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Fall In Love or Fall In Line
Chris Matthews, a political commentator on MSNBC television made this observation about U.S. presidential election politics recently. “Typically Democrats pick their nominee by eventually ‘falling in love’ with one of the candidates; Republican elites eventually pick a candidate and everyone else is expected to ‘fall in line’ with that nominee.”

The moment he made that comment, I thought to myself, “That is precisely what today’s generations are looking for from church. Let me explain.

Research shows that the style of pastoral leadership, the climate of grace, the demographics of the ‘regulars’, the service initiatives in the community...all form the fabric of a congregation that either appeals to first-time visitors or it doesn’t. Either the congregation embraces the individual quite quickly (or vice versa) or it doesn’t.

It’s that sense of belonging we’ve been talking about for years. Few people are searching for a spiritual home where others point out their “sins” and insist that they fall in line or be roundly criticized, shunned, or disfellowshiped.

If you think I am calling for lowering standards, think again. Those congregations that are growing these days ask for high commitments of time, talent and treasure from their attendees. But the way in which they do that is by providing high degrees of belonging, developing a shared vision of what God wants them to do and be, offering quality tools for achieving that mission and then keeping up the chant, “Yes we can!” It’s a pro-strengths environment; a place of encouragement and possibilities.

So, what kind of congregation are you attending or leading? Are people falling in love with it or falling in line with it?

INNOVATIONewsletter, March 5, 2008, The Center for Creative Ministry