What does a 21 year old seminary student know, that a 30 year experienced seasoned Senior Pastor doesn’t know? That question sounds like a set up doesn’t it? Sometimes it takes a newbie to come on the scene to effect a change towards a vision of desired future. This is especially true for the Church which struggles for relevancy in a new age. For sure, younger persons bring with them a keen awareness of the present culture. Cultural shifts have brought us to a place that is far removed from the culture of 20-30 or 40 years ago. Knowing the present culture is extremely helpful in reaching new generations. There is no doubt that pastors leading churches today need a different skill set for the demands of today’s ministry. Younger pastors in general are more in touch with what’s happening. I admit that this has caused this dinosaur some anxiety. But for us dinosaurs there is reason to hope.
Paul Nixon in his book, I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church, chronicles the ministry of a young pastor. New to ministry, and still in seminary, the pastor is given the unenviable task of ministering to people that have seen their church closed. Hurt, demoralized, and angry former parishioners, coupled with a pulpit supply pastor with no experience seems like a recipe for disaster!
Yet, what Paul Nixon describes is quite astonishing. (Funny how God works in the most unlikely context)! The church begins to grow and come alive with vitality. Why? This newbie changed the way people think about church. And that made all the difference in the world.
What I found amazing was that it was not the cultural awareness that the newbie brought to the table, nor was it his expertise in social media or technological knowhow, that grew the church. It was rather, his vision of people being connected to one another and to those in their community. In other words, what made churches vital in their communities years ago still applies today – connection to people.
And so starts the work of recasting a vision for the local church. This takes both humility and courage. Leaders who realize that their ministries no longer connect with people and wish to do something about it, start the hard work of discerning what will make new connections. What I find hopeful in all of this is that humility and courage are traits that transcend generational sensibilities, technological knowhow, and proficiency in social media. As helpful as those are, we get nowhere without humility and courage. Through practicing humility and leading with courage this young pastor helped the former parishioners make new connections in their community.
So how can we practice humility and lead with courage? Here are a few ways:
· It takes humility to look at ourselves and take responsibility for this lack of connection in our community.
· It takes courage to admit we focus too much on ourselves and not enough on others.
· It takes humility to realize sometimes we (the church) are paralyzed as to what to do.
· It takes courage to seek help and to use resources beyond our own means.
· It takes humility to rely on God through prayer, meditation, and study.
· It takes courage to commit time, money and talents to new ministry.
When churches see themselves in the larger context of where they are located, and know about the people that surround them, a new conversation starts. These conversations, make no mistake about it, will take humility and courage. And these make all the difference in the world!
Grace & Peace,
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Pastor Doug Rea