In The Church in Transition, Tim Conder argues that transition is essential. Nevertheless, “the church’s journey into the emerging culture will follow no single path, nor will each congregation arrive at the same destination. The existing church’s journey of transition will take many forms and embrace a variety of goals.”
Conder is right on when he says, “While the church as a whole must transition, not every congregation will or should pursue these new directions.” He describes two types of churches in which it would be foolish to try to change:
Some churches need to continue in their current paradigm of ministry, either because it has proven successful in their particular context or because the costs of transition are too high at the moment….We must recognize that emerging culture transition cannot occur through a midnight takeover of a local congregation that leaves faithful followers lost in a new environment without working language, compass bearings, or meaningful symbols. The pace of transition should vary widely between churches. Transition to emerging culture ministries will be much easier, more natural, and far more necessary in some communities than others. And some methods and practices will not translate into every community. But along with the opportunities, there will be unexpected costs and casualties in every situation.
I’ve recently stopped thinking of pastors as leaders of an organizational system, and more like in-laws who have married into an established family system. It is arrogant to think that as an in-law who just entered the family, you will change the way an established family functions – especially if the family is dysfunctional. Yet many pastors come into churches and expect to transform a family system that has been entrenched for decades.
Even if this image of an in-law in an entrenched family system is accurate, change is possible. The in-law can be an influence toward health, but it will take a huge investment in relationship, a lot of time and patience, and it will likely involve some pain. That’s the type of ministry God has called some pastors to – but it’s not easy, it’s not fast, and it’s not for every pastor or for every church.