Pastor’s Notes 10-13-17: Maintenance or Mission

By Dr. Kevin Thomas

Years ago, I discovered a dozen pairs of statements that contrast maintenance congregations and missional congregations. In general, maintenance congregations are those that attempt to keep the status quo, to serve their members, and to keep everyone happy. Missional congregations are those that are trying, with God’s help, to transform the world. Following is one of those pairs of contrasting statements.

When contemplating some form of change, the maintenance congregation says, “If this proves upsetting to any of our members, we won’t do it.”

The mission congregation says, “If this will help us reach someone on the outside, we will take the risk and do it.”

The first statement reminds me of Mr. Bill, an extraordinarily faithful member in one of my churches. I developed a very close friendship with Mr. Bill and grew to appreciate his deep faith. During my time as his pastor, though, I saw his health decline and his mental faculties grow weaker and weaker. Because Mr. Bill was so highly revered by the church, his perceived preferences became the litmus test for all church activity. Anyone who wanted to kill a ministry idea would simply invoke his name. “Mr. Bill wouldn’t have liked this idea.” My many conversations with Mr. Bill had convinced me that he would take almost any risk to reach new people for Christ. He would have been disappointed to know that his name was being used to block ministry. The fear of doing what someone thought Mr. Bill might not like killed ministry.

What a joy it is to serve in a place where people are ready to take risks to reach new people. Launch a ministry on Grey Street? We did it! Take the Gospel inside Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility? We did it! Serve “the least of these?” We’ve done it faithfully since our earliest days! Forest Lake is known across the community for its service. I can’t wait to see where God leads us in coming years.
Change is inevitable. Nothing remains static. We grow or we die. I pray that we continue to embrace change, that we continue to take risks, and that we continue to create the life that God intends for the Greater Tuscaloosa Area and beyond.