listen to this essay
It takes bold leaders and vision to take the local church forward. Too often, however, churches and parachurch organizations get “stuck.” Here’s how ethnocentricity and idolizing legacy stifles quality church leadership.
The boy waited for most of the crowd to look away.
As the congregation began singing the next song, nobody noticed the lanky 12-year-old make his quick escape. He slinked his way through the crowd, leaving behind his mother. She had never looked so beautiful.
He ran down the side of the road as the skies began to drizzle, his worn and ragged sandals kicking up dirt with every long stride. And as much as he wanted to stop and turn back around, he couldn’t.
He should’ve. But didn’t.
He kept running.
His chest was heaving hard as he weaved his way into a clearing, pausing only for a moment to scan the trees ahead of him and to listen for the crash of the distant river on the rocks.
He closed his eyes tight, his body perfectly still, rain slowly falling against him, the wind whistling against the long branches of the trees. And he listened for the river.
The boy knew the river well. It was where his father would take him after church every Sunday. To watch the water and admire all of the massive sky.
A few seconds passed. He turned his head to the left, opening his eyes. The river was over there. So, he ran.
Through thick branches. Past wet grass. Over drenched dirt.
The boy’s eyes found the river before his mouth cracked its smile.
His feet slowed, moving to the river’s edge with just enough energy for a gentle walk.
One foot in the water, the cool of the river wrapped around his ankle, holding him in place on the edge of the rocks as he looked up and stared out into the dark, leaking skies. His other foot stepped in.
He reached into his pocket, pulling out a neatly folded piece of paper and a black ballpoint pen. He smiled, his eyes slightly red, rolling the pen slowly in his right palm.
He loved the pen. It was his first.
It was the last thing his father had given him before he died.
His right hand clutched the pen, never wanting to let go as he opened up the folded paper. He had read the note — all of two sentences — a hundred times this past week, but he wanted to see the way the i’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed again.
Just once more.
Before his eyes found the opening line, a powerful gust of wind knocked him off his stance. In an effort to regain his balance, he dropped his right fist to the rocks.
His knuckles hit the restless surface of the river when the pen fell out.
The boy gasped and shrieked, swinging his long arm out to attempt to get his fingertips on it, but the river carried it away, the black plastic body of the pen disappearing under the dark current.
It took him another few moments to find his balance again, rising to his feet slowly, his eyes fixed where he watched the pen get swallowed by the river.
He wasn’t going to cry.
Boys don’t cry. At least that’s what his father had always said.
He opened up the note and read the first line to himself:
It’s been a year since your father passed away, but he will always be with you.
He wiped his nose with his sleeve before he read the second line:
It'll be hard, but I’ll always be with you, too.
He crumpled the paper against his face, closing his eyes tight, sobbing hard.
Because sons cry.
After a few moments, his eyes were misty — redder than before — as he took two long steps out of the water and onto the dirt, glancing once more where he last saw the pen.
Clenching his teeth, he turned and slowly walked back to the funeral.
He wanted to see his mother one last time.
She had never looked so beautiful.
My grandfather was an orphan at 12.
And he lost his pen — his most cherished childhood possession — to a wild river.
People who have known him for a long time — including my mother when she reminisces about childhood — tell me I’m his clone. Independent thinkers. Goers against the grain. Even if everybody disagrees, the way we both stick to our gut when we need to. Writers — I still remember the incredibly long letters he’d handwrite and send us from India when I was younger. (You think my longform articles are long? You ain’t seen my grandfather’s letters, homey.)
When I was younger, he would visit us from India, getting up in his room at 5am to pray for a few hours while the rest of us were still tossing and turning against our pillows.
When my parents would scold me and turn me into a crying, wailing whirling dervish — even if I probably deserved it — my grandfather would run to me, hold me in his arms, and comfort me to keep me from crying. All while reprimanding my parents for making me cry in the first place.
