Thursday, January 29, 2009


Last week I said…
“Yet, a lot of people say they attend “church,” but few have made the commitment to a faith community. “So Gerry, what you are saying it is not enough to say they attend?” YES. I am, it’s a commitment to the community! And when you do that you are also committing yourself to be on a path to spiritual growth and accountability.”

There are many people who are just “dating” a church. It’s an interesting deal. We have a lot of first time people. It’s like the first date. People go and check other churches out then each side spends time trying to figure each other out. It’s even legitimate to go on a second, third, fourth, fifth, maybe even a sixth date! But there comes a point in dating a church, like there is a point in a dating relationship with another person, where you need to have to have the conversation. You know, where you have to Define The Relationship. It’s like—“are we just going to continue to date or is there more here than just us hanging out together?” I think it was a question Sharon asked me… Are we going to commit? I mean, there has to be some kind of give and take. So it is with the church. It’s okay to date the church for a while. But after a reasonable period, shouldn’t you just have this defining conversation? You see, a lot of people like to date the church because it keeps them positioned as “outsiders.” They are up there in the stands, they aren’t down in the game. They are just consumers. They’re not really contributors. They are observers. They aren’t participants. So, a lot of people like to stay in the dating area. News flash: The church is not better off because you come and occupy a seat.

I would like to know your thoughts…


Rebecca said...

It was a good sermon and it actually made me think, I've been coming to Soul regularly for a good 3 months now, and I love it. I am more comfortable at Soul than any other church I've ever been to in my life (not exaggerating) and it basically got me and my fiancee thinking it is about time that we look into membership, or at least start to 'define our relationship' with Soul. It was a great sermon! Something that needed to be heard.

Anonymous said...

If it was good I hope it will be available on iTunes podcasts. I will download it as I have many of your sermons.

In a way, my initial response to your post made me feel a bit insulted. After thinking about it, yes, you are correct. Churches are not better off just because people sit in a seat.

I think it is equally important for churches to look at themselves and ensure they are prepared to accept new contributors and members to their established faith communities.

Currently, I am an outsider hoping to someday be an active member of a church community. I have not yet attended Soul but hope to in the near future. I have heard many good things about it and would like to give it a try. Just like meeting someone for the first time, first impressions are what many relationships are based on. If I find the community open and welcoming I will "date" it to see if its a community in which I'm wanting to settle.

Anonymous said...

I think if you want commitment, you need to rethink your marketing of Refuge, Repair, Rejuvenation.

Those that come from bad church experiences will attest that they are not necessarily better off being members of any community.

I have been a few times "dating" the church, and the community didn't really seem very interested in me.

So if you want a relationship, You need to define what it is that you expect.. but so far it doesn't feel like what is expressed on the sign on the door.

I'd like to be involved, be a part, KNOW people and have community..
Where is your path to that??

Anonymous said...


You mentioned that you have been "dating" and it appeared that the community didn't really seem interested in you. OK, if someone is not interested in me,maybe I need to ask why, before pointing my finger at others!

My question is How do you date?

Anonymous #3

novice said...

"I think if you want commitment, you need to rethink your marketing of Refuge, Repair, Rejuvenation."

Anon #2, I want to answer this from the perspective of someone who echoed your question exactly not that long ago.

I visited Soul for the first time in pretty similar circumstances to what you describe. To be honest, it was largely to pacify my friends that I really was looking for a church even though I wasn't.

It was the refuge, repair and rejuvenation that kept me at Soul after the first time I visited. I could sit quietly at the back and not be forced into more than a handshake at the door. It took me a long time to feel like I had anything to contribute. As soon as I did, though, I moved from just receiving refuge, repair and rejuvenation to being a part of it. Those three things need not be passive - in fact, I don't even know if they can be.

You ask where the path is... There are requests for involvement in the weekly every sunday ranging from casual to committed and in an amazing variety of roles. And there's always an invitation to chat with someone on the pastoral staff (I think Dave, the community life pastor, is the nicest, most non-threatening man I've ever met). If you want to be involved, he knows the how, the where and the what for just about everything going on. A single phone call, e-mail or contact form will get you in touch with him. The hard part for me was wanting to.

None of this is unique to Soul. If you want to be part of any group of people you look at what they're doing and join in. It took me too long to figure that one out, about a year and a half. Just when I was literally about to leave Soul, Gerry gave a message not at all unlike this past Sunday's. It made me uncomfortable enough that I decided to do something about it.

Soul runs me off my feet sometimes with the stuff I'm involved with (in a good way!) but I see no conflict with the message of "Refuge, Repair, Rejuvenation". If anything, those three words have become more real the more I am part of a community that really believes in them.

Anonymous said...

I am just thinking...a question to myself that is & possibly others.

Isn't this a heart thing then? A matter of committment goes much deeper then the dating part. So, if I am not in 'love' or honestly don't care about the needs of my church; the worship time together, the church body, community, outreach, ministry, the Brokenhearted, the Addict, children ministry, the single mom/dad, the dying..then I guess I wouldn't have that desire to commit, if these thing's don't mean anything to me in reaching the lost.

