For those who have already fired up your search engines or copied a link from your favorite creation website; hold your horses. As much as I would like to debate 6 day creation (not really), evolutionary traits in nature (not my thing), and Darwin vs the Bible (not smart enough), this is a post about church change over the years not biological change over millions of years. If you are still all worked up over evolution in the church, would it help if I made it clear I am against evolution in church?
When evolution gets stuck.
The most common question churches ask when they seek the help of a transitional pastor like me is, “How do we move our church beyond what has happened?” The best way for me to answer is to ask the following question, “What do you believe caused you to end up where you are?” It is rare to hear someone answer, “I have no idea.” Usually they blame an individual or groups of individuals and lately they throw in COVID as the reason(s) for what has taken place. Not only do people seem to know who caused the church to stall, but given the chance they are happy to tell me how to fix it. This leads me to ask this question (usually for the first while only to myself) “Why do you need a transitional pastor?”
When evolution gets started.
Evolution in church is fueled by the acceptance of a flawed theory; church exists to foster relationship. While relationship is one of the main building blocks in a successful church it is not the foundation of one. A successful church is built on a vision, that is turned into programs that are governed by processes all implemented by people who live in relationship with one another because of a common calling/goal. Evolution starts when people in relationship create out of that relationship, programs and processes that serve to maintain relationship rather than serve to further the vision. As a matter of fact, churches that are relationship driven rarely have a vision unless you consider maintaining relationship to be the vision of the church. Before long things happen because someone wants them to happen and no one wants to stop them from happening as that could cause conflict which is wrongly seen as a killer of relationship.
When evolution encounters an outside force.
Any outside force that is either intentionally or unintentionally introduced to a church that has evolved rather than purposely progressed will have a profound effect on the church. In most cases it is not for the betterment of the church. A church that has evolved is most often a weakened church based on its need to preserve the appearance of peace at any cost. The most obvious sign that a church has evolved based on relationship preservation is acceptance of damaging and sinful behaviour based on the fact that we all sin, that none of us is perfect. Once an outside individual joins with an unknown agenda or unknown level of desire for a repentant life and is extended the same “peace at any cost” doctrine the door is opened for damage to be done.
It doesn’t stop with the outside force. A church that evolves is by nature a church that reacts and changes based on whatever happens to them. The damaging force introduces the next evolutionary step, not one that is thought out but one that is drawn out of a need to preserve relationship. Actions that often contradict each other start to happen bringing division to a church unable to handle the slightest amount of conflict. Sides are taken and protective walls are put in place. Now the people have turned on each other while at the same time trying to maintain relationships with each other. Now the cost of peace at any cost is peace itself.
Don’t let evolution become a part of your church history.
Once the outside force is dealt with, assuming the church does not crumble, the remaining people are left with a way of functioning that they do not understand, did not choose and does not serve any purpose but to avoid a repeat of what had happened. In this is the reason why church and evolution don’t work. Survival of the fittest is not a doctrine to allow to dictate what you do and why you do it that way. The tools that contributed to the survival of the church in the good times are too weak to protect against the bad times. The tools that came out of the bad times are for one purpose only, to survive and are unfit for nurturing and growing a healthy church in the good times. An unhealthy church will repeat the same behaviours over and over because it doesn’t see where they came.
At some point the circle will end. Either vision is introduced and the church has purpose or relationship is so badly broken that there is no longer a reason for the church to exist. The former allows for a measuring stick to assess any force introduced whether internal or external. The latter creates ministry silos to protect from any force internal or external with no measuring stick to see what is good and what is bad. This leads to the death of relationships in the body of believers and the birth of combative camps splintering out of what was once an evolving church.
Churches evolve based on human plans which will eventually fail. Only those who seek God will discover true vision/purpose.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21(NIV)