Monday, March 15, 2010

Serving the Local Church

“What is the value that we are bringing to our local churches who primarily fund what we do? How relevant are we to the local church?” These are the words of Michaele Birdsall, treasurer and chief financial officer for National Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA., who recently called for the denomination to seek longer-term and tougher solutions to effectively serve churches in the 21st century.

The denomination Birdsall serves has gone through major budget and personnel cuts and various attempts at reorganization, but she recognizes the need for a fundamental change in how the denomination will relate to and serve churches in the future. The same concern is being expressed by denominational entities across the nation. In order to become a 21st century denomination, several steps must be taken.

First, denominational entities must become missional, acknowledging that the Christian mission is God’s mission—it originates with God and is empowered by God. The goal is not to build a denomination but to build the Kingdom. This perspective opens doors for new partnerships and collaboration.

Second, denominations must become more decentralized. Surprisingly, the exact opposite seems to be happening. In an age of decentralization, denominations are attempting to centralize decision-making and church support. This is movement in the wrong direction. The best thing that denominations can do is disperse staff and get closer to the grassroots.

Third, denominations must become more relevant. Too many judicatories are addressing questions that no one is asking. Denominational leaders must spend more time listening to church leaders and members and discovering the issues with which they deal on a daily basis. This should form the basis of the denominational agenda.

Fourth, denominations need to spend more time developing people and less time creating programs. Programs will come and go, but people will endure. Time spent in mentoring and coaching church leaders will provide results for years to come. Denominations need to be in the people business.

Fifth, denominations must seek the leadership of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit speaks to the people of God. As Birdsall notes, “As we open ourselves up to God and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,” we may be surprised at the opportunities and resources that emerge.

These are steps that should have been taken a decade ago. I have no doubt that God’s work will be done in God’s way, but whether the present denominational entities will be part of that work is a different issue.


Joe said...

You may not remember this but a few years ago at a TCBF Coordinating council retreat we were ask the question "Where do you see CBF and TCBF in 10 years". My answer was, "Irrelevant"

This blog states better than I did why this will be true unless the denominations change. More and more churches are looking to localize their mission giving and activities because of the perceived lack of support from the denominations. Perhaps what we need is better dialogue between the local church and the denominations and a willingness of the denominations to change the way they do missions. I agree more needs to be invested in people.

Joe Livesay

Ircel said...

I do remember the comment,but did not know you were the one who shared it. Denominational entities strive for survival, like any organization! That can skew one's vision.

Several years ago I told a friend that the best gift I could give to TCBF as coordinator was a new model of middle judicatory/church relationships. Due to a number of circumstances, I failed to do that.