Thursday, May 29, 2008

Take Tab "A" and Insert in slit "B" doesn't seem to work here

Once upon a time it seemed to me that all a Southern Baptist church had to do was to follow the program and things would move along very smoothly. You'd do Sunday School using the Lifeway Curriculum, then head to worship where you'd sing out of the Baptist Hymnal, read your KJV (personal or pew copy) as you followed along with the preacher standing behind a pulpit and wearing a suit.

Then you'd do it all again at 6PM that evening.

On Wednesday night, you'd have Royal Ambassadors for the boys, Girls in Action for the girls, some sort of youth group, and then "prayer meeting" and some sort of Bible study.

And it worked. And it was easy because all you had to do was work the system and the system would produce baptisms and growth. Or so it seemed.

It was like assembling something. Just follow the directions and you'd find success.

Well, not in this context. I do not know one church here who follows that model anymore, except maybe a couple who are on life support.

When the program was proved to be ineffective, there was a gasp, and then a scramble for the next program. Some churches moved quickly to the Willow Creek model, which meant moving away from Bible study and worship by believers to seeker sensitive.

Others couldn't go that far, and found a friend in Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Church model. It was far higher in the commitment level expected of each member, and just sort of felt right, like the next evolution of things.

For a while, churches had success, some of them anyway, with these models.

I think the age of the "Model" is fading fast.

It's being replaced by a couple of things - franchises and cafeteria style.

Franchises are those church plants that are simply extensions of the mothership. Not really stand alone, and many are just video venues where the main church teacher is broadcast to. A church in Texas decided it needed a branch in Miami. Makes sense, after all, the NT says the gospel spread from region to region... or was it house to house?

Then there's the cafeteria. In the absence of a true Model, churches are taking a bit from this mega or denomination, and a bit from that one. You'll see churches that are Purpose Driven but using Andy Stanley's Northpoint children's materials, or Willow Creek's small group stuff.

For the smaller church, things get a bit dicey, because most of what the mega models call for requires size. Resources are always spread thin. If Lifeway would only wake up and realize that smaller churches are under served by any of the current models, and use the collective power of people across the SBC, maybe, just maybe they could enjoy some part of the success they had long ago.

Right now, we are struggling and praying about how to connect our efforts in one area so we can maximize our effectiveness. There's so little out there that's not fluff, or dry, or not too expensive. We have to make hard choices all the time, knowing that we will do the best we can with passion and determination to glorify God.

I just wish there were more options.

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