Thinking Out Loud

February 25, 2019

“Harvest Could Never Happen At Our Church”

 

Harvest Bible Chapel Elgin Campus

It’s easy to sit back and self-righteously congratulate ourselves on not attending a megachurch with a megalomaniacal pastor. If your weekly attendance runs 200, or 400 weekly and your pastor is a grandfatherly type trying to build God’s Kingdom and not a personal empire, it’s somewhat comforting to be able to relax and say, ‘That could never happen here.’

Harvest Bible Chapel – Elgin campus

But I would argue that on closer observation it can, and possibly does.

In the last six months, we’ve seen people at various levels of leadership at Harvest defend the institution and its pastor or both. While at least one former Harvest elder has stepped forward and apologized, there are no doubt others who will want to defend its decision-making processes, past and present.

I would suggest that this practice of putting spin on things is alive and well in many of our congregations. People get hurt because leaders have some agenda probably contrary to God’s, but are able to make it seem somehow correct and appropriate for the situation at hand.

A few days ago I re-ran something that Ruth wrote in which a church which is always telling people to know and employ their spiritual gifts pulled her aside and told her that this somehow didn’t apply to her and gave her a cease-and-desist order because she dared to demonstrate pastoral compassion in the face of a situation facing a particular family that a new pastor could not have articulated.

Years later, she asked if she could have a reprise of her former worship leadership role, not regularly, but just for a single Sunday; as an opportunity for healing all round. The elder she met with concocted the most foolish of all reasons for saying no, simply because otherwise he had no grounds for so doing. “We don’t have guest worship leaders.” Again, I gave opportunity for her to explain how this was both insulting to her and the congregation.

In my mind, it was a case of spiritual abuse; an example of an elder putting spin on a situation.

And guess what? Not three weeks later, they had a guest worship leader; a recording artist whose commercial success gave him a pass on their unofficial rule. In a postscript to her article, I wrote,

“At the center of this was one particular individual who is otherwise greatly admired and respected by the people of that church. In hindsight what he did at that meeting at night constituted spiritual abuse, not to mention certain aspects where we now know he was lying through his teeth. He continues in a leadership role that leaves me totally mystified.”

In her case, the woundedness was overshadowed by ministry opportunities elsewhere. The Bible states that a person’s gift will make a way for them. Just this weekend, I saw those gifts affirmed in her life on a level which is unprecedented. But the Harvest situation reminded me of the lengths that some in leadership will go to in order to fulfill a role they believe God gave them to keep things orderly. That reminded me of another article I wrote where I asked the questions below.

1. How long does a person attend your church before they are considered for service?

2. When someone who was a former member of your church returns, does their past experience count for anything?

3. Is someone who has only been part of a church for a short time truly fit to reprimand, discipline or judge someone whose history with that church goes back several decades?

4. Are the elders in your church really Biblically qualified to be called “elder,” or were they chosen by some other standard?

5. What about Church leaders who will look you right in the eye and lie through their teeth? Is that ever justified?

6. Is the elders’ board of a church even truly where the heart of ministry is taking place? Or even in touch with the real ministry happening?

7. Do people in your church get hurt or wounded or abused?

8. Can a church leader be doing “the Lord’s work” and at the same time be about “the Devil’s business?”

9. Why do we keep coming back?

10. Is it possible that it’s just time to step aside and let another generation have their turn?

Remember, I wrote this in a small-town context and long before we had the colossal present-day failures involving churches pastored by Perry Noble, Tullian Tchividijan, Mark Driscoll or James MacDonald. But the presence of spin is identical in both, until you reach the point where you just can’t keep pretending.

Unfortunately my wife never got to see such vindication in terms of that church, but was able to find it elsewhere.

 

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August 15, 2012

13 Measures of a Healthy Church

Found this at the blog of Paul Clark, Vision Meets Reality. While this may seem basic to some of you, IMHO you can never emphasize these essentials enough.  The temptation is to read this too quickly. Slow down and ask yourself how your church ranks according to these criteria.  For those who want to read at source, click this link.

Along with sound theology, we also believe that there are other elements that make up a healthy church: At Fairhaven Church, where I’ve served for 10 years, we have identified 13 measures that we believe define a healthy church. We’ve created a dashboard report around these measures which our leadership and Board review each month.

