Don't Change Your Church!
Dan Kimball says some churches should not adjust their style to reach young people, but they shouldn't ignore them either.

In part one of our interview with Dan Kimball he talked about the intersection of the emerging church with missional theology. Simply changing the church's worship style isn't enough, he says. Becoming truly missional requires "an ecclesiological change." In part two, Kimball address the role aging congregations can play in helping to reach the younger generation. And, once again, the answer is more about having a missional mindset rather than a cutting edge worship style.

You've been at this conference for a couple of days now. Are you sensing that leaders are asking the deeper philosophical questions? What kind of questions are you hearing? It's been refreshing to see the interest in the future of the church by mostly middle aged and older pastors. They are really concerned about younger people. It's refreshing and very sincere. I think this is happening because churches recognize younger people are disappearing. A woman talked to me just this morning about her daughter disconnecting from the church. She was very emotional. She wanted to know what her church could possibly do. So the refreshing part is seeing real passion from leaders saying we must do something. And the sad part is I suspect existing churches won't be willing or able to make the necessary changes. I really, really hope they can. But it will take a sense of humility and passion.

And what do you say to people when they are looking to you for the answer?

This sounds clich?, but there isn't a single answer. So much depends on the church.

So much depends on the history of the specific church. So much depends on who is in the leadership of the church. So much depends on the skill sets of the existing leaders. So much depends on the church's culture, and who is part of the church and who lives in the community around the church. Sometimes a church shouldn't do anything because they are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing for the people God has given them to shepherd and lead and reach.

This is a true story. A guy read The Emerging Church, and a year later he saw me. He said, "Dan, It's just not working." And I said, "What are you doing?" He said, "I got some art stuff, and we are doing multi-sensory worship. And I'm having people come up and paint. But the younger people aren't coming in." I asked him, "What is your church is like." He said it was about twenty-five elderly people. My heart broke listening to him share what happened. He convinced this group of elderly people they need to worship differently. They even changed the name of their church. He thought changing the worship gathering and having twenty-five elderly people do art in worship would bring in the younger people. His sincerity almost made me want to cry. We talked about his situation and I encouraged him to just shepherd the existing group of people in a way that makes sense to them and they can relate to.

September 14, 2007

Displaying 1–10 of 11 comments

Bill Parker

September 27, 2007  1:22pm

I think it is interesting that people think they are in command. As I look at it, the church belongs to Jesus. "We have all the answers", "we know what must be done", "the church must change", "I know what must be done". Dosen't Jesus count for anything? Jesus is the head of the Church. Jesus is the Commander in Chief of the Church. It truly is about Jesus and not about "me". Americans are involved with "names". Jesus is concerned about the relationship you have with Him. Church names are not important except to point to a place to meet. Now is the time for every true believer to submit themselves to Jesus with passion and follow what the Bible says Jesus commands. Can you follow Jesus and not some person or "missional" direction? By your fruit you will be known!

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Mario Herrera

September 26, 2007  2:21pm

What I hear over and over is that the "church" needs to change. Everything revolves around reaching a certain "group" of people. There are many cliche type sayings in this topic of discussion. According to human reason, we need to "change" the way church "looks." I submit that what needs to change is the teaching. We must stop focusing on the outward appearance of the church and the sort of people that need to be reached. There is also mention of the "older" church needing to merge with a "young" church plant. What must happen is a revival in the hearts of pastors to get off their rear ends and give the people solid biblical teaching according to Scripture and outside of human reason. These sorts of issues were not discussed in Scripture; reaching the young versis the old. The gospel was preached and the people were taught meat not milky, sweet sermons! The main reason youth fall away is because they are having their ears tickled in "youth ministry." They rock out and play pool. By the time they are able to make their own decisions they dive right in to pool halls as expert hustlers and into rock night clubs. All their skills learned in "youth ministry." The Scriptures do say that people perish for a lack of knowledge. As a man thinks in his heart, determines how he lives his life. Truth needs to be heraleded with power and without shame! If we would quit trying to figure out what the people want and preach what Christ commands, maybe, just maybe the "youth" and world will heed to the gospel and escape the fires of hell!

