Wednesday, March 31, 2010
This past Tuesday morning I had breakfast with Paul Nixon. Paul is an effective and highly creative new church start pastor, consultant and coach. He is gifted in helping existing congregations embrace robust vitality for the mission of Christ. He is also the author of a number of books and works part-time as a consultant to the United Methodist Church’s Path One – new churches for new people in new places. In an engaging, easy read and immensely practical little book entitled: I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church! Paul writes: “Though the number of young adults who distrust organized Christianity is skyrocketing to the highest levels in American history, this is one of the most spiritually-minded generations we have seen come down the pike. As Jesus would say, ‘the fields are ripe for harvesting’ (John 4:35). There are millions of nonchurch people talking about the most important things in life, if only we would choose to be a part of the conversations.” (p. 104) Those are strong words, but accurate. We have to choose to engage our culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Recounting his own experiences as pastor, consultant and church growth & development executive, he outlines 6 crucial choices: 1) Choose life over death – Pray, build a working coalition of the committed, “tend primarily to what is living, not what is passing away,” and offer enough quality pastoral care to keep the complainers from successfully sabotaging transformation efforts. 2) Choose Community over isolation – “People are as starved for meaningful community today as at any other time in human history.” Get out of the office and spend time engaging the community. Internally, make a decision to intentionally move closer to Acts 2:42-46. Rediscover the power and purpose of small groups. 3) Choose fun over drudgery 4) Choose Bold over Mild – “Mr. Rogers–style worship is killing us.” “Give them Jesus and the Spirit.” Nothing is bolder than unleashing Christ! Don’t soft pedal the gospel. Boldness is expressed in a passion driven, Spirit led commitment to change the world and share the Savior. (Please note: Bold is not a synonym for stupid!) 5) Choose Frontier over Fortress – Too many church buildings look like Fort Knox rather than a mission post of the advancing kingdom of God. The “Fortress test” on pages 82-83 is itself worth the price of the book. Sell, rebuild, downsize, rent, borrow, or buy; “whatever you do beats just sitting around waiting to die in the old location.” (p. 88) 6) Choose Now rather than Later – In his famous Letter from the Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote: “the time is always ripe to do right.” Fight procrastination. “Rather than take your church through a self-study or visioning process, just start reading the Book of Acts together and prayerfully walking your neighborhood (both your local neighborhood and, through solid educational experiences, our virtual, global neighborhood). God will help you figure out what you need to do.” (p. 103) Simple and straightforward, I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church! Does not so much break new grounds as help us focus on practice steps to plow the ground of faithfulness and fruitfulness. It is especially adept as a study book for a church leadership team to work through together. May your Easter be a joyous experience of the resurrected Christ!