Do you want to find a cure for the problems in your church? That’s simple. All you need to do is stand in the foyer after a service. Information, quick-fixes, and solutions to every problem the church has ever had will spill from the congregants’ lips.
Now, as a minister, most of the suggestions I overhear are usually a reaction to fear and worry. They come up with solutions to the attendance drops because they’re afraid people will stop coming to church. They suggest new and fresh ways to improve the worship because they are worried about attracting the younger crowd and appeasing the elders. They discuss moving their kids from Sunday school to big church because they are afraid Sunday school isn’t teaching them robust theology.
These kinds of worries aren’t just reserved for congregants, though. Ask any minister or pastor you know and they will tell you they worry about all kinds of things related to their church and its ability to function. We’re all weighed down by a burden that says something must be done. Anxious to find a solution that fixes a perceived problem so we can scurry off to find another solution in need of a problem.
Yet the burden spirals when we begin to see ourselves more as problem solvers and not servants of a God who knows how to meet his people’s need. When this spiral occurs—and I see it often within the church—I have to wonder, do we really understand who God is? Have we lost sight of how to serve? What would just serving God even look like?
The Solution Based Church
The solution based model of churches tells us a lie—that we are the change that must be brought to bear upon the church if the church is going to thrive. It is only through our hard work and perseverance, only through our fretting and furrowed brows that the church has any hope of being what it is called to be. In our zeal to identify and solve problems, we neglect a simple truth: it is not us at all who have the ability to grow the church. We sow seeds, we till ground, we water plants, and aid in the growth of the church, but the flourishing of the church has always been in the hands of God. We know this.
But too often we confuse the gifts we have been given for tools that shape the church rather than offerings we submit to God.
I must confess I do this all too often. When I perceive a problem in my own congregation, whether real or just in my head, I think of all the sermons I could deliver that would really stick it to the people who need to hear it most. I imagine them understanding the error of their ways and straightening their paths when they hear my well constructed arguments and perfect exposition of passages of scripture. In those moments, my pride is laid bare. I am faced with the reality that I too often do not care about serving God’s people and offering my talent for the edification of others. I care about serving myself so that I can revel in how much God needs my words and my abilities.
In doing this, I burden myself. I make myself out to be the only force for change in the church. I fancy myself the only true savior that can take a people from where they are to where they need to be.
There is also a solution to this self-imposed burden of church-change we love so much: humility. Humble service to God and his church. We need to care more about serving others with our gifts than how our gifts can be the answer to what ails the church. We need to see church as a place where God is glorified through the humble service of his people. Want to find the cure? We must turn our ears away from the lobby and our eyes to the one who has given us the very gifts we possess—offering our service to him and trusting that he sees our problems and has already begun the work of solving them.
Cover image by Yuriy Garnaev.