Rev. Eric Jonas Swensson
September 8, 2014
I write a monthly social media column for the LCORE newsletter, but I am a pastor who has long cared deeply about the issues facing our shared ministry, and I asked if I could share something that had been on my mind. One might be under the impression that since I promote the use of social media I generally embrace what’s new. Actually, I am a proponent of a judicious use of new means to spread the old, old story. So, let’s take a moment to think about what is worth keeping, and what is worth buying into.
Our public institutions became increasingly engrossed in management and the study of organizational behavior last century. Even the church embraced leadership models and other ideas from business schools. I grew up in the church and have a deep sense of what it is and wonder why otherwise responsible people think the church should become something other than it is? The church is not a business, social agency, country club and certainly not a night club, yet we keep hearing that we need to do things or make changes that come from those areas of our culture. Why? You know, I can imagine C.S. Lewis including something like the following in his The Screwtape Letters:
Dear Wormwood; If all else fails, look for ways to convince your human that Christianity is boring and must be repackaged to make it interesting. Rather than continuing to proclaiming that God saves, convince him that times have changed and people are looking for something else. Modern people need something entertaining. Also, convince him that their leaders know nothing about leadership, and the people in business schools do. They will forget about pastors and teachers and look for entertainers and efficiency experts.
The church is always reforming, but is everything to be reformed? Even if it is not broken? If many people are choosing to do other things on Sunday than going to church, does that mean church needs to change? Many assume that if church is changed a lot, a lot of people will come to church. Will they? Not as many people come to church, so church has to change, therefore we need change agents. Really? Do we really want leaders in the church who think they have a mandate to fix everything? What if the reason people think they want pastors who will fix everything is because people want an easy fix?
We should know better than thinking that everything is going to be all right if we try something new. There are no easy fixes, especially when it comes to doing church.
In many ways the church in North America has been getting off course for a long time, but we are all to blame. Our congregations and institutions can and should get on the right path, but not by becoming something they are not. A church is a collective, a body. That does not mean that we can be twisted into a new shape when a new trend in leadership or ministry, worship, education, discipleship, or fellowship comes along. Trends? Trends are not going to fix our problems, trends often are the problem. If the church needs a fix it is probably the same as every believer needs, that is, a change in heart. And we already have something for that, the Word.
It is essential that the gospel is shared in word and deed, and that the sharing of God’s love by all believers is also what is needed. We need to get over the idea that sharing is an option, that evangelism is a unique gift. Everyone is gifted to love and share.
Proclamation of Law and Gospel will always be essential, and I truly believe that is what people should hear when they come to church. We should keep that. My article this month is on creating a social media team for your church’s ministry. That is something that uses a new form to do what we should be doing through the centuries, being relational, creating opportunities for dialog and sharing.
I wish you all the best and will be praying that all of our ministries discern what is truly best in their communities. Thank you.
The above was written for News from Lutheran CORE, Sept. 2014.