I have been reading Tod Bolsinger’s book “Canoeing the Mountains – Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory.” Bolsinger follows the development of the Lewis and Clark journey to find a water pathway to the Pacific Ocean, and how they faced the challenges before them.
Something stood out as I was listening to it on audiobook today – it had to do with the IRRELEVANCE of urgency in getting people to change their behavior!
“Even if we agree that we are in an adapt-or-die moment, the urgency of the situation is not enough. When given that particular choice, 90% choose dying. In a study of those who were faced with exactly that choice – stop drinking or you will die, stop smoking or you will die, change your diet now or you will die, the vast majority choose to risk death.” (p. 64)
That percentage would hold true with churches, too. Even when faced with the reality “change or die”, the vast majority of churches will choose death.
How can we avoid becoming that statistic? We know that our community has changed and will continue to change. We know that our finances and volunteer base are smaller than they were before. It is clear that, to continue the path we are on, death (closing of the church) is coming.
Bolsinger goes on in his book to describe the potentially journey-ending challenges Lewis and Clark regularly faced, and how they adapted. But more important than the HOW is the WHY – and the leadership they showed to inspire their team to stick with them, to see this journey through to the end.
One key to this is believing that we are called, that we have a purpose. Someone is depending upon us.
Who is that “someone”? It would be easy to say “God”, or “The Conference”, but those really are not the right answers. Yes, God has given us the mission and the Conference has entrusted us with this ministry, but the ones who are depending upon us are those who don’t know Jesus yet! For them, this is not a philosophical argument; their very salvation depends upon whether or not we bring the Gospel out to them so that they can choose Jesus for themselves!
People won’t be influenced by what we do when we are gathered together by ourselves; their lives will be touched when we go out to where they are and get to know their names, hear their stories, give them a safe place to ask the questions they don’t get to ask anywhere else!
You were brought into the faith by someone you trusted. Someone took the time and compassion to listen to you. Maybe it was a grandmother; maybe it was a Sunday School teacher; maybe it was a pastor; maybe it was a friend. But each one of us were invited into the Kingdom when we were made to feel safe and welcomed.
This coming Sunday we are going to hear some ideas from our church leaders, about how God has been nudging their hearts to expand our influence. At 11:00 in our Fellowship Hall we’ll hear what they are hearing, and maybe God will nudge your heart, too! We will have a Zoom link (see below) for those who are not able to attend in person.
This will not be a time of deep questioning and filling in all of the blanks – it’s more of a time to start sharing the leadership, to find out if this matches what God has been saying to you. And while we may recognize the reality of “change or die”, we want our question to be, “Lord, how would You have us live?”
I recommend Canoeing the Mountains to you – and fervent prayer as we take on the challenge that God is presenting to us!
– Rev. Bill