Bob Burroughs: “If the horse is dead, dismount!” – good advice for the church of 2013 to follow


Here is some good advise for churches in 2013, from Bob Burroughs, a composer and arranger who directed the Florida Baptist Convention church music department until his retirement in 2002. He is author of What Think Ye?: Essays for Twenty-First Century Leaders, Pastors, and Church Musicians.

* * *

For some, the New Year brings the promise and possibility of something exciting for today’s church. For others, the New Year brings the same-old/same-old — doing the same thing without even the possibility of thinking outside the box.

In his outstanding book Barefoot Church, Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture, author Brandon Hatmaker quotes two leaders on their vision for today’s church.

The first, Richard Stearns, president/founder of World Vision, offers his revision of Matthew 25:44-46:

“For I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved.”

This paraphrase spoke volumes to my heart. While some of our children got more than they should have gotten for Christmas, a young girl in Kenya was pictured wearing flattened plastic soft-drink bottles tied on her feet with rope. Does that speak to you? It saddens me greatly that I have so much and she has so little.

So, what are my church, your church and our churches doing about this kind of travesty? Do we even stop to consider the idea that we have so much yet give so little to help those less fortunate than we are – locally, nationally or internationally?

Sure, we take turkeys at Thanksgiving and do nice things for a family or two at Christmas, but what about February, April or August? Probably not. We just settle to wait for next Thanksgiving to give away another turkey meal.

The second is W. David Phillips, author of Holy Rewired, on different ways to measure success. He says “we (the church) are prone to measure success by how many and how much.”

Phillips provided a few thoughts that will describe how to measure success in the church in the future.

1. The number of adoptions people in the church have made.
2. The number of classes provided for special-needs children, youth and adults.
3. The number of convicted felons serving in the church.
4. The number of calls from community leaders asking for the church’s advice.
5. The number of outside organizations allowed to use the church facilities.
6. The number of dollars saved by the local schools because the church members had painted the walls.
7. The number of churches that your church planted within a 10-mile radius of your own church.

There are more, but these really struck home with me. The church staff leadership and the church membership of 2013 can choose to go with the status quo — doing the same thing as 2012 while hoping for better results. But common sense says, “If the horse is dead, dismount!” To be able to move forward, the church of 2013 needs to dismount from a lot of things.

These include:

— Committees that have not met in 2012, that accomplish little or nothing and are “tradition-bound.”

— Programs that are not moving the church forward in a manner that is making the church more aware of community and national/international needs and doing something about them.

— Failing to teach church members the skill of one-on-one conversation that will lead friends and neighbors to faith in Jesus Christ or get them back into the church for renewal and revival.

— Believing the long-abandoned theme that the church is the official “magnet” that draws people in, while the membership just sits and watches, waits and hopes for new members Sunday after Sunday when it “ain’t” happening.

— Failing to teach the church membership how to get outside the church fortress walls and be regular people — who love Jesus and are anxious to talk about him with others in a non-threatening manner gently, lovingly and seriously.

What would happen to the church of 2013 if these ideas were put into action? It could happen, but it probably won’t. Could we do it in 2013? Yes, but it won’t be easy. Would you accept the challenge to make even one of these suggestions happen in your church?

That’s a start.

(Source, Associated Baptist Press)



Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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