Thinking Out Loud

January 28, 2019

Random Answers to “We’re Leaving ‘Cause We’re Not Getting Fed”

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:18 am

Here are some responses to “We’re not being fed”:

You are comparing your pastor to messages you hear on Christian television or podcasts

I don’t understand why people who are enjoying great teaching podcasts don’t simply continue enjoying them as a supplement to their weekend church diet. You can go to [insert name of preacher]’s church if you want, but it’s going to be a long commute. Some people have a unique communications gift and others have a particular perspective on the scriptures, but you’re not going to find that within an hour commute from where you live. Your local church has other things to offer. Stay involved, but keep enjoying the podcasts also. Your pastor’s sermon is a very small part of everything that’s going on at that place of worship.

You’ve been exposed to other language that sounded somewhat deeper

Every denomination has a certain vocabulary when heard for the first time sounds richer, deeper, more meaningful. There’s terminology used in Charismatic/Pentecostal churches that you simply don’t hear elsewhere, but that’s equally true of Episcopalian/Anglican churches. Perhaps you’re ready for a new adventure, but don’t make a major change just because another pastor’s lexical set sounds more spiritual.

Your pastor won’t take a stand on a doctrinal issue you consider vital

Personally, I attend a denomination which practices something called “middle ground theology” when it comes to potentially contentious issues. When it comes to gender issues (i.e. women in ministry), spiritual gifts (cessationist vs. continuationist), eschatology (pre- vs. post-), or political issues (oh, my goodness) some pastors would prefer to preach core doctrines and not wade into debates which could be divisive. Realistically, you can save all those other discussions for the lobby after the service. (And you possibly do.)

You’re not really serving at the church

Statistically, the restless are not committed to an area of service. It does change your view of the church. On the other hand, not serving makes it really easy to leave. Also, saying you’re “not being fed” is the ultimate expression of a passive attitude toward church involvement. In other words, it might reflect a misunderstanding of what it is we’re supposed to be doing at weekend worship services.

You’re ready to abandon ship

Underlying the “not being fed” comment is often a greater level of spiritual unrest. There’s a “statement behind the statement” that’s not being voiced. Something has created that restlessness and you’re wanting to bail out not because of pull factors from some other expression of Christianity, but some push factors leading you toward the exits.  All the exits. This attitude will not propel you to another church, but rather to what some call Bedside Baptist, the church where you don’t have to get dressed or start the car. Rather than follow this path, perhaps there are ways you can deconstruct and then rebuild from within the church you’re now attending. Perhaps there are others who feel the same. Possibly there are people there who have been through what you’re experiencing but decided to stay regardless.

Back in 2015, I made a list of Seven Things Meeting Together Offers (that’s not the title, but it should have been) that you should read. (We’ve run the same content here on two previous occasions.) Your local church is so much more than just the sermon…

…Having said all that…

Hunger is not a bad thing

If you really feel that you’re not being fed it is indeed possible that your pastor isn’t including enough protein, carbs, healthy fats, etc. in his weekly sermon menu. It may indeed be time to move on. If so, try to do it peaceably and try to maintain friendships.

 

August 23, 2011

Students ‘Fess Up To Teacher 15 Years Later

Summer re-runs; what can I say? But a great link list tomorrow, I promise!

A decade and a half ago I was just finishing a one-year part-time contract at the local Christian school, teaching Bible, art, music, language and spelling.

Split grade seven and eight spelling to be precise. A weekly list. A weekly test. The one piece of the job I could farm out to my wife, whose spelling is dead-on accurate. (And proofreading, if you have anything that needs doing.)

This morning we visited the church where, at the time, half of the students in the Christian school attended; and one of them, who was not in my class, informed me that both my wife and I had been had.

Turns out, if they didn’t know how to spell a word, they would simply write down some other correctly spelled word. My wife would mark the word as correct, never suspecting that they were up to something. (And not noticing the variation in words, since she was doing two grades at once.)

Isn’t church like that. We give right answers, not so much to direct questions, but insofar as we say the right things and use the right words and phrases. Even if we’re giving the answer to a question that’s not being asked. (“It sure sounds like a “squirrel” but I think I’m supposed to say “Jesus.” *)

As long as we’re providing responses that are not stained by the messiness of misspellings, we’re given the proverbial red check mark by our church peers. Nobody ever suspects the possibility that they are being had.

