Category Archives: Church of Christ

We are Approaching a Critical Moment in Churches of Christ

There is a confluence of factors steamrolling toward us that I think we are largely asleep to in Churches of Christ. What happens next is anyone’s guess but I think we can plan and adjust in a way that makes sense.

What are those factors and what kind of change is it leading toward?

Upcoming ministers – The last time I checked, enrollment in our Christians colleges for typical ministry/Bible degrees is down. Recruitment has become difficult for some of our Church of Christ Universities. There are fewer people wanting to do traditional ministry than in years past. It also seems to me that college age people are more drawn to non-profits and missions than they are to congregational ministry. Maybe they smell something those of us entrenched in our systems have a hard time smelling? More on that in a moment.

Change in culture and values – What are our young people smelling that we may not be smelling? Some say it is just lack of commitment. I don’t believe that. This is a zealous bunch. They have grown up in church and haven’t liked what they have seen on the leadership level. They have seen unhealthiness all around: poor leadership styles, poor minister-elder-congregation relationships, etc.

They also don’t like how the money is spent. The typical church spends most of its budget on staff and facility. The rest goes to various ministries. It seems upside down.

Before we blame one generation (which we shouldn’t do anyway) their parents weren’t big on encouraging them to go into full time ministry. Their parents were complaining about the worship service and the preaching on the way home while encouraging their kids to be doctors and lawyers.

The state of our churches – Churches are mostly in decline even as the population around them grows. That also means budgets are flat to down as people give more per person to make up the difference or can’t give enough to make up the difference so the contribution is dropping in many churches on an annual basis.

A Challenging combination – The weaknesses of our flawed paradigm have caught up with us and we are about to reach the point of no return to the way things were. That isn’t bad. That can actually be good. This all leads us to a crunch point where churches cannot afford to hire someone because they are shrinking and the pool of people to hire is also shrinking. The demands of needing a professional degree has also increased the competitive cost of people who can fill these positions, which makes the crunch to afford someone even harder on congregations

What can we do to address this while we still have the resources to do something about it?

I don’t claim to have an answer for this. Here is what I would like to see us do. Go back to the priesthood of all believers by expecting everyone to ministry. That means we need to spend less time educating on random pet classes and sermons and devote time to equipping our members to be ministers. We also need to cut down on overhead. This could be a move to house churches. This could be merging churches. This could mean downsizing facilities. More of our money needs to be going to help people not brick and mortar.

I would like to develop a multi-year curriculum that would train our volunteers to take up much of the ministry of the church. This could help the congregation wean off their reliance on professional ministers and take on the work of ministry themselves. Talk about a first century move! This would take some time to develop but I think if we start soon we can meet this need before things get even more challenging. We could do apprentice work and encourage more people to get graduate level theological training as that will still be needed.

I am just dreaming here a bit and sharing something that has been on my heart for a while but may be time to start working on soon. I would love to hear your input, from your experience!

Church Leadership: Pain Avoidance is a Myth

It is so common. So typical. Decisions made by church leadership to avoid a complaint. To avoid the pain. It doesn’t work. You cannot avoid pain. You have to choose which pain is worth enduring. Would you rather live a reactionary life of pain avoidance or a proactive/intentional life that has direction and the accompanyingContinue Reading

Where are Churches of Christ Headed on the LGBT Issue?

With the United Methodist church under the microscope right now on their affirming of their traditional view restricting practicing homosexuals from the clergy and banning gay marriage there have been a lot more questions floating around on what is the future of Churches of Christ on this issue. If you are following the discipleship trackContinue Reading

Four Major Factors for Anxiety in Churches of Christ

Have you ever felt a real sense of anxiety in our congregations? I think there are a few reasons for it and it is completely unnecessary. First, going back to my previous post, we have created a bar that must be jumped over but the bar is theoretical. It is the bar of the EstablishedContinue Reading

Our Obsession with Imitating the Early Church and Another Way Forward

Over time some of our number developed an idea that because God only has one church and that church is defined by the New Testament that the only way to become that church is to imitate the early church as seen in the New Testament. Once we do what they did and say what theyContinue Reading

The “Rolling in their Graves” Argument

Although we like to say that tradition doesn’t carry authority for us like it does in the Catholic church the truth is, in practice, many times it does. How many times have you heard an idea rebuffed because either “We’ve never done it that way” or “The people who started this church would be rollingContinue Reading

“Those Were the Days” – What Does the Future Hold for Churches of Christ?

Nostalgia is the first step in church life toward congregational death. “Nostalgia is an exile mentality. Fulfillment is contingent on the ‘once upon a time’ remembrances of yesterday. ‘I remember when’ stories become commonplace in organizations during nostalgic days. The golden days are remembered fondly. From an organizational perspective, nostalgia signals the beginning of aContinue Reading

Does Unity Require Uniformity?

The short answer is no and yes. The answer is no if you mean complete agreement in all things. The answer is yes if you mean the core doctrines of the Christian faith. When we say we have to have “unity without uniformity” we are talking about the first. We are saying that the BibleContinue Reading

What is the Real Issue in Churches of Christ?

It isn’t women’s roles. It isn’t instrumental music. It isn’t clapping or dancing. If I had to boil down to what our real issue is it is this – how we read scripture and the presuppositions we bring to the table when we read the Bible. A necessary and related discussion is our view ofContinue Reading

Reframing the Name “Church of Christ”

Having grown up in Churches of Christ, I am well aware of our quirks and idiosyncrasies. I am sure many of you are as well. We have traditionally used all kinds of phrases that are not found in the Bible to talk about things found in the Bible. For instance “we use Bible names forContinue Reading

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