Rising to the Challenge
By necessity every level of leadership in any organization, including the church, must give diligent attention to methods and management. Systems are developed to allow these to be delivered and appropriated in every situation. These systems are there to provide order and create a path that moves the organization along in a prescribed manner. We call it administration. It’s a good idea and even one ordained in Scripture.
Successful organizations will always be supported by pillars of absolutes. These are non-negotiable tenets. They are set in stone. Everyone in the organization knows what they are and has a firm commitment to them. These absolutes establish the very reason for the life of the organization.
Along with the absolutes will be other moving parts allowing the organization to adjust to situations and events. These moving parts are the systems mentioned in the first paragraph of this article. They can be adjusted and modified to accommodate the present need. They are not set in stone. They should always be seen as tools.
When you understand an organization must be grounded by absolutes supported by systems, you can say that organization must be steadfast yet flexible. It must be firmly established on a solid foundation while agile enough to adapt to the changing climate it is called to address. It must be entrenched in its purpose but not in its methods.
These facts cannot be ignored by the church of the 21st century. We have to be careful to remain true to the foundational absolutes upon which we have been built. We must also continually hone the delivery systems necessary to keep us effective in these constantly changing times.
What are the absolutes for the church? Some may put together a long list but I believe they could all be combined into two areas – the Word of God and what I like to call the love mandate.
The Word of God. When time is no more, the Word of God will still be. It is God-breathed and infallible. It has stood the test of time and remains as relevant today as when it was written. It is the litmus test for all questions and disputes. Nothing man says or does can supersede it. Church doctrine and practice must begin and end with the Word. It is THE absolute for the church.
The Love Mandate. The purpose and mission of everything the church is and does must be driven by one thing – love. Our time with God in prayer and worship is inspired by love. Our service is motivated by what motived Him – love. The words of our Lord, Himself, capture the importance and priority of love:
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
These foundational principles cannot be considered optional or elective. They are not affected by culture or opinion. They are always absolute for every church everywhere.
The great challenge for the contemporary church is ensuring its systems are adequate to deliver the message and keep it in a position for mass effectiveness. The assumption our methods of operation do not need adjustment is the assumption that was made by many formerly successful, yet now non-existent, businesses and churches. We must not die because of system failure.
Here are some facts to consider:
- Absolutes are sacred; systems are not.
- Absolutes are why we exist; systems are tools to accomplish the mission.
- Healthy organizations will continually adjust/tweak/change systems.
- There is great danger when we choose to worship at the altar of our systems.
The present challenges facing the church are no match for our message. As a matter of fact, our message is the answer to these challenges! Now, as never before, the world needs to hear what we have been preaching for years – there is hope and help in Jesus! He will bring us through this storm victoriously!
The present challenges, however, are testing our systems. Our delivery methods are under attack. If we ignore this and assume that once the storm subsides we will return to business as usual, we could find ourselves in a very bad place. But if we are willing to be placed on God’s potter’s wheel and submit to a time of remolding and retooling, we can be positioned for greatness. Instead of this being the beginning of the end, it can be the beginning of our best days!
The following questions need to be asked by any church desiring to have a place and be strong in these times:
- What has God called your church to be and do?
- Do your present methods/structure place you in a position to accomplish this?
- If not, what needs to happen for you to align with His plan?
The tasks may feel daunting but God will help us. I am encouraged by something that happened to Nehemiah when he found himself in need of the Lord’s help. Nehemiah 7:5 (MEV) says, “So my God put an idea in my mind…” I believe if we will pray and listen, God will speak. He will instruct and lead us to fresh and innovative methods that will glorify Him and increase our harvest.
I am not blind to the obstacles we face – they are real and must not be ignored. At the same time, I am confidently mindful of the promise of Jesus that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church. I’m not giving up; I will rise to the challenge by adjusting my sail and move in the direction the wind of the Spirit is blowing. I’m thankful for my past but it pales in comparison to where He is leading me. I really believe this is our time and the best is yet to come!