Thinking Out Loud

August 21, 2016

Most Popular Church Website Tag Line

new-website-small

Years ago my wife and I noticed that the phrase, “A Different Kind of Church” was becoming so ubiquitous to the point of being meaningless. It was a decade of great ecclesiastic shuffling, books were being written at a furious pace, and church planting was the de rigeur activity for any younger pastors or leaders who wanted to keep up with the times.

Even today, the phrase will produce about 114,000 results on Google; change the word Kind to Type and you get 42,000 more. The fastest growing church network in Canada, The Meeting House boasts it is a “church for people who aren’t into church,” which will get you almost 1,500 more results.

But these days, it seems like, where I live anyway, the most popular tag line for church websites is something like,

Website Under Construction

Admittedly one was hacked, but one church signed up with a new provider only to find themselves being down for over a year. It’s up and running as of a few weeks ago.

This week we’re visiting a church that is in-between websites, and it’s frustrating not having the advance information as to what to expect, or if the regular pastor will be speaking. At least we were able to verify the service time, and get the location from Google Maps. You are referred to a Facebook page, but it seems to be more about reflecting back to the previous weekend than looking forward to the one to come.

Someone has said that in the 21st Century, if you’re not online you don’t exist. It’s true. I’m betting that internet searches now exceed word-of-mouth as the top reason people visit a church. And don’t even mention those adverts in the weekend newspaper. Waste of money.

I recently tried to contact a pastor whose church is about 45 minutes east of me, only to discover they never had a website. Not even a static, single page. That’s a major blunder as I see it.

Service industries and other commercial ventures couldn’t tolerate being down for more than a few hours. An IT guy would be called in to fix the glitch and get the thing going. So why do churches let it slide for so long before the sites become operative again?

I think a greater level of urgency and prioritizing is needed when the site goes down. Your church can’t afford to be without it.


A year ago we linked you to this related article by Derek Ouellette

If you’re not already aware of it (and don’t mind the title) check out Church Marketing Sucks

August 12, 2016

To Christian Parents of LGBTQ Children

Yesterday we linked to a blog post by John Pavlovitz and last summer we featured his writing at Christianity 201, which we’ll probably do again soon. But this time I want to present an article in full because — and I hope John agrees — I want to make sure all Thinking Out Loud readers get to see this. I know there may be readers who may not agree 100% with everything here, but below is the link to the article. You can read it at source, and I’ll turn off comments here so that you may respond there.  Also, if this issue hasn’t come home to roost at your church, be assured that it will happen.

Christian Parents of LGBTQ Children: The Church Has Been Wrong

by John Pavlovitz

Christian Parents out there with LGBTQ children: I see you.

I see your held back tears and the weariness you wear and the weight upon your shoulders.

I hear you when you tell me how difficult this all is. I hear you when you talk about your frustration. I hear you when you share your stories of tears and humiliation.

I hear the grief in your voice when you talk about the faith you used to have or the prayers you used to say or the church where you used to feel welcome or the God your child once believed in.

I hear you when you say you feel like a failure—and I want you to know that you haven’t failed.

Your children haven’t failed either.

The Church has failed you.

It is the Church, not you who have been wrong:

If the Church ever made you feel like you had to choose between loving God and loving your LGBTQ kids, the Church was wrong.

If the Church ever made you believe that your children couldn’t be both gay and Christian, the Church was wrong.

If the Church ever forced or pulled your child out of a ministry position he or she loved simply because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, the Church was wrong.

If The Church ever caused you to resent your son or your daughter without realizing it, the Church was wrong.

If the Church ever shunned your family with silence or forced distance upon you because of your desire to love and accept your children fully, the Church was wrong.

If the Church ever caused a fracture in your friendships or your marriage or your family, the Church was wrong.

If the Church openly embarrassed your child by name on social media or from the pulpit or to the congregation, the Church was wrong.

If the Church threatened you with Hell for choosing to defend your children from its cruelty, the Church was wrong.

If the Church ever told you that you and your child could pray away something that was the truest part of who they are, the Church was wrong.

Now The Church for you, may be a pastor or local church staff you know well. It may be a group of people in your faith community you used to call friends. It may be a denomination or organization. It may be a high-profile Evangelist. It may be a callous, hateful stranger on social media.

Whatever the source of the damage done to you in the name of Jesus or on behalf of God, I want you to know that these people didn’t have the consent of God when they did these things—and I’m sorry that they’ve done them.

