Feeling Stuck, At a Crossroads
From time to time, churches find themselves a little stuck. It begins to feel like doing ministry together is more toil for less fruit. Successes in mission are fewer and farther between.
We call such moments, “crossroads.” There is a sense among leaders that something may need to change or adapt. Though gospel mission and God’s glory remain the destination, the way your church gets there may need to take a detour, possibly a significant one.
Figuring out what to do at a crossroads moment is one of the greatest challenges church leaders ever face. Yet many voices will offer to resolve this challenge with simplistic solutions. “If we could just add this program” or “If we just brought in that pastor” or “If we just added this new technology” we would thrive again.
The truth is, leading a church is never simplistic. God puts much in our hands, but much is dependent utterly on the Holy Spirit. And the decisions leaders need to make in these challenging seasons are often hard ones. Renewal rarely begins simply by adding a new thing. It often begins with the death of something else.
Death Before New Life
This dynamic is well-known to readers of the Bible, but it is never straightforward or easy: crucifixion and death come before resurrection and new life. Just as Christ followed the path from death to life, so too, Christians are invited to “die to themselves.” Jesus warns that whoever wants to save their life will lose it, whereas whoever loses their life for Christ will find it.
What is true for disciples is also true for churches. Leaders need to approach their calling with a humility like that of Christ--willing to set aside anything for the sake of God’s will. Maybe we need to choose to be quiet so someone else can speak. Maybe a dearly-loved program needs to end so that energy can be directed elsewhere. Maybe a way of doing ministry needs to change. Maybe a deeply held cultural value needs to be set aside. Or maybe, even, our congregation, as we know it, needs to close.
How Crossroads Can Help
One practical challenge when facing such consequential decisions is that most of us are better at noticing what needs to be put to death in your life than in mine. As Jesus might have said it, we’re better at noticing your specks than our planks. So too with churches. I’m better at naming the programs or cultural values that you are holding too tightly than I am at naming the ones I am holding onto too tightly.
That’s why the Crossroads Discernment Toolkit is so helpful. With so many ways these conversations can go wrong, Crossroads relies on a process and on a menu of activities that have been tried and true. The process and the activities are designed to be Spirit-led, group-engaged and mission oriented, in order to help churches listen deeply to God, listen carefully to each other, and together to discern: what opportunity is God inviting us to consider? What might God be inviting us to set aside or put to death so that something new might come to life?
For some churches, that discernment might conclude that our congregation as we know it needs to end so that another ministry can be blessed to begin or expand. For some churches, that discernment might conclude that God is inviting us to set aside a former way of doing things and embrace a new ministry or new way of doing ministry.
Though decisions at a crossroads are rarely easy, the promise of our God is always good: “I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Letting Go to Let God Lead: A Crossroads Opportunity
To gain a sense of this dynamic at work, check out the video below to hear the story of Mayfair Christian Reformed Church’s experience letting go to let God lead at a pivotal crossroads moment in their life together.