Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone…Times they are a changin’.
Bob Dylan wrote these lyrics when I was two years old…and times are STILL “a changin’.”
Several months ago, we began to realize that in order to reach more people, changes must take place. So, we began planning a new 9am worship opportunity for Sundays. Not exactly uncommon thinking on our part. Opening a new Sunday morning service seems to be the stock answer to growth barriers. But when we started considering “how” we’d do this, the idea that we landed on seemed outside the box to us…but very commonplace among the fastest growing churches in the country.
With two weeks to go until the launch of the 9am assembly, some have immediately caught on to the plan/vision…others are still feeling their way around…and still others may not even be aware that anything is changing.
This past Sunday, we had a packed crowd, great singing, joyful celebration…and it felt good. There is just “something” about days like these. I was told that someone said something like, “I’m going to miss these packed crowds when we open the new worship time.” To those who feel this way, I’d like to ask you to consider a few things.
First, big crowds aren’t the goal of worship…heartfelt worship is the goal. Where two or three are gathered, He is there. And even though many people are drawn to crowds (the only place I like a crowd IS AT CHURCH), having a crowd is not the goal of worship, but is a natural result of being obedient to the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20). If we continue to make disciples, we will have crowds. We can’t help it. But never forget that the goal of worship is for God to be honored. Big numbers aren’t the “win.” Creating devoted discipleship is the win.
Second, the preacher in me loves big crowds too…so if you find you miss it, partner with us to be a champion for numerical growth. The beauty of this plan is that following the great commission will bring us TWO opportunities for packed worship instead of just one.
Last, I’ve been told (okay, maybe threatened) that some people won’t be happy with this change and will leave. To this I respond…You’re right. Some people will not stay to see this transition through. And even though I hope this doesn’t happen, I realize we are going to continue to call our church family to a higher level of commitment…and some will refuse. It’s easy to see that the church we are today is not the church we were eight years ago when we moved here…and with every change that has propelled us forward, some have chosen to make their way elsewhere.
I hope you realize that the people I see on Sunday mornings now are not the same people I gazed upon when I took the job. And the people I’ll see when we count noses to see if we met our Vision 2020 goal will not be the same people I gazed upon last Sunday entirely. Not to beat a dead horse, but again…things are always a changin’ including who decides to worship with us.
Be warned…this is not the last time change will happen. Change is inevitable…it cannot be stopped. With growth will come new opportunities and challenges, and the only way to deal with them is to question our current mindset in hopes of breaking free of self-imposed limitations. Just like a human body, growth within the church body must take place, and often painful…to cease growing is to begin dying.
So, as the “waters around us grow” and we begin noticing that we are “drenched to the bone” in transition, may we all praise God that he has led us here and trusted us with His calling. And may we remember, when following Him we’ll always be aware that, “times they are a changin’.”
Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. “Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” ~ Isaiah 43:18-19