Sunday, January 15, 2006

Crazy Church

Have you ever stood in a church, entrance, hallway or parking lot and listened to stories that sounded like you were listening to a soap opera or a prime time movie only to find out that the story was about a local Christian community?

Local churches all over the world are shattered so often that it is almost an expected result. Pastors are fired, members storm off, staff members take a group from one church to start another just down the road. Business meetings become filled with yelling, fighting and screaming, believers taking sides against fellow believers. Then there are power plays, deception, and alliances that would make reality TV look sane.

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, "How in the world did the church get here? Is this what church is supposed to be like?" No wonder that many people fall away from the institutional church.

Have you ever wondered why members of the church of the living God sometimes act like nonbelievers?

Have you ever thought that church might be fun and fulfilling, were it not for the people inside the building? (I heard one pastor say .. jokingly “I love ministry, it is people I hate.” Or was it?)
Have you ever been so completed outraged by actions in the church that you swore off church completely? Have you ever felt that going to church was a waste of your time? Have you ever wondered why God would even save some of these folk, much less use them in a local church?

Well, so have I. You read correctly. I have been frustrated by churches that I have served in. But truthfully, so are most pastors. When we gather with friends or in conventions and meetings, ministers often speak in hushed tones and whispers, relaying stories of horrific business meetings, contentious committees, and brutal fellowships and relationships.
Virtually every Christian, active in a local assembly, can share stories that defy the imagination. Church is not supposed to be this way!

Does any of this resonate with you? I may be a little naive... but I don't think that it should be that hard to get along with people... yet I've found that people offend very easily (I don't believe that I get offended that easily) Should getting along really be all that hard? Why do churches have to be nastier (or at least as nasty) as the world sometimes?

For the next few weeks I'd like to invite you along for the journey... and I would like to hear your stories. BUT here is the catch! Do not include names or places of churches in your stories. If a real name of a person or a church appears, I will pull the post…as I had to do in a previous response. Let us learn from each other…ok?


Mark said...

Ok, I'll start.

I knew this guy once... his name was... um, Jerry (with a 'J' not a 'G')...

No, really I will have a story later in the week to share, but I want to note one thing right now. Soulpastor, you mention that many Christians are very thin skinned, and hence get "hurt" easily.

I am not a thin skinned person (actually, it would be really hard to hurt me unless you know me very very well), so this is an observation from outside of the thin skinned family. I don't actually think there are many Christians who are thin skinned (full stop). Rather, i think that there are many many Christians who are thin skinned with respect to other Christians, but then with their non-Christian friends or co-workers, they are quite "normal."

i don't think that I have any good worked out theory about this, but I'd be interested to see whether you (soulpastor) or others do.

SoulPastor said...

Mark B
Thinned Skinned!??
I will agree with you, many Christians are thinned in respect to other Christians.

But why? Is it the standard that they hold each other to, but cannot or do not follow?

What about the non-Christian friends and co-workers? ARE they treated normal? Is there even a relationship there???...these are questions that are hard to answer.


snippyG said...

I went on a missions trip to Britain for a year, and got involved in a local church. What an amazing church! It more than doubled that year... all new believers. People would stand up at the front of the church, and confess their sins publicly and get prayed for. Then a bunch more people would say they were struggling too, and they would get healing. There were baptisms almost every week. Teens started Christian groups in their schools, and new young people were becoming Christians like crazy.

Anyways... it was AMAZING. So, when I got home, I had changed. But everything around me was the same. I went to church. It was just Blah blah blah, to be honest. The pastor would preach. Blah blah blah. Then he was caught with a woman. The people would gossip, then "share prayer requests" in church. Blah Blah Blah.... I went to a different church. More problems. I tried a third church. Blah Blah Blah. All talk, no action. No love. So I quit, and I didn't walk into the doors of a church for 2 years.

When I finally got brave enough to try again, I had moved to a new city. I walked in... but I didn't look Christian enough with my blue hair and army pants. I literally had fingers waggled at me, and heard tsks. I introduced myself to some college-aged kids, a little younger than myself, and they didn't even say "hi", let alone their name. Then the pastor got up and before he started his sermon, he informed the congregation that the board had decided to SUE the building contractors for not getting the work done fast enough. I walked out of that church and didn't walk back in for another 2 years.

Why do these things happen? I don't know, but I pray that I will never be a part of the tsker crowd. It's amazing that even with the things that happened to me, I still fall into the judgement trap so easily. I think that often it's when we think of ourselves more highly than we ought, that we offend people, and step on them, and get nasty. James 4:1 "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it." That's human,the "flesh", and it's about pride, and it's what Christians shouldn't be like but we are.

filletofsoul said...

