By Karl Vaters
Leadership Journal, 2015
Don’t Like How Your Church Is Changing? This Is For You
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.
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. 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 for staying in a church whose
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 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.
Karl Vaters is the pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California. He’s the author of the recently published The Grasshopper Myth and founder of NewSmallChurch.com. This article originally appeared in Leadership Journal