Moral Contradictions

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The proverbial stream

I understand that my wife and I somewhat operate under a sense of naivete within church work, but I would like to think that we have a firm idea of the definition of a healthy church. Sure, I'll be the first to admit that no perfect church exists - they all have problems.

Those problems often result from a fundamental issue: control. Any way you slice it, just about any conflict is rooted in that struggle. Sometimes the lack of control can lead to problems, but more often competing parties lose sight of the church's purpose to protect their interests. Neglectful use of control is also harmful, as those called to leadership positions simply don't lead.

Occasionally members may base their actions on a desire to control their reputation: one person in mind goes to both the early and late service (they're exactly the same) to say "I go to church more than anybody else".

Control issues often manifest themselves as self-serving, with serving our common Lord Jesus Christ thrown to the wayside. Until a church is clear on their vision and purpose of coming together to worship and praise God and to further his Kingdom, the church will wallow in mediocrity.

Power struggles and other conflicts represent rocks in the stream. As the church pushes forward, they may dodge a few here and there, but ultimately they must contend with these obstacles. The church has two options: get stuck or find a way to move beyond. The church then learns to look out for these particular issues and understands how they can be avoided in the future.

What happens when the rocks form a dam? How do you push forward? How long do you bang your head on the wall?

In my opinion, the pastor should be the leader of the congregation to breach thick situations in which the church is in decline. Excuses, rationalization, and lack of will to change are unacceptable. How does a church respond when the buck does not stop at the pastor's desk? What to do when the pastor admits he neither knows how to grow a church nor has the energy?

I learned how to drive a car with a stick-shift - my mother told me the hardest part was getting into first gear. Once that motion was mastered, subsequent gear shifts were much easier. If the church is not willing to put forth the effort to get the church into gear and the pastor isn't willing either, or even expected, what's the point?

No one is concerned that attendance has dropped 30% in the last several years. The few laity leaders who do most of the work are frustrated and are stepping back. The pastor acknowledges problems but does not know how to help. At least one family is visiting other churches, and I would lay money that a couple others will in the near future. Visitors rarely come back a second time.

How long will folks buy into this charade that we call church? Healthy churches have problems too, but they move on - unhealthy churches remain stuck in the mud, and it'll take a large and painful push to get it moving.

Faith, courage, love, fellowship, and accountability. Come on folks - let's get pushing.


  • I left my Baptist church and joined the Methodist church about 4 years ago. However, I still work there and was never removed from the membership roll. The fundy pastor they had is now gone and they have hired a "home grown" pastor. Actually he was the music director, who they ordained several years ago. He has been at this church for close to twenty years. When he first came he was addicted to cocaine and his life was in the toilet. The people here loved him and he turned his life around. He worked with the youth until he was made music minister. He has no seminary training. Yet, I believe he is going to be the best pastor this church has ever had. He ministers with a humbleness I've never witnessed before. The love and concern he has for people is only something that God can give. They are now seeing people who left return. Young people, for the most part. I firmly believe if we stop trying to "grow" the church and just love as Christ loved, the church will not die.

    I don't know whether I will return. I'm still nursing my wounds. I did attend this past Sunday, however. I'm taking it one step at a time.

    By Blogger Marty, at Thursday, May 18, 2006 3:00:00 PM  

  • Marty,

    "Grow" was the only verb I could think of last night, and I understand it's much more than that.

    Part of loving Christ and loving your people is teaching them how to love Christ not just on Sundays, but everyday - to love Him not just within the church walls, but at work and at school.

    If the congregation comes and warms the pew and the pastor visits the right hospital room and merely fills the pulpit, growth is the least of their concerns: it's decline.

    By Blogger Nathan, at Thursday, May 18, 2006 3:31:00 PM  

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