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Date Stamping and Your Church
June 18, 2015, 10:40 AM

Date Stamping and Your Church

Earlier this month  (June) I was having a conversation with a staff pastor of one of our GBA churches.  We were talking about leadership things, pastoral things, no need to try and detail the conversation in its entirety.  In the midst of the talking he made a comment to me that really hit me, in a great way and the more I’ve thought about it also in a bad way.  The comment included a question when looking at your individual church – “What is the “date stamp” on your church?”

What a great question!  When people come to your church, when you consider where your church is really at – what would be the time frame the church is existing in?

There are several arenas to think about this in.  Probably the most obvious would be the physical plant itself.  What era does your church facility represent?  Here’s a story, and I do not mean to speak ill of anyone in relating this, and the current pastor has done a great job at bringing things up to date, but it makes the point.  The church I pastored in Texarkana had like so many churches of that era, a parlor.  Sort of a formal meeting room.  Used for special occasion fellowships, brides and bridesmaids would prepare for a wedding in this room, you get the idea.  I was pastor there from 1997 to 2001.  This parlor had a large elegant table in it, a large chandelier with a lot of glass things hung from it right over the table.  The room had light green shag carpet, heavy fabric light green drapes hung from ceiling to floor over the windows.  There were gold fabric high back wing chairs and a paisley light green couch.  The floor, drapes, couch and even the walls all had water and drink stains in various places.  One day there was a reception for a couple in the church having their 50th Wedding Anniversary and a lot of people had come back to the church to celebrate with the couple.  At one point during the reception my wife was sitting on the couch and an elderly lady was sitting with her.  She was a member of the church many years ago.  She made this comment to my wife, “Isn’t this the most beautiful room you have ever seen?  I was on the committee when we remodeled it.”

The date stamp on the room must have been late 1960’s early ‘70’s, but this dear lady still saw it as newly remodeled and in that era.  She couldn’t see the stains, the outdated colors and style.

The problem in this arena is that the longer we are in something, the less we see it as it really is.  We tend to view things as they were when we first arrived or when the facility or situation was new.  The church facility is a big one in this regard.

What’s the date stamp on your facility?  Realizing that you probably can’t do anything to the outside or main structure, but on the inside is it time for a remodel?

But then what about the way you “do” church?

This is where the question goes bad for me.  The dilemma that I am wrestling with is “To what, or with what” are we to compare ourselves as a church?

I mean, we see all the articles about being “relevant” and “up to date” and “cutting edge” but compared to what??? 

Sure I think some of it is easy.  I mean light green shag carpet?  That’s an easy one.  But when we start talking about the education arm of the church what is the comparison in the argument to change or stop what has been known as the “Sunday School” part of church?

And then the really big one – Worship!!!  “In order to reach new people we MUST move to a more contemporary format!”  What “new” people are we talking about reaching?  Because if we are seeking to reach lost and unchurched people, then may I remind us, if they are lost and unchurched they don’t know what “churched” looks like to begin with.

“Off site, small group, home meetings is the new thing.”  No it isn’t, that’s the original way it was done!  That’s where it all began.

Well, choirs are old school, we need a praise team and lights and props and …  Again I ask, to compare with what? 

Sure, to an extent I think the way the church looked and acted in the 1950’s through the ‘70’s is outdated.  I know only a handful of pastors who still wear a suit and tie on Sunday’s and really never during the week.

I do think it is important to take a look at the church and ask the question “What time period are we displaying?”

But not for the sake of throwing everything out to look cool and exciting in an effort to attract people.

These thoughts are leading directly into the next blog I am working on, how are we considering what we do and the effectiveness of it all?  I don’t like the word “success” when talking about the church, I prefer to ask if we are being “effective.”

And even with that, what is the measure we are using to determine what effectiveness is?

In some ways I am just putting in print some of the things I am battling with regarding the church and the future of the church.

Here is my take on the summary – be who God is calling you to be.  Trendy is not always a good thing.  Relationships that foster the love of Christ are what consistently draw people and impact people.  So considering the culture of your community is more important than trying to be or do what the latest mega church is doing, or the latest book, conference or television cool church is detailing.

I believe it was Dura Cell Batteries that once had a commercial I liked.  They didn’t compare themselves with other batteries, they didn’t say how much better, stronger and longer lasting than other batteries they were.  They would say something like, “25% stronger than last year’s Dura Cell.”  I like that, they compared themselves to where they were a year ago.

Perhaps that is the best way to see how you are doing.  Compared to the same time last year, how are you doing?  How much better are you doing this year than you were last year?

More to come…

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