Which Congregations Will Make The Shift?

Given the high change environment in which we find ourselves, adapting is a primary focus for healthy, forward-leaning congregations. Those who learn quickly, pivot their practices, and embody the Kingdom in life-giving ways will flourish. Those who don’t…well, won’t.

So can we predict which congregations will adapt, making the shift to vitalized 21st century faith communities? Not with any certainty. When churches taste of the Lord, finding themselves caught up in this Christian Movement flowing through the world, they transform in surprising ways. This can happen to/in any church. At the same time there are some factors which serve as impediments or blockages when churches consider adapting. Here are a few.

Those who were very “successful” with the 20th century way of being church. These find it very difficult to believe they are in need of change since they were so successful with a particular way of being church in their recent history.

Those whose 20th century approach is still viable enough (just a few in the hand bell choir, but enough to somewhat justify its existence); allowing them to believe their church paradigm is still fruitful.

Those who are the largest church in the area from each denomination (receiving Christian refugees from smaller churches since they can still maintain familiar 20th century Christian church culture).

Those in a few isolated small towns where culture shift is less prevalent; where tradition still motivates enough people to be church-as-we-have-known-it.

Megachurches….they are the last innovation of the 20th century attractional church model – seeing fraying around the edges at this point in the 21st century – yet still attracting enough 20th century paradigm seeking pilgrims to resist innovation.

Those who are populated by people who are deeply committed to 20th century culture at large remaining the same (due to power, prestige, money, etc); their perceived losses when it comes to adaptive change discourages them from experimenting with change.

Those who are part of denominations which require great funding to support their structure and personnel (for obvious reasons).

Those who love form (traditions, worship style, theological nuance, beloved structures) over function (effectiveness around developing disciples who join God’s mission).

Those who believe returning to the good old days (the way we were church when we were “successful”) is adaptive change.
Now, my goal in writing this is not to insult each and every one of our readers. All of us are struggling with the massive change required of us while moving into the Postmodern Era. I love the way-we-have-been-church and grieve its passing. But I also believe the gospel is so good that its worth giving up my cherished practices in order to connect this good news with our world as we currently find it. Yes, sometimes I go there kicking and screaming and throwing a Christian fit, yet go there we must.

Perhaps by sensitizing ourselves to these adaptation roadblocks, naming and identifying them, we will more quickly and less painfully move beyond them to faithful and robust Christian expression. Next week I look forward to describing congregations who are more readily positioned to engage adaptive change.

In the meantime, may we all get in the boat, raise the sails, and launch out on the wild boundless ocean. May we find ourselves caught up in the current of this life-giving Jesus-shaped Christian Movement. The 21st century is waiting, ready for the very good news, presence, love, and power of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Mark Tidsworth
Pinnacle President