I was his oldest grandchild, so we shared a special bond. He wanted nothing more than to lift up my spirits and I wanted nothing more than to make him proud as I grew up. It was nothing we ever talked about or shared. We just knew.
In his 80s now, injuries have ravaged the man. He no longer remembers my name or who I am. The words out of his mouth nowadays are just casual responses to his delusions and simple, redundant recollections of a handful of moments in his life.
The last full conversation I remember having with him before his memory started to fail was a one-sided one a few years ago. He lamented how I wasn’t able to fulfill everybody’s expectations of becoming a doctor and that he was looking forward to still seeing me in that white coat one day before he passes on.
For a while, this bothered me. It was like the countless other conversations we had had over the last several years — anything we talked about would eventually funnel right into the topic of why I couldn’t make him proud and become a doctor.
It took me a while to realize that he wasn’t as upset at me for not living up to standards as he was upset because he always wanted more out of me. He always expected me to be a barometer for others to look up to.
And beyond that, he wanted me — and all of his children and grandchildren, really — to do more than he ever had.
It’ll take a moment for you to understand how ridiculous that last statement is.
The guy grew up an orphan. He was a respected man in the community. He raised 6 children to be individuals. He’s been married to the love of his life for almost 60 years. His 5am prayer sessions were the norm for decades.
And he wanted all of us to do more.
[.highlight__wrapper][.highlight__text]My grandfather walked 5 miles to school every day just so that I could eventually drive my car to the grocery store around the corner from my house.[.highlight__text][.highlight__wrapper]
He taught me that the only “gospel truth” out there isn’t cultural traditions, it’s Gospel.
He taught me that his “legacy” was cemented by the heights I’d scale and not by his own accomplishments.
And this is the case with all of our grandparents. With all of those who came before us.
They wanted for us to do more. With regards to education. Jobs. Families.
But what does “doing more” really mean?
And are we failing them if we do different?
Apostle Paul's legacy
Paul the Apostle is kind of a big deal.
For starters, he wrote half the New Testament, establishing the foundation upon which we’ve crafted and strengthened church doctrine for centuries since.
You know the fruit of the Spirit? We’ve got a rundown of all of these because of him.
Oh, and every time Valentine’s Day rolls around, we’ve got little GIFs like this one to remind us of what he taught us about love:
The sacrament of Communion? He explained it.
On the merit of these accomplishments alone, Paul is one of the central figures in Christian history.
I wouldn’t be doing him justice, though, if I fail to mention that he’s also probably the greatest church planter in history.
He started up 20 or so churches, wrote letters to a bunch of them, and we still talk about them to this day.
So, just to recap. Paul. One of the most important dudes in the history of the church. Did all these great things. Started all these churches.
Oh, wait. One last thing.
None of the churches he planted are around today.
Read that again.
None. Also known as zero.
[.highlight__wrapper][.highlight__text]Paul is considered a great church leader despite the fact that none of his church plants stuck around for the long haul.[.highlight__text][.highlight__wrapper]
And he’s rightfully considered a great church leader still.
I’m saying the following because I’m Indian. And I grew up in a dying, ethnocentric South Indian church.
And because this is the gist of this article.
If Paul was an Indian pastor — or one of his grandchildren too caught up in the haze of legacy to understand the breadth of divine calling for a season — the lack of a “lasting church” would be all the evidence one would need to call it a failed ministerial career. All the evidence that the sky is falling.
And if any of the rest of us decided to pivot our way into a new era of mission-minded creativity and church leadership, we’d be horrible, horrible people.
If Paul was an Indian pastor, there would be no legacy to speak of. No impact to write home about.
But something amazing happens when we stop equating “impact” with “keeping a church standing the same way forever and ever”.
Paul made an impact. We honor his legacy for it.
On the flip side, we attempt to honor our ancestors by trying to keep their churches standing the same way forever and ever.
In fact, the reason why we honor Paul the Apostle at all is not because his churches stood the test of time; they didn’t. Rather, we honor him because of what he chose to stand for when it was time to pursue what he was called for.
