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Never Outrun a Grizzly Bear
Posted on September 1, 2020 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Leadership
Have you ever experienced success? Did you try to do the same thing hoping for success the next time, too? While visiting Las Vegas, I learned that one of the predictors of a gambling addiction was an early win. Gamblers will keep looking for that thrill even though it never happens again and they lose their shirt. What began as a pastime became a new lifestyle. 

The year 2020 is leaving us reeling because of the pandemic, business closures, racial unrest, just to name a few. In our churches we now have services regularly on Facebook Live and small groups meeting via Zoom. Some of what we knew we shouldn’t be doing we did anyway. At least two church services had to go back online since members tested positive. It’s easy to focus on just one week at a time. 

Tod Bolsinger, author of Canoeing the Mountains, said that when he was out jogging, he violated every rule when he encountered a black bear near his home in California. He didn’t stand his ground, talk loudly, and wave his arms. Instead, he ran screaming down a hillside back to his cabin. When he shared the story with a tour guide in Alaska, he expected her to a approve of his escape technique. Instead, she said, “Jeez. You were really lucky. If you do that up here, a bear will kill you.” Tod, who is the vice president and chief of leadership formation at Fuller Theological Seminary went on to say, “Most of us trying to bring change in a post-Christendom world are attempting to use lessons we learned in one situation that are keeping us from adapting to a new spiritual terrain. But perhaps a humble stance of curiosity, awareness and attention, as well as healthy skepticism at our own success, may indeed be the first lessons we need to learn, especially when our egos are on the line.”

CABA planned 2020 around church revitalization. What we could not have predicted is that almost all of our churches now face the need for revitalization. Some pastors are telling me that their attendance is really low, but their financial giving is up. Other pastors are slacking off planning for a post-Covid situation, figuring on returning to normal. But they were saying that in April looking to June. In June, they were saying that about August when school resumed. And now we’re looking hopefully at November after the election. Meanwhile, the church paradigm is shifting. As the Steve Miller Band used to sing, time keeps on slipping into the future. The Barna Group’s surveys from mid-July found that one out of three church members have stopped in-person church attendance and 14% have already switched to a new church. 

CABA is providing new learning opportunities for pastors and church leaders based on a new emerging reality in the Cincinnati Area. It’s more than about coping, but infusing new skill sets that address deep church revitalization. After all, you can’t outrun a grizzly bear. 

--Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association. He enjoys hiking, but has never been near a grizzly!
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