MCLEAN, Va. The greatest problem in the Church isn't a lack of education or resources or a need for better worship or preaching. But what the church lacks most is guts, says the leader of a flourishing twenty-something church.
It's time for a leadership "gut check," said Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington.
Over 500 leaders of twenty- and thirty-somethings nodded their heads realizing what they needed wasn't just more information on how to do ministry, but the guts to actually put faith into practice.
It was a Friday afternoon and the second day of the Leadnow Conference, organized by The Rightnow Campaign for the first time in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Conference attendants had already gone through a day and a half of sessions and discussions on the emerging generation and how to build a successful twenty- and thirty-something ministry. By Saturday, when the conference ends, some may be heading back to their churches and doing "ministry as usual" without implementing all the tips and insights they picked up in the past two days.
"What we really need at the end of a conference like this is the guts ... not more information ... just the guts to step out and do what God has called us to do," said Batterson.
"Where [are] my guts to step up and step out in faith?" he asked the crowd.
It took guts for Batterson and his wife to pack their bags and move from Missouri to Washington where they had no guaranteed salary or place to live. Today, Batterson has a church in three locations that draws around 1,200 attendants, most of whom are in their twenties.
The twenty- and thirty-something crowd isn't a major focus group in many churches, noted Dan Kimball, founding pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, Calif., which targets the emerging post-Christian culture. But there are a lot more church plants that are resonating with people in their twenties, he said.
And church plants geared toward the emerging generation have taken on a lot more creativity in their reach. Creativity in a postmodern or post-Christian world, as some leaders say, requires some guts.
"[T]here are ways of doing church that no one's thought of yet," said Batterson. "God is infinitely creative. We need lots of different kinds of churches because there are lots of different kinds of people."
Batterson set up his church in the marketplace, targeting millions of passer-bys at Union Station and drawing regular crowds at their own coffeehouse what he called the "wells" of today.
"As long as the Church stays on the periphery, our culture will not experience an epiphany," said the Washington pastor.
"The more we ignore culture, the more irrelevant we become and if the Church ignores culture, the culture will ignore the Church," he said.
But imitating culture can be a form of suicide on originality and can lead to cultural conformity. If we don't shape culture, then the culture will shape us, he continued.
Then there's the option of condemning culture. Condemnation, however, is a cop out, said Batterson. The Church has to start offering better alternatives rather than point the finger. If the Church condemns the culture, the culture condemns the Church.
So there's only one option left create culture. Criticize by creating, said Batterson, quoting Michelangelo. Engage, create and redeem culture, he added.
Challenging the ministry leaders to step out and redeem the culture, Batterson told them they need more preaching guts, leadership guts, and evangelism guts.
And along the way of revealing some boldness, leaders are also going to have to be willing to look foolish.
"Faith is the willingness to look foolish," said Batterson. "If you aren't willing to look foolish, you won't experience the miracles of God."
The national Leadnow Conference launched last year and focuses on unleashing twenty- and thirty-somethings into action. It teaches participants to not only learn but to implement through a connections table and a learning lab called The Fusion Experience. The third and final 2007 Leadnow Conference is scheduled to hit Dallas in September.