So I would have to ask myself, why am I taking up space on a Sunday morning, if I can pass it to someone who is longing for a committment to make a difference in reaching the lost before Christs return; to minister to children, to offer a hand in, to take the burden off another brother or sister who may be overburned in ministry work and perhaps would like a day of rest to sit with their family in worship time while I take some time to nurture the relationship with community and begin to serve, pour a cup a coffee, hold a baby in the nursery, teach our children in Soul Kids, etc..etc..

I wonder how much stronger our relationship would be as a community and what that would mean for someone else that walked in and took a seat and observed the relationship and say to themselves.."Wow, I want a committment like that in my life".

GotMyAttention said...

Question from someone who is currently looking to date a church, so to speak, and find one with whom to forge a deep commitment.

How long do you think it should take before you know it's the one?

Scott said...

A whole lot of anonymity here, why is everyone so scared to share your name?


If we all gave our seats up because we thought we didn't need to be committed people in those seats, where would all the committed people go that would lead the non-committed.

"I think if you want commitment, you need to rethink your marketing of Refuge, Repair, Rejuvenation."

I think if you want commitment, you NEED to have the 3 R's. If people come to Soul warn out by other religious institutions, they first need some rest. The damaged needs to be repaired. With time, rejuvenation occurs, and a commitment surely has been made by this time. The 3 R's don't come over night. So there already is commitment in the sense that one has stayed long enough to experience the 3 R's.

Essentially, once one is rejuvenated, they will up their commitment level, or at least take charge and start helping out if they haven't already.

Anonymous said...

The church receives my tithes without any commitment.

Karen said...

Could you explain your statement please.

"The church receives my tithes without any commitment."

Do you mean that you don't necessarily want to involve yourself in the relational activities of the church but you still give financially? or Do you mean that although you tithe you don't feel that there is any commitment on the church's part to you?

thinker said...

Hmmm. Kinda rubs my fur the wrong way a bit. That's okay though, don't mind my cage rattled a bit. I'm also atypical and mature enough to handle that. Others may just give you the old salute. But as other pastors have discovered, maybe those kind of losses are okay when you are trying to find the ones who will commit and pay a bit of a price. Yes, that is a bit of bitterness showing through. Once bit.
There is a lot to chew on here so here goes...
What is reasonable? Life is a journey and most of us have history, many with other churches. Reasonable to you and reasonable to me may be two very different things. Reasonable may even be a longer period of time than Soul has even existed for. Reasonable might be 5 years it might be 10. Are you up for a courtship that long? I'm currently fixing up a relationship with a long history. It might take me a while. I'm committed to whatever time it takes and to doing it with passion. I don't ask how long its going to take nor do I demand a defining conversation after what I think is a reasonable time. And so I think it is with many people who are attracted by the 3 R's style of church. They have history and it takes some time to earn their trust. Is that easy? No. It means laying down your life everyday without expectations of return. Freely given. Not just freely, but abundantly, with passion. You decide you want to get in this game you better be prepared to suck it up. You want some players to get down on the field, get dirty and bloody, you better be prepared to do the same. Some of us have been there and still have the coach's boot print on our ass to show for it...
...and what do you mean defining? Does that mean we sit down and decide whether we still want to 'go out' with each other? That sounds more than a little confrontational and along the lines of an ultimatum. Maybe your intention is to provoke the observers to become participants. I understand the frustration of pastors. Feeling like you are merely putting on a show every Sunday for the crowd. How do you inspire them to really live their faith? How do you quantify that? Is it by how much time and effort they put into supporting the 'church'? Is that what you mean by contributor? Is that how we find out who the really committed people are? Traditionally, yes. I don't really like that model. I prefer something a bit more military. Let me explain. When you are building an army what is its purpose? It is to go out, preferably as some type of unit, to fight a battle. When I come back to base I need a few things. I need a medic, I need a safe place to rest for a bit, I need someone to teach me how to defend better and how to fight better. Then I need to get back out there and do what I'm called to do. I don't need to hang around base endlessly training and trying to prove my commitment level. I'm not downplaying the importance of community, it is important. But what is church? Is it the place where we 'get involved' and 'get in the game'? My game is not in those four walls, it's outside. Often I am just a consumer but it is for a purpose. Maybe a defining conversation is just that, maybe it should define what are you here for and what am I here for. I'm not into the cloister.

That being said...

I do feel convicted to be there more often. If only to find others of like mind who want to band together as a unit and figure out how to get out of the walls and impact the world.
News Flash: the church is better off if I'm not always there occupying a seat...

Misty B said...

One of my co-workers was sharing his New Year's resolutions with me. He talked about getting in shape, quitting smoking, and getting his spiritual life in order. I realized only later that when he talked about getting his spiritual life in order he simply meant making a commitment to go to church every Sunday.

Part of me wants to challenge that but the other part believes that perhaps he needs refuge for a while at a church. When I think about these issues I always think about the non-believer. In order to be a safe place for a lot of them, maybe it needs to be okay to just come on Sunday and let God work in them on Sunday morning and through the rest of the week.