We’ve lost the ability to say, “I’m not sure;” or “I don’t know;” or “That’s an issue I’m wrestling with in my own spiritual life.” We’re too proud to say, when we don’t know a particular ‘word,’ something like, “That’s a part of the Bible I’ve never studied;” or “That’s an area of theology I’ve never considered;” or “That’s a particular spiritual discipline that isn’t part of my personal experience.”

So we just give the so-called “right” answers that will get us by. Or we change the subject. Or we say something incredibly complex that has an air of depth to it.

Today I read an article in a newspaper, The Christian Courier which quotes Rob Bell as saying, in reference to his church and preaching style, “…We want to embrace mystery rather than conquer it.” In many churches they want the latter. And if someone does “conquer” all things spiritual, we give them some letters after their name which mean Master of Theology, or Master of Divinity.

Years ago, when our youngest son didn’t know the answer to a question I would ask at our family Bible study, he would just say, “Love?” It was a good guess. (One night it was the right answer.) He figured he couldn’t go wrong with “Love” as the possible answer, though he always raised his voice at the end admitting he wasn’t quite sure.

Well guess what? I haven’t mastered it. I’m working on it. I don’t know.

And I have one more thing to say to all of you: Love?

* One Sunday a pastor was using squirrels for an object lesson for the children. He started, “I’m going to describe something, and I want you to raise your hand when you know what it is.” The children nodded eagerly.

“This thing lives in trees (pause) and eats nuts (pause)…” No hands went up. “And it is gray (pause) and has a long bushy tail (pause)…” The children were looking at each other nervously, but still no hands raised. “It jumps from branch to branch (pause) and chatters and flips its tail when it’s excited (pause)…”

Finally one little boy tentatively raised his hand. The pastor quickly called on him. “Well,” said the boy, “I know the answer must be ‘Jesus’ … but it sure sounds like a squirrel!”


April 3, 2009

A New Solution to Transitional Times in Local Churches

A few months ago I shared my feelings about the transitional times that Evangelical churches experience when they are between pastors.    After writing that another handful of other churches in our province joined the list of churches presently seeking a new pastor.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been on the telephone and e-mail with various groups and found myself saying, more than once, “You’ve got a projector and you’ve got a DVD player.   Cue up a video.”

It’s true.   Pastoral vacancy periods need not be “down time.”  While I ultimately support the idea of “lay people” in the church stepping up, during such times, there’s no ignoring that some of the best communicators in the English-speaking world are available on quality DVD.

Now, Craig Groschel and Bobby Gruenewald and the people at Lifechurch.tv have decided to make it official.   They’ve contracted a number of top teachers — most, but not all American — who have agreed to make their material available online for free to churches looking for a dynamic challenge on an upcoming Sunday morning.

videoteaching-dotcomThe service is called VideoTeaching.com and while the website promised that you’d be downloading during the first quarter of 2009 — which technically ended a few days ago — they’ve released the initial teaching lineup and are collecting contact info for an update mailing list.

While the list is somewhat homogeneous at first blush — all are male, pastors of large (if not mega) churches, all in a similar age range — the list is not as homogeneous in terms of doctrine.   There’s some variety here for churches of all stripes.

In some ways, the site is a concession to what everybody knows smaller churches, cell churches, network churches and home study groups have been doing for years.    So why didn’t somebody start this sooner?

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Hopefully Andy Stanley will toss in a sermon or two.   Ditto John Ortberg.   And Anne Graham Lotz.   And a few older guys.   And a few younger, up-and-coming guys.   And a few more women.   But not Beth Moore.

September 24, 2008

The “Blind Spot” of the Spiritual Formation Movement

Filed under: Christianity, Church, Faith — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:35 pm

Major authors in this movement might include Richard Foster or Dallas Willard.  Here’s what Craig Brian Larson says in Christianity Today online:

My Toyota Camry has served me well in my 40 minute commute to work, but after several close calls, I have discovered one downside: My car has a large blind spot.

I have had a similar experience with the spiritual formation movement, which I much appreciate. Books on spiritual formation speak my language. I’m a pastor who wants to see people grow into strong disciples of Jesus Christ. Disciplines of any sort appeal to me, and spiritual disciplines in particular. That’s why as much as I respect those who have written on spiritual formation, I one day came to the realization that they have a blind spot: their view of preaching.

Read books on spiritual formation and you will be hard-pressed to find listening to the preaching of God’s Word mentioned as a first-order spiritual discipline in its own right…

Continue reading here.

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Really good article.   The word “preaching” will probably turn some off.   I wish he’d used “teaching” a bit more.   Do you think there’s a difference between preaching and teaching?

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