Re:Blog – Don’t Like How Your Church Is Changing? This Is For You

Change

My tribute to those who feel left behind when you don’t recognize your own church anymore.

by Karl Vaters

If you’re a long-time, faithful church member who doesn’t like the way your church is changing, I have one thing to say to you.

Thank you.

For what? We’ll get to that soon. But first I want to tell you a short story.

Trying to Keep Up

“What happened to the clapping?”

The man who asked me that question has been a member of our church since it was founded in 1961.

I didn’t know what his question meant, so I asked him to clarify.

“Well,” he stammered, “it, uh, seems like the way we clap along to the faster songs has changed in the last several years. And I always get it wrong.”

Now I understood. I explained to him how, when he was younger, we clapped to the on-beat, whereas with newer music we always clap to the off-beat. He had no idea what that meant, so I tried to illustrate.

It didn’t work. (If you don’t know what that means either, don’t worry about it. Or ask your worship leader.)

After my failed explanation, he smiled, shrugged his shoulders and told me one of the best things I will ever hear from a long-time church member. “I don’t understand a lot of what’s happening at this church any more, but I do know this. You’re preaching the gospel, the place is filling with young people, and we’re reaching out to the community. That’s good enough for me.”

I smile every time I think about it. Thank you, Eldon.

When Everything But the Message Is Changing

It’s tough when you’ve been in a church for a long time and things start to change.

It’s tough when you’ve been in a church for a long time and things start to change. Soon, the church you love may feel like it doesn’t even exist anymore.

But you’ve hung on. Why? Because, like my friend Eldon, you’ve seen that the changes are surface. The methods and styles are different, but the gospel message is the same. (If your church is watering down the gospel, that’s another discussion for another time).

So, for every long-time church member who’s staying and contributing, even while your church goes through changes you don’t understand, this is my tribute to you.

Change Is Hard – Thanks For Staying

Thank you.

Thank you for staying in a church whose

  • Music
  • Clothes
  • Liturgy
  • Building
  • Service order
  • Preaching style
  • Sanctuary
  • or something else has changed into something you don’t recognize any more.

Thank you for the heritage you passed on to us that gives us the courage to try new, even stupid things to see if they work.

Thank you for how much you pray for us.

Thank you for reminding us that the methods can change as long as the message doesn’t.

Thank you for keeping the ship steady when people like me want to rock the boat.

Thank you for the times you want to speak up, but decide it might be best to pray about it for now.

Thank you for the times you need to speak up and do.

Thank you for the times you express your concerns in private, so you can stand with us in public.

Thank you for forgiving us when we blow it.

Thank you for letting us reach higher, because we’re standing on your shoulders.

Thank you for letting us reach higher, because we’re standing on your shoulders.

Thank you for catching us when we fall.

Thank you for doing all of this without getting anything close to the credit you deserve.

For these, and so many other blessings that no blog post will ever be long enough for, we thank you.

We can’t do it without you.

Copyright © 2015 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
Used with permission

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10 Lessons from 10 Years of Being a Pastor

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  1. Most people are hurting, and are in great need of authentic love.
    Not everyone knows it, and not everyone admits it, but they are in great need of being loved. Sometimes hurting people hurt you, but show them sincere love, anyway.

Be Kind. Everyone you meet is fight a battle you do not know about.

Sometimes we are so focused on ME that we forget that others are dealing with similar or worse challenges than ours.  Someone once said, “Everyone is normal until you get to know them.”  Similarly, everyone seems like their lives are perfect until you get to know them.  Kindness and grace are required at all times.

2. We can never do church, live life the way we have always done. The new reality is chaos. The new reality is busyness, confusion, little commitment.  

There is a huge competition for people’s attention and time.  Many people are too busy to commit to church.  We can never do church the same way it was done in the past.  How can we do church in the 21st Century, without watering down the Gospel.

3. You can take the horse to the river, but you cannot make the horse drink. 

I used to blame myself when people would continue in to live in sin, despite “good sermons and teaching.” God is teaching me I cannot change people.  If people are unwilling to learn, there is nothing I can do to teach them.  They have to make the conscious decision to seek God.

