Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Your church is so great

compared to our last one



When I'm greeting visitors in our hospitality room after service, I often hear comments like this:

"We're here this morning because we are looking for a new church. Our church just isn't moving with the spirit anymore. The pastor feels like he needs to preach all the time. Why can't we just worship?" [um...last time I checked the Word was supposed to be central in a service, at least a Christian one...how you can "move with the spirit" without the Word of God, I don't know. Also last time I checked, preaching as well as every other aspect of the service is worship.]

"We're here this morning because our pastors are so unapproachable. We're so glad we could come in here to the visitor room and walk right up and talk to you this morning!" [Well, what are you going to feel like next week when I don't talk to you because I'm in here with next week's visitors, and not you?]


"We're here because our last church brought up tithing every week. That just makes us uncomfortable." [We take an offering every service and we're a tithing church. It amazes me that something people are chasing after for 40-50 hours a week (money, income) you get upset about if your pastor talks about for a few minutes before he/she takes the offering. As they say, a person's wallet is the last thing to get saved.]

"We're here because the worship at our church became a show and we just couldn't take it anymore." [What's going to happen when you get familiar with our worship team and start judging the way they move/act and assume the condition of their hearts by the way they jump, cry, close their eyes, wave their hands, or lack thereof?]

"We're here because we can't worship at our last church the way the Lord was leading us to. The leadership there is just too controlling." [Well, if you are going to twirl around with ribbons from JoAnn Fabrics on a dowel stick and distract people by behaving more like a fairy godmother than a worshipper and quote prophecies from the Elijah List in between or after our worship songs, realize you might not worship "like the Lord is leading you to do" here either.]

"We're here because the pastor at our last church just didn't spend enough time with us or call us enough." [What's going to happen when I don't hang out enough with you and concern myself more with winning souls in the community that are going to hell?]


"We're here because we're hurt that the staff in our previous church just didn't handle things right and there were personality clashes..." [What's going to happen when you don't like the way we handle something? We don't plan on checking with you every time we plan to do something.]

"We're here because our last pastor made a big mistake when he/she did _____________________________." [What's going to happen when I make a mistake? I have made at least one before and I'm relatively sure I may make another one again in the not too distant future.]

"We're here because our last church had problems." [What's going to happen when you see one of the problems of our church? No church is perfect and if you find one, don't go to one - you'll ruin it!"]


"We're here because the music at our last church was too loud." [When the devil fell from heaven, two things fell with him - sound systems and daytimers. Sometimes our sound gets too loud. What are you going to do? Go over to the Church of God, Vineyard Church or First Assembly when it does? Just to save you time, realize theirs may get loud on any given Sunday too. If you are looking for somewhere that doesn't, check out the Church of Christ - they don't have any instruments although they may have a singer or two that may get right behind you and sing too loud.]


"We're here because our last pastor just wasn't real enough. I always felt like he/she had a wall up and just wasn't transparent enough." [Well, I've been to counseling three times and don't care who knows it, and I may just tell the whole church I've had an incredibly "sucky" day. Are you going to leave then because you think I let it all hang out too much?]

"We're here because our last church doesn't do the worship songs we like." [Last time I checked, they weren't supposed to do the songs for you. Our goal here is to select and direct our songs toward God, so you might want to consider that before making this your home church.]


"We're here because our other church expected too much out of people. We have full time jobs and families and all our other pastor talked about was serving. We work 40 hours a week and just can't do that in 'this season' of our lives." [Unfortunately for you, we're not just a tithing church, we're a serving church too. If you want a place to hide with no expecations this isn't it. We're pretty serious about reaching our community and our world here and that takes everybody in the family actually doing something.]


"We're here because our last pastors didn't become our best friends like we hoped for." [With "friends" like you your last pastor doesn't need enemies. Am I going to be the next pastor you are trash talking?]

Hearing these kinds of things would be laughable if they weren't so sad. It is any wonder why the majority of American churches are on the decline? With church shopping and hopping at an all time high and the majority of growth coming through Christians shuffling around , we can see how this mentality is just killing many if not most churches, and causing us to waste far too much precious time. This type of behavior is why I so enjoy striving to grow the church by conversion.

Many pastors who are so excited about more warm bodies in the seats just beam when somebody says, "your church is so great compared to our last one!" I have to be honest, I get scared when I hear somebody say that. Because I realize, I'll only be great for so long, until they get disillusioned with us and move on to the next "great church" that is so much better than us.