If you’re called to be a leader, be a bold one.
Hug your grandparents, kiss their photos, thank God for their influence in your life.
But choose to honor their legacy by standing for what they stood for when they were called to make an impact — not for their churches and their monuments and their collector’s edition portraits to stick around forever.
Newsflash: The churches our grandparents and revered elders started (i.e. more specifically, the “way they did church”) won’t stick around forever. Paul’s churches didn’t. So learn to be okay with that reality.
Make an impact. Be bold.
Or step aside and let others be bold instead.
Here’s the deal.
After I published my essay on the flaws of ethnocentric churches— aptly titled The 'Indian Church' Must Die — I noticed something astounding that made me take a hiatus from writing and spend a whole silent season with my thinking cap on.
Even though I was careful to throw single quotation marks around the word, and even though I was careful to explain that I was talking about all ethnocentric churches (i.e. not just Indian churches), Indian people got pissed off at me. (I've since written a follow-up to the piece that dives into more practical solutions to the problems of ethnocentricity.)
On the other hand, there were leaders I didn’t know from Southeast Asia and Europe and Africa and the Caribbean who read my post, asked me questions, and encouraged me for sharing something that resonated beyond the Indian subcontinent and all the way to their own ministries. For them, there was a struggle that existed between honoring the past and refocusing their ministries to deal with their modern contexts.
This was my point all along! To talk about that struggle.
Indian people? They were angry because they thought I was simply hating on our grandparents.
For those that think I’m a hater, just ask the youth and forward thinkers at my own Indian church. Check to see if I’m not all-in on what my church is about and where it’s going.
This is bigger than our grandparents, folks.
Heck, they’d want our ministries and expressions of faith to do more than they accomplished.
And if you have a grandparent who’s more concerned with you fighting to keep their legacy alive in spite of where the church needs to go, then I’m sorry to break this to you… but your grandpops and grandmoms have perverted what it means to be Christ-focused.
I’m not here to destroy the legacies of the great ones who came before me and you. Your grandparents could have been pastors or disruptors or legends. All of that is great.
[.highlight__wrapper][.highlight__text]But I promise you that the successes and growths of Christ-minded church leadership in the 21st century won’t make the dead ones roll in their graves and won’t make the still-living cease all communication with us.[.highlight__text][.highlight__wrapper]
The future of our culture-specific churches is in the hands of leaders who can see that “doing more” means doing different.
This post? Don’t read it if you’re a wimp.
Your grandfather probably held you tight when you were a bumbling, crying, 5-year-old mess against his shoulders.
But now? You’re called to lead in a brave new world for which you are far more equipped than anybody in the generations that preceded you.
They lived their lives being a light for the world and we’re too busy chasing their shadows.
If you’re a wimp, you can close this page and move on with your life. This isn’t for you.
But if you’re bold? Stick around.
We’re about to pop culture.
Here's how we do it
Change can happen only if we’re ready to be honest with ourselves. Leaders, here are eight things your churches and organizations can do get on the right track.
Either stay or leave
I cried after I left my church in 2009.
I had grown up there, made friends there, had family there… and I chose to leave because I felt like God was pulling me to something greater.
For years, despite how much I would accomplish or how many great doors opened for me, I beat myself up over leaving that church. Sure, being in that church felt like being trapped in a time capsule from India circa 1970. Sure, the leadership had no vision at all.
But I felt like I was letting people down. Friends, family. The future of that church — the kids that looked up to me.
Because, you know, the Great Commission says that we should go out into all the world and make disciples of all men… and stay in our churches forever because that’s WJWD.
In hindsight, it’s apparent that God took me out of there, shook me up a bit, threw me into the deep end… and I’m more equipped now to be an impact for those people I had left behind. (In fact, I have incredible leadership conversations with a few of them now.)
Don’t stay at a dying church because you feel an obligation to stay for people. Or because your parents go there. Or because your grandparents started it. Or because you’d miss your Sunday School friends too much if you left.