I’m sorry for every pastor, priest, preacher, Sunday School teacher, worship leader, small group member, sign holder, bullhorn wielder, or pew sitter who ever became a barrier between you and your children, or between your family and Jesus.

Christian Parents of LGBTQ KidsThey were wrong.

You deserve better.

Your children do too.

These words won’t undo the damage or repair your relationship with the Church or give you back all that you’ve lost, but maybe it will make you feel less alone, maybe a little more hopeful, maybe a bit more sane.

Maybe this apology, even if it’s not the one you need or deserve, will bring some peace.

Your children, as you’ve always known or are just beginning to remember—are beautiful.

They are deserving of your pride and your celebration and your bragging on them. They are deserving of joy and lightness and laughter, and I hope they have these things in great abundance for the rest of their lives.

I hope you never let the Church when it is wrong, temper your love for your children, your confidence in your own worth as a parent, or your belief in a good God who completely adores you and them.

If you ever need a pastor who will say the words your family should have heard from a pastor long ago, you know where to find me.

Be greatly encouraged today.

 

August 11, 2016

A Rare Moment of Calvinist Transparency

Happy Rant Podcast logoI mentioned a few weeks ago I wanted to return to a discussion that happened several weeks ago on The Happy Rant Podcast, with Ted Kluck, Barnabas Piper and Ronnie Martin. This takes place on Episode #94 when the subject of the Kickstarter project for the documentary Calvinist comes up in the discussion.

At first, the guys are just having fun with the various fundraising levels, but around the 30:00 minute mark (the whole topic is introduced at 23:45) the discussion about the need for the movie gets more serious. First Barnabas Piper says,

Nobody is going to watch this that’s not already a Calvinist… The only people who like talking about Calvinism are Calvinists and nobody likes talking about anything more than Calvinists like talking about being Calvinists… almost as much as introverts like to Tweet about being introverts.  It’s how Together for the Gospel thrives year after year without ever doing anything different… So this will succeed… I don’t understand why Calvinists love being Calvinists so much; I just don’t get it.

Then Ted Kluck chimes in,

I think it has something to do with when kids get to college and join fraternities. You just want to belong, you want to be part of something, you want someone to sit with at lunch.

Ronnie Martin says,

It carries such a heavy a weight of a label… Baptist love going around saying ‘I’m a Baptist.’  What’s fascinating about the Calvinist position, if you take that there’s two positions, Calvinist and Arminian… is that nobody walks around holding up a card that says, ‘Arminian, that’s me; arrow pointing at me;’ but Calvinists carry the weight and the title and the identity and wave the flag of this thing given that the other position never represents themselves with that position, but you have this position which we think is Biblical and it has the most clarity… we’re drinking the Kool Aid, we’re wearing the t-shirt, we got the sticker, we’ve got the conference, we’re writing the books, we’ve got the publishing companies, we’ve got the — wait for it — podcasts.

To which Piper replies,  It’s fascinating like a nature documentary

Martin: Then what are we doing right now?

Piper: We’re making fun of how strange it is.

Martin: But we’re one of them.

Piper: Yes and no; because there’s different ways to define them… There’s the theology; there’s Reformed theology which, at its best informs how you live life, it informs how you see the world, it informs how you read scripture, it informs how you interact with God… Then there’s the culture of Calvinism which I want absolutely nothing to do with because it’s absurd.

Martin: How do you separate them?

Piper continues:

By not being a jerk… It’s like you can be a college student without being in a fraternity.  You can still go to class and study hard. You can still pursue a degree. You can still make friends. You can do all of those things in college. You just don’t have to pledge and binge drink and generally be an idiot…

[later] …

When I hear people, and when I see stuff like this… people love the label Calvinist … that label is divisive not helpful… When I say I want no part of it, I’m talking about all of the things that are divisive about it because I believe a truly Reformed person should  absolutely be able to interact with an Arminian and a Semi-Pelagian and a Buddhist and a Hindu and whoever else… You’re arguing for the gospel, you’re not arguing for Reformed theology. If you want to come back and say Reformed theology is the gospel, you’re wrong. It’s not. The gospel is bigger than Reformed theology; it is a way of understanding… But Arminian people are saved too, and too many Calvinists act like they’re not and those people are morons

[later]

… I’m talking about every aspect of the culture that I would deem to be divisive, or just dumb… When I saw this documentary, I just want to go, ‘Why?’ Who benefits from this. This is naval gazing by a naval gazing crowd. We love talking about ourselves, and how Reformed we are, so let’s make a documentary about Reformed Reformed people are.

