You may have noticed that problems in the church have a tendency to cascade. An idea that someone has seen working elsewhere is tried here. It falls flat. The initiator(s) is then criticized for wasting church resources. The initiator(s) comes away from this experience wounded and more hesitant about sticking their neck out in the future. The council and/or clergy leadership also wants to prevent future failures and protect church resources. So, they renew their commitment to micromanaging and the rigid enforcement of standing policies. Without realizing it, they stifle creativity. This leads to less enthusiasm in the church. Young people depart. Stewardship falls and budgets go unmet. Single point answers, such as, doing a program to bring in more youth, only create fresh places for the cascade to erupt.
For your church to survive in today's postmodern world, you must leave the beaten path. This will mean breaking from the herd. It will mean doing things differently from the other churches in your denomination or town. It will also involve traveling slower and becoming more observant of your context. You need to learn which plants have blackberries on them and which ones are poison ivy. It will mean setting aside time for discerning this congregation’s unique calling from God.
To change images, learning to do visionary leadership in today’s church is like walking a tightrope. You step out alone on your path. You put one foot in front of another. You concentrate on what lies at your feet. What can this church do, given its particular location, people, and resources, that other churches cannot do? How can we faithfully walk the line that lies before us?
Reality Check 101 -- a new resource for doing congregational discernment -- is off to the printer. Look for it to be out May 2013!