Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist and a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics. He developed the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics alongside quantum mechanics. He published more than 300 scientific papers along with over 150 non-scientific works. On December 5, 2014, universities and archives announced the release of Einstein’s papers, comprising more than 30,000 unique documents. One of those documents is his definition of insanity, which I believe is a foundational truth in many areas of life.
While in seminary, I look back with regrets that I did not learn how true this principle applies to the work of the local church. Many church leaders may believe Einstein’s principle of insanity but their actions prove differently with the practice of “we have always done it this way.” These seven words have helped to close the doors of thousands of churches every year across America. In an article that appeared in 2013, the Huffington Post states, “…somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 churches close their doors every year.”
Closely akin to “we have always done it this way” is the phrase, “the River Road way.” As an outsider, I have observed that there are many good and positive things about “the River Road way.” Statistics presented in the membership demographics of the Congregational Profile recently released by the Pastor Search Committee, reveal some realities that are very concerning.
For example, in the past eight years there has been a decrease in membership of 7%. During that same period there has been a 17% decrease in worship attendance. At the end of 2015, we had 1,334 resident members, a weekly average worship attendance of 291, and a contribution base of 463 giving units (in most situations a husband and wife are considered as one giving unit). It would be safe to say that the current active membership is much less than the 1,334 names on the role.
River Road Church is at a critical cross road. With transition in key ministerial and administrative leadership, “doing the same thing over and over expecting different results” is not an option if this church is going to be a viable servant for the Kingdom of Heaven in Richmond, VA. Transition and change can be a very exciting part of “the River Road Way,” if the membership begins to pray and become obedient to the answer to those prayers. Embraced change brings hope and anticipation, resisted change brings defeat and turmoil.
In His Service,