Don’t even stay at a dying church because you feel like there’d be nobody else to lead without you.
Stay if you’re called to stay and fight through the turmoil. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If God’s telling you that you need to stick it out and be a light for the dying congregation, then do that. Nobody has a right to tell you that you’re making the wrong decision.
But if you’re called to leave? Leave. Be recognized, optimized, and weaponized for the Kingdom. Do you think God can’t raise up leaders who are called to stay-and-survive if you’re called to leave-and-grow?
Don’t leave for the wrong reasons, though.
[.quote__wrapper][.quote__text]"Important decisions should only be made after diligent prayer. Leaving a church is one such decision. Pray about your motives, duty, and relationships. Pray to guard your heart. Pray for wisdom. Pray for submissiveness to God’s will."[.quote__text][.quote__source]- Pastor H.B. Charles, Jr.[.quote__source][.quote__wrapper]
This isn’t about people. This isn’t about family. This isn’t about legacy. This isn’t about friends. This isn’t even about the kids.
This is about how you can influence all of them in light of what God’s called you to do.
And the truth is, sometimes, God is gonna take us away from our Nazareths and drop us off in wildernesses in order to teach us to become as effective as he’s crafted us to be.
Identify courageous leaders
This is an obvious nod to Bill Hybels’s book — which I think every leader needs to read at some point in their lives.
But it also hinges on basic leadership principles that separate the great ones from the not-so-great ones.
To know what a courageous leader looks like, it might be best to unpack what a courageous leader doesn’t look like.
Pastor Ron Edmonson calls this antagonist the “cowardly lion”. A leader only because of the title bestowed upon him by the congregants of the jungle.
One characteristic of a cowardly lion? Edmonson writes that he or she:
[.quote__wrapper][.quote__text]"… pretends everything is okay – even when they are not. When everything is amazing, nothing really is. Cowardly leaders gloss over the real problems in the organization. They refuse to address them either because they fear they don’t know how or their pride gets in the way."[.quote__text][.quote__wrapper]
This is the critical symptom of the churches I refer to in this series. Their halls run rampant with leaders who are either apathetic or completely delusional. Their train of thought is often, “Everything was okay 40 years ago when it was okay, so it must be okay now even though it’s not.”
If things were okay, our ethnocentric churches wouldn’t be losing our next generation leaders and creatives to other churches and ministries in droves. Most are leaving because the churches they grew up in are dying and have no hope for the future.
And remember, if Paul’s churches could die, so could yours. While the Kingdom of God and the global Church will still survive despite your mismanagements and carelessnesses, your local church could die if it can’t adapt to the changes in context that are inevitable over time.
We need to be leaders who are bold and aren’t afraid to take stands that push our ministries and churches forward.
We need to identify those leaders waiting in the wings who can align with the vision of the future and disciple them so that they can be weaponized with us.
This won’t make everybody happy. It shouldn’t.
Not everybody will agree. They don’t have to.
Be courageous anyway.
Identify cowardly leaders
While it’s the courageous leaders that will move your organization forward, be wary of the folks in leadership positions that are stifling your growth.
Sometimes, it isn’t that these folks are bad people. Or that they’re not going to grow and evolve over time. Or that they’re impossible to work with. Or that they’re bad leaders.
But you can’t throw your car into drive and get to where you’re going effectively if your eyes are on the rearview mirror the entire trip.
So this is an ideological thing — not an indictment of character.
The truth is that we all know people who are cowardly lions. They say all the right things. They get over-spiritual and start spitting out verses. Or they get over-sentimental and start telling you how awesome our older generations were. Both strategies make the listeners feel good for a moment because, you know… they’re quoting Bible verses or they’re sharing fun stories about old people.
So when it comes to recognizing that changes need to take place, they’ll say, “Oh, we just need to pray about it.”
