I attended a pastors' orientation meeting for the Healthy Church Initiative which the Southeast District is sponsoring. It's a program for church revitalization that was developed by the Missouri Conference. I have some friends who live in Springfield, MO whose church has completed the process and they are seeing positive changes in their church.
One of the key ideas of yesterday's session is that there has been a paradigm shift within our culture. This paradigm shift isn't a gradual evolutionary change, rather it's a radical replace of the old with the new. As we talked about this I was reminded of a story:
Back in the old west a calvary unit sent out a scout to check out the trail. After some time the troops came upon their buckskin clad scout laying down with his ear to the ground. The captain called the soldiers to a halt and asked the scout, "What is it?" Without lifting his head he said, "A red stage coach pulled by four horses, two brown, two black passed here ten minutes ago. It's carrying three passengers, two men and a woman. The woman is wearing a blue hat." The captain was impressed, "Wow! You can tell all that by putting your ear to the ground." "No," the scout replied, "The stage coach ran over me ten minutes ago."
It seems to me than many pastors and churches are like that scout. They are aware of what has passed by; changes in means of communication, changes in attitudes toward institutions, changes in the way people gather and assimilate information, changes in people's view of religion and spirituality; and they end up feeling run over.
It is my hope that as the pastors and churches which are participating in the HCI will arise, point to where 21st century people are at, and say, "They went this way, let's go after them," rather than being content to lay in the dirt and wonder what happened.