For those of you hoping to hear that I have old church pews for sale, I’m sorry to disappoint you. For those of you who are thankful that I don’t have old church pews for sale, don’t hold your breath. You see, this post has nothing to do with actual pews you might find in an outdated church. This post has to do with church leadership systems. Whether you are willing to admit it or not, pews in church are outdated. They’re not wrong, dumb, or bad. They’re just simply outdated in today’s culture. That said, churches have created leadership and ministry systems, or processes in which churches use to accomplish specific or even vague goals.
I think we all agree that doing the same things over and over again, yet expecting different results, is ridiculous. This certainly applies to church systems. Many of the churches who have been around for many years are discovering they are no longer relevant to the current culture and their congregations are shrinking and/or becoming more of a “club” that has an inward focus rather than an outward focus. Most of these churches are at great risk of deteriorating from the inside out and eventually dying because they will refuse to make the necessary changes to become relevant to today’s culture. This danger is easily masked with, what I would call, the “Brand New Pew” mindset. The “Brand New Pew” mindset is an idea or a set of ideas that an older church adopts in order to facilitate change they believe will make the church culturally relevant again. This mindset creates all of the feelings, thoughts, and expectations that appropriate changes create. The “Brand New Pew” mindset is adopted by the leadership and is strategically and thoughtfully put into action. Every leader’s basket of eggs are passionately dumped into one big basket, and all with wonderful intention. So why does this strategy fail?
This “Brand New Pew” strategy fails because the dying and culturally irrelevant church has decided to “tweak” certain ministries certain ways, but they are using the same system or process of ministry. It’s like deciding to make the inside of your church more culturally relevant by taking out the pews only to put new ones in. Many churches this year will have the “Brand New Pew” mindset and, with good intention, fire their pastor, and then hire another pastor just like him or her. They will take a ministry they’ve always done and improve the staff and kids t-shirts and promotional materials, but no quality change will occur. They will take the same worship team and have them play songs a little differently, but not in a way that is culturally relevant. They will only attempt to produce just enough change they feel those on the inside can tolerate and just enough change to appear as though they are really trying to reach those on the outside. Yet, the truth is that when you have the “Brand New Pew” mindset, nothing really changes.
A church that wants to become culturally relevant must make changes in the roots of the church. A great gauge to use when checking a church’s willingness to be outward focused is to ask, “What is this church willing to sacrifice to reach the lost?”
With your current home church in mind, let me ask you this:
“If removing the pews and replacing them with chairs would bring more people to church, would your church do it?”
“If making worship music fully contemporary would bring more people to church, would your church do it?”
“If changing the time(s) of the service(s) would bring more people to church, would your church do it?”
“If your pastor would preach in jeans and a t-shirt would bring more people to church, would he or she?”
If your church has a “Brand New Pew” mindset, you have an obligation to have a different mindset. The “Brand New Pew” mindset is a self-centered mindset that only appears on the outside to be concerned for the lost. If you have this mindset, ask the Lord to direct you to the most important thing in His own eyes, the lost. Jesus said that He would leave the 99 found in order to find the 1 lost. As churches, we must be willing to be culturally relevant and we must be willing to be outward focused and that means making “root-level” changes. It means completely changing the way you do ministry, hold church services, present the Word of God, plan church services, and the type of music played during worship.
A brand new pew is still a pew and that will never change. Will you meet the culture where they are or will you demand they bend and mold to your model?