Thou Shalt Not Steal—Think Again!

mouseIt’s OK! We have permission. The great thinker of the modern business world, Seth Godin, has said it . . . and published it.

We can steal.

He’s talking about building on the work of those who went before us. It’s OK to use the systems devised by others to run efficient businesses. As long as a payroll, assembly line, website platform and tools developed by someone else work—use them. Don’t waste time and money reinventing.

Instead, put your energy into developing new ideas and products.

This is the dilemma that the Church faces today.

The structure of mainline Church, developed in America over the last 200 years, built upon the structure of the church in Europe, created over turbulent centuries. We thought we corrected a few things. We grew out of the Reformation and many of our ancestors, including my own, fled Europe for a fresh religious start.

None of this works anymore.

The failure of the prestigious Alban Institute—the gurus of church leadership—is proof that we are consistently returning to a tainted well. All those high-paid church consultants couldn’t keep their own boat afloat—yet they were at the ready to tell us what we are doing wrong!

Rest easy. They are still available as private consultants.

Prediction: congregations that can still afford their services will keep turning to them for help. It doesn’t matter if their advice no longer works. It is still “gold” within the church.

Perhaps we need to be more selective and find some new places to practice our thievery.

The Church in Europe is suffering perhaps more than in the New World. There, standing in silent witness, are thousands of beautiful sanctuaries that exist for tourist, historical, cultural and ceremonial purposes. They may still function as worshiping communities, but the deep rows of pews are often empty. The beautiful art and architecture is witness to a passion, now faded.

The Church is not dying from religious wars. We haven’t been conquered by an opposing faith system.

We are withering in the hearts of people. The world changed. The Church didn’t. People joined the world.

Those who remain follow the same systems—the same structures—the same thinking. They have faith in the past.

Redeemer Ambassadors have visited a couple of congregations that are thriving—neither of them Lutheran. They ARE gathering young people and energizing them. The two we visited have no building of their own. They rent space — and fill it. Between two and three hundred members between 25 and 40 in worship every week! The very demographic absent in the mainline denominations.

Does the mainline Church learn from these newer, more successful models? Are we able to apply what these movements are learning to our own ministries?

No. We tend to look at their efforts to find fault.

  • We look for problems in their methods.
    Like we don’t have these problems.
  • We look for problems in theology.
    Like we don’t have these problems.
  • We look for problems in sustaining the model.
    Like we don’t have these problems.
  • We look at budgets we can only dream of making and suspect unethical stewardship.

Sour grapes?

But now we have permission. It’s OK to steal.

The mainline Church needs to seriously look at objectives and consider that the structure in which we have invested our future may no longer support our mission.

Time to steal another system.