I think some people are "thin skinned" because they are told that their church is a "safe place". When they do make themselves vulnerable they end up being judged, criticisied etc. Of course you would expect their reaction to be somewhat more extreme because they have just opened themselves up only to be hurt. I also think we have higher expectations of people in the church, especially the leaders. This also generally just leads to disappointment.

Sue said...

i don't have a problem with blue hair, obvious addiction, or even back-stabbing gossip in the church. we are, after all, a bunch of sinners. of course we will behave like sinners. but having been saved by grace i do have a problem with nailing Christ to the cross over and over again by not seeking repentence and changing my own behavior.

SoulPastor said...

I like that point Sue!
There is the responsibility of Change and transformation. How many of us really want to see change, but realize that when it is asked of us we stop short?

Filletofsoul (That name again...yikes)
Your comment gets me thinking. WHEN people make themselves vulnerable there are serious consequences...but your statement about higher expectations...especially of leaders got me going. What came to mind was MADTV's version of "Lowered Expectations"

So, what I hear you saying is, leaders (because of higher expectations) cannot afford to make mistakes? Thus a leader must be perfect?

filletofsoul said...


No....pastors do not need to be perfect. What I'm saying is that people in leadership need to think very carefully about what they say, how they respond, and how they act. I know you; you're not perfect, there is no hope of you attaining perfection (ha ha) and that would be an unrealistic expectation of any leader. I do believe though that even the Bible does assume that leaders within the church should be and are more accountable than its members.

Little Worshiper said...

I disagree that leaders within the church should be and are more accountable than its memebers. That allows the other church members to put pastors or leaders on a spiritual pedistal. Yes, they need to be careful how they live but so do any Christians.
Pastors and leaders are more accountable because they teach (James 3)but i don't think it has to do with the way they live. Everyone needs to live like Jesus.

Robbymac said...

Little worshipper is dead on!

I've been on both sides -- clergy and parishioner (sorry, total oldskewl phrase, that), and I've seen good pastors sliced and diced by power-hungry people in the church, and I've seen good (struggling, sinful, but seriously trying to follow Jesus) people treated abusively by power-hungry pastors. It cuts both ways.

filletofsoul said...

Try reading 1 Timothy 3

Leaders in the Church
It is a true saying that if someone wants to be an elder,* he desires an honorable responsibility. 2 For an elder must be a man whose life cannot be spoken against. He must be faithful to his wife.* He must exhibit self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home and must be able to teach. 3 He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, peace loving, and not one who loves money. 4 He must manage his own family well, with children who respect and obey him. 5 For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God's church?
6 An elder must not be a new Christian, because he might be proud of being chosen so soon, and the Devil will use that pride to make him fall.* 7 Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not fall into the Devil's trap and be disgraced.
8 In the same way, deacons must be people who are respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers and must not be greedy for money. 9 They must be committed to the revealed truths of the Christian faith and must live with a clear conscience. 10 Before they are appointed as deacons, they should be given other responsibilities in the church as a test of their character and ability. If they do well, then they may serve as deacons.
11 In the same way, their wives* must be respected and must not speak evil of others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do.
12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well. 13 Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.

If that was the expectation of every person attending a church, we would have to keep some people out! While every christian should lead a Godly life, not every person is at the same place on their journey. I don't agree with you, little worshiper. Leaders ARE more accountable and it does also include the way they live. Also, your comment, "That allows the other church members to put pastors or leaders on a spiritual pedistal." My thought is we should see them as good role models of the christian life to encourage others in their own spiritual walks. Role models are good and healthy examples for people to follow.

SoulPastor said...

I like what is going on here...keep the dialogue coming.

kenny said... of my angsts that I feel strongly about.
in my early days of being a christian, I went to a church...and struggled, wrestled with unwanted same sex issues. This is a no no subject to breech...especially in this church. If I was praying...and looking like I was progressing everything was well. If I struggled, then I was not trying hard enough, was not seeking prayer enough or better yet, was not praying enough or reading the word. So I got engaged to a wonderful woman, because I thought I was strong enough...because I was praying and reading my bible. Then BAM, temptation hits, I fall and decided to leave it all...and the fiance. Did any one of the pastors call me up...ask...hey man, what's up? did not hear from anyone. So I fell further away, until I just gave up on church, faith all together. If that is what it means to be a christian...not for me!
Now that I am back in church, ya, I still have issues, still am concerned about "how much do they really care" for the flock. Is the pastor or those in leadership really sincere...are the people in the body sincere. I have issues with the body...and I hate that. I see people who half heartedly praise God in corporate worship. Who look like they just came from a bar and sound like it too. ARGH, wish I did not struggle so much with the church. I wish church was more unified, that we lived and breathed the new testiment version of "church". House groups, where you built community, and had corporate worship.
So is late...just wanted to say a few thoughts.