Thursday, July 05, 2012

Adapting to Change

I recently read an article about a Lutheran church that will soon be closing it's doors. Once a thriving church, only eight people attended a recent worship service. On the other hand a Baptist new church start that rents property from the Lutherans is thriving with an average attendance of 80.

Why are the Lutherans dwindling while Baptists grow in the same neighborhood? The answer comes from Dr.Bill Leonard, church history professor at Wake Forest University. He said that mainline churches such as the Lutherans, Presbyterians and Methodists have a top-down church polity. Local churches follow policies set by senior leaders at a national level. Change comes slow.

Baptists, on the other hand, can more readily adapt to change. Baptist churches are autonomous and do not need permission from a bishop or synod to start a new ministry or drop an old one. They don't have to use denominationally approved teaching materials. Congregational church polity puts decision-making in the hands of the people who either decide to move or stay and find ways to reach their changing community.

Of course, not all Baptists congregations adapt (so they die) and there are other denominations and movements that follow congregational polity. But, overall, Baptists continue to adapt for the sake of the gospel. In fact, the Baptist's motivation for change is the desire to reach the next generation for Jesus Christ.

Baptist Temple has survived a century by adapting to a community that seems to be constantly changing. Forty-six baptisms over the last three years bear testimony to Baptist Temple's motivation to reach our community. Many of these baptisms have been among the hard to reach Millennial Generation (born between 1980 and 2000) and have included couples and families.

One important factor in Baptist Temple's current revival is the congregation's ownership of the ministries. Congregation polity gives everyone a voice, the Holy Spirit guides our decisions, and love helps one accept congregational decisions with which one may not agree.

Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
Psalm 96:1-3

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