Most American Christians realize our cultural context for ministry has changed dramatically in the past few years. The emotional response among many believers is anger—at the culture, media, politicians, Christian leaders, etc. This anger expresses itself in diatribes on social media, personal confrontations, and even militant protests. Anger like this is often driven by fear—in this case, fear that current changes threaten the sustainability of what we believe and cherish.
One response to this kind of anger is to try to fix the problems by returning things to a former state, perceived to be a better state of living. This ignores an immutable fact. We cannot replicate the past. We are not going back to the way things were five years ago—pre-pandemic, pre-Trump, pre-Biden, pre-inflation, etc. Our challenge is to learn to live the gospel in the context of our new normal. Adjusting to the new normal can be painful for many—more anger results and the cycle repeats itself.
As leaders, we must set the pace and chart a course to a better response. Here are three suggestions to help.
First, take advantage of the momentum that imposed change creates. Rather than focus only on the negative, seize the moment to accelerate the pace of change. One church was resolutely opposed to online giving. Then the pandemic happened and offerings declined. Very quickly, the church’s leaders called a meeting and instructed the pastor to initiate online giving immediately. Opposition evaporated and momentum for change was generated by the pressure to respond to a new normal. When circumstances demand change, join the flow and capitalize on the momentum.
Second, define reality and help people face their current ministry context for what it is, not what they wish it to be. This is a fundamental leadership responsibility—defining reality. It is sometimes a thankless task and often a painful one as well. Presenting accurate information and making data-driven decisions is difficult, but doing so is even more essential during times of great change.
Third, anticipate the future by discerning trends and moving forward intentionally. No leader can predict the future. But every leader must enhance his or her ability to anticipate the future and make courageous decisions accordingly. Leaders improve their ability to do this by: discovering what the Bible says about the future and living it out, learning what insightful futurists are projecting, considering insights from mature Christian leaders, listening to the perspective of younger Christian leaders, and asking God for insight.
Anger about the changes happening in our culture is a demotivator to future ministry effectiveness. James 1:20 reminds us, “human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” A better response is acceptance. Accepting reality does not mean affirming imposed changes are healthy or wholesome; it does mean taking up the responsibility to effectively minister in challenging circumstances.
Let’s move past the anger and find new ways to fulfill our mission in this new ministry milieu.