And when it comes to admitting there’s a vision problem at all, they’ll say, “Our grandparents started this church and they had no vision issues, so we’re fine.”
But you can’t move forward on the vapors of hyperbole and feel-good stories.
Somebody wrote a critique of this series. (For the record, I appreciate the fact that he was bold enough to write about the topic; it’s necessary, he knows it, and I love that.)
[.quote__wrapper][.quote__text]"WE are being disrespectful to the Christian heritage many of us have. DO NOT tell me you are more spiritual than the older generation…. Let me give you my take of seeing both the younger and older generation at work. Who spends more time on their hands and knees praying to God? The older generation. Who reads the Bible more? The older generation. Who gets more excited for prayer meeting than for social gatherings? The older generation."[.quote__text][.quote__wrapper]
If you’re a leader — and you are one if you have a voice and a platform at all — you can not be so reckless as to generalize an older generation as being infallible beacons of faith.
First, because they’re not infallible beacons of faith. (And in some ways, the over-emphasis of how awesome people are is idolatry.)
Second, I’m willing to bet — like I wrote earlier — that any of our Christ-focused grandparents and leaders who came before would be proud of how this generation is preparing to take its stand against the backdrop of 2015 Christendom here in America. They wouldn’t care that they prayed longer or had more cottage meetings than us, because they’d just want us to do more. To do different. Heck, my grandparents have tears in their eyes when they find out what my peers are sacrificing for our local church ministries every week. They’re proud of us and don’t care about the competition. So, leaders, why do you?
Third, because it’s detrimental to the discovering and discipling of the up-and-coming leaders around us. If you think the only way the Spirit manifests is if people are banding together for cottage meetings and waking up at 5am to pray… If you think this present-day generation isn’t learned, well-read, and equipped to handle powerful scripture-based dialogues… If you value prayer by how much time you spend doing it… Then, you’re missing out on the different fruit of the Spirit that Paul wrote so eloquently about oh so long ago. And you’re missing out on how the contexts now have changed the way we express our faith in 2015 when compared to how people expressed their faith 50 years ago. Or 1,000 years ago.
[.highlight__wrapper][.highlight__text]Honoring our past is important but not if we’re irresponsible with our future.[.highlight__text][.highlight__wrapper]
Enough of the legacy worship.
Christ-centered church leadership looks to be bold and take the church into eras nobody’s breached before.
Anything short of that holds us all back.
Identify meetings that matter
It’s no secret.
Churches that are focused on the future hold leadership meetings.
I’m not talking about an annual general body meeting, or a quarterly budget meeting, or a staff breakfast. Those are important, but those aren’t leadership meetings, per se.
I mean meetings that are fully-intentioned to hear out the vision cast by the pastors and church leadership, to quantitatively and qualitatively assess the state of your church and ministries, and to strategize based on those assessments.
Cottage meetings are great. They have a purpose.
But if you’re filling up the church calendar with cottage meetings every other day just to make a certain population in your church happy, then you’re doing this wrong.
Courageous leaders know that strategy is vital to optimizing the impact of your ministry. And, it’s even more potent only when coupled with incredible bouts of prayer around it.
You can’t get that CEO job with a great company tomorrow because you had 10 straight nights of fasting and prayer meetings. But you have a better chance to get the job if you couple that prayer with strategy. A strategy that includes picking up some quality recommendations, finishing up the application, and nailing that interview.
And brushing up on your windsor knot skills:
Church strategy can include researching your local community, strengthening and developing your leaders through their weaknesses, and all of the other things that pertain to matters of your local church.
A lot of our dying churches are fully committed to fasting and prayer cottage meetings. But without strategy and leadership meetings, your churches will die.
Identify skills & optimize people
[.quote__wrapper][.quote__text]"If you only lead with a view of the past, new leaders are unable to be developed and deployed… You fail to see potential new leaders in your midst. If a new leader does emerge, the new leader’s ideas are likely dismissed because they don’t fit the mold of the past."[.quote__text][.quote__wrapper]
And this applies to creatives, too.
