Is your church going to survive the next twenty years? By your church, I mean the local, congregational expression of the Body of Christ intended to worship, work and witness as the visible manifestation of Christ's Kingdom in a specific area.
Is the average age of your church membership over sixty years of age? You may be able to grow through this serious demographic problem if you are allowed to do so but there is no guarantee and only younger people can give you some assurance of life beyond the five to seven years you have left. You may not have what it takes to patiently lead these non-conformists to Christ and assimilate them into the life of the local body, so much as they are able.
I spent two years ministering to a young man. He was a non-traditional, body art guy and I loved him. He finally started asking about Big Church, as we facetiously called it, and agreed to try us one Sunday. His welcome was less than stellar. One fellow asked him to remove his ball cap.
This was my great failure as a pastor. I could prepare the soil to accept the seed but I could not get the farmers to tend the little plants.
Is the neighborhood around you transitioning away from you? You might be able to do some really fine ministries for the people around you but the question for your survival is different. Can you make the transition from one day a week church to seven day a week Kingdom representative, with all the headaches that come from being an eleemosynary institution without much prospect for institutional survival as a Sunday-intensive entity?
I had my little quarter time churches around my community. In fact, I have made this a hallmark of the work wherever I have ministered. I do not sit around the office, measuring the length and breadth of my desk top repeatedly or baby-sitting the staff. I wanted to pastor the entire town for there is great good in having a pastor and penetration of the culture requires one great thing; being there.
God looked down on his servant, Obama, and said, "This man is very ambitious. I will have to convert him to myself, so I can help him."
God looked down on his servant, Randel E. and said, "This man is witty, charming and kind. He has a lot. I will give him a terrible job to make him humble."
God looked down on his servant, Davis, sniffed audibly and said, "That boy is gonna get himself in trouble. I will have to give him a good family and lots of friends."
Your pastor is going to get himself in great trouble if he gets out of the office much. The Traditional/Conformist metaphor needs to have a fellow who will convince them it is going to be okay and that he will embody that okayness for them. The Modern/Controls folks need reports, regular office hours and the kind of mid-level management skills designed to keep an office flowing smoothly.
Meanwhile, the world goes to Hell.
A truth is that it is not going to be okay. A truth is no one three blocks from your office really cares if the copier has all the toner it needs.
One day when I worked for the BGCT EX. BD. staff, I was in San Antonio trying to meet some pastors and get some information. I passed a small church inside the inner loop around the Alamo City and circled back to enter. Inside I found a sweet little part time secretary, who told me the pastor was indeed in that day but he was in conference at the moment and could not see me right away.
I pulled a book out of my briefcase and happily read it for twenty minutes. The pastor emerged from his conference.
At that time, he was 73 years old, this pastor. His conference that day was with a twenty something Hispanic male replete with ink, piercings and looking for the world like a gang member from the barrio. This was because he was a former gang member from the barrio. The 73 year old anglo pastor had met him in the park during a spring season of walking the park paths near the church to engage people in conversation.
Let me say, these two people had less than nothing in common. Let me say, they had become best friends for life. The old anglo was the discipler in this conversation, though I am certain he was learning as much about the post-modern world as the young man was learning from him.
I was never more impressed with a man than with that 73 year old anglo pastor. He was there, not waiting to die, not holding the fort, but, instead, making the hours worthwhile; writ large on the hearts of men instead of tablets of stone.
Is your church going to make it? Your church will not make it sitting in the building, waiting for the sixties to come back by one more time.