Tuesday, September 01, 2009

September Thoughts

So, I posted this on Facebook. “Is thinking that in of all the stupid things that keep churches from growing, the common denominator is leadership! Ouch.”
So, is there anything wrong with that statement? Some would say “NOPE, you are bang on” while others would say…”what are you talking about…everyone has a part to play when a church is not growing.”

So here I am reflecting and planning for the fall and this is what I am coming up with. As a church I believe that we should be in a growth mode. The church of Christ should be growing but there are a number of hurdles to growth. One is when a Pastor or paid staff member tries to do it all. Many pastors, myself included, have been known to have a Martyr/Messiah complex . We feel that “no one else will do a job or could do a job as well as I could!” This is made more hilarious when I try to picture myself in charge of women’s ministries!!! Many pastors feel that the success of any church rests on them and thus they want or need to be in a place of control. Many times pastors have a hard time releasing control because of the fact that many feel that they are the hired guns to do the work and they have a hard time asking people to volunteer. Or it is simply an ego thing. Regardless of the issue it is safe to say that leadership is the “common denominator” when it comes to different areas that keep churches from growing. Even in Exodus 18 Moses was dealing with people and people were getting frustrated and Moses was getting burnt out until Jethro stepped in. It is a timeless principle when we deal with people on any level life gets messy real quick. Things that appear black and white at times turn out to be very grey and then add emotions and person preferences to the mix and it is a no win situation.
I believe that I am at the point where we must ask some hard questions and find out what the reasons are in which the church keeps people away rather that growing and discipling it. The first question we must ask is what is the purpose of a Sunday gathering? What are we trying to accomplish? Are we focusing on just the saints? Are we there to carry on tradition? Are we trying to entertain visitors who may never come back? Are we driven to make GOD famous and bring honor to His name in whatever way it takes? I guess the question lies in who are we trying to reach? Who has GOD placed in our path that we need to reach with the Good News? Do we really see Sunday morning through the eyes of a first time attender?
I have numerous thoughts rambling through the brain that will begin to pour out on this blog, but I will leave you with an interesting concept from a book called “Made to Stick.” This is for all the CHURCH people out there. It is called the Curse of Knowledge and the basic idea is “you cannot know, what you already know; and once you know it, it is very difficult to remember what it is like not to know.“
I say all that to add that many of us have been in church so long that we have completely lost touch of what it is like not to know.


K said...

I like your last statement. I honestly cannot remember what it felt like not knowing.

I definitely don't envy the position church leaders/staff are in. On the one hand when things are going well its chalked up to being because of the people who attend and when things are not going well then everything is leaderships fault.

Not to mention the whole balancing act the senior pastor and steering committees have between dicatatorship and democracy when it comes to decisions about the church.

Misty B said...

To this day I still feel like somewhat of an anomaly in a church setting. Sometimes I am grateful that I have a clear before/after picture to my story. Other times it is somewhat scary to be one of a few people who stand up when the question 'who became a Christian as an adult?' is asked.

There are so many assumptions, so much church vocabulary that is used in church settings that sometimes I feel like if I mention it all I would be nit-picking. In other ways I would just continue to point out that I am different. So a huge part of me has learned to accept it and ignore it otherwise I would just continue to feel like an outsider.

Anonymous said...

You made some excellent points here to really think about, "Do we really see Sunday morning through the eyes of a first time attender?" & what the reasons are in which the church keeps people away.
Everytime I am in a worship service or in my daily life routine over the last, I guess 7 years I have to question where is my spiritual walk in dealing with addiction's, habit's, fears & how that plays a vital role in reaching people to Christ. I actually feel this is the reason why people are not being reached. I have experienced the difference in my life before dealing with addicitons and after dealing with addiction in reaching to people. Not saying you have to be perfect to reach the lost; but from my own personal journey and reflection I've discovered how selfish I've been..really. I think of how clam up I get, how angry, hurt, withdrawn from people, not really caring to much about the lost or broken when I am drunk on this addiction & not caring Christ message to those who still suffer without him. I often ask myself, even though I walk through this valley & reflecting during the week, "If I am not free from my past, addictions what am I showing to this world? Am I growing? Yet during the midst of all of this I can't help but listen to the gentleness of the Holy Spirit showing me that We as a church (myself) need to surrender these things over to God. I often wonder what the church would look like if we (believers) were set free from slavery of addiction's, habits, thoughts; what the world would see, what our worship services would truly and honestly reflect both on Sundays & during the week & how that would pour into the ministries of the church body & into our communities.

