Why do people give up on the church so easily? During the lead up to this merger process, I had a number of supportive friends in the ministry who were praying for God to do something awesome between Heritage and Grace. (Mad props to Larry, Rob, Darin, Doug and my dad!) But there were some other friends with whom I did not even broach the subject because I know their opinion of ‘established’ churches.
Here are some faulty assumptions about ‘established’ churches that do nothing but destroy the body of Christ.
Assumption #1 – Established churches have had their day.
The prevailing sentiment seems to be that old churches are like broken down buildings. We scavenge them for members and bits and pieces, but overall they are used up.
I have nothing against church planting. It is a necessary exercise in the kingdom, and we should always be encouraging it. But should we be planting churches at the price of destroying ones we planted a generation or two ago?
Assumption #2 – People in established churches don’t like change.
The reality is that no one really likes too much change. All of us have a change threshold. What I think people in established churches do not like is the way in which change is pursued. Often, new pastors come into a situation or context and want to change things to get a bigger audience or to ‘turn the church around.’
This is often done at the expense of treasured traditions and memories. Pastors are impatient to prove themselves for some reason. I know I was early in our ministry at Heritage. Although I gave lip service to the idea that the Holy Spirit had been present prior to my arrival, I still conformed everything to what I wanted. It took a couple of years to learn how stupid that really was…and trust me, it was really, really stupid.
Assumption #3 – A new church can do things an established church can’t
Granted, not all established churches have the best reputation in their community. I’ve been a part of churches that people still hadn’t forgiven for mistakes made before I was born. But does that mean an established church cannot be as effective as a new church?
I guess it depends on how someone defines effectiveness. I define effectiveness as the involvement of a community of grace and truth (the church) in ministering these things to the larger community. What this looks like for an established church might be different than it looks like for a new one, but that does not make it any less effective.
Meeting the Challenge of a Reborn Congregation
Make no mistake about it, the reborn congregation formed from Heritage and Grace will have its challenges. There will be conflicts and frustrations; but there is so much potential to influence so many people.
What better way to show the 300,000+ people of this south central New Hampshire region that Jesus is alive and well than to be reborn and reinvigorated by the uniting power of the Holy Spirit?
Personally, I think this is going to have an impact that most church planters only dream about having. I’m so excited about seeing these two ‘established’ churches become one ‘established’ church!