Most churches live for about 30 years. Now they might exist for 50 years, 100 years, or 200 years, but all that is keeping some long-standing churches alive is that no one has turned off the lights yet.
The reality is that many churches start off as a great idea and that idea spreads for a generation, gets lost in translation in the inevitable generational and cultural shift, and becomes a monument that gets polished by an increasingly smaller group of people while the world around them becomes increasingly disinterested in a once great idea.
So I want to make sure that we are always dreaming about our next forty years together instead of the next four months; making decisions for the sake of our grandchildren and leaving a legacy for those who will lead and be part of this church and churches across Athens, America and the world.
I'm actually up late writing this on a Monday night because of a nagging cough and in the course of skimming a book I first read several years ago (Built to Last by Jim Collins), I want to suggest that we lay down and leave behind a legacy by:
- Being more concerned with where we're going than where we are right now. Are our children following Jesus as part of this family we call the church?
- Developing leaders who care more about our legacy than their personal reputation. Are we leading to serve people or is this an attempt to grab the spotlight?
- Investing in the people who are part of the church today for the sake of those who will be part of the church twenty years from now. Are we becoming a family that people love enough to invite family and friends to join them?
- Pursuing progress without compromising our most cherished ideals. Are we willing to change and adapt without abandoning what matters most to us?
- Taking risks. Are we willing to do stuff that only God can pull off?
- Refusing to attempt to be a church that everyone loves. Are we willing to be so clear about what we stand for and what we stand for that it's OK for people to leave or never show up if they're not going in the same direction?
- Trying a lot of things and keeping what works. Are we willing to live by trial and error rather than relying on exhaustive strategic planning in the hope of eliminating risk?
- Focusing on how we can do a better job of helping people feel like family and follow Jesus. Are we willing to be relentless in becoming a more loving people?
- Having our cake and eating it too. Are we OK with living out the paradoxes of Christianity - God's glory AND our joy; stability AND flexibility; wisdom AND risk; growing bigger AND growing deeper?
- Never relying on our plans for the future. Are we willing to work hard for the future without abandoning our hope in and dependence upon God?