Do you remember the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken?” The premise is in life we have choices, and sometimes choosing to take the road less traveled can make all the difference. Today, I was looking through some old notebooks of mine and came across some thoughts I had written down in 2009. The church I serve was in the beginning stages of its transformation, and I was lucky enough to be in the middle of it. The church detoured from a road many other churches were already going down in our community to a road less traveled, and it truly has made all the difference.
I would like to encourage you to make that same choice. The opportunity to win people to Jesus has never been greater than it is right now, especially for pastors serving in rural and small towns. Yet, the opportunity for your church to decline and die is just as great.
Where you end up will be determined by the road you choose.
Before you make that choice, I would ask you to sit down with your leadership or board and honestly answer these three questions. Your honest answers will determine the road you ultimately end up on.
- Do we really care about reaching the world?
Almost every pastor would say yes, yet their vision, their values, and their budget would tell you something very different. If you’re serious about reaching the world, you have to quit being inward focused. It’s impossible to please everyone in your church and reach those outside of it. You have to be ok with that, and you have to be willing to fight for those who look nothing like Jesus.
- Are we willing to work hard?
It takes more than prayer and sound biblical doctrine to grow a church. Sometimes you’re going to have to hurt someone’s feelings. I’m not saying be mean about it. I’m just saying be honest. If someone can’t sing, don’t let him or her. If someone has constant bad breath, don’t allow him or her to be a door greeter. If there are paintings, or quilts, or décor that would freak people out, then get rid of it. You’ve been called to lead, not to be liked. God will do his part. You have to be willing to do yours.
- Are we willing to give up our preferences and embrace change?
Denominations have been on the decline in America for the past 40 years. You want to guess why? Because they’re not willing or are too slow to change. Don’t let that be you. There are grandparents in your congregation that would be willing to give their lives to see their grandchildren in church, but they’re not willing to give up their hymns.
The only way that changes is if you cast a vision to reach the world, work hard, and convince them to embrace change. Take the road less traveled.
I am a husband, father, and executive pastor of a small town church that went big. I have a passion for helping pastors grow themselves and the churches they serve. You can find out more about me and my ministry at http://travisstephens.me