PART 1: THE PLAN
Recently we had the privilege of reading an article by the Lead Pastor of Flint Central Church of the Nazarene, Rob Prince, in which he reflected on changes that will be needed in the coming decade in order to see growth and transformation in the Church of the Nazarene in the U.S. and Canada. Many of the things he proposes are exactly what we are promoting through the ministry of Genesis in Mesoamerica and through our Worthless Servants Podcast. Rob gave us the permission to reproduce his articles today and in the following entry, and we will also be touching on these issues in some upcoming episodes of the podcast.
What if we thought differently about the future church and ministry in the Church of the Nazarene than the way we currently think?
Here are the facts as I see them (some anecdotal, some not):
Fact 1: A strong USA/Canada church is essential for the good of the global church (currently the USA/Canada funds 94% of the mission of the global church).
Fact 2: The USA/Canada Church has been in decline for over a decade and the coming decade could be worse.
Fact 3: The ONLY way to reverse the trend is to open more churches (5,000 new churches).
Fact 4: Seminary enrollment is down (way down from when I was a student 35 years ago). I haven’t seen the Bible College numbers. If we are opening churches we need trained pastors.
Fact 5: Many of the seminarians/ministry majors who are enrolled aren’t thrilled about reviving a church in small town U.S.A. or planting a church in an urban area. Many don’t want to pastor a church at all.
Fact 6: Getting a job in small town USA can be difficult.
Fact 7: Finding affordable housing in urban areas of the USA is difficult.
Fact 8: Jesus’ words in Matthew 9:37 are still true: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” People in both small town and urban USA need Jesus. We need churches and pastors.
What if we actively tried to change the current reality?
What if the term “bi-vocational pastor” was looked upon as a normal, regular ministry option rather than one inducing sympathy or being viewed as “second-rate?”
What if we thought of the bi-vocational pastor as the most honorable pastoral position and held these sacrificial women and men in high regard? Conversely, what if the idea of a “full-time” clergy role was viewed as a somewhat questionable pursuit?
What if seminarians/Bible college students were taught how to open a coffee shop (don’t all ministry students love coffee?) or a thrift store (who doesn’t like a good thrift store/consignment shop?) or some other venture and taught how to play the guitar? Singing has always been a part of Christian worship (Live music > YouTube sing-alongs). And what if simultaneously these bi-vocational ministers were taught how to craft a sermon and be a pastor?
What if Acts 2:42 became our model of these house or inside-a-business-space churches? The followers would devote themselves to Biblical teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and to prayer. That’s it.
What if the district leadership could convince the twenty people or so remaining in a dying church that is on hospice care that they could sell their building and open a coffee shop or thrift store, that instead of the lost folks never stepping in their church, those that don’t know Jesus would regularly walk into a coffee shop or thrift store? (Note: this sales job from the district leader might take an act of God to actually happen).
What if we made the Bible college or seminary tuition FREE for those going into (or already doing) pastoral ministry?
What if districts started buying houses for the pastors to live in and where the house churches could meet?
What if the being-trained, guitar-playing, coffee-making, thrift store-operating, theologically sound seminarian or Bible College student with free education and free housing in the apartment above the coffee shop (with income from the coffee shop and with a steady stream of potential Jesus followers coming to get their coffee or find a bargain) could actually make a difference for Jesus in small town USA? What if all that could happen and…
What if this model was repeated again and again and again all across USA/Canada?
If that model was repeated, say 5000 times in the next decade, then attendance numbers and declining dollars would be dramatically reversed. We would see revival in small town USA and urban areas and everywhere in between.
No doubt, I’ve raised a lot of questions. In the next blog post I will attempt to answer some of those questions.