John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Tinkering With Your Church

So...anyone tired of talking about Sunday School? Thanks for the lively debate. I can handle people who disagree; it's apathy that really gets my goat.

What I'm hearing from lots of you is that you know things aren't working the way they're supposed to at church. Outreach is broken. Education is broken. Life-change isn't happening -- at least not on the scale we want.

There are a few places out there where things seem to be chugging along. There are even fewer places out there where things are going gangbusters. But the vast majority of churches are broken and can't seem to fix themselves.

The problem is that you can't get yourself out of the box with the same kind of thinking that got you into the box in the first place!

Frost & Hirsch talk about totally overhauling the church -- not little cosmetic changes -- a total rethink of everything. Here's today's quote:

"When we talk about reinventing the church, too many people assume it's as simple as tightening a bolt here, oiling a hinge there, slapping on a new coat of paint. But we are proposing a monumental change to the way we think about being and doing church. All the tinkering with the existing model of church that's going on will not save the day."

I read that and thought, "Hey! That sounds a lot like something I wrote nearly two years ago." I was doing some work with North Point Community Church as they prepared for their first conference for church leaders (called the Drive Conference). I worked very closely with Reggie Joiner in those days, and he was really struggling with what to say to all those church leaders from around the world. As my thoughts percolated, this post popped out:


Here's the issue on the table: so many leaders have bought into the myth that if they tinker enough with their churches they will eventually create wholesale change. But it doesn't work like that. At some point in time, if a church is going to survive for the next generation, you are going to have to introduce radical changes.

Tinkering is for people who don't really have the courage to make the changes they know need to be made. Tinkering allows a leader to trick people into thinking things won't really go too far. Tinkering frustrates everyone. Tinkering says we're not really serious about this whole project. Tinkering is a way of maintaining status quo while still managing to be irritating at the same time.

For a generation I heard people say that there are two speeds at which you can change a church: slow and slower. That's dumb. That's foolish. That's irresponsible.

God doesn't seem to be interested in tinkering. He calls men and women in the Bible to introduce radical change. Abraham. Moses. Joshua. Samuel. Josiah. Jonah. Peter. Paul.

Come to think of it, the church calls people to radical change in the most fundamental way. We do not call people to tinker with their way of life; we call them to repentance -- to radical change. Why in the world would we ask people to do something we aren't willing to do ourselves?


So, here's my question for you today: If we really believe things aren't working the way they're supposed to, why are we so reluctant to overhaul the whole system?