Every ministry, every organization, has something that’s not working. Do you have the courage to deal with it? Ecclesiastes 3:6 says there is “a time to throw away.” You don’t hear that preached very much. Yet it’s true. You need to ask yourself, “What is not working?”
Often the problem with churches and religious institutions is that things are kept long past their time of usefulness. A friend told me a funny, but true, story shortly after I came to the General Council office. When he was a staff pastor in a church in West Texas, a new convert came to the senior pastor and said, “Pastor, those old flowers on the Communion table—they’re plastic, they’re old, and I love to put bouquets together. Would you let me make a fresh bouquet?”
So the next Saturday night, the pastor was in his office and through his window, looked out to the parking lot and saw this lady taking a beautiful bouquet out of the backseat of her car. His office was right next to the sanctuary, and about 10 minutes later, he heard voices raised in argument. An older saint was there and demanded of the lady, “What are you doing?”
The new convert replied, “I’m replacing these old flowers with this beautiful new bouquet.”
“You can’t do that.”
“Well, yes I can, the pastor’s given…”
“No, you can’t.”
“Well, yes I can.”
As the back and forth argument crescendoed, the pastor had the good sense to stay in his office.
Finally the older lady said, “You’ll take those out over my dead body.”
The ultimatum was followed by the sound of a sharp slap, and about five minutes later, the young convert stood in the pastor’s doorway, tears and mascara running down her face. She rehearsed the whole story for the pastor. “I tried to reason with this old lady, and she told me those flowers were in honor of her dead friend, and I’d take them out over her dead body. Pastor, I don’t know what happened, but the spirit of slap came all over me.”
The spirit of slap can sometimes overwhelm us when we want to get rid of something that isn’t working. Churches tend to create sacred cows—and you don’t dare touch them. It could be a program; it could be something related to the facility. I faced it once when we were ready to leave our sanctuary to build a new one. Some old-timers in the church complained, “We can’t do this. Our kids were married here. We dedicated our children here. This place is sacred.” They couldn’t let go. They didn’t know what to eliminate.
While some programs were successful in their time, they may not be working now. So what do you eliminate?
Second, what do you retain? We should always be asking:
- What are we doing now?
- What do we need to keep doing?
- Who are our friends?
- What helps us?
Doctrine, mission, values are constants, but tactics and strategies may change.