A lot of my peers grew up in ethnocentric churches. The leadership failed to identify their skills — mainly because there was no vision being cast for these skills to be recognized at all.
My peers are now leaders and thinkers and game changers at other, forward-thinking churches. They’re changing the world, impacting nations, and disrupting the status quo.
Meanwhile, the churches they left are still struggling with infighting, the senior pastors talk crap about them for leaving, and the youth that do remain are planning for their own mass exoduses.
These leaders existed at your churches, folks. And while there are callings that lead people to bigger opportunities and ministries, there’s also a sense of “I’m not wanted here at all despite how badly I want to help out with my skills” that pervades the hearts of most of the people that leave in the first place.
I was talking to somebody recently about how she’s active now at a new church. All she’s doing is working the projector slides on Sundays and engaging in church marketing talk — she has a marketing background — and it makes her giddy that she can make the impact she’s making.
The church that she just left? Dying.
There is no excuse for your terrible-looking flyers and website spelling errors and shoddy livestream camera work and poor welcome team engagement when you’ve got the designers and writers and videographers and event managers in your pews right now.
No more rearview mirror nonsense.
Identify the talent.
Or be perfectly fine and don’t talk crap about them when they decide to leave and make a dent on the earth elsewhere.
You blew it.
Most, if not all, South Indian churches have a Pastor that’s paid.
And that’s it.
Do you understand the gravity of all that’s required to scale a church — or any organization?
Volunteers typically have jobs, schools, and families to already consider. To assume you can throw together 100 new initiatives and grow your church exponentially while relying on maximum exertion from your volunteers is ludicrous.
If you want to scale, be prepared to hire the talent that can fit your vision for the future.
So you want to do a major multimedia ministry? That’s time and money.
You want to start a few new offshoot church campuses? Time and money.
You want to grow your church to two or three times your current size and stick with one pastor and just the same amount of volunteer staff tomorrow that are around today? Really? Seriously?
Leadership meetings can help combat a little bit of this lunacy and mismanagement.
A good place to start? Think about getting your pastor an assistant. You can potentially save your pastor up to 60 hours every month, freeing them up to do more in the process.
[.highlight__wrapper][.highlight__text]Be prepared to invest in people if you trust that God’s calling for your church is to do bigger things.[.highlight__text][.highlight__wrapper]
You’ll need that bigger vision for it.
We can craft Sermon On The Mount series for kids ministries and go to bed, not feeling guilty that we just watered down the Bible and we’re sinning and we’re horrible, horrible people.
We’re not horrible, horrible people.
Sometimes, it’s your audience that demands the change. So, there’s nothing wrong with repackaging the Word of God so that it’s digestible for a bunch of rowdy 5-year-olds who may or may not “get” your call to salvation at the end of the movie night. There’s nothing wrong with us simplifying the message of Christ to a bunch of people in a third world country who lack education and who don’t really speak our language.
Other times, it’s the era that demands the change. You’ve got slides with verses and bullet points from the message on them at your church? That was borderline controversial 40 years ago, but ubiquitous now.
[.highlight__wrapper][.highlight__text]We’re not killing Christ by adapting to the times.[.highlight__text][.highlight__wrapper]
But we’re ineffective if we think we exist in a time capsule from India circa 1970 here in 2015’s version of America.
Forget about legacy. Forget about what you knew worked before.
If you want to move forward, we need leaders that understand that if Paul were around today, he’d have emailed the churches in Ephesus and Corinth and he’d be using Slack for internal communications for his team.
And God wouldn’t have sent armies of lightning bolts after him for his transgression.
Stop living in the past.
Build & strengthen bridges
This is the last and final point I’ll make.
Growing up, I observed how my parents and their peers would get Holy-Spirit-animated when the song would be over and the drum beat would keep on rocking. The drum beat would stop. The worship would stop… Then, out of nowhere, one older woman would shout out loud and clap her hands, and then the rest of the church would get Holy-Spirit-animated again.
