Tuesday, September 16, 2008

If you don't like church, then stop going.

My Director (at work) goes to a COG here in town and serves as the Sunday School director. Recently, their senior pastor took a state overseer position (something he'd known about for months) and with one week's notice, up and left. Just a few weeks prior, the administrative pastor suffered a breakdown and left town. My boss has kept me fairly engaged in all that's going on with the church's search for a new pastor because I knew four of the six candidates, and three of them had blogs.
  • You need to know that this is a bigger church (600+).
  • You need to know that my director is pretty traditional, a micro manager, and not a fan of change.
  • The church is fairly traditional.
  • The church has lost almost 200 members in the last two years due to lack of senior pastor involvement and a less-than-engaging youth program.
  • The church was without a children's minister/director/leader for nearly a year.
  • So... the church has been interviewing pastors for the job.

This past Sunday night, a very well-known youth pastor from Atlanta came and preached a service.

  • He wore jeans and a polo.
  • He laid out his plans to really change things.
  • He even said that the staff may change.
  • He said he was "doing away" with Sunday School.

And you can imagine that my director was TORN UP. He sat in my office yesterday furious that this man had come in, with his new ideas, his changes, and been honest with the congregation. So, he called the State Overseer and complained. (Basically, he turned into a 49-year old Tattle Tale.)

I was very honest with my boss to tell him that he was more concerned with losing his title than he was about the rest of the congregation.

his power was more important than HIS Power.

yeah... take a minute and think on that.

The pastor I grew up under (after my father) did away with S.S. in 1992. He recognized that S.S. was good, but if you have to invest more time in finding/retaining teachers than you do in understanding and teaching the curriculum, then S.S. loses it's effectiveness. He implemented some small groups long before they ever got popular. He disbanded the choir. He even did away with our choir loft! (Can you imagine!) He painted the drab brown paneling bright white, tore out the 1970's dated orange carpet, installed new carpet and demo'd S.S. rooms to accommodate a brand new children's church. When people complained about the music programs, he made sure the volume was cranked up even louder. He visited the sick in the hospital, the elderly congregants in their home, the kids in the schools. He bought a church bus and went cruising through the projects to pick up kids who had never been invited to church. He sold the parsonage (which was about 8 miles from the church), and built a parsonage on the grounds. He woke up many morning before 5 and would walk the parking lot of the church asking God to show him the vision for our church... the future... the next step.

This crazy former drug addict from Mobile, Alabama was on fire for the Lord, and with his charisma and "take no slack" attitude, transformed our congregation from 30 to 200 in a few years.

And then one day, he got greedy, and thought that it would be best to leave. And he did. But we kept changing, long after he was gone.

I wrote all that to say... change is good, different, and scary... but inevitable. Everyday, we wake up to change in our world, our economy, technology -- in everything.

Why is church the one place where we want it to stagnate and stay the same?

When I suggested that this candidate brings a lot of resources the church has never had and may very well move my boss from one position to something else, he said that he and his wife would just go to another church, but that they weren't crazy about the pastor's preaching at this other church. So, I sarcastically suggested that he 1) start his own church, 2) stop going to church altogether, 3) or get with the program.

You're not going to like everything about church. Pastors (and their families) will fail you. Denominations will fail you. Other church staff will make HUGE irreparable mistakes. It's imperfect people, running an imperfect church on grace. If there are things going on that are not right, be spiritually mature enough to confront the people in love after praying about it. And the bible doesn't say we can't change churches. Find a new church. And get involved. But SHUT UP criticizing everything the staff does because they don't ask your permission or input. If the pastor doesn't want to be your BFF, it doesn't mean that he hates you. If the pastoral staff doesn't recognize your "spiritual gift" of playing the tambourine, could it be that you've never told anyone about your talent? If you don't get a pat on the back for every little thing you do, it's okay. I want to ask people who act like this,

"Are you going to be disappointed with Heaven too?"

I'm going to stay off my soapbox about how everyone who works for the Lord has to get paid for another day.

**The state overseer was very unhappy about this candidate's zeal and may very well squelch the "New Thing" God is wanting to do in this area because one man doesn't want to give up his power.**


Bitsy said...

Preach it sista!!! Hubby and I just talked the other night about how sometimes we could choke some people because of their attitudes and actions at church, but we continue to do what we do ~ most imperfectly ~ because we love God and love our church and love our pastor and staff (even when they don't know what they are doing)!!! hahahahahahahaha

love ya, Bitsy

Jonathan said...

Institutional power and position are persistent forces in any social setting. People, often those in power resist change, because it effects their holdings. It is tough to talk about that in the church--we want to give people the benefit of the doubt. It sounds like that local church is changing. I hope the hiring commit, doesn't look for someone who looks different, but essentially maintains systems. Craig Van Gider has a great triad for church life 1. the church is 2. the church does what it is 3. the church organizes what it does. Many churches, when looking for change look at what they organize. For example, change the music...It takes a deeper look at what the church is to create lasting reform.