[Note: This is a follow-up post to Many Congregations Are Stuck in an Overly Churched Culture]
Congregations where 30 percent or more of the active membership is at least 60 years old, and they have been professing Christians for at least 40 years, and they have been connected with this congregation for at least 20 years, are myopic regarding the spiritual needs of non-churched culture persons. When 50 percent or more of the active membership is 60-40-20 people, they are not only myopic, but now blind to the spiritual needs of non-churched culture persons.
The non-churched culture persons just mentioned fit one of four categories: preChristians, unchurched, underchurched, and dechurched persons. These really are distinctive groups. They are not currently active participants in a congregation. The longer they do not participate in a congregation, the more they move in the direction of embracing a non-churched culture; even an anti-churched culture. At some point the gap is so great that overly churched culture congregation no longer understand them, nor can they effectively communicate with them on Christ-centered faith-based issues.
The Challenge of Change
Can these congregations change? It’s tough! But it can happen. It involves several things overly churched culture congregations may or may not be willing to do. First, congregations must discern a clear sense of God’s leading for them to make the changes necessary. Is it clear God really wants a congregation to be different? Are they willing to ask God to lead them unconditionally, or do they want to bargain with God about the new direction?
Second, are the congregations willing to make the transitions and changes necessary to reached non-churched culture persons? Or, are they co-dependent on the way things are and prefer not to change for fear of losing things of high value to them? Or, do they believe their way is better than what they would have to become to reach non-churched culture persons? Or, are they afraid of losing control if they are successful in reaching non-churched culture persons?
Third, congregations must yield some authority to an external congregational champion to guide the process and compel certain changes. The reality is that congregations believe they can make the changes necessary to reach non-churched culture persons, but reality says different. Someone with the insights necessary to move the congregation forward must be allowed to make and lead the execution of new directions for up to three years for transformation to take place.
Who are these congregation champions? They can be intentional interim pastors committed to staying up to three years. They can be strategic leadership coaches who not only coach the process, but also have the knowledge and insight to focus the congregation’s conversations around effective strategies and tactics. They need to be persons who focus on adaptive changes that address transformation in the basic character and nature of the congregation, rather than technical changes that provide short-term fixes that fade with time.
Fourth, congregations must have leaders that allow them to execute a new wave of life and ministry as a congregation. Leaders must be learners who can grasp the concepts about non-churched culture persons—preChristians, unchurched, underchurched, and dechurched—and are willing and able to build relationships and implement programs, ministries, and activities that connect or reconnect non-churched culture persons with a disciplemaking journey.
This means churched leaders themselves must be maturing disciples. If leaders are not engaged in spiritual formation and missional engagement, they are less likely to attract non-churched culture persons. The leaders must also have a marketplace presence that brings them in touch and dialogue with preChristians, unchurched, underchurched, and dechurched persons. If their network of true friends is only people in a churched culture, then they stand little chance of cultivating non-churched culture persons.
The Learning Phase
Learning before action is important. Uninformed action is not likely to succeed. Perhaps one of the best places to start is by learning about the characteristics of preChristians, unchurched, underchurched, and dechurched persons. Do you even know what these terms mean? Can you define them and distinguish them from one another? What is your theology around these terms? Do you know what might make these persons interested a Christ-centered, faith-based relationship and connecting with a congregation?
I invite you to provide your definitions for these four terms, and sign up to receive information about the definitions I suggest, and how others who provide their definitions see these terms. Click HERE to provide you definitions.
In the next post I will provide definitions and an explanation of these non-churched culture persons. Stay tuned and we will talk more.