The Loss of Community

   Tell me, what is harder. Is it harder to get a church member or to get a church member back?

   It is harder to get a church member back. When someone leaves they usually have a reason to leave because people do not actually like to change. People who change do so because someone gives them a good reason to change.

   The reasons may not be as good as the leaver thinks or as bad as the abandoned person feels. The reason(s) for leaving may include loss of interest, feeling discarded or some variation on this theme. The foundation problem is loss of community, I believe.

   Some churches are like the dying denominational apparatus to which they may be attached, however loosely. Conventions and associations are trying to decide how to reverse their undeniable declines.

   To elect or appoint another ineffectual committee to decide on how to share the unpalatable with the uncaring will probably not suffice. Committee action will probably not include the hard choices necessary to deal with the rotting dinosaur carcass in the parlor. To reinvigorate dying democracies, one will probably need to offer things like:

  • Votes that matter
  • Jobs that count
  • Understandable, consistent policies
  • High quality policies
  • High-mindedness and nobility

   These things are probably not forthcoming from a status quo committee action. In fact, critical care is needed.

   There is a loss of community in the religious world, in particular among Free Church entities, who must choose to cooperate in the first place. No less a worthy than George Mason called for an end to "side taking" in a recent convention sermon in the Southwest. He sagely noted the confrontational approach of the last thirty years. Left unsaid is how the politicizing of the electoral process has ended the collegial community of the past, replacing it with an adversarial metier sure to continue for a generation.

   In point of fact, it is almost certainly too late to cry for a return to the old ways in the near future. In fact, it is unlikely the old organizations will survive, let alone thrive. What will replace them?

   Someone will have to find a way to tie people together. I advocate doing what we can for ministers, in hopes that healthy ministers will help churches, as conventions and associations seem unable or unwilling to do.


10 thoughts on “The Loss of Community”

  1. David Troublefield

    It’s congregations being led by senior pastors, other ministers, and growing laymen to do ministry evangelism strategically/intentionally in their communities and world who will discover/rediscover the need for cooperation with others outside their churches in order to accomplish all their biblical objectives. That’s the problem: no leadership, no strategy, no intentionality, no concern for God-given objectives.
    Churches and their leaders who “get it” and can stay focused on the reasons for cooperating simply don’t have time for bogged-down or complicated bureaucracies; those who don’t “get it” eventually come to think that the complicated bureacracies are what it’s all about. If a puritan approach isn’t successful in changing things, then a separatist one may be necessary–folks taking their time, talent, and CP contributions with them to form new networks which aid them in achieving their evangelistic objectives at home. I would think elected leaders of conventions/associations would desire to dialog about the true state of things before that happens–or certainly to do so after they realize it has.
    In any case, it’s still a matter of leadership. Real leaders simply don’t let things stay in the condition that many churches, associations, and/or conventions are without doing the right things about it–how can they but still be referred to as “our leaders”? Instead, real leaders stay as involved as necessary–speaking up courageously and with inspiration–until their voices are heard and needed changes occur.
    Over the long-haul, association and convention staff cannot keep themselves employed (cf. BGCT staff, for a recent example–but not at all different for the SBTC or any other such entity) unless they act on their understanding that job #1 is making as certain as possible that each affiliating congregation is intentionally working a strategic plan for evangelism and discipling in its community and the world (e.g., the BGCT has taken steps in this direction, but limited itself to the work of the few Congregational Strategists, each of whom must relate to 600+ congregations in his assigned region [more self-imposed limitation: the Strategists trying to do that work with an organizing strategy that helps affect change; don’t see ANY of that yet from them]). That known, it’ll make sense that “we can do more together than we can alone” and CP resources are available back to them for accomplishing their missions–but still as stream-lined an organization as possible is required.
    Nothing seems to take as long to die as a local church. But only in rare instances would one ever have to (i.e., too few people now live in the geographic area of that church).

  2. David Troublefield

    Correction: “. . . the Strategists trying to do that work withOUT an organizing strategy that helps affect change . . .”

  3. “…job #1 is making as certain as possible that each affiliating congregation is intentionally working a strategic plan for evangelism and discipling in its community and the world (e.g., the BGCT has taken steps in this direction, but…”
    I have less than little desire for more top-down, ministry in a box from on high. I’m sure that was all the rage back in the day, but not so much any more. I’m sure that some people want it, but not all of us.
    If there is going to be a ministerial guild, then it needs to be very exact in it’s purpose. If it becomes something intended to revitalize older churches, in the common way that they did things; then there will be a portion of ministers that won’t want to be a part of it. Some of us have no desire to keep out dated strategies alive. If there will be a more missional emphasis, then I’m sure other ministers won’t want to be a part of it. There is strong attraction to tradition, history, and the previous ways of doing things. Will there be a place for the emergent minded, or will they only find ridicule?
    Paul may have attempted to be all things to all people, but I doubt that a ministerial union will be able to pull it off. I look forward to future discussions about this, as we bring focus and intentionality to the field.