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September 20, 2007  5:45pm

Years ago I had a priest that felt that the church, all Christian churches, were , no -had to get smaller in order to fulfill Jesus' commands. It seems it is happening and everyone wonders why? The rule of 20% doing the work seems universal. People are leaving churches to go to another because they do not like the rules, the work necessary to be a REAL Christian, and end up at the local church of the feel good. I have long wondered why churches do not band together, invoke the spirit, and stand up and tell everyone to stop the insanity. We have our culture solving its problems with the courts, not the church's moral teachings. It might help to read "Whatever became of sin." We have had great cultural shifts in the last 40 years and have struggled to learn how to deal with them. Our political leaders have let us down, the courts have let us down, so we must rise and retake the high moral ground and let everyone know we want it back. This is not a political statement, it is a Christian moral imperative. If you talk to thos 20-45 year old people who have left, go searching,they want to be fed, but do not know with what they want to be fed. The manual has been written, it works! I have been fortunate enough to do some Christian evangelization, and it is getting harder to witness in word and even some deeds because Christians are easy targets. Everyone is scared of being ridiculed, mocked, sued etc. It takes a lot of prayer, confidence, and faith that the spirit will be there all the time. My thoughts always seem to be: Ask the people in the congregations what they are going to do about the culture. The word is out that we are getting somewhat pagan. Just look around and notice. If you want to see what can happen, check the state of Christianity in Europe. NO one goes to church, about 2%. If the actual attendence in the US is fifty percent of acknowledged Christians, then only ten percent really are engaged Christians. It is not 70,000,000 only 7,000,000 ! This is Jesus' core group, no matter what church, what denomination. I beleive this is who must be called out to ignite the necessary actions and let the Spirit dictate. Maybe we should (for a short while) just stand there and do nothing while we receive instructions from the Spirit, who is after all, God, Yahweh, Abba, LEADER

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September 18, 2007  5:53pm

Dan, I was browsing through the answers to the comments, and wondered about Jesus Christ commission for the church, His body. It seems like we are so involved in what we do in the building that we call church, that there is no room for those who are dying every day, and going to hell without Jesus. If someone had not told us that Jesus died for us so that we may have eternal life, where would we be? Jesus heart's cries out for those He died for. Jesus' command for the church is mission, local and world wide. God has called ever soul saved, not a few, to bring in the harvest of souls he died to save. It's not one church fellowship, but all the churches that name the name of Jesus Christ, and acknowledges His death, and ressurection. Let's not major in minor things that does not matter to Christ kingdon. The cries of those that are lost gets louder, and louder. Church, can you hear it? Wrap up time is coming closer, and there is too little time left. We, the church of Christ need to get our acts together. Whether we like change, or don't like change it's coming, and it's not about us it's about Him, Jesus.

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J. W.

September 18, 2007  3:24pm

Paul Deveaux:I still have many friends who remain as pastors in traditional churches. Some see the problem clearly, while others refuse to see it. They all know there is a problem, but some people have an aversion to change, while others don't, but nevertheless believe that GOD will raise up people to instigate this change on the outside first, because they are wise enough to know that their own hands are largely tied. God has them where they are and they must remain and do what they can do from within unless God opens other doors for them. So, I'm not advocating that everyone bail out of these churches. I simply feel that times are definitely changing in ways that make it currently impossible for the traditional institutional church models to deal with it without some serious and painful face-lifting going on. I'm not for splitting churches over something like this if there is a better way. If you believe God has given you an worthwhile vision for mission and it doesn't fit the current ministry direction of your church, I simply think it is better to do start that work and develop it outside of the congregation. I also think it better for these missions to be more organic in nature and not take on institutional form. Otherwise, once they become a structural entity (ie: Campus Life, etc.), they miss the mark of doing what they should be doing to begin with, which is being a vehicle for church members to involve themselves with physically rather than as mere check-writers. Really, shouldn't all leaders be glad if their members suddenly decided to actually become the hands and feet of Jesus rather than sitting around being spoon fed? The trouble is that too many of today's leaders want control over people that even God doesn't demand. They are too quick to squash the dreams and visions of people who are sincerely hearing from God. God is a big God. He is quite capable of working despite our imperfections. The truth is, we don't have to go to seminary in order to do great things from God. But, there are a lot of seminarians who believe it is their way or the highway. I've lived long enough to see the damage such thinking can do to the spiritual vitality of a local church time and time again. Few would admit it, but that is probably more of the problem with churches making the swing to effective missional ministry than about anything else.

