When I typed and then compiled the Table Talk reports from our last Town Hall I was very pleasantly surprised by what became clear after I condensed what you collectively said about the main Adaptive challenges facing Christ Community Church. I noticed themes I had not “heard” from you at the time we held the event.
A few other thoughts before getting into that:
I believe/hope that in the table discussions you experienced how Technical challenges are pretty easy to identify. Your responses were pretty uniform and in agreement. With these kinds of challenges, we easily name them and have an idea of how to solve them: change the dead lightbulb, treat the weeds, work toward becoming part of the city so we can get hooked up to water and sewer (and reduce costs in the long run), get new technology installed, etc.
I hope you also experienced how hard it is to identify and name the Adaptive challenges you are facing. By their nature they are bigger than a lightbulb or a field of weeds, or arranging to truck water in and out pre-and-post use. Adaptive challenges are like the air changing temperature over time, and hours or days or months later you realize “It used to be warmer/cooler.” Think of the classic illustration of a frog swimming in water that is slowly coming to a boil, and the frog remains oblivious because it’s body just adjusts to the changed reality. That is how the Adaptive challenge comes to us in the church too. We are comfortably “doing our church thing” and suddenly we realize no one new is joining us in doing our church thing.
Some Technical challenges ended up on the Adaptive list as well as the other way around. That just proves the difficulty of the assignment, but also how sometimes the Technical challenges show up as part of the Adaptive need. I see “Lack of people/energy” as in that category. In other words, a group of Technical challenges, considered together, can point to the Adaptive challenge. I’ll resist my urge to flesh that out more and let you just think about it.
What I most want to write about is how a vast majority of your responses to the question of Adaptive challenges CCC faces today fit together under one theme. I am calling it: “Cultural Disconnect” or “Culture Gap.” I hear you struggling with a cultural gap when, at your tables, you said to each other things like:
we have “difficulty communicating the value of church” or
there is a “perception that church is in a bubble, removed from reality of society” or
“church doesn’t speak the language of the culture” or
“church is expected to adapt single-sidedly” and,
“people outside the church believe in God, but don’t want to come to church.”
The culture of the church is not the same as that of society. And there are definitely ways in which it should NOT be the same. I’ll give a rough definition of culture so you know what I’m thinking of when I use the word. Culture is a group of people’s ‘way of life’ – the ways they share meaning. That way can be words, it can be body language, it can be ritual actions, it can be the language of music and art. In the church we have our own cultural language. The cross is a language. It has meaning within the church. It means something outside the church too, but something less definite. We use English in our services, but an English that tends to be older and refers to things the culture does not. “Thee and Thou” are examples of that. My favourite example is to ask you to imagine saying to someone out of the blue in a casual conversation in the coffee line “Yup, I’m washed in the blood!” That is old language, old symbolism. It can be true, but is not the best way to communicate how Jesus died for you to wash away your sins.
In these notes of your conversations I hear you clearly struggling with the church as you know it not connecting with the culture — and the culture outside the church not connecting with or understanding or valuing church culture.
That cultural gap is indeed one of CCC’s great Adaptive challenges, in fact it is the entire western church’s Adaptive challenge!
So some of our questions now in the Transition Journey revolve around the task of examining what culture is, and what belief in, and faith in, God’s relationship-restoring plan through Jesus looks like when it is put into cultural expression inside and outside the church. Another question is “How did/does this cultural disconnect come about?” and one that follows from that is “What can we do to prevent it from happening again?” At more complex levels this becomes a pondering of our God given role as meaning makers. I love examining these important questions, and am very happy they have been brought to the foreground!
Below this I have reposted, for your reference, just the summary I made of what you said around Adaptive challenges facing CCC.
Table Talk responses distilled by Pastor Pete
I’ve tried to repeat the items that showed most often, even if stated a bit differently. The ones listed first are ones it seemed were mentioned most. Some are then not repeated in this list because they or one-ofs. This process is quite subjective and I want to admit that.
- Culture Disconnect/Change:
- communication with current culture;
- difficulty communicating the value of church;
- perception that churches in a bubble, removed fr reality of society:
- church doesn’t speak the language of the culture;
- we (the church)don’t look appealing (missing outreach);
- people outside the church believe in God, but don’t want to come to church;
- difficulty in seeing alternative perspectives;
- adapt new culture, changed, activities and “feeling” new needs;
- church expected to adapt single-sidedly;
- 2 move away from traditional building-centered worship;
- congregation members attracted by minister;
- sunday-centric worship;
- Post Truth society’ Adopt new style of message “Accept message service”;
- ‘the rest of the world needs adaptive change; fear of changing our beliefs to attract people
- Community Connection and Outreach/Gospel sharing:
- low priority for church – Increase zeal;
- what is CCC doing to make their presence known at community events (make ourselves available to community);
- people need to go out – not wait for things “the church” to come to you;
- Next door neighbours not coming; cliquey;
- low follow up on those not coming to church;
- people come, we’re friendly, but eventually people still leave;
- What you note you own – new people we need to welcome them and follow up.
- Have an attitude reach out.;
- our own young people aren’t coming
- Demographics/Burnout: older congregation; congregation reducing in #s; less members; fewer people to bear responsibility; current people are getting tired; Age gap old + young but no middle; role definitions – traditional/modern burn-out;