Thursday, August 28, 2008

From Frustration to Freedom

I'm frustrated.

I have been frustrated for several years.

It seems like all the trade publications to which I subscribe and all the book catalogs I get have conspired to make me feel inadequate. These magazines tell me that I won't have a vital, missional, growing church unless I go to this seminar, or take that class, or go to such-and-such a conference. In fact, these magazine are now telling me that people will leave my church if I don't attend this or that. The books that the catalogs are hyping are telling me that unless I read this book I really don't understand ministry or culture.

And, then there are the books by the superpastors. These pastors and their minions write that I should start a new church and if I pray to God enough, and if I am faithful enough, then the new church will explode practically overnight and there will be no challenges, no wounds, no obstacles. God will provide a building and a parsonage and a great staff and top-rated musicians for your Praise Band even before you get started...all for free.


That may play in the silicon valley, or in Chicago, or Miami, but it doesn't play in Snover...or Flushing. I decided that a few years back.

I am tired of the church growth movement. I am tired of church and marketing used in the same sentence.

And, while I am at it...when did the church become a marketer for someone else's movie or T-shirts or bobble-head Jesuses??? Now I have to rent out a movie theater and give away tickets and t-shirts and key-rings and show someone's movie that portrays the gospel in a way that will reach our culture. If I don't, I am behind the times, and behind the eight-ball and behind several other things that, I'm sure, aren't good.


This cannot be happening!

Yeah, yeah...I know...the church has to remain relevant to the culture. The church has to speak to the culture. The church has to remain relevant. But, what does that mean? Does that mean we have to wear certain clothes, or tattoo our arms, or show movies, or sell DVD's, or give away iPhones? Or does it mean that we need to meet people with intelligent and loving responses to life's questions that point toward Jesus Christ (or at least provide a safe place for those questions to be asked and explored)? Does it mean that we become a strip mall offering a bookstore, a movie theater, a coffee shop, a free clinic, and twenty-seven different worship services with twenty-seven different worship styles each with their own pastor, staff and musical group? Or, does it mean that we are willing to journey with people and help them find God and Christ and grace and justice in the midst of whatever it is they find themselves in at any given time in their life?

When did pastors stop being spiritual role models and start becoming and rock stars an CEO's? When did the church stop being the people of God on a journey and start becoming a destination?

But, my frustration doesn't stop there, my friends...oh no.

For all of my career, and for years before it began, I have had a desire that non-believers and those who have been wounded and disillusioned by a church would enjoy a new or renewed relationship with God in Christ and with Christ's church. That desire has become more intense over the years. But, I have not been given the gift of evangelism. But, I have been given other gifts that help me share my faith in Jesus Christ and help me to organize and administrate ministries that help the congregations I have served witness their faith and invite people into a relationship with God and his church.

I/we have had some moderate success.

I know I have this desire for the non-believer and the dis-churched. I know that many of my congregation share that desire. Unfortunately, the non-believers and the dis-churched don't seem to know that we have this desire - and they are staying away in droves.

Back to the magazines and catalogs.

They tell me that if I do this or that then people will be beating down my door.

I don't believe it. I don't believe it because I don't believe that God is a cosmic vending machine and if I put the right amount of change in and push the right buttons in the right order then my congregation will grow. I don't believe that God works only within the bounds of a formula.

So, I have come to a decision.

I will lead our church to be the church that I believe God is imagining us to be. I have begun talking and praying with my team about what that might look like. And, I have been inspired, challenged and stretched. But, I am firmly convinced that this is by God's Spirit and God's grace. You couldn't talk me out of that. I am being freed from the need to be approved of by my peers and by the super-rock-star pastors. I am being freed from the need to have my congregation triple in one week...okay that wasn't really a need...more of a dream (I blame the super-rock-star pastors).

But, more than anything else, I am being freed from the frustration.

Freedom feels good.

And, I am excited - really excited - about the possibilities and potentials that God is revealing to me as I live into my decisions and my freedoms.

Excitement is good.

1 comment:

Lore said...

Freedom to serve God when and where called - outside of the Christian norm, outside of the Christian powerhouses - is a struggle for many of us. The frustration to be obedient when our human side cries for social and personal acceptance can be painful. Peace - letting go and going with God - a continual journey.

Thanks for sharing!
Nice to not journey alone!