I came across a great post this morning as I was reading blogs. It is from Kathy Escobar at The Carnival in my Head. It is entitled The New Ways are Harder.
Here is a quote from her post:
In the post she puts words to many things that I have been thinking. And she is so right. The old ways were much easier. (I especially like her comparison of the old ways and the new ways.) Being who we are supposed to be and doing what we are supposed to do, and not worrying about whether we are "successful" or not IS hard.
"i sometimes miss the old ways. you see, the new ways are way harder. there are so many subtle ways that the road we’re on is so much trickier to pull off. i keep waiting for smoother sailing, greener pastures, someone to swoop in and say “we believe in you, we want to do this with you, what do you need?” and i’m starting to realize, it may not come. plus, i’m pretty sure the life of following Christ was never about ease, comfort, success, numbers, budgets, earthly relief. i’ll say, though, part of my human condition always seems to be longing for it. one thing i have observed is that many “new” churches are really still relying on old ways and that’s why they probably will get a lot further than we will! i look sometimes at them and think “what are we doing wrong?” and then i realize we really are talking apples & oranges. church as compared to this thing we’re doing that’s better described as a faith-community-missional-agency-Christ-likeness-relational-training-ground."
It's sad that church plants, gatherings, house churches etc. are only successful if they are large, growing, self sustaining (monetarily) entities.
Unfortunately, these little communities often don't make it because of this very thing. They can't support themselves. At least in the "old way". And it's hard to imagine a new way that can make this work. We are all such products of the churches we came out of that we often can't shift into a new way of being/doing church. The very definition of church has to change IMHO to make this new model work.
I have been reading Neil Cole's book Organic Church. He also addresses these issues. He contends that the DNA of the church must change. Our communities must become relational, and he suggests SMALL. I'm not sure I would go quite as small as he suggests, (two or three, which he sites as the Biblical model) but I get the idea he is trying to convey.
Small churches have stronger community, stronger accountability, necessary confidentiality, more flexibility, better communication, stronger direction and more effective leadership.
Small is good. Small is hard. Small is more intimate, more incarnational, more authentic and honest by nature. It's hard to hide in a small group. Small means seeing the problems, the messes, the sins of individuals and working with them. Everyone on the same journey, albeit at different points, working together to advance the Kingdom. In this setting self is often sacrificed for the group and for the sake of Christ. Struggles, honesty, messiness; it all makes us stronger if we are willing to to forgo easy and enter in to this kind of "church".
I hate that money dictates success. If we can't pay for programs we aren't successful. If we can't support a pastor on our own, we aren't successful. If we aren't growing, we aren't successful.
I don't believe it. Not for a minute.
It's the tight knit, incarnational, compassionate, missional small group that to me says success.
We are desperately in need of a new way of thinking. A new definition of a successful church.
But that's just my opinion.