"I have become all things to all people in order that I might win some ..." (I Corinthians 9:22 NIV). When speaking to Jews about Christ, Paul emphasized his Judaism. When speaking to Gentiles about Christ, Paul emphasized his Roman citizenship. Paul adapted his teaching delivery to the thought and the culture of the people that were around him. The message of Paul never changed, but the method through which the message was delivered adapted to the times, the people and the situation.
Jesus comissioned us to "make disciples, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20). A good fisher of men understands that you must change your methods if you are going to make catch peoples' interest and make them disciples of Christ. The message of Jesus never changes, but the manner in which people hear His message must change.
Thirty years ago I came to First Baptist Church, Holdenville, Oklahoma from Baylor University. I was introduced as a new staff member to Oklahoma at the annual Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma in November of 1982. Since then I have served in about every capacity one can serve in the BGCO. This week I attended the 2012 BGCO. I noticed something interesting. The crowds are much smaller, the heads are much greyer, and I am much older. Our leadership at the BGCO is more progressive than many state conventions. I know they work constantly to change, adapt, and stay relevant to today's culture.
It is not easy.
The church tha refuses to change its methodology in reaching people is doomed to a day of decline. We are on a mission to make disciples. Every staff member, every pastor, and every church member ought to be asking the question, "Is what we are doing today fulfilling our mission?" I think we would be amazed at the number of things that are done because "that's the way we have always done it."
Dan Heath and Chip Heath, in their #1 New York Times bestselling book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, write:
Two professors at Harvard Business Schook, writing about organizational change, say that change is hard because people are reluctant to alter habits that have been successful in the past. 'In the absence of a dire threat, employees will keep doing what they have always done.'Dan Heath, yokefellow at Harvard, believes that an organization needing quick, specific and immediate change, must used negative emotions as needed (i.e. fear, anxiety, etc...). However, most of the time, organizations are dying a slow and diseased death rather than a sudden and catastrophic one. Organizations must have people who are creative, flexible and ingenuious in order for change to be built into organizational structure. Good organizations are filled with people who have positive emotions such as joy, self-fulfillment, and personal contentment. These postive emotions broaden the interest and desire of everyone in the organization to investigate new things and adapt methodologies. Employees who carry negative personal emotions such as fear, anxiety, and anger, will find that these negative emotions narrow their minds and limited their abilities to fathom how or why change is needed, much less comprehend the steps that must be taken to effect that change.
I would highly recommend the book Switch. It will turn the lights on for you regarding the necessity of institutional change at your organization in order to fulfill your mission. If our churches and conventions crystallize our methodologies and refuse to change, and if there is no reproduction of spiritual life in the making of more and more disciples, then there is nobody else to blame but us.