Change is never easy. But people and organizations, including pastors and churches, must constantly change or die. I was reminded of this crucial truth over the past few days. During my recent vacation I watched a movie called The Artist and read a book titled Remember the Future: Praying for the Church and Change by Robert Schnase, author of a profound book called Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.
Perhaps you’ve seen The Artist. It won several Academy Awards this year including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. The movie tells the story of the transition of the movie industry in the late 1920’s from silent films to talking films. In the movie, a famous silent film movie star refused to change from a silent actor to a “talkie.” It cost him everything, including his career, his marriage, and his finances. Thankfully, the film ended on a more hopeful note, when the actor was finally willing to change with the times. But his long unwillingness to innovate cost him dearly.
The same week that I watched The Artist I read Robert Schnase’s new book about The United Methodist Church, Remember the Future. His overall premise is that the UMC, along with all denominations, must change or die. He notes that while the United States is growing larger and younger, the UMC, along with virtually every other denomination is growing smaller and older. I’d like to share one quote from the book:
If the only statistic we could fully comprehend about The United Methodist Church in the US is that our median age is approaching 60 while the median age of our culture is 35, we would see with stark clarity the missional challenge we face. There is an age gap of nearly two generations between the average U.S. United Methodist and the local mission field. And across that gap lie significant differences in perception, spirituality, musical tastes, community, life experience, use of technology, and cultural value. (p. 16)
Schnase believes that churches and denominations can change with the times and make crucial adjustments. But he knows it will not be easy and many churches and denominations will not make the shift. For those who do not, there is no future.
Schnase is not advocating that the church of Jesus Christ change its message. But he is saying that the church must change its methods. Far too many American churches are doing worship, programs, and ministry in the 21st century on a manual typewriter and rotary phone, so to speak, while our culture uses iPads and smartphones. As you might guess, their future is bleak.
So watch The Artist. And read Remember the Future: Praying for the Church and Change. If you are really smart you will also want to read Schnase’s book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. Better yet, watch this movie and read these books with your leadership team, both staff and lay. Perhaps, by God’s grace, this movie and these books will help your congregation begin the hard but rewarding work of becoming a vital church in the 21st century.