Time and again I’ve heard leaders across the Churches of God General Conference request information and insights about how to engage with the ever-changing culture of the world around us. The requests have come through conversations, our annual ministry reviews, and through a survey I’ve recently conducted. Things seem to be moving at an increasing pace and just as we think we’ve gotten on solid ground, the proverbial rug is pulled out. We’re desperate for an understanding of the culture and a Biblical approach to living and ministering in it.
I believe the new book by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons is a tremendous resource for the Church and the CGGC. Good Faith seeks to share how to be a Christian of “good faith” when society thinks you’re irrelevant and extreme. Kinnaman is the leader of Barna and Lyons is the leader of Q. Throughout the book they not only offer information through data, but go the next level by offering practical insights about what the data means for us as the Church.
Two insights in particular caught my attention. The first answers the question of how we live out good faith into an uncertain future. Kinnaman and Lyons offer three essential and balanced components of good faith: love, believe, and live. We first start with rightly ordered love – loving God and loving others. When we’re missing love we come across arrogant, abrasive, and off-putting. The phrase “I’m just telling it like it is” comes to mind. Next we believe, which recognizes that theology and Biblical orthodoxy matters. Belief “allows us to identify and correct distortions in the world, in the church, and in our own thinking”. Lastly, how we live our love and beliefs is significant. We must channel our love and beliefs from heart and head into our daily lives.
The second insight that stood out to me is in regards to discipleship. The authors had done some work in Scotland, a post-Christian context, assessing the difference between growing churches and churches that were plateaued or declining. They listed nine factors that impacted church health in an increasingly secular culture. The first four are external: prioritizing outreach by serving the poor and sharing faith, partnering with other churches and causes, being innovative for the sake of the gospel, and focusing on receptive teens and young adults. Another four factors were internal: teaching the Bible thoroughly, fostering close Christian community, developing new leaders, and leading with a team that has diverse skills and spiritual gifts. The ninth factor was that growing churches prayed missionally and made prayer a mission.
If you’re looking for a resource to help guide your life and ministry in the current state of the world and into the future – you need to read this book.
Recently, I finished a book by John P. Kotter titled, “A Sense of Urgency”. In it, Kotter looks at what causes businesses and organizations to thrive in uncertain times. He calls this a true sense of urgency and offers four tactics that support the strategy. While Kotter writes from a business perspective (the book is published by Harvard Business Review), I think there are three key takeaways that the Church can glean from his book.
- Watch out for a false sense of urgency.
One of the most significant insights from the book, for me, was the idea of a false sense of urgency. This is when there is a perception that the organization is in trouble and in need of change, but the resulting behavior is a rush of activity instead of meaningful productivity. In the Church, we can easily run into situations built upon a false sense of urgency. The schedule is full, everyone is in a small group, we have a meeting every night of the week – but there’s no fruit being produced. It’s not how much you do, but what you’re doing. It’s not the quantity of activity, but the quality. You could have twenty small groups running, but if there are no disciples being made is it any better to have twenty as opposed to one? Better to have a small tree producing lots of apples than a large tree that doesn’t produce any.
- Find the opportunity in crisis.
Kotter points out that times of uncertainty and trouble aren’t necessarily the worst things that can happen to us. If approached correctly, these times can yield tremendous outcomes for us. In particular, they help push entire organizations from a position of complacency to one of urgency (and hopefully true urgency). I think the Church is in this very situation today. The world is changing at an increasingly quicker pace. It’s easy to look at the world around and feel threatened and scared for the Church and her future. However, this is also a time when those who are most rooted in a certain method and style of church are most likely to accept new efforts and practices. Now is an amazing opportunity to catalyze change in the Church because more and more people recognize the need.
- Behave with urgency every day.
If we want to develop a sense of true urgency within the Church, then our leaders – both paid and unpaid – need to behave with urgency every day. This means clearing and prioritizing the schedule, moving quickly, speaking with passion, behaving in accordance with your words, and letting others see you physically act with urgency. You don’t have to run around wildly, but aim to hustle in everything you do. Be focused, be clear, and act accordingly. Letting others, especially those in your church, see you move with urgency will get them to move with urgency too.
Does your church operate with a sense of true urgency?
How can you practically find the opportunity in crisis and behave with urgency ever day?