[later]

…I’m talking about what will happen with it [the film]. …You know who’s going to watch this? Calvinists. And then they’re going to Tweet about it. And other Calvinists are going to re-Tweet it and they’re going to get their Calvinist buddies to watch it and we’re all going to be a little more Calvinist at the end of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 8, 2016

The Minister’s Personal Library: Then and Now

When the books don't sell: Look very closely at the bottom left corner; the picture is actually unsold books waiting to be pulped. Many Christian titles suffer the same fate, but some should never have been printed in the first place.

When the books don’t sell: Look very closely at the bottom left corner; the picture is actually unsold books waiting to be pulped. Many Christian titles suffer the same fate, but some should never have been printed in the first place.

One of the peripheral things I do related to my work involves collecting used books for something called Christian Salvage Mission. I should add that I’m not very good at this as most people simply donate their books to the local thrift shop, but every once in awhile someone will greet me with a trunk load full of boxes, and often it’s a retired pastor who has reached the stage where they are giving up their personal library. They say you can’t take it with you, but these old guys — and by old guys I mean five minutes older than me — would gladly take their theology collection to heaven if they could figure out a way.

Because I’m basically nosy, I usually take the time to rummage through these boxes to see what books and reference materials shaped their ministry. Recently, I realized these books are characterized by what isn’t there:

  • there are no books on leadership principles
  • there are no books on leveraging your platform
  • there are no books on growing your church
  • there are no books on hiring best practices
  • there are no books on promoting your next sermon series
  • there are no books on launching a satellite campus

It was the first one — leadership — I noticed more significantly. I wonder how much of our present emphasis is diverting attention and energy away from pastors simply immersing themselves in the knowledge of scripture. Instead, the libraries I see include:

  • Bible commentaries
  • Bible handbooks
  • Greek and Hebrew word study
  • more commentaries
  • classic sermon transcripts
  • …did I mention commentaries?

Do you think there is something we’re losing — and I mean the church as a whole in terms of where the focus now lies — by getting entangled in so many secondary or tertiary concerns?  

In a few days, the Global Leadership Summit launches at Willow Creek. This is a great opportunity for people in business and service industries to hear from the best, including both Christian and general interest speakers. I know that many pastors also attend these events, as well as a gazillion other conferences where the goal is to extract leadership principles that can be applied to their local church. I am not dissing the idea of nurturing leadership principles in pastors and church leaders.

I’m simply noting that — if their libraries are any indication — such an emphasis did not exist in times past.

 

Theological Books

 


Yes, today is 8/8 so I posted this at 8:08. My own little OCD moment.

August 1, 2016

Church Overseer Positions Should Have Term Limits

Admittedly these Mormon leaders aren't the subject of this article, but it kinda set up the vibe we were looking for. Your church's head office dress code may vary.

Admittedly these Mormon leaders aren’t the subject of this article, but it kinda set up the vibe we were looking for. Your church’s head office dress code may vary.

If you attend a denominational church, somewhere, in some city, there is a head office where resides the President or Bishop or whatever your church calls the guy with the biggest office. It is undoubtedly a multi-staff office with various sub departments dealing with the major aspects of church life. For example, one office is probably assigned to the Director of Missions. Another may concern itself with the movement of pastors from one part of the country to another as vacancies arise. A third might give oversight to both local church and national office finances. You might even have 20 or 30 such titles held by various people.

Additionally, if your church is of any size, there are regional or district offices which in some respects replicate the positions of the national office.

The number of people employed at the national or district office is beyond the scope of this article, except to say that it is very easy to move into an office and simply never move out. Such people, I would call, church administration lifers.

Many of these are former pastors, which is a rather odd way of saying that they are now — currently — trained as pastors and hold theological degrees, ordination and denominational credentials. If they chose to, they could at any time step into one of their local church pulpits.

Often the district overseers do that just that on the occasion of the anniversary of a church, the ordination of a pastor, or some other special occasion. This may involve simply preaching the same sermon in different locations, with little advance preparation time required. After the service, they shake a few hands, possibly stay for lunch, and then Monday morning they are back walking the administrative halls of their tribe.

