We all know the signs we must pay attention to on the road – speed limits, curves ahead, school zone. There is one, however, that most of us probably ignore – the one that tells us the slowest speed we should travel.
So much emphasis is placed on the dangers of going too fast. That can lead to accidents or speeding tickets. But going too slow? We rarely hear warnings that there is a safe speed below which we should not go.
But the minimum speed sign on the highway is not simply there for advice, and congregations should take heed The technical law in many states for minimum speed is “penalty for impeding the flow of traffic.” In ministry, as in life, this can be as reckless as going too fast. Thinking that change will be accommodated more easily by going as slowly as possible might turn out to be akin to the drip…drip…drip of some kind of torture. It may also send the unfortunate message that if we go slow enough we will not have to change.
Of course, driving too fast for conditions in a congregation will set back almost everything – congregational growth and vitality, a pastor’s relationship to her/his congregation, as well as the ability to welcome new people to faith communities. But in a culture where everything is going faster and faster, not even getting close to matching the speed of cultural flow can quickly make a congregation irrelevant or overlooked. How can the church be in conversation with the culture where God has planted us if all they see of us is a group of well-intentioned people being passed going 20 miles an hour in a 60 MPH zone?
Yes, watch for curves and don’t drive recklessly 25 miles over the speed limit. But just as much, in our ministry we need to keep in mind that staying up with the flow of traffic is just as important to congregational vitality and our winsome efforts to present the gospel to a hungry world.