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It’s Not Your Fault

Editor’s note: The Revitalization Team of Community Church in San Juan Capistrano, CA has been working hard on the adaptive challenge before them to be the faithful church in today’s culture, guided by their Paracletos coaches. This team (of five “lay people” and the pastor) reflects on a piece of new insight and the importance of bringing the broader congregation along with them in this work

Some denominations are really good at guilt. We Presbyterians are not leading that pack, but we do dish it out at times. We tend to be thinkers who reflect on things – and, seeing trends, we tend to blame ourselves.

We wrestle with membership and attendance levels that are lower than we’d like.  We beat ourselves up about that. Yet we’ve learned from our consultants that we are relatively healthy at Community Presbyterian Church. We’ve learned we are not a small church when compared with other Presbyterian congregations.

That said, many authors and researchers have confirmed that the culture has changed.

“The sea change is external or contextual. There once was a world that was eager to be hospitable to Christian churches and supported “blue laws,” soccer-less Sundays, eating fish rather than meat on Friday, public prayer in schools and at nodal events, deferring to clergy by way of discounts, weekly religion sections in urban newspapers, and greeting others with “Merry Christmas.” Adapted from A Door Set Open: Grounding Change in Mission and Hope by Peter L. Steinke, copyright © 2010 by the Alban Institute.

We forgot to look around us – it’s happening everywhere, to all denominations, even to evangelicals.

“Evangelical Christianity in America is losing its power—what happened to Orange County’s Crystal Cathedral shows why.” Orange County Register, “Where are the people? 2014. Jim Hinch

Still, we got centered on ourselves and we’ve missed opportunities. The culture has changed and we have not. God, however, has not changed – he’s not done with us yet. We need to address change relative to our culture.

“Change is difficult, and should not be embarked on impulsively; but change is necessary, and should not be opposed stubbornly. We must hold in tension those two truths. If we either initiate change without sensitivity to tradition, or oppose change for the mere sake of tradition, we will jeopardize the health of the organization in question.”  “Murky Waters”, by Travis Collins, Director of Mission Advancement and Virginia Regional Coordinator for Fresh Expressions US and as a consultant with The Center for Healthy Churches

While it’s not our fault, it is our opportunity – to think differently! Remember, we want to do Both/And – “Both” those things we do well, “And” find new things to address a changed culture.