It is nice work if you can get it, and many pastors in the trenches aspire to be promoted to a district position; still in ministry and still salaried, but free from the messiness of having to shepherd a local church congregation.

…and now we get to the meat of this article…

I would contend that with time, this drift away from involvement in a local church is detrimental to their ministry life and eventually impedes their effectiveness as an overseer. True, I’ve heard stories of some very senior church administrators who continue to teach a Sunday School class in their local congregation, but such stories are rare. I would argue that many overseers are cut off from church life, especially if they have been at the position for some time.

When I worked in Christian camping, I made a suggestion one year that each of us on senior staff be associated each week with a cabin and a counselor. I remember doing this myself. At least once a day I ate a meal with the boys, I spelled of the counselor for evening devotions one night, and I went on a one hour boat trip with the kids to a nearby island. While doing all this, I continued to do all of the administrative things required of me in the course of a day.

A few other senior staff caught the vision for this, but mostly, the concept was not well-received. The built-in assumption was that those of us in leadership were to somehow distance ourselves from what was going on in the cabins. The campers were the junior staff members’ responsibility, not ours. I disagreed. I felt we could only do our job effectively if we were maintaining direct contact with the people we served. For me, this was a matter of management style.

Twice in my life I did consulting for Christian publishing companies, while at the same time being a vendor for their products. I was involved in setting policies — including a couple of price increases — which would directly impact me as a customer. In both cases, the senior leadership of the company felt that I brought a freshness to their operations that could only come from also being a customer.

But we’re drifting away from denominational and district offices of your church’s denominations.

The thing I want to end with here is the idea of people being church administration lifers. I don’t think that in the case of ordained clergy who have come up through the ranks this is a good idea. I’ve heard stories of church overseers who reached their “Where do I go from here?” moment and decided to head out to the mission field. Brilliant!

For most however, a return to the trenches is a logical option. Which is why I think there should be term limits on these administrative positions. After a given point in time, the term expires, a new person is given the office, and the former President or District Superintendent returns to some form of pastoral ministry.

Who did I have in mind when I wrote this? Nobody in particular, though these articles often begin with conversations involving specific people. But this has been brewing in my head for a long time, and it is evidenced in my associate cabin leader concept at camp that this isn’t a new philosophy. Rather, I think it’s something that is desperately needed. It’s a win for the denomination because they experience different people in leadership. It’s a win for the local church which gains a pastor who has such a big-picture perspective. Finally, it’s a win for the man or woman whose skills I believe would otherwise atrophy doing the corner office thing and the potluck lunch circuit for all those anniversaries and ordinations.

head of the denomination


Fun image-based, partially-relevant places to visit after reading this article:

July 19, 2016

A Caution to Seniors in the Church

…and Those on the Cusp of Becoming One

seniorsSo I’m sitting at my computer compiling tomorrow’s link list and I see this article and I’m thinking, ‘This is gold! How do make absolutely sure people read this?” Then I remember I still haven’t posted anything this morning.

This is by Thom Rainer. That’s right, the LifeWay guy. Me and LifeWay are not usually on the same page, I know. Still, you should click through (on the title below) and read this at source because you really want to read the comments as well.

Oh… before you think you really should forward this to somebody else, you might want to remember that if you’re not already there, you soon will be!

Five Things I Pray I Will Not Do as a Senior Adult in the Church

I received my first AARP material in the mail six years ago.

I turned 61 years old two days ago. One of my sons says I am fossilized.

I am a senior adult.

Have I noticed any differences in my life at this age? Certainly. I move more slowly. My idea of a mini-marathon is running to the kitchen from the family room. I see things differently. I don’t know if I am wiser, but I certainly have different perspectives.

And I have to admit I view church life differently. In fact, I sometimes scare myself with my rigid attitude. I need to write these words quickly lest I become too comfortable or too complacent.

I have five specific prayers. They are for me. They are for my attitude about my church. They are reminders I will need to review constantly.

