I’m sitting in a tire shop waiting for my car to get four new tires as I write this article. It actually seems a little fitting.  

A few weeks ago we noticed a shaking sensation as we were driving our vehicle so I took it to the shop. It turns our that our tires had something called “diagonal wear” which was causing the shaking feeling we were experiencing.  The service technician explained that diagonal wear happens when the alignment of the wheels actually directs the tires in a slightly different path than the vehicle.  The constant ‘tug-and-pull’ that happens between the tires and the vehicle eventually causes the tires to wear out quicker and unevenly – thus causing vibrations when you drive.  

What is the remedy? 

New tires… that’s why I am sitting in the tire shop writing this article, remember?

I know that your church is not a tire, but I bet you can certainly identify with the feeling of a “tug-and-pull’ between two opposing views.  You have some people who desire to go in one direction with a vision, style of worship, outreach, etc… followed quickly by another group of people who envision a completely different path. Over time, these opposing directions cause enough friction that it begins to cause issues. 

Like my car, if you are observant enough you can see the symptoms of this problem:

It is in these times when the leadership, and the church as a whole, can feel the vibrations of an issue. So what do we do?

For some churches, they just keep driving down the road hoping the issues will eventually go away.  The problem is, unresolved issues rarely ever go away. In fact, they generally will lead to larger issues. 

Imagine if I never stopped and took the time to fix my tires. What would have happened if I ignored the vibrations I was feeling while driving and just kept going?  Eventually one of the tires could have malfunctioned and caused me to have an accident.  The issue with my car meant I had to do something, and timely!  

So what are we to do? Keep driving our churches down the road as is?  Hope the issues will eventually resolve themselves?  Wait for an impending blow-up and hope we aren’t around to witness it? Or, will we honestly look at the issues, address the real problem, and get back on the road?

Before I offer a few brief suggestions on ways to look at our issues and help move our churches towards our mission, I need to address a prevalent philosophy that has plagued our churches for quite a long time: “Changes need to happen slowly and naturally over time.”  This philosophy is a falsehood which attempts to lead us to the belief that, at some point in the future, there will be a time when we don’t have to do any real work, or suffer any negative aspects, in order to change. 

Change is never easy. Not now. Not ever.  But just because change is hard, doesn’t mean that it is not right.  

This philosophy not only allows the church to shirk being obedient to the mission because they become slaves to their methods, but also encourages church leadership to shirk their duties in leading the church in the Great Commission because they become slaves to church members. This philosophy is not only dangerous to the growth of the church, but at it’s core it is not even how Jesus led and taught his followers.

Allow me to explain. 

As Jesus began his teaching, he did so with the idea that his followers would follow… immediately. 

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’ Another disciple said to him, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus told him, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead’” (Mt. 8:18-22). 

Jesus makes it clear that following him means being willing to leave everything else behind.  Everything must come second to being obedient to the rule and reign of God.  Even when that something puts us out of our comfort zone. 

Now imagine for a moment that Jesus, in his earthy ministry, took the approach that some churches take when it comes to re-setting their course and implementing change. 

He wouldn’t have flipped over tables in the temple, he would have waited for the group of people to grow old enough that they didn’t care anymore before starting a new practice.

He would have told his disciples to make sure to follow all the law and prophets, because the religious elite might get upset.  

He wouldn’t have healed the man with demons, sat with the woman at the well, forgiven the paralytic of his sins, called out the Pharisees in areas that they were wrong, disrespected the teachers of the law and chief priests, spent time with the tax collectors and sinners, or claimed to be the king of the Jews. Instead, he would have stuck with the status-quo. 

But that wasn’t what he did, was it? Jesus had 3 short years and he wasn’t willing to waste time.  He wasn’t going to get bogged down with the non-essentials. He had a mission and he was going to accomplish that mission.  

I think we can lose sight of this. In Matthew 28, Jesus gives an instruction to his follower to “go and make disciples.”  As the church, our mission has been set, but you and I both know that there are difficult obstacles in the way, things we need to address, conversations we need to have, things we need to let go of or change completely in order to most effectively pursue our mission.  Unfortunately, instead of doing the hard work, addressing the problems, or re-correcting our path, we are tempted to just let go of the mission.  I think there is a great reason for this: 

We tend to idolize our methods long after they have failed to help us accomplish our mission. 

Read that sentence again and allow it to sink in. Seriously, do it… I’ll wait for you.

A great question to ask ourselves is: “Is my method of going and making disciples actually working in the culture around me?”  If you haven’t asked that, you should.  If what you are currently doing is not replicating disciples, then it is time to take your church in to “the shop” to see what the problem is and address the issues.  

I mentioned earlier that I would offer a few brief suggestions on how to look at our issues while helping our churches move closer in-line with our mission. So, without further ado, here are a few things we, as the church, need to take to heart.

Thanks for joining me on this journey! We have one more “Leadership-Lesson” to walk through together as we take a look at how our society has shifted away from the “brand loyalty” that we once use to embrace and how that is effecting the Churches of Christ. 

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