And there’s this whole chunk of testimony time at South Indian church services. And it felt like every person with a testimony had a 3-minute song to sing before they started to share their story.
And there’s this need to dress up super nice every week in the fanciest outfits shipped straight from the shores of India.
And there’s also this need for cottage meetings every hour of the day, 7 days a week, 364 days a year — the 365th day was the December 31st Watch Night service, of course.
But as I’ve grown up, I realized that this isn’t weird. Or crazy. Or unnecessary.
This amalgamation of culture and tradition is just how my parents and their peers express their faith. And that’s okay!
While my generation chooses to sing loudest at the bridges of songs right after that inevitable epic drum build-up, my parents and their peers have the propensity to clap their hands at every 1/8th beat of the song and sing every word at maximum volume.
Ethnocentric churches that are on the verge of dying immediately assume that the best solution is to bring together the disparate generations into a hybrid service where there’s enough elements that make the adults happy and the young people happy. As if that’s some sort of “bridge”.
But a bridge doesn’t attempt to assimilate. Rather, it functions only to connect. So the bridge that I take from Flushing, Queens to Castle Hill in The Bronx isn’t erected to turn Flushing’s Chinese population into a bunch of J. Lo clones because she’s Jenny from the Block.
A bridge is intended to transport traffic from one area to the other.
The solution for dying churches isn’t to create hybrid services that intend to serve as some sort of inter-generational church utopia. The solution is to understand that there’s a place for both generations to worship. And it doesn’t have to be disconnected.
So if your church needs a community-minded seeker church that effectively implements your young people and their skills, don’t just start that service begrudgingly. Give them the funds that they’ll need. Let them lead it. Let the leaders carry out the vision the pastor has cast.
And get the heck out of their way.
They’re the ones that are often the best-equipped to take on your church’s local communities and impact the transient residents that are looking for a place to call home. Let your young people bring them home to your church!
And, hey, young people? Our parents and their peers need their 2.5-hour services because that’s how they express their faith the best. Don’t dismantle that. Don’t crush that. They need that.
There is no utopia, guys.
There is no “walking hand-in-hand into the next era together with some super-cool blended service” out there that will effectively optimize everybody involved. Not only would that be, at best, a 4-hour Sunday service, but you’d be severely limiting the growth of the church population one way or another.
The solution isn’t separation. But it’s working together to impact the community around us and the cultural values our older generation upholds for us.
The bridge? It’s leadership vision and adequate funding.
At Christ AG Church, we started seeing signs of life from engaging our community in this way. It’s still a work-in-progress, but we understand that we can’t impact the community that’s around us if we let a bunch of 60-year-old men in a boardroom decide how we’re going to do everything. So there’s a board that guards our principles and there are leaders that are equipped and being discipled to work with the pastor’s vision to accomplish our goals.
Is Christ AG Church a perfect church? Far from it.
But there is no perfect church.
We’re just trying not to break.
I don’t go to church for my grandfather.
And neither should you. Neither should any of us.
I understand that my grandfather laid the foundation of faith and focus for his children. I understand that this foundation is what I stand on today.
But I don’t go to church for my grandfather.
I go because I’m called to be a weapon in the Kingdom.
And I’m inspired by the Holy Spirit to not just sit around and be okay with failing ministries and failing church leadership trees I see around me.
So when I write about how badly organizations like New York’s PYFA need to pivot, it’s because I’m bummed that they’ve fallen into the trap of “We’ll just keep doing this the same way forever and ever.”
On the other hand, organizations like that should die. Because there are others being raised up — like Advance Initiative — that are preparing to disrupt culture-centric ministries by empowering the leadership that are waiting on the front lines.
I don’t have it all right. I’ll admit that. I’m okay with that.
But hey, I’m not the one settling for stagnation.
I am called.
I will be a disruptor.
I will be a courageous leader.
And my grandfather would be proud no matter what. ■