Is God Reshuffling the Decks?

Orginally published on Wednesday, November 08, 2006 at 3:12 PM
by Todd Rhoades

I wonder, if those that believe Postmodernism is of the devil have ever considered the possibility that God has given us Postmodernism for the express purpose of shaking the scales of irrelevance off His church?

For decades, nay even centuries, the church around the world has become more and more institutionalized each generation.  If we were to think about the story of the Old Testament we would see the same thing about the “institution” of the prophets.  When we first run into the prophets they seem to be these independent people just wandering around the desert doing God’s bidding.  Somehow over the years they became part of the fabric of the institution of the Jewish religion and its structures.  There’s no doubt that over the years the ministry of the prophets became more and more institutionalized until Jesus came on the scene.  In His eyes, religion had become too “religious” and had drifted so far from God’s intention that it was hardly recognizable.  It needed a fresh look at itself and in Jesus there was no one better suited to force that issue.

Then we have the “church.” For almost 400 years the church was extremely decentralized and remained so until the era of Constantine.  From that moment on the church began the move towards more centralization and institution.  Even taking the short break of the Protestant Revolution into account, the movement in God’s church has been towards institution, tradition, & sadly more replication of the same.  That is until today and this can be seen most clearly in the new type of leader experienced in a growing number of churches.

God is once again calling His churches to change, adapt, and become the relevant body of His people that we were created to be.  The salt has become saltless in so many local manifestations of Christ’s body that God has decided to work through different avenues and vessels for His church to impact people as He desired.  The tremendous exodus of our young people, the stagnation of our mainline churches, and the reduced influence that most local churches have on their local cultures are all results, I would submit, of the continued institutionalization of God’s church.  I wonder, if those that believe Postmodernism is of the devil have ever considered the possibility that God has given us Postmodernism for the express purpose of shaking the scales of irrelevance off His church?  Can it be that God is providing His church the unprecedented opportunity to engage a generation and a culture who wants to engage the “why” as well as the “what?” Didn’t Jesus say the same thing in His Sermon on the Mount?  Why we do what we do is even more important to Jesus than what it is we actually do!

How does this impact leadership (since that’s what this mini-article is all about?) God is filling His seminaries with people who are leaving the business world.  God is causing many people who have never ministered in a church to start churches throughout our country without even having the experience of a seminary.  At the same time God is allowing/causing many of those who have ministered as pastors for years to leave full time ministry in the church and is sending them out into the secular world (or in some cases the para-church.) God is reshuffling the decks! 

If God is doing it then it must be a good thing meant for the good of His church.  God not only prunes individuals so they can be more fruitful but doesn’t it stand to reason that He prunes His church for the same purpose?  As the mega-church influences more and more local communities you will see more and more stagnated mainline churches (the very reason and opening for the mega-church) heading in different directions vis-à-vis their hiring of pastors.  It is so difficult for someone without experience to get a foot in the door but that old paradigm is being challenged sporadically throughout the country.  Getting the “ear” of a church when you have only secular business experience is almost impossible but for God’s direct hand of intervention. 

The old paradigm of a church leader who is hired to “keep things the same” is dying (albeit too slowly.) Even the mega-church is being confronted well in advance of the reality of what to do with the next generation.  Their investment in buildings and land alone necessitates that they stay ahead of the cultural curve rather than woefully behind it as has been the case for far too long in the mainline churches.  God is allowing the fresh thinking of those He had previously placed in the secular world to change the DNA of His church.  The need for fresh thinking is undeniable since the issues confronting us are many and mighty.

How do we combine the generations rather than continue to separate them?  How do we best fulfill our commission to reach our local and global fellow men and women?  How do we intentionally reach out to the increasingly changing multiple cultures around us?  These questions aren’t new, however it does seem that the rapidity of change that we are experiencing today is unprecedented.  God’s Spirit is moving many of His people who have answered those same questions outside the church to bring their experiences, gifting, and love for Him, inside the church for full time pastoral ministry.

Using the well known DISC personality analysis, the old “steady relater” or “S” type senior pastor is fast decreasing whereas the “Driven/Dominant” or “D’ senior pastor is growing each day.  This is especially true in our churches that are growing and/or turning around 10-20 years of decline.  It will be their responsibility to surround themselves with others who exhibit some of the other personality traits that they don’t have as their dominant ones but make no mistake, God is bringing a new type of church leader to His church. 

What will this mean for “the” mega-church?  Lord willing, it should at least provide a healthy alternative to those who wouldn’t thrive in the mega-church environment but have no other choice if they seek relevance in the teaching, preaching, and arts of the church.  Now they will be able to have their “cake” and eat it too!  Many more older mainline churches that have experienced huge declines will now grow to a number that in no way threatens the mega- church but at the same time will provide those that God calls there an environment equally relevant as that of the mega-church with the added bonus of being a place where they are “known” and relationships with a greater percentage of the body is available.  Sort of the mini-mega-church!  Maybe I just coined a phrase!

I thank God that He has privileged me in becoming a senior pastor of an old mainline church (114 years old) that has experienced all the aforementioned with a huge success story of 9,000 right in our own back yard!  The past 4 months of ministry (my first 4 months of ministry) has been awesome and I have personally seen God’s hand move in a mighty way in our people’s hearts.  I have seen what happens to older and younger people as they begin to comprehend and trust in the freedom that exists through Jesus Christ.  I’m thankful that He has sent me to a church full of older saints that truly want to be led in becoming a people who reaches out in love to others.  I finally understand why God placed me where He did for the previous 24 years in the business world and I can only praise Him for it with great joy, passion, and enthusiasm.  Thank you Lord!

About the author:  Phil Dilernia is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Wayne, MI.  FBC is a church in transition, becoming a multi-cultural as well as a multi-generational church.

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  There are 2 Comments:

  • Posted by Randy Ehle

    I must say I was surprised - albeit pleasantly - to read an article here written by the pastor of First Baptist Church of Wayne, MI.  Last time I looked (a year ago?), FBC barely had a website, let alone a pastor who would contribute to or even look at a site like MMI!  I speak with some history with FBC Wayne; it is the church my mother grew up in, the one in which my grandmother was a member until her death in 1988.  Suffice it to say, it does not have a recent history of innovation.  I am, however, very encouraged by Phil’s words here and by some of the things I’ve seen on their website.  It will be very interesting to see how God works through Phil to effect some (probably much needed) change.

    P.S. to Phil:  I would be interested in talking with you regarding the constitutional changes you are considering.  I may be able to offer some input that could prove helpful.  Feel free to shoot me an e-mail.

  • Posted by Phil DiLernia

    Hi Randy:

    Are you Bob & Marylin’s son?  I met with them and they both were/are a great encouragement to what God is doing here in Wayne.  Thanks for the encouraging words as well.  You can reach me at any time through email at and I would be glad to “speak” with you!


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