American church consultant Thom Rainer has written about seven ways pastoring has changed in thirty years. His descriptions are not that different from the British situation – perhaps only differing in degree. If you read his article, you may realise that a lot of the assumptions that were made thirty years ago also had an effect upon how traditional churches understood the way they brought new people into the congregation – the pastor being prominent in the local community and with few people saying they had no belief in God, it was easier to persuade folk to come to church.
Yet many of our churches still operate on the old assumptions. They fail to understand that pastors no longer hold that position of respect. The doors of hospital wards do not always fling open to the minister outside normal visiting hours. Carl Beech of Christian Vision for Men was on record a few years ago as saying that men outside the church regarded ordained ministers as ‘either kiddie-fiddlers or fleecing the flock’.
So – how does this change our approach to mission? What place does it give to the regular church member? What importance does it give to meeting people outside the church, rather than on our territory?
And are we willing to change in this way? What will happen if we don’t?