4.  God equips the unqualified. 

Often we disqualify ourselves without trying.  Often, we think we cannot do the work until we have achieved this or that.  I have learned that I am not a particularly gifted person.  I am just an ordinary person used by an extraordinary God.  Do you think God cannot use you because you have no skills?    You are the person God is looking for.  Come as you are.  He will equip those He calls. It’s not your ability that matters, it is your availability.

5.  Whosoever will can be saved. God can save any life. 

God can save anyone, anytime, anywhere. There is no sin too great to be overcome by His grace.  Drug, alcohol, Sexual addictions. Lying, cheating, stealing, any sins you have committed, you can be forgiven.  Do not dismiss people because the worst of all sinners can be saved by God.  God can change you and me, too.

6.   Not Everyone will Like You

We are born with an inherent need to be loved. However, as a leader, not everyone will be particularly fond of you.  There will be people who will just do not like you, for whatever reason.  There are people who will not like the way you talk, dress, preach, and make decisions.  If you live to be liked, you will die heartbroken.  What does God say about you?  He loves you.  He cares for you.

Our value and ultimate affirmation has to flow from God.

7.  Set your priorities straight.

Your relationship with God should always come first. Then, your spouse and family should follow.  Family is more important than our ministry or work.  Misplaced priorities can cost you your relationships.

8. Prayer is important.                          SALVATION

Prayer will solve everything.  Prayer will change you, before it changes your circumstances.  I have learned that in my own life what should matter most are prayer, the word, and growth in character. As I strive to follow Jesus and as I strive to lead others to follow Jesus, prayer is crucial.

9.  Listen and learn from the advice of older, wiser soldiers

Our society does not respect the elderly.  Our society seems to treat the elderly as people who do not have anything to contribute to society anymore.  The elderly have wisdom, and have acquired a wealth of experience in life.  I used to think I was tolerant of the elderly, I am learning, they are tolerant of me.  I realize just how patient they are with me as a growing corps officer.

  1. Choose Battles Wisely

Pick your battles; don’t let them pick you. What benefit is it to you if you win the battle and lose the war.  Some battles are not worth fighting.  Some battles are best responded to through prayer.  When you respond, do not have to respond in the same spirit.  Pray about it.  Think before you respond.  Sleep over it.

Farewell Dan and Taneya Garrett

Dan and Taneya 1 Dan and Taneya

  • Today, I have mixed emotions. On one hand, I am very happy for you both for moving on to The Salvation Army College For Officers Training as cadets.  The Salvation Army College For Officers Training’s gain is our loss .
  • On the other hand, I am very sad the El Cajon Corps is losing two of the most hardworking, Christ loving corps members and staff I know.
  • You have both been hardworking, reliable employees.
  • You have both been exemplary, passionate soldiers.
  • You have both been loyal, supportive friends.
  • I know the corps members, community members, volunteers, staff, and the kids join me in saying we will miss you.
  • We greatly appreciate your ministry. Our corps has been better because you have been part of it.
  • Our corps has grown, because you have been used by God, as part of the leadership.
  • There are women, men, and children in church today, who, otherwise, would not have been here, had it been not for your tireless efforts.
  • Dan and Taneya, it has been a pleasure working with you.
  • Dan and Taneya, it has been a privilege serving you as your pastor.
  • Dan and Taneya, it has been a blessing calling you friends.

Joshua 1:3-9

I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Maybe it all doesn’t matter except ALL that matters.

Jesus

Maybe it’s not about eloquence but all about the smile that lights up the sad soul

Maybe it’s not about the money in the bank but all about the love that overflows from the heart

Maybe it’s not about our physical beauty but all about the integrity of our character

Maybe it’s not all about our heritage and background but all about our destiny

Maybe it’s not about gifts and abilities but all about what we do with them.

Maybe it’s not about the number of Facebook friends and likes but all about holding the hand of a friend in need

Maybe it’s not about how many people follow us on Twitter but all about leading lives to Christ

Maybe it’s not about what we know but all about what others can teach us

Maybe it’s not about building our kingdom on earth but all about securing a place in heaven

Maybe it’s not about accumulating accolades but dispensing grace to the undeserving

Maybe it’s not about maintaining a façade but all about being authentic and real

Maybe it’s not about popularity and fame but all about truth and honesty

Maybe it’s not about what people say about us but all about what God says about us

Maybe it all doesn’t matter except ALL that matters.

The relationship with God Himself!