  1. I pray I will not feel entitled because I am a key financial supporter in the church. This attitude means I consider the money my money rather than God’s money. That means I am giving with a begrudging heart.
  2. I pray I will not say “I’ve done my time” in the church. Ministry through the local church is not doing your time, like serving a prison sentence. It is an outpouring of joy and thanksgiving to God. I love those churches where senior adults are the most represented among the nursery workers. I need to be among them.
  3. I pray I will not be more enthused about recreational trips than ministry and service. There is nothing wrong about me getting on a bus and going to Branson, Missouri, or Gatlinburg, Tennessee. But there is something wrong when that is my dominant involvement in ministry in the church.
  4. I pray I will not be more concerned about my preferences than serving others. I’ve already blown it on this one. I did not like the volume of the music in the service at my church a few weeks ago. I complained about it to my wife. And then I was reminded of all the young people in the church that Sunday worshipping and praising God during the music. I was more concerned about my preference than seeing others worship God.
  5. I pray I will not have a critical spirit. I attended a business meeting of a large church some time ago. The total attendance at the meeting represented fewer than five percent of the worship attendance. One of the men who recognized me approached me before the meeting, “We come together at these business meetings to keep the pastor straight,” he told me. In reality, they came together to criticize the pastor and staff. I pray I will not become a perpetual critic. I don’t want to grow old and cranky; I want to grow old and more sanctified.

Now that I am a senior adult in my own right, I need to make certain I am not a stumbling block or a hindrance to health and growth in my church. I pray my attitude will be like that of Caleb:

“Here I am today, 85 years old . . . Now give me the hill country the Lord promised me on that day . . . Perhaps the Lord will be with me and I will drive them out as the Lord promised” (Joshua14:10-12, HCSB).

May the Lord grant me wisdom and service all the days of my life, including my senior years.

Let me hear from you. I bet I will.


Related: From 2014, here’s a look at the ideal, the multi-generational church.

July 12, 2016

Retro Reviewing: Pagan by Frank Viola and George Barna

Filed under: books, Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:15 am

In 2008, books about ecclesiology were selling briskly. Bloggers were consuming and recommending books about the church and church planting at rates never before seen, and the market included both clergy and laity, with the latter group feeling empowered to take an interest in a subject previously left to the professionals. (Historically in North America, while you might need theological degrees to be the pastor of a church, the work of planting includes colorful stories involving all types of people.)

paganPagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices was an important book during this time. The Tyndale House-distributed title with the bright red cover was presumably an update of a previous edition in 2002. According to what I wrote at the time, George Barna’s contribution was added for the revised edition. I have to assume that included much of the research; up to 25% of each page contains exhaustive footnotes. Those notes give the book an academic air, but in the end, especially re-reading this today as I’ve been doing, you realize that some of what is being offered up is based in opinion; specifically a preference for less-institutional, more organic worship setting, specifically the house church type of gathering. The book seems to want to call for a more radical paradigm shift than is realistically possible across the entire spectrum of churches.

In 2008, the market was ripe for a book like this. It was a time for deconstruction, and many were re-inventing the wheel. The terms emergent church and emerging church were on everyone’s lips, as was the idea of being missional, but this book doesn’t necessarily go there, since many emergent forms consisted of a blended worship which continued to incorporate the very traditional elements the book decries as rooted in medieval Catholicism, academia and even forms from other religions.

Where the book shines however is in terms of giving us an historical understanding of why we do the things we do.  The use of church buildings. The sermon form. The robes and vestments. The clergy. The paid church staff. The Choir. Our expression of Baptism and Communion. Christian Education.

In 2016, as I’ve gone through it again, I believe the book continues to speak into our tendency to do church as it has always been done. Reading it eight years later provides a different lens however; many models were considered and not those churches which were implemented succeeded. Rather, the book inspired church planters to take a salad bar approach, to pick and choose which elements they wished to refine or delete altogether. 

However, this time around, I also got more of the sense of walking in on a heated argument; a reminder that there are two sides in a debate, the other being traditionalists. It could be argued that we came through this micro-period in church history and not much changed. Or, it could equally be argued that in 2016 we have a much greater variety of churches doing very different types of things, and giving expression to their worship in unique ways. 

For the latter group, the book Pagan may have been a big part of that.

 

July 8, 2016

Engineering and Denominations

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:29 am

Christian DenominationsHaving an engineer in the family is a whole new experience. Kid One graduated a few years back in Electrical Engineering (he’s technically an EIT right now), but Kid Two, Mrs. W. and I are more of an artsy bunch. So the learning curve has been steep.

