors are getting older. Our churches are getting emptier. Our tithers are dying off. Our mission reliance on those empty churches, retiring pastors and dying-off givers is going to mean financial trouble in the not-to-distant future. They know all of that. But what is an ecclesiological bureaucrat to do?
Here are a few suggestions:
1) We’ve got to grow younger. The Fuller Youth Institute did a study on churches whose young people were not leaving and came up with six core commitments evident in those churches. For the CotN to survive those commitments need to be embraced in every congregation. You can read about it here.
2) Our colleges and seminary are not producing enough pastors. Our districts’ home study program is not producing theologically consistent preachers. We must empower the Nazarene Bible College to take on the challenge of producing a low-cost, comprehensive, theologically competent, on-line curriculum where individuals are also locally trained and mentored in strong, healthy churches.
3) We must produce more bi-vocational pastors to not only keep the doors open in shrinking rural areas where people are few but also in growing urban areas where living expenses are high.
4). We must change our metrics on success. We need to produce deep and many not wide and few. Strong and healthy should be celebrated more than noses and nickels.
5). With a more diverse population in the USA/Canada, we need more missionaries in USA/Canada. More Spanish language missionaries to reach Hispanics. Start addressing the issues of why as a denomination we have failed to reach African Americans. Think of new methods and dialogues for Arab Americans and Asian Americans. USA/Canada is getting browner, so should we.
6). There must be more clear communication that speaks of the message of holiness in a changing cultural landscape. The Foundry (subsidized by the WEF if need be) should have a steady flow of low cost (no cost) holiness materials and curriculum to be taught in our churches. Our theological distinctiveness is becoming nonexistent.
7). Leadership needs to stress: Less ecclesiastical control. More entrepreneurship. Less structure. More flexibility. Less worry about failure. More experimentation. Less same old tired tactics. More creativity. Less territorialism. More freedom. Less politics. More Jesus. Less District. More local. Less concern of offending WEF contributors. More concern of offending Christ.
We are fighting for the health and existence of our beloved church. We need to be proactive. A friend reminded me recently, like planting an oak tree, the best time to start these measures was 30 years ago. The next best time is now.