What do you do with a lazy church? As a leader in my church, I'm constantly getting strength and guidance from God in regards to my life, my leading position and direction in the church I'm currently attending, but it seems that a large number of congregants in my church are more focused on 'holding on to their legacy' than actually doing the will of God. In years past, there have been quite a few opportunities where God could've really moved and done some really great stuff but from what I can tell, He hasn't been able to (through the congregation as a whole, I mean) because the congregation didn't want to work for it. I'm not saying that God can't move, I'm instead saying that it's more like the congregation doesn't really want God to move if that makes sense. It sounds much worse than I mean it to, but it is the truth as I know it.
There's a whole layer of underlying issues (that are understandable) that have lead to them acting as they do but overall, in my opinion, the congregation is old, tired, burnt out, bitter, and, to be honest, lethargic. We (the pastoral staff) feel that we have spent years doing our best to follow God's will (and will continue to spend years more should God ask us to) in this church, but with not a whole lot to show for it. We're at a point where the church is dying and, although I'm fine if God wants this church to end, I'm at a loss as to what else I might be able to do to keep it running. As I type, one of God's churches in Portland, Oregon is on its way to being a memory. Church finances are tightening by the month, there are more and more responsiblities being added on in my personal life (new baby, new job responsibilities, new shift hours, and more), and I feel that I have tried everything that I can (as God asked for of course). And we're still in this place.
Finally, with some of the congregants that seem more hesitant to go the way God leads us, I don't feel that I have the relationship to call them out on it in a loving way, so if I tried, it would do more harm than good. Is anyone here in their life? Has anyone been there? What did you do? What did God do? What did the congregation do? We need God to do what only He can do and I know this situation isn't lost on Him. But we feel that we need something to happen and soon. Otherwise, I really don't know what will happen. Thanks in advance for any advice you have to give and I pray that through all of this, God's name is glorified. Because that is priority.
I agree. For me right now, this is a front-panel issue. I'm in a new church (old church, new for me). Pastor believes with conviction that growth must come from within, Jesus moving in the inner man. A half-hour with him and a visit to the service convince me he is an exactly-right person, just like he is, for our community (and for several years, he has exerted truly godly influence, as members testify to me in conversation).
District guy wants numbers, dynamic, impact. Church is now mostly old people and children. I've seen about five teenagers in church, kids of the regulars. We told a few people we'd like to start a musical group with mostly teenagers. We have done absolutely no hype other than playing the songs with gusto, and managing to act like Christians for three weeks. But it seems that "advertisement" gave somebody the courage to successfully invite FIFTEEN teenagers to our rehearsal (I admit I was glad to have brought some bone-thumping CD's, a ghetto blaster, and a wife who knows how to work with teens with me!).
Will we have numbers and dynamic and impact, good stuff to tell the bishop? Maybe. Right now I'm feeling the flush of excitement; but really the only thing to do to continue is to be believers working out the great commission as best we can.
How does one build relationship with people that are afraid of relationship (which seems to be a core problem)? I've fed my feral cat, who loves a back scratch and kitty food, for three years; but I try to pick her up just once, and she reverts to skimming around the edge of the porch -- it's three weeks before she accepts a touch again.
I admire your willingness to continue in your position at this church, loving the people this way.
With church, it's a little like a marriage, for better or for worse. And a church out of momentum can take enormous amounts of time to gain. Newcomers can feel the lethargy, and few stay to lend enthusiasm and energy (one of the downsides of freedom of religion -- being able to choose your church concentrates energy at the popular churches!).
In my own life, four out of the five churches I was called to were recovering from splits, infidelities, and what not; and in the fifth, I was there for four years when the pastor died, and it changed the course of everything. Yet with ample experience of every type of depressing thing you could think of, I cannot really address your issue, except to note that in faithful and loving service you have a legacy, and have planted various "fruit trees of the Spirit" which you may or may not see blossom while you are there.
One of my churches finally did the thing and split peacefully; the two halves then thrived, and got on well with each other. In another, the pastor had experienced three splits before hiring me (following walkouts when he himself was hired); and several years ago his wife died young; but he has stuck there and has a vibrant, missions-crazy church, thirty years later (I remember his first missions trip. Gone three weeks, and a rumor spread that he had resigned).
Generally, the best cure for lazy is to get outside. I feel like going to sleep in my armchair, but if I get out of the house the air invigorates, and I can walk for miles. And the part of ministry that is being a shepherd and friend to the people may be more important at this point than anything you do with guitar, keys or amps. And pray a lot.
Nothing really new in this advice, but here it is. The Lord bless you and your church. Bring grace and wash the bitter down the sink; restore the joy and the heart for the world you came to save, Lord. Amen.