Jump Start # 2017
1 Thessalonians 5:14 “And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.”
This passage shows us what things were like in those early churches in the first century. It reminds us that we are not all at the same place spiritually. Like cars traveling on a highway, there are some ahead of us, some beside us and some behind us. Different reasons and different levels of faith causes challenges for congregations. Paul was directing different kinds of spiritual help that was needed to meet these challenges. Patience, encouragement and admonishing were just some of the things that Paul was directing toward those internal challenges that the Thessalonians faced.
What challenges do congregations face today? Times change. Needs change. People have different challenges. What does today’s church face. Here are a few things.
- The challenge of the special needs child. Our school systems have done well to develop special ed teachers who are trained to work with and help the child who has unique learning difficulties. But we are missing that in congregations. Often, the Bible class teacher is a mom who has stepped up and she may know the Bible, she hasn’t had any formal training in education. With a special ed student in the class, she now becomes frustrated and discouraged because of the demands, needs and help that is often missing. The special needs child draws all the attention. He is a handful for the Bible class teacher. She doesn’t know what to do other than pass him on to the next round of teachers. But the learning that ought to take place, often doesn’t.
What can be done? First, the parents of the special needs child ought to explain things with the teacher and possibly even the elders. They ought to share what works and even offer to help out in the class. Second, many congregations have professional special ed teachers. Get with them and learn from their experience and knowledge. Too often, Bible class becomes a nightmare for teacher and students because of these challenges and no one knows what to do.
- The challenge of paying a preacher’s salary. There was a time when a congregation, numbering around 50 in size, could fully support a preacher. Salaries for all of us in America are much higher than what they were for the last generation. This includes the preacher’s salary. Every congregation wants a preacher. A smaller group has to realize that they may not be able to supply what a man is worth and needs.
What can be done? The first thought is for the preacher to find support from another congregation. There is Biblical pattern for this, but this is hard, tedious and very shaky. One’s income can drop in a month’s notice because of circumstances beyond his control. Supporting churches ought to make a year or two commitment when supporting and keep that commitment. Second, there may be a shift from what we term full time preacher to part time preacher. Smaller congregations may find men who are willing to preach but who also have secular jobs. These congregations must be flexible with their expectations. Sure in the ideal world, a church would have a preacher who is on the job all week long. But if a church can’t afford that, then they will have to make some adjustments. It is a challenge.
- The challenge of finding in-house media experts. Most congregations have men among them that can fix the building, do painting and odd jobs. But as churches become more and more advanced with technology, live streaming, websites, Facebook, Twitter, many congregations are coming up against a wall. No one knows how to do that stuff. Often it falls to the preacher’s lap and he is either so busy or he, too, doesn’t know how to do things. We are blessed where I am at with amazing guys who know so much about IT, media and software that we can do about anything we want. We are rare. Most congregations are not blessed this way. It’s a challenge. Today’s world runs on videos and social media. Does a church have to have those things? No. But many are realizing that there are great opportunities and wonderful ways to reach more through those avenues. I’m hearing more and more churches wanting to do things, but they don’t know what to do. They don’t have the people among them to set up, operate and fix the bugs that come with high end technology.
What can be done? First, be patient. Like a young couple getting married, they can’t have the things in their house that thirty years of marriage and working has provided in their parents house. Come up with a game plan as to what you want to do first. Second, seek out brethren from other places who may come and help you. If you do not have the people among you, find out who does. Be professional about this. Everyone has family and time is important. If you are borrowing a guy for a Saturday to set up your website, get your CD copy machine working, establish your Twitter or Facebook presence, pay the man! Use the talent you have in your area. Third, hire someone from a company to get what you need. Often, the outside world may not fully understand what you want, but work with them and you can get things rolling. Learn from others.
One of the things I have witnessed through the years is that often one person can do a certain job, but no one is ever trained by that one person. So, if that one person is sick, moves or dies, what he was doing stops. No one knows what to do. I have visited churches that had all kinds of great audio sound boards, CD machines and cameras, but no one there knew what to do with them. The preacher before sat it all up, used it and then when he moved, it sits, gathering dust. Train others. This is the challenge of legacy. You may know what to do and how to operate things, but you won’t be here forever. Read those Scriptures. We all have a divine appointment coming. Get others trained to do what you do so well. Work with them so they understand things. Let them see you do things. All of this involves forethought and that is a challenge as well.
Every generation and really, every congregation has their own unique challenges. Some of these challenges can cripple a church. Other challenges present opportunities and from that even greater things happen. How we deal with our challenges and what these challenges do to us can make all the difference.
Could you name the challenges your congregation faces? Are you aware of them? How are these challenges being addressed? This begins some valuable conversations.