Can we have a difficult conversation? A while ago I was asked to help establish a program that would address the disengaged population of the church. They, like a lot of churches, were losing staples and pillars at a pretty rapid rate, but the membership was not replenishing as quickly. The natural instinct was to figure out what could be done, what could be added, what could be brought to the table to make the people return and/or be more engaged. But, something about that that did not sit well with me.
Many years ago, a group of people put together a structure for the AME Church that we, as a denomination, have gotten away from. The various ministries and organizations were built to work with and alongside each other. They were established to create a holistic spiritual experience that made space for individual and collective formation and discipleship. But, unfortunately, they are not functioning as designed. Many organizations are operating in silo. Leaders are not collaborating, and the work is not in sync. Each organization has a different focus and theme for the year, and none of it includes collaboration or working together to make development and growth more efficient for the broader church.
But, the church is a body, and each organization is a part of that body with a different function. Just like with the physical body, there is the head – the leaders – the “spiritual intellects” Then there is the heart, the most important part of the body, the part responsible for keeping the body alive – the Christian Education Department. Flowing from the Christian Education Department comes all the other “limbs” necessary for mobility and sustainability, which accounts for every single person – not the work, not the ministry, not the assignment – but the human being – the personal needs, wants, desires, gifts, talents, heart, and soul of the people.
Unfortunately, too many churches are proceeding with “business as usual,” taking what they did in the physical church to a virtual platform. They have not taken advantage of the amazing opportunity given in the last year to Reimagine Church, Redefine Ministry, and Restore God’s Original Purpose for the church. What would happen if all the leaders were brought together and asked to Reimagine? What would happen if we closely studied the ministry of Jesus and allowed ourselves to Redefine Ministry according to Jesus’ works, teachings, and example? What if we intently and intentionally looked at the skills one may have and place them in a position that gives way for their gifts, while simultaneously teaching and developing them along the way? What if we Restored God’s Idea of Community as the Church, where the focus was not on the building or an individual focus, but on a collective focus of collaboration towards the same goal, which each part fully functioning?
We do not need to add anything, for we already have EVERYTHING we need! God has equipped us with the resources and positioned us with authority and power. We only have to do like the fishermen and see what’s in our hand, what’s around us, and how we can shift. This will require some tough decisions to be made, and not everyone will like it. Some people will have to be removed from positions, and others will come under a new authority. The option “to table” will be removed and strategic objectives will be created to complete unfinished tasks. Assessments and evaluations will be a regular part of the leadership’s responsibilities, giving, at minimum, a quarterly account. It will require more time, more thought, more energy, and a bigger sacrifice, so we will no longer pimp people for their time, treasures, and talents without tithing the same back into them.
To make this kind of bold move will require an entire culture shift. Mindsets have to be transformed, imaginations reawakened, resources redistributed according to necessity and not size, and some practices removed, requiring a divestment of certain luxuries. We do not need to add anything. We simply need to make better use of what we already have. Adding is not the solution. Subtracting is.