How does it feel to be pushed to think about change? Can we get inside the head of a "typical" deacon in a small denomination facing all the "typical" pressures of trying to be the Body of Jesus in 2010?
Deacon Henk's newspaper sagged to his lap. His eyes stared off into the distance. His wife, sitting across from him on the couch, said to herself, "He'll be snoring in a minute." But Henk wasn't falling asleep. Just the opposite, he was having a moment of sharp worry, thinking about his friend whose home might be in foreclosure, thinking about his church, thinking about his denomination. Might as well worry big while you're at it!
Henk was worrying big. There were so many things pushing on him at church, and he noticed his pastor seemed stressed too. The news from the denomination was about funding shortfalls, aging constituents, shrinking congregations, and ever more urgent ministry opportunities! In his own church he knew all too well who was job-hunting, who was retiring early, how much the budget was falling behind, and the increasing pressure to find ways to CUT THE BUDGET.
We have to find ways to regain the lost youth who are leaving the church! We must become a more diverse denomination or we'll die! The office of deacon isn't just a sleeping giant - it's in a coma! We must find ways to serve the aging members of our churches! The evening service is in decline; Christian education isn't a priority anymore; synod seems irrelevant; ministers are burning out..... Deacon Henk's stomach rose up a couple of inches as a huge sigh escaped him. He tried to sit up straighter in his recliner. Everyone was talking about how if we don't change with the times, we'll be dead soon. But that same "everyone" was bemoaning how things weren't like they used to be! Deacon Henk got up to take an antacid.
He thought about the deacons at his church. Mostly they made budgets, took offerings, and counted. Some of them made house calls with elders. A few of them talked about how to motivate the members to better stewardship. A couple of them said the church should find better way to serve the community. They were all so busy; getting to meetings was a stretch for many of them. Henk was glad he was retired - it didn't seem like quite such a burden to go to deacons' meeting. But often he felt bored. It was mostly the same old same old. Henk looked back over his seven decades to see if he could spot some major change moments. Nothing came to him. A feeling of dismay crept over him.
A question began to form in his mind: Have I been a block to change? Henk wondered. Do I see where I failed to support change, or quietly opposed change from the sidelines.... I always thought my reasons were really good - I was concerned about losing members, or avoiding conflict, or supporting key members, or being faithful to some principle.... I wonder, in what ways do I share responsibility for my congregation's situation? We're stable at best, but really we're slowly declining. I'm a man of strong habits; I love stability. What if I'm part of the church's problem?
Henk made a decision - he would pray about this new idea, and he would talk to his wife... but maybe not tonight. He wasn't sure he'd like what she might say.