  4. I hope to make this plain; our guild, or whatever we call it, has nothing to do directly with the churches. It has to do with ministering to ministers. IF it is anything other than that, it is less than useful.

  5. David Troublefield

    Tim: I don’t think that I disagree with you, but I do think I know more about the history you reference than you do (presently doing DMin research on it).
    The on-high leadership given in decades gone by, which resulted in everything you’ve probably experienced attending a SBCer church, was done by–get this–LAYMEN in churches and denominational agencies, as the vast majority of SBC churches were small and had part-time pastors if they had one at all. The LAYMEN were very pragmatic: they did only what they learned by trial-and-error experience worked in their communities to get lost people saved and saved people on-mission with God. Those LAYMEN (e.g., Arthur Flake, about whom you surely have heard, and others like him serving on-staff at the Baptist Sunday School Board) brought the ministry “program” (call it anything–“emergent,” detergent, etc.–how-to-do-something STILL is a “program”) all the way down to association-level meetings everywhere, literally, for purposes of training/etc. everybody–and WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT WORKED all across the nation as believers in churches worked for the Lord. The success experienced, though, probably also has been our curse: things got more complicated with hundreds of thousands of new Christians/members suddenly (and ANNUALLY) in the churches/other entities, organization became very important, eventually the organization became almost the main thing, and few if any stood up to call all of us back to the one main thing (evangelism). This blogsite and ones like it might serve the “stand up and say so” need now, but it must offer/implement solutions, not complaints.
    Compare “emergent” to the way of decades gone by: if it’s working today then it’s not much different than during the early 1900’s (don’t try to say otherwise without doing the research unless you want to be wrong!). The only thing that I can see that’s different in 2009 is that there seem to be fewer of the sort of “fish” for which SBCers have learned “to fish/fished” (the Lord Jesus’ analogy, not mine) all these decades; there ALWAYS have been other sorts of fish in the lake–we just learned to fish for the fish most like us in terms of socio-economics/race/affinity over all these decades. To be more successful today than most churches are–yours and mine included–we’ll have to learn to fish for those other fish using “bait” which attracts them (cf. Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 9:21-23); it can be done, but not if led by leaders who don’t get it and/or won’t try it and/or can’t model it for the congregations giving them paychecks. Churches and ministers ready to reel in their lines and row back to shore–or complaining that “the fish just ain’t biting” or “they ain’t no fish in this lake”–are quitters unaware that thousands of other kinds of fish are swimming around right under their boats!
    The complaining days need to end; the working days–like in years gone by–need to begin. We’ve got more than enough “what”–it’s time for lots of “how.” Who’s got the “how”?–The ones out there doing it in the marketplace, just like the LAYMEN led it years and years ago.

  6. If we have a community, then when members depart we — members, not just staff — would CONTACT THEM with expressions of caring. Just saying “I miss you” or “I wish we had really understood your concerns earlier” is caring. People do care, but we tend to speculate among ourselves rather than engaging the departing members. Lack of communication confirms their decision to leave, and deprives us of an opportunity for feedback. There’s always a chance someone might honestly reveal why they left. And it might be something we need to hear.

  7. I think finally I can agree with some one. Or several someones, would that be somebodies or simply others, no matter.
    I wish I could type while standing and shouting. We actually have a voice , although a long winded one, David, Rick, Tim and KG I am in.
    It is time we realize, as Pastors we lead them. Quite frankly the folks in the pew have a responsibility ( I sit in a pew every time the church meets so I am included) to reach the lost. We have seen an erroneous example of God’s hitman style of leadership. We are not the ones paid to reach the lost, the hurt and the exiting, shame on us for accepting the position. I have resigned and relinquished the title I am one of His children called to lead others to serve. I am here as pastor to equip the saints no more no less. I must be prepared to help us be all things to all people at FBC LP. That is my calling, when I added more on it ran me all over the place and His people sat there with no vision, hmmm scripture proved correct again through my failure, darn it. Now folks are not dying they are flourishing and the manger is not clean but man the work that is getting done, prov. 14:4.
    We have been sold a bill of goods that looked good but when the bag has been thoroughly checked there are bugs in the meal.
    We are the local experts, God has never come in a box and Christian people have the right to know it is their responsibility to reach the world, that is one job that cannot be hired out.

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