Resurrection: The Goal of Transformation

Transformation Isn’t Built in A Day

We are in the middle of Holy Week at a time in history when the Church longs for a new resurrection. We are ready to celebrate, once again, the Resurrection—the big one. The one with the capital “R”.

This Easter, the greater Church is struggling with resurrection.

From our distant vantage point, the Resurrection seems to have happened so very quickly—three years of wandering the byways of Judea with a little escalating trouble here and there. Suddenly, the faithful are standing at the foot of the cross and then—voila!—Christ rises from the dead. We compress the entire story in our minds. We concentrate on the three days. Alleluia!

We are in a hurry with our modern short attention spans, so we gloss over the Old Testament build up. The Jews waited centuries for that day—generations born and buried! Some modern scholars are now making the case that Jesus ministry, traditionally encapsulated into three years, probably lasted at least two decades.

The process of nurturing is slow and tedious. It is not steady. Mistakes and failures are rungs in the ladder to success. It is no place for leaders looking for the quick turnaround, especially today.

Today, we are building on decades of neglect—inadequate ministry. The corporate approach to church leadership was to provide as much ministry as a community could afford—at salary levels that were outpacing those of the people being served. Investing in new methods or outreach was not considered.

We did not believe our own message.

When things weren’t so dire, we pinched pennies. We played it safe. We camouflaged our neglect with terminology that seemed kind—caretaker ministries—stewardship.

Caretaker ministries have only one outcome—failure. Any pennies spent on these ministries are pennies squandered.

Neglect is neglect.

Caretaker ministries are all about protecting assets—and not for the ministries that provided the assets. Greed enters the picture. Feelings of superiority justify the coveting of others property. Stories are invented (gossip) to justify the feelings of superiority. The devil is creative!

This leads to more caretaking and more intentional neglect.

Don’t waste resources on congregations that are going to die in 30 years.

That’s the advice of church consultants who are now experiencing their own endangered status.

Transformation is a slow process. Progress is incremental. Churches are not going to resurrect ministry in three days or three years. But they can be nurtured back to life. That used to be the job of ministry.

Redeemer, with its wealth of experience over the last two decades, had been following the incremental path toward transformation. We were making great progress when church leadership decided they might be missing their opportunity to get their hands on our property and endowments. Their intentional neglect wasn’t working the way they thought it would.

They tried for 20 years—incorporating escalating tactics of neglect. At last they got their way —not based on the law or their own governance but based on the separation of church and state. The secular courts can’t stop them. The law requires them to police their own behavior. That requires more fortitude than the modern church can muster.

But Redeemer soldiers on. We continued to tweak our ministry even with our unwelcome—even persecuted, nonexistent status in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

We learned a lot. We’ve been sharing what we learn and will continue.

We’ve reached 30,000 readers in the last three months. More than any other congregation that voted to destroy our ministry!

Our transformation has been slow and productive. Time for our resurrection.

Redeemer lives.

Here’s an interesting TED talk on the process of transformation.