Wikipedia lists several branches:

  • Chemical (including sub-disciplines of Molecular, Bio-molecular, Materials, Process and Corrosion)
  • Civil (including Environmental, Geo-technical, Structural, Mining, Transport and Water Resources)
  • Electrical (including Computer, Electronic, Optical and Power; the latter possibly including Nuclear, which was offered at his campus)
  • Mechanical (including Acoustical, Manufacturing, Thermal, Sports, Vehicle, Power Plant and Energy)
  • Software (Computer Aided, Cryptographic, Teletraffic and Web)
  • Systems (an interdisciplinary field)
  • Interdisciplinary (Aerospace, Agricultural, Applied, Biological, Biomedical, Building Services, Energy, Railway, Industrial, Mechatronics, Management, Military, Nano-engineering, Nuclear, Petroleum, Textile)

I love a good analogy, and if you read today’s title or you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know exactly where I’m going with this: The similarity between the branches or disciplines of engineering and the various denominations which exist in Christianity.

I’m tempted to try to create a similar list as the one above, complete with some sub-sections in brackets to break down the finer points of each, but I think readers here are familiar enough with the range of churches which exist.

So here’s the lead-up to the question…

…I think that my eldest son would agree that the branches of engineering have a few things in common. Probably the overarching methodology (whatever is the practical equivalent of the scientific method) is the same in all. I’m sure they also take some of the same electives, including engineering ethics. I’m sure that the various branches cooperate with each other on major projects.

But he would also argue that the branches are also very different. He knows a little of Civil Engineering from his project in Haiti, and might have a rudimentary understanding of Chemical Engineering; but his school also offered Automotive Engineering, and I doubt he feels qualified to even begin designing a car or truck.

The question is: Do the various branches of Christianity have more in common than they have in differences?

In terms of a creed or statement of faith, you would probably say yes.

In terms of the portability of membership, the way people change churches these days also implies more commonality.

So perhaps, as with so many analogies, this one doesn’t line up perfectly.

But just as it would be impossible for my Electrical Engineering son to practice Chemical Engineering, it would be very difficult for me as an Evangelical to understand all things Episcopal. It is very much another world.

But I’m thankful the analogy doesn’t work. I’m glad that we do hold more things in common than the things we don’t.

We have Jesus, his resurrection, our atonement, God’s word, the Holy Spirit, the expectation of Christ’s return, the promise of eternal life.


Just so we’re clear, Wikipedia didn’t list all those engineering branches in a copy-and-paste-able form, so I had to type all those big words by myself.


A year ago at Christianity 201, we looked at a different way of expressing our core beliefs. Check out Knowing What You Believe.

July 5, 2016

The “A New Broom Sweeps Clean” Church Staffing Policy

This first ran here three years ago, but on the weekend I was reminded that this crazy policy still exists in some denominations…

Darlene Kirk smiled at the greeter at the church’s west doors, but with a 3-month old in one hand and a bag of diapers in another, taking a church bulletin was physically impossible, so she simply walked by. Fortunately, her husband Tom had taken the other three children when he left early for the worship team sound check.

Arriving at the nursery check-in station she met Cynthia, who was in her small group.

“Have you heard?” asked Cynthia; and then without waiting for a reply, continued, “The entire church staff has resigned. Everybody including the janitor.”

Darlene just stared at her, then finally got out the words, “There are 14 people on full-time staff here.”

“It’s a policy;” continued Cynthia, “from before we all started coming here. When the senior pastor resigns the other staff are expected to tender their resignations. It’s supposed to be a courtesy thing, but the new pastor has the option to accept or reject their letters, and the new minister has chosen to accept all their resignations.”

Darlene was non-plussed. “You mean Melissa’s not the Children’s Director?”

“No. And Derek is not the youth pastor, and Maggie is no longer the secretary.”

“So who is going to do those jobs?”

“Right now, it’s up to the new pastor, but he’s not from here, so I don’t know how he’s going to do that before he gets here.”

“This is just wrong.”

“Apparently it’s church policy and it’s a fairly common thing in churches.”

Church StaffingCommon or not, I have to agree with Darlene. This is just wrong.  Under whatever conditions it was instituted, it seems to reflect another time, another place, another set of conditions.

It also describes a world in which the pastor is all-powerful, all-authoritative. A world where the pastor is a God.

To go along with this, a pastor has to be determined to miss out on what God might have for his own personal, professional and spiritual development; the benefits that come when, over a lifetime, you get to interact with people from a broad range of backgrounds and interests.

It is, if anything, the first step to denying the uniqueness of the town or city in which you are called/sent to minister. It’s an attempt to plug in a ministry module — in this case, the man himself and those who think and act like him — into what is believed to be a “one size fits all” ministry situation.

