If you ever have a chance to attend a football game, notice what the players are doing before kickoff. You’ll see them stretching their muscles. During warm-up routines, they exercise every single muscle in the body. This makes them more flexible during the game, thereby maximizing their performance and minimizing injuries. Coaches maintain that flexing is the most important activity a player can do to prepare for a game.
According to Russell Crabtree, the same is true for the church. Healthy congregations have learned how to stretch, how to get unstuck when necessary, how to change it’s practices and beliefs, how to adapt to a changing situation.
Crabtree calls this spiritual gift, “missional flexibility.” And he has developed an analytical tool that enables a church to identify and then correct where its “muscles” have become stagnant.
For example, he describes a church (we will call her Church A) that has around 500 members, a $500,000 annual budget and 25 programs. Best of all to them, the church boasts about being a Bible-believing church. The sermons are always verse-by-verse expositions of scripture and most every member is in a weekly small group where they sit in a circle always studying a book of the Bible.
On the surface, the church appeared strong but on the inside “the muscles” were not coordinating. Inevitably conflict would arise. Programs and people would get sidelined just when they were about ready to takeoff. Yet, the leaders couldn’t put their finger on the problem.
So they brought in Holy Consulting with its Church Assessment Tool and they took a closer look. What they found surprised them for it revealed that the church was intolerant of change at the very point at which they were most proud of—their learning of the Bible.
It wasn’t that they were coming up with a false theology. It had more to do with methodology. The pastor could only preach verse-by-verse and the small groups could only study a book of the bible. What the people were yearning for was more topical, more creative. They wanted to start with issues more directly relevant to their lives and then look at what the Bible had to say about them.
The leaders suggested, “What about a sermon series on evangelism or social witness, or a small group study on parenting?”
Once Church A identified the problem, they made the necessary changes and the results were immediate and profound.
On Saturday, November 14, from 9:00 AM – 12 noon at Geneva Presbyterian Church, you will have the unique opportunity of learning about a new activity being performed by the congregation there. They have hired Russell Crabtree and Holy Cow Consulting to teach them new “exercises” (how to use a Church Assessment Tool) that will enable them to stretch as a church, to adapt to a changing culture, to become a catalyst for their community.
Some may dismiss such efforts as a waste of time. But to Geneva, it may become the most important activity they do as a congregation. And to our presbytery it just may be a preview of our life together.