A Church In Need of Conversion Series

January 7th, 2014

Eddie Hammett will be the guest speaker at the 2014 Cabinet Consultations sponsored by the Lake Junaluska Program Ministries, below are excerpts from his three books.

from Making Shifts Without Making Waves: A Coach Approach to Soulful Leadership, by Edward H. Hammett and James R. Pierce with Steve DeVane, Chalice Press 2009

Richard Florida says most current institutions value things that turn away and discredit, rather than nurture and cultivate, those persons in what he calls the “Creative Class,” the innovators of our day.1 Nowhere is that more evident today than the church and her failing organizations. Churches are barely weathering the culture storm of change as leaders often make more waves than they do shifts. The church has refused to lift anchor as the storm hits, becoming a drag for many church people and effectively turning off the unchurched.

What’s the problem? In a culture in which spiritual thirst is at an all time high and many are searching for meaning to life’s challenges, why are many churched persons dropping out of church, and why are many spiritual travelers not finding the church a help in their spiritual journey?

Here are some of the things the church’s own members say:

  • “My church spends more time debating trivial issues (that we make big) than we spend discipling those who are spiritually hungry.”
  • “Why do many church people focus on preserving tradition rather than finding ways to penetrate the contemporary world with the Good News?”
  • “I’m tired of fighting with church people about issues that those in the world we are supposed to be trying to reach find irrelevant.”
  • “My church refuses to rethink the way we do church and make it more relevant and convenient for my busy family. I have no choice but to drop out.”

Other church members complain that the church has become miserable because things have changed. They say the church no longer pleases them or meets their needs. Still other church members say they have become dissatisfied with church when people unlike them started attending.

1 Richard Florida, The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), and The Rise of the Creative Class and How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure and Everyday Life (New York: Perseus Books, 2004).

from Reaching People Under 40 While Keeping People Under 60: Being Church for All Generations, by Edward H. Hammett with James R. Pierce, Chalice Press 2007

Recently, I was invited to speak in a church. During the week before I spoke, I received a call from their deacon chairperson. He notified me that they had asked their pastor, who had been there five years, to resign immediately. As I listened carefully and explored with some open-ended coaching questions, it became clear that they were asking their pastor to resign because he was bringing in too many new younger people too fast. The longtime members and families were “uncomfortable and upset that the pastor was not paying as much attention to them.” The deacon continued to explain that “they had talked with their pastor many times about their concerns, and he had not listened so the deacons felt they had no choice.” When I continued to explore, I asked, “What is the most important thing to your church now?” He quickly declared, “We want peace in the family and for our pastor to do what we ask him to do.”

Well, I guess I heard that loud and clear. So many of our congregations are so concerned about “us” that we don’t have room or desire to be concerned about “others.” Somehow the members of the above church accept the idea that the church and the pastor are to serve them. How sad! It became clear to me that many things were not working for this pastor who was being asked to resign. Several things were not working for the church because of the mismatch of their leader and his philosophy of leadership and church. However, I can hear many church members and leaders say, “But we need and deserve to be cared for.” That is true, but Jesus died for the world and gave us a mission to reach the world. What do we do with that?

from Spiritual Leadership in a Secular Age: Building Bridges Instead of Barriers, by Edward H. Hammett, Chalice Press 2005

...“What is next for spiritual leaders? What is God about in this rapidly changing world? Could spiritual leadership be shifting in our increasingly secular age?” The struggles created by a shifting culture are challenging clergy and churches to face changes that are often disconcerting to what they have known in a church-based culture, if not overwhelming. Today we are learning to live and lead in transitioning times. Churches will be centralized and decentralized. Clergy and members will be ministering in the church, through the church, and as the church.

Over the last five years I’ve encountered an increasing number of clergy persons who are voicing a deepening dissatisfaction with their ministry roles in the traditional church. Some are senior ministers; others are executive pastors; and others are in staff positions with areas of specialization. Because of the perceived trend, I’ve started tracking my encounters with other clergy as I travel across the country. Four out of every five members of the clergy I have dialogue with express dissatisfaction with their church and/or ministry role. It has become clear that most are only dissatisfied with the institutional church, not their calling. Though not a scientific research project, these observations permit me to share what I have learned through such encounters. I can also recite some of the paths many are exploring and claiming as they find new places for ministry—not in the church, but as the church in the world.

Order information on the books the excerpts above are pulled from is listed below under Related Products.

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