Sunday, March 22, 2009

Blowing It: Part 2

Forgive me, dear reader, that I have been absent from my task for so long. It has been an exceptionally busy time in life and in ministry. I admit also to struggling with the issues discussed in my last blog. I now see that this blog, called “Blowing It,” will be more than the two parts I first contrived. For the more I ruminate about this topic, the more encompassing the issues seem to be.

To summarize: I think the Church “blows it” when people don’t see Jesus in us. When the world sees strife, hypocrisy (the failure to practice what we preach) and that there is a definite insider/outsider mentality in many churches, they don’t see the Jesus of the Bible who welcomes sinners and changes them.

Why is the Church such a mess? Two ideas:

Power and Pride. In too many churches people fight for ownership of the ministry or aspects of the ministry. They want to be “big potatoes.” Churches are usually so desperate for “volunteers” that they will accept anyone and they therefore become refuges for people who can’t command anything in the marketplace but can command a lot of attention in the church.

Sometimes in the church we behave as if the worst thing that could happen to us was for someone to leave and go to another church. So we do everything we can to keep people where they are. Even if those folks don’t share the same vision or values. I remember a story I was told once by a pastor: There was a certain racist gentleman in the church (does this very statement strike anyone but me as extremely odd?) who one day saw the pastor baptizing the child of a non-white family. The man began screaming his outrage and other racial epithets. The pastor calmed the man down and got him to go home. The next week several families of color left that church but the old racist stayed and continued to broadcast his hateful feelings. My question is simply why the pastor didn’t tell the man he was wrong, that Jesus came to save everybody, and that if he didn’t repent he would be put under church discipline? But you get my point, I hope. We do everything we can to hold on to folks, even when it’s clear they aren’t getting what it is the church is about: Jesus.

It is doesn’t help that usually local church leadership seems these days to be either “too hard” or “too soft.” What I mean is that in many churches the pastors or leaders are either absolute dictators (we used to call them “Herr Pastors”) who don’t see the need to cast a vision for people to grab hold of and expect to be followed without earning respect or giving it; or they exert no leadership at all and allow the people in their congregations to do whatever they want (which usually winds up handicapping the church because nobody was leading so nothing went on except conflicts between differing interest groups).

So we waste our time and our money just trying to keep the doors open and never doing any of the disciple making that our Lord commanded us to do. Visitors, too, can sense conflict in the air and they don’t want any part of it. They can also sense in a place if there is leadership or not and if there isn’t, well, they usually don’t stay (unless they are looking for a place to become a big potato themselves in which case they’ll gladly stay and fill the vacuum).

This model of the church doesn’t function because few people operate within their Spiritual Gifts doing the things God gifted them to do and most of the others are tied up in alliances with one petty kingdom or another. So the focus becomes not Jesus or the mission he gave us, but the congregation itself.

Continue reading the second point in our next installment. Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ

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