Churches: Take a Lesson from the Postal Service
The stark idiom "change or die" has its roots in the tech industry of the 1970s. These days, this mantra remains true in the world of technology and also applies across disciplines. Despite our constantly evolving society, people are surprisingly resistant to change. Studies have shown that even after suffering a heart attack, 9 out of 10 people fail to make, or stick with, the necessary changes in lifestyle that will help them prevent another attack. Change starts not in our external world, even when the need for adaptation is impossible to ignore. It starts in our minds and our spirits. It starts with figuring out why we're here and what is the best way to fulfill our purpose.
In ages past, the church has adapted to cultural shifts and changing circumstances—from surviving persecution to resisting the corrupting influence of power, from establishing hospitals to feeding hungry people to providing shelter and counseling for people in crisis. They have responded to the needs of their communities—whether addressing illiteracy through Sunday school, starting after-school programs, or pointing them toward hope in the wake of tragedy.
Adaptation defines our age as much as anything does. We are constantly required to reorient ourselves around some new reality. Perhaps there has never been so great a need to define ourselves by who we are rather than what we do. And this is just as true for the church— both individually and institutionally—as for anyone else.
The compelling churches are the ones who know who they are: a collection of people created and redeemed by God, even though they don't deserve it. They are not concerned only with meeting people's needs on Sunday mornings, or only within the confines of a church building. They meet in coffee shops, houses, bars, on street corners, and online. They serve as much as they preach, and they recognize there is no difference in their calling when they're "at church" and when they're not. They have decided simply to be the church, regardless of the day of the week. And of course they welcome people who walk through their doors, but they realized a long time ago that we now live in a world where buildings themselves hold limited relevance, that a loving community should never be defined by its walls, and that people who want to follow Jesus had better be willing to go where he goes.