A DIFFERENT MISSION APPLICATION
I recently read When Better Isn't Enough: Evaluation Tools for the 21st-Century Church, by Jill Hudson. In the forward, Roy Oswald writes:
... Jill Hudson explodes two myths we find in many congregations. The first is that we can grow without changing. ...
The second myth congregations hold on to for dear life is that we can change without conflict. [p. xi]
Everything has a cost. We know this in our heart, and yet we try to avoid it. We want the "old" church just as it was, with comforting hymns, informally claimed pews, and familiar liturgies. We also want the benefits of the "new church," full of young families and hope for the future. We want new believes who mature in Christ and share the responsibilities of church membership. We don't want anyone mad -- ever! We want it both ways. We want the comfort of the past and the promise of the future without alienating anyone. [p. 20]
Change has a cost, and it often includes the unfortunately loss of families unable to embrace the congregation's new direction. [p. 57]
If *the* "sign" is Jesus having come, and part of "these things" that will happen are great conflicts, should we expect anything less in our congregation? Is trying to avoid conflicts to make everyone happy, also avoiding our call to follow Jesus? to be on the right path of mission and witnessing to Jesus?
Perhaps similar to Jesus' speech, pastors need to tell congregations, "We are going to emphasize mission and witnessing to the unbelievers, and it will cause conflicts. Members will be fighting members. Families will be fighting families. Some of your friends will leave the congregation. We will wonder if all the turmoil will destroy this church as earthquakes destroy buildings. However, if we continue on the mission path, unafraid of the conflicts, and hold on to our conviction to share Jesus' story with the world, we will gain new life -- both for the congregation, and for the people who come to believe the gospel we have shared with them."
The Christian faith does not remove us from conflict, but, we might say, it gives us a purpose and a use for the conflict -- times and places and opportunities to witness to the grace of God revealed in Jesus.