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September 18, 2007  3:23pm

Our church had been planning to plan on change and making discipleship classes for the past year and a half. I attended one last week and was a bit disappointed. Instead of focusing on outreach and looking at how we can impact our community for Christ, my little women's group was more interested in sharing how we could improve our home lives and communication with our spouses – this after watching a Rob Bell Nooma video that discussed anger and how Christ directed his anger on injustice in the world and religiosity instead of repressing it or flying into a blind rage. If you want your church to make a difference, to grow and reach beyond the doors, we have to stop making them, waiting for them, come to us. Focus outside the doors. We have to stop playing church and start going out. Jesus never handed out brochures and invited people to synagogue. I guess you have to take baby steps sometimes with some church people, sometimes including leadership.

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John Robinson

September 18, 2007  3:01pm

It's funny how Yah works. I was attending a great "missional" style church, when my wife and I felt called to start a home group, or a home "church" if you will. The main reason we left was simply because I became convicted about churches being 501c3 corporations ... anyways, that's not the point. The point is that my wife and I (mid 30's) were looking to reach out to 18-30 year olds, we were mainly looking for tattooed, rebellious types that were maybe disenfranchised with church. What Yahweh sent us was a group of older adults, I would say ages ranging from 48-65 ... which was not what we were looking for! Somehow we attracted older adults that were disenfranchised with church, that were looking for a younger-type of leadership, someone with perhaps a different level of energy and passion that they could latch onto and help them in their faith. My point is for people to stay open to what the Spirit of Yah would have them do, and not pigeon-hole themselves into a certain group or type of people.

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September 18, 2007  9:36am

"Men's Ministry (Promise Keepers), student ministry (YoungLife), campus ministry (Campus Crusade, InterVarsity) etc. These are great organizations, but they are not the Church." Ohhh...Dan...very inflammatory statement when you use the big C for church (ie. the body of Christ, not an institution). I can understand your frustration in the failings of various churches in these ministry areas, but I fail too see any valid Scriptural basis for you to label Campus Crusade et. al. as not being the Church. I had extensive experience with InterVarsity my first two years in college in Montreal. An IVCF worker was assigned to our college, where Christians were given permanent meeting space on campus, and the worker shepherded us, guided us, prayed for and with us. Over those years, under the worker's guidance, we led Bible studies, weekly prayer meetings that Christians from all the english colleges attended, organized outreach and evangelism on our campus, and fostered a welcoming place were non-Christian students could and did regularly drop in to chat, ask questions, just see what it was that Christians do. Were we affiliated with a particular church? No. Were we part of the Body? Absolutely. So, an IVCF worker pastored us, and was in turn financially and spiritually supported and shepherded by a chuch. Again, I fail to see how you can accuse these ministries as not being a part of THE Church, the Body. My apologies to the blogger for going so far off-topic to your post.

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Jeremy Myers

September 17, 2007  4:49pm

Dan, Thanks for the insights. I'm looking at planting a church next year, and as I plan, prepare, dream, and pray, people keep asking me, "What is your church going to look like? Where will you meet? When will you meet? What kind of music will you have? etc., etc." I have begun to tell them, "I don't know... I'll have to wait to see what my core group looks like and who we want to reach out to in our community." If I correctly understand what you are saying, it sounds like this is the right approach?

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Paul Deveaux

September 17, 2007  4:43pm

I hear what J.W. is saying but I cannot agree with him. A friend of mine in seminary would always say that it is easier to give give birth than raise the dead. The missional conversation is not about a style or practice of church. It is not about advocating certain programs over others. It is fundamentally about what the church IS. The reason we have so many para church organizations now is that the church was failing in certain areas. Men's Ministry (Promise Keepers), student ministry (YoungLife), campus ministry (Campus Crusade, InterVarsity) etc. These are great organizations, but they are not the Church. People are resistant to change. ANY change. This is the central issue of leadership: getting people to get comfortable being uncomfortable. I have faced more than my fair share of difficulties in ministry and I understand the frustration that J.W. felt/feels. No one said this was going to be easy. This is not an "us-against-them" - the question is who are WE as the Church.

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