It turns local church ministry into a revival roadshow where the traveling carnival team pulls into town not for a few weeks of meetings, but for several years. Stories of men who bring their own secretary with them are not unheard of, but given the interaction that a church administrative assistant has with the congregation; it becomes difficult to do this in a location that is completely foreign.

It disrupts the lives and stability of people like Darlene who are trusting Melissa, the Children’s pastor for the oversight and care of her four children, including that 3-month newborn. It changes the dynamic for her husband Tom, a respected worship leader who has been given much latitude by the present Music Director that allows him a freedom in worship that the congregation recognizes and embraces.

It’s also an admission by the incoming pastor that maybe there are people out there with whom he can’t work; with whom he can’t get along.

Or it may be a giant power play.

It shatters the careers of eight of the 14 people in Darlene’s church who are in full-time vocational ministry and moved to this community to further their calling in visitation, discipleship, music, youth (2), Christian education, seniors ministry and urban outreach; all of whom must now circulate resumés and prepare to re-settle, one of whom just arrived six months ago from the other side of the country.

No exceptions. No compassion. No face-to-face meetings with the people just dismissed.

This is standard operating procedure in many U.S. denominations and at least one in Canada. It’s a policy that needs to be repented of.

Darlene opened the door to let Cynthia in.

“Good timing, Cynth; the kids are all settled down.”

“You sounded like it was important.”

“Yeah,” Darlene continued; “We’ve decided to leave Central Church.”

“Is it because of the staff thing?” quizzed Cynthia.

“Yes and no. I can get to know new people, and I’m sure they’ll be qualified; but it bothers us that a system exists that allows this to happen; that everybody accepts that this is how it’s done. Tom found about a fairly new church about five miles further that’s desperate for some help in their music department, and the kids will fit in right away because they use the same curriculum and they know some of the kids from school.  I’m sorry….”

“No, it’s not your fault. We’ve been wondering about all this ourselves…  Maybe we’ll come to visit on Tom’s first Sunday leading the worship.”

 

June 27, 2016

Host Church Syndrome

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:12 am

Outreach events

Host Church Syndrome is what happens when a local church decides to do a major event that is open to people from other churches in the community, but in the end, the majority of attendees are from the congregation which sponsored the event.

In our years living in this town we have seen this play out over and over again. Yes, the evidence is anecdotal, but there’s no denying it; some people simply won’t attend an event in another church in town. We’re the exception, but then the enterprise for which I work is interdenominational in nature, and therefore equips us with a different mindset on these things.

What made the event we attended more interesting was that the church in question had sought to open their event up to a wider demographic — including non-Christians — by holding it in a community hall. We ourselves — who attend different churches — were actively involved in helping promote this to the broader Christian community.

On the other hand, the event was a benefit for a charity, and the head of that charity had been a speaker at the church recently; so their people were more than motivated to support the fundraising event.

So about 80% of the people were from the one church. Nice that they supported it. Sad that the event didn’t have further reach.

Why is this?

Do our own events keep us too busy? Do we look on the other churches in town with suspicion? Do we not get disappointing with it’s our turn to promote something really big only to find the people showing up are just our own congregation?


People really wrestle with this. Here’s a comment on a forum for Christian moms where someone asked if it was okay to attend a Bible study at another Church:

I wish more people and churches would feel free to interact with each other.The building you attend is not the church. The church is the people of God. We should support the local church body, obviously our tithes should go to our “home” church body so they can grow and do God’s Work and our time and service benefits our “home” church body but “breaking bread” and “fellowshiping” with other church bodies should not be looked down upon. I know we are often made to feel we are somehow being disloyal to “the church” if we find something we need in a another part of the body of Christ but part of Christ’s plea in the garden was – “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17.21-22).

The Church as a whole needs to learn to work together, support and encourage one another, and loose the us/them mentality that is so prevalent. We are all Christian and Christ’s prayer was that our unity would speak volumes to the World. Just imagine if every church body were willing to pool resources and work together to build the Kingdom instead of holding on to “their” resources to build their buildings. Those churches who had great teachers but little money could be helped by those who have great resources but little time. Those who have strong leaders could help struggling smaller churches grow and train leaders. If we would all be willing to look beyond the walls of our local or “home” church building a lot more could be accomplished for the LORD.

 

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