  1. People are coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
  2. Our missions program is expanding locally, nationally and globally.
  3. People are making public professions of faith through baptism.
  4. Attendance in worship services is increasing.
  5. The worship experience is vibrant, enthusiastic and intergenerational.
  6. There is broad participation in serving throughout the ministries.
  7. New ministries are beginning as God imparts vision.
  8. Guests are being connected to church life.
  9. Covenant membership is increasing.
  10. Our budgetary needs are being met.
  11. Leaders are being developed and placed in ministry roles.
  12. Scripture is central to our message.
  13. Staff relationships are healthy.

Wednesday Link List returns next week.

February 22, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Church life:

  • Hal West, author of  The Pickled Priest and the Perishing Parish : “No one will argue against the fact that since the beginning of Christian history there has existed a tension between two distinct groups in the church – the clergy and the laity. ”  Read what pastors don’t get and what people don’t get.
  • A. J. Swoboda: “I think not having our children worship with us in worship can be dangerous. Who else is to teach them why and how we sing? How else are children to learn the ways of worship? …I wonder if something was lost when we split the family up in church?”  Read more at A. J.’s blog.
  • Carter Moss: ” I desperately want to hear from God through every avenue possible. That why I love leading at a church that uses movie clips…, TV show clips…, and secular music… every chance we get.” This link has been in my files since August; read Why My Faith (And Yours) Needs Pop Culture.
  • He said, she said:  “…[S]he continues to nominate women for the board of elders, something their denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, allows. [Pastor] Willson has said that only qualified men can be elders at Second Presbyterian.”  A longtime member faces church discipline in Memphis.
  • So if you jump through all the hoops and actually get to sing a solo at Thompson Road Baptist Church, you can’t sing a Contemporary Christian Music song or “a song that was made popular by CCM.” In other words, if Casting Crowns covers “Dwelling in Beulah Land” it’s goes off the approved list. (Click the image to isolate the text, and then a 2nd time to enlarge it.)
  • Yours truly borrows a list of 13 signs of a healthy church, and then adds a description of a very healthy church you may have heard before; all at Christianity 201.

Christian blogosphere:

  • Mrs. Beamish isn’t too happy with the worship style changes in her local C. of E. (Church of England). Especially the ‘friendlier’ passing of the piece and up-tempo music. A hilarious song posted to YouTube back in ’08.
  • Lifeway Christian Bookstores are going to continue selling the revised NIV Bible after all. Yawn.
  • Prodigal Magazine re-launches on March 1st with Allison and Darrell Westerfelt taking the reins.
  • Paul Helm, who teaches at Regent College on the phrase, ‘asking Jesus into your heart : “They are using words and phrases that bear a positive relation to the language in which the faith has been officially as preached and confessed by the church through the centuries, but a rather loose relation..” Pray the prayer, read the post.
  • This is a new product that not even XXX.Church.Com had heard of when I wrote them this week. Check out My Porn Blocker, currently available at a ridiculously low price.
  • Steve McCoy reveals where the treasure is buried: A stash of online articles by Redeemer Presbyterian’s Timothy Keller.   It was derived from a larger list featuring various authors.
  • CNN’s Belief Blog offers an excellent profile of Ed Dobson along with a look at his latest video My Garden.
  • I love the tagline for this blog: Was 1611 the last word for the English Bible? The KJV Only Debate Blog is a blog but it looks like the real action is in the forum. “This blog aims to confront the King James controversy head on, and evaluate the claims of KJV-onlyism from a Biblical perspective.The authors are all former proponents of KJV-onlyism. …[W]e acknowledge that there are multiple varieties of the KJV-only position.”
  • In a first for Canada, a Teen Challenge center in Brandon, Manitoba will launch as a women-only facility.
  • Want to understand the basics of Christianity?  The Australian website YDYC — Your Destiny, Your Choice — has a number of basic videos explaining salvation.
  • Here’s a fun video by The Left filmed in a theater in Western Canada, enjoy Cellophane. At GodTube, they cite various faith influences, though their bio doesn’t.
  • Today is the first day of Lent.  If you have absolutely no idea what that means, you might want to start with this introduction to the church calendar.
  • All good lists must come to an end; if you’re an otter, don’t forget to say your prayers.

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