The email stung me. The writer spoke of my negativity about local churches, about how much of my writings are about problems in local congregations.
But there was truth in his critique. A lot of my writings do indeed express my concerns about the health and future of congregations. I admit my desire to help church leaders and laypersons confront reality.
But balance is needed.
There are many traditional or established churches doing things well. And though we can’t make categorical statements about any group of churches, it is indeed true that there are some elements in traditional churches we need to celebrate. Here are five of them.
1. The members have a deep love and concern for one another. Go into many traditional churches and you will see members caring for one another, taking meals to each other, and praying consistently for one another.
2. They are loyal to the institution. I have argued in other articles that institutional loyalty taken to an extreme is unhealthy. But the inverse is true as well. Members with no institutional loyalty will move from one church to another with little concern. Traditional church members tend to be fiercely loyal to the churches where they are members.
3. They are passionate about giving to missions. It seems to be in the congregational DNA of many traditional churches. If there is a mission cause put before the church, these members often give abundantly.
4. They offer stability to the congregation. Because of their loyalty and devotion to their church, traditional church members offer stability and steadiness to local congregations. They will continue to give, to serve, and to care for others even in challenging times in the church.
5. The members have a historical perspective that can be healthy for the church. Many of them have seen the best of times and the worst of times. The traditional church member has a healthy perspective that realizes God is above the crisis or the situation of the moment. Sometimes just hearing from these members about how the church survived a crisis in the past can be encouragement for the congregation to move to the future.
If you have read or heard me in recent years, I have cried out to churches, “Change or die!” I will continue to sound that warning without hesitation.
But, in my efforts to sound warnings, I can overlook the good things taking place in many churches, including traditional churches.
This article is my apology for being shortsighted toward traditional churches. And it is my opportunity to thank the millions of church members in these congregations for their faithfulness though the years.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on March 20, 2017. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.