That said, there are people who are being called to get connected and are ignoring that call. If God tugs your heart to get involved you will be blessed by answering that call.

Rachel H. said...

Everyone goes through seasons in their life. At times we are only 'attenders', for various reasons. Been hurt before so afraid to commit, 'feeling out' the fit of the church you're in because you're new, or personal crisis has caused you to step down from ministries you were previously involved in.

But I think a time comes for everyone where you feel you have found your home. And as simplistic as this might sound, as soon as a ministry gives you reason to complain about it, I believe that's the time to get involved!!! If you care enough to complain, you probably 'have' enough to help!

(And Gerry - nope, no Koolaid in the punch! haha....just a reason for a fun party! you know me...)

Meh.. said...

Maybe if you axed the entertainment aspect of the service. Secular music is not a treat, can't escape it.. now it's a fixture in the church.

If you don't want consumers, don't do the entertainment

The church needs to decide what it's going to be.

If it is to look act and be like the world.. hey who is getting married anymore.

you want to get serious?


SoulPastor said...

Many interesting comments and statements. Thanks for the input. However, it appears like Meh has some issues and really don't deal with the topic...

As for others who want to post...please use something to identify yourself other than anonymous. Especially if you are from Selkirk!

Karl said...

I remember the first Sunday I came to Soul, either the nursery or Soulkids was short for volunteers and Pastor Gerry sat down and said. We need volunteers and I am not starting until we have some. A few months later my wife and I were mingling with people during coffee and a member of the steering committee asked us if we would go meet some people who were new. All it takes sometimes is a little nudge in the right direction.

thinker said...

I'm Stuart. Forgot I wasn't using my real name...

SoulPastor said...

Point of clarification for some.

The reference regarding Selkirk has to deal with someone who attempted to post anonymously and they are living in Selkirk. (I know these things....don't ask)

Secondly, Meh... You are
'invited to the party' but when you stand behind anonymity, then it is really impossible for anyone to have a relationship. Seriously.

A relationship is formed on getting to know and in that process building trust. I find it difficult to build trust with people who hide and yet are free to take shots at me simply because I share my thoughts openly.

The problem with me hosting a blog is that I do not hide behind a Pseudonym, rather you know who I am. Add to that my responsibility of being a pastor in a community of a faith that a lot of people have no time for! So,it is very easy to take apart anything I write and read your own emotions into it and then say or make accusations without any accountability.

It is time to Define the Relationship...don't you think? In defining a relationship we should meet, talk, laugh, discuss and even disagree...but things like that are done in person, face to face.

kmawesome said...

I have found that as i actually got involved it helped make the 3 r's come more alive for me than just sitting in a seat and listening. however i will admit i did need a time of non commitment, but when i was wanting to get involved i thought I'd find something with little commitment, working in the nursery every 4-5 weeks worked well for me cause i didn't have to do anything but play with babies and that was ok, i felt like i was contributing, but, personally i didn't really get much out of it, so that's when i knew i needed to move on to something else, and although i thought i was not much of a candidate for anything God has a funny way of creating opportunities for you then impressing them on your heart, your choice is whether or not to listen, and i am so very glad i listened. the other people on this particular ministry staff have not only become friends but also a support. it is nice to know you are known and supported in prayer.

and for me the relationship analogy works well because maybe it won't be after 5 or 6 dates as Gerry put it, but there does come a point where, i myself would have to know which way it was going, but that doesn't mean that ther was a ring and a wedding 2 minutes later sometimes commitment is just agreeing to take things a bit more seriously.
I find that once the parameters of a relationship are defined I feel more freedom within that relationship cause I know where I stand, and I would think that the other person would too. I wouldn't want to get married after the first date, but should have a good idea after the first year.
and sometimes your commitment is only for a season. No one is asking you to sign in blood or will be sending out the hounds if you “escape” sometimes you do need to step back or step down or leave the church which is sad but understandable, just like in any relationship.
Sometimes you just need to step out on a limb and see where you go, sometimes the risk is worth the reward.
Just my 2 cents

She... said...

Ok. I've read and re-read. Thought and re-thought. I simply don't think I "get it." Given that so many other people seem to understand what is being said, and have commentary, there is probably a really simple point I'm missing.

I can't understand if I'm being called to:
a) volunteer my services at Soul
b) meet more people every Sunday morning
c) continue becoming more connected with the community that attends.

I get the allusion to dating, and what it means on a higher level, but I can't quite bring the thought down to where I should be applying it to my every-day life.

It does make one smile if one thinks back to the Starbucks post... (found here: and considers the different marketing style that this post uses.

I once heard a speaker talking about church communities and how some people had felt isolated. (Especially with the big crowd that was attending that church.) That speaker pointed out that we each have a responsibility to find a way that we can fit in, *especially* if we were feeling like we were isolated. To the same end, those who felt like the 'in-crowd' were reminded of their responsiblity to respond to people who were seeking to find their 'way in.'

When I couldn't understand the message 'as it relates to me,' I went back to that message and assessed where I was at in comparison to the above. I figured it would have pretty much the same effect.

Just sayin'.