Killing “Holy Discontent” in The Church…

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“What might we accomplish together that none of us could achieve if we all continued to revolve in our separate orbits.” [Hybels, 127].

That quote is from Bill Hybels and the context is that he is wondering what churches could accomplish if they just worked together.

That’s what I call a “big picture” point of view and while that view is worthwhile, let’s take his comments in Chapter 7 of Holy Discontent and apply them to a single church.

What could a church accomplish if church members united to accomplish the same results?

Hybels gives us some ideas about things that get in the way of great accomplishments.

First of all, it is essential to deal with the idea that church members tend to gravitate to the “status quo.” I have heard this so much over the years; the key phrase is “it has worked this way in the past so why change it?” The problem with this is that the church is in the middle of a world that is evolving. While I don’t advocate that churches make themselves over to fit contemporary fads, to ignore the need to adapt is a fatal mistake. Here is a simple example [although one that can be controversial]. More people are discovering that Christian artists have been creating some beautiful, inspiring praise and worship music. The “old favorite” hymns don’t need to be discarded but why not work contemporary music into the worship service once in a while?

Secondly is the idea of “turf protection.” People who are long-time volunteers grow to think that their service to the church is their “job.”  No one else can do it.   Problems occur when a new volunteer comes on the scene; instead of allowing their energy and enthusiasm to come to the activity, they may not be welcomed.   The long-time volunteer senses a loss of control and maybe a change of leadership and they resent it.   In their minds, it is better to discourage the new volunteer so they can hold on to their “job.”

An additional problem is simple lack of coordination. When you have a church with many people “doing their thing,” there is a problem when one group does not know what the other group is doing. This can lead to wasted effort due to duplication of work.   It can also lead to wasted resources since one group may be buying materials that could be used in the other group. This can also lead to unhealthy competition as one group tries to outdo the other, which can cause hard feelings.   All this is so unnecessary. What is needed is an attitude that we need to work together. An additional antidote for this problem is open communication about what is going on. Don’t ignore the need to talk directly to other church members. This cures many ills.

The last challenge for churches that don’t accomplish much is the “country club” mentality. For some Christians, it is “cool” to be seen as a member of a particular church. More than that, it is “way cool” to run around with the right cliques within the church. The problem is that “being seen” is about all that this Christian does.   They don’t want to volunteer at church.   There are so many opportunities, there are so many needs but they are quick to say this phrase that grates on the nerves of pastors: “let the staff do it; we pay them well and they have so much time. You know, pastors only work on Sunday.” The Christian who thinks like this is not in a church for what they can do for others; they are in the church looking for what the church can do for them. God is not the focus of their participation; they just want to be part of the “in-crowd.”

Needless to say the types of church members I have described have challenges that get in the way of their holy discontent. Again Hybels says “What might we accomplish together that none of us could achieve if we all continued to revolve in our separate orbits?”

“If pastors and leaders would let go of their pride, fear, the need to please and the need for control! . . .  What would happen if we took greater risks rather than staying married to the status quo? . . . [what if we asked] What results do we want to create rather than what do I want?” [Hybels, 129].

He answers his own question: “Boundaries get expanded. Leadership competencies get ennobled. Fear gets stamped out. Insecurities get upended. Passion pursuits get clarified and depression is asked to take the slow boat home.”

God has asked that we spread His Word to a broken world. It is a job; our most important job. As a church we need to figure out how to do this together.

Together we can accomplish great things.

Yes, we can even work together to scratch that itch, you know that problem that is so bad that you must do something about it…

You know what I am referring to. . . our holy discontent.

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