Karen said...

"I say all that to add that many of us have been in church so long that we have completely lost touch of what it is like not to know.

.....so, maybe I should stop attending for awhile.....

Seriously, the question is who are you trying to reach, Soulpastor? My understanding is that believers gather together to learn more about God and be encouraged in their faith. That should happen at "church". Meeting together is primarily for the benefit of the believers. We shouldn't alienate newcomers with religious jargon but being concerned about making church entertaining enough to keep people coming back doesn't seem right either.

Anonymous said...

Boy, you’ve raised some very thought provoking questions and I hear your frustration. So here are my thoughts…

Out of all of it, I would have to agree that it comes down to leadership. In addition that “leadership”, be it a group or an individual, must have a clear definition or focus of where this particular part of Christ’s body is called to grow.

I believe that every person who comes to Christ receives the Holy Spirit and receives spiritual gifts but more specifically, a person called to ministry has been given spiritual gifts and a calling to use those gifts in the area that God wants his Church to grow. In my opinion, you’re primary gift is teaching. …So where does that leave leadership?

Well, That’s a tough question. I think that if a person is called to ministry and to pastor a Church, they are also called to leadership by default, but if leadership is not their primary gift, then what, what kind of leadership do you provide? I think only prayer can answer that.
- Perhaps to lead a leadership team,
- Perhaps to provide that hierarchy position that we are all programmed for.
I think what is clear is that God called you to this ministry and only you through prayer will know the direction it is to take.

So what is the purpose of a Sunday gathering?
- - Perhaps to be that , dare I say it, “seeker sensitive” Church, to bring the lost to know Christ. No, I don’t think so because there are many pieces missing from this model, one being that “feel good” sermons! I must admit however, entertaining visitors” is where my hear is. Even if one visitor is saved, it makes it all worth it.
- - Perhaps to be the spiritually deep teaching Church to feed the believers and to help them become more mature in Christ. Seems Soul is more on this side of the fence than the other…
- Perhaps something in between the first two points, a Church preaching gospel truth to seekers so that they are properly educated about a life or death decision they must make.
- - Perhaps a safe place for young families to bring their children and if they learn a little about Christ, well that’s ok too… It’s hard to make so called Christians realize they are “warm” instead of “hot” or “cold” - Hmm… perhaps these are first time attendees or new Christians even…
- - Perhaps more prayer is needed …No wait, more prayer is always needed!!

You ask “Do we really see Sunday morning through the eyes of a first time attendee” I think the current leadership is too close to the inside heart beat to see what is going on, on the outside. I think the infrastructure to see what is going on is not in place so it is completely missed. I think many first time attendees come and then don’t come back.

Are we on the right track? I have to say a resounding yes – Soul is vividly proclaiming the gospel of our Lord.

--- Ramble mode off –
--- Deep thinking mode off ---

She... said...

I dunno. I'm brought back to the allusion of the eye not being more important than the foot and so on. To carry that on, all individual churches have important roles to play as a part of the bigger church body. Each should do as it feels called to do, and if they are successful, they are moving forward the will of God. The more churches that are playing different roles, the bigger the reach of God's plan. (I think.)

Soul is *definitely* being successful at something, or the numbers wouldn't be so huge after so short a period of time. Is it a "community of spiritual refuge for all people, a community based in the grace of God to facilitate repair for those who are hurting in all areas of life, and a community that rejuvenates, equips and empowers people to fulfill their God-given destiny?" I don't know. The cross-section of people with whom I have formed relationships don't fit that exactly, but then, we don't always share our spiritual bankruptcy with others.

It seems like the goal should be to:
1. Examine the vision,
2. Determine if it is still valid,
3. Consider what markers would indicate success in fulfilling the vision,
4. Begin actions to bring about those markers,
5. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This is an amazing vision. Regardless of whether or not I can remember what it is like to be a believer, I do remember what it is like to be in need of spiritual repair. That leads to all sorts of other discussions that probably don't include a discussion on leadership. But definitely a discussion that leadership could build on and devise a plan for.

Anyhoo. Just an opinion. As an elbow, I just wanted to get that opinion in there. ;-)

She... said...

Funny. I step up and engage for about 30 seconds with something that is out of the ordinary for me and realize that yes... Soul is definitely hitting the mark. In at least one program.