As a pastor, you have to develop a resilience to rejection of you and your church because from at least 50% of Christians out there, this is what you will face. I have learned over the years to strive for the accolades of God and not take any joy whatsoever in hearing that I or my church are "so great" compared to somebody or somewhere else. Rather, I honestly pray for both the people I am hearing that from, and those they are talking about. Because I realize those who are telling me that need to grow and need help. For some reason they have never grasped the importance of being planted in order to flourish. Please understand, I am not talking about people who are genuinely in abusive churches, or those who are somewhere that moral failures are happening, or where the Word of God is not preached, or salvation is not presented. No, in my comments here I am referring to good Bible believing, teaching, preaching churches with good pastors who are just trying their best to grow people to a deeper walk with God. So I pray that they would stop this merry go round of change in their lives and get rooted. At the same time, I know the pastors and churches they are talking about are hurting. They tried to bring those people to maturity. They tried to bring them into the fullness of God. They tried to be a good pastor, but somewhere along the line, it just wasn't enough. And now the cycle is starting all over again.

Lord, help us. Somebody needs to stop this dysfunctional cycle and the acceptance by pastors of this "counterfeit praise" that makes them feel so good inside when it's happening. Many eat it like candy when in reality - they are being perfectly set up for a fall.

3 comments:

Kathi said...

Hi Pastor Deanna!

Can I agree and disagree all at once?

I think the vast majority of people who church-(s)hop should be questioned like you suggest. They're malcontent and looking to be served, and will move on when your church doesn't suit their needs also.

Yet for most of the examples you've given, I can relate firsthand knowledge of stuff really happening. For example ... the one that says, "We're here because we're hurt that the staff in our previous church just didn't handle things right and there were personality clashes..." -- at our former church, the pastor and his wife fought constantly (in public); she even left him for a few weeks - which he kept a secret from most of the congregation; he gossiped about and spoke badly of other area pastors, church fellowships, church members, and us; and there were some pretty interesting financial circumstances happening, too (nothing that could be proven but it was enough to ask for things to be looked into carefully). It was this behavior that caused us to leave, after we attempted to resolve the issues biblically.

One of the others reference not being able to worship the way the Lord's leading... the former pastor at that same church is reputed to have said, "If you people don't worship the way I want you to, I'll leave!" (I've always said that if I was there when it happened, I'd have helped him through the double doors!) At a church we were a part of in the past, we just didn't feel like it was "legal" to (for example) kneel in worship, or run to the altar... nothing was said but it seemed clear that this was considered a disruption to the order of the service.

Another one you bring up is the "church always talks about tithing" thing. You are 100% right ... a tithing church should talk about tithing. I know a bunch of people who left a particular church in large part because the church always needed $ for this and that, and an impassioned plea was given weekly (implying hell for those who don't give enough) ... and the pastor drove a $60K car and lives in a $450K house.

Just some thoughts.

Pastor Deanna said...

I believe you make some valid points, but let me say that I believe when problems happen in a church the main reason God shows you things is to pray. (I once read a quote by Oswald Chambers where he said something like that - God shows us things not always to act on them, and certainly not to gossip about them - but to always intercede. God has a way of taking care of things if they are wrong.)

Do I believe pastors and spouses should be fighting in public? Do I believe they should gossip? Certainly not. But consider...

In the case of the pastor and wife with problems - I have seen this kind of thing many times before and what those people need are not those who will judge them, ask them to resign, or have their church members leave on them. What they need are those who will see that pastors have problems sometimes too, and knowing such,try to get them the help they need and pray for them. I also don't believe the pastor has an obligation to get up and disclose everything happening in his personal life. If his wife left, and he thought they had a temporary blow up and she would return in a few days or a week to two, I don't believe the pastor had an obligation to immediately tell the church his wife had left. I think most married couples have had a fight where one has left at least a few hours or overnight. I know I have. And we worked it out. There was no need for the church to know we had a fight and the next morning one of us came back. I believe the best thing that church could have done when they noticed a problem is to get some counseling for their pastor, specifically in sending them for a week or two to a place for pastors (like Emerge Ministries in Ohio) that could help them. Too many people think the pastor is immune to these type of struggles like they have in their lives but the truth is, they are on the front lines and are susceptible to enemy attack more than anyone. Why didn't the people reach out and say, "Pastor, we've noticed some tension here and we love and care about you and your wife and we want to do all we can to help you..." ?

I also believe different churches have ways of doing things based on their mission, vision and values. This is usually set by the spiritual leader (the man and woman of the house that God has placed there as senior pastors). It shouldn't just be "anything goes" at a church. A friend of mine pastors a church where just a few months ago, a few ladies descended upon the church seemingly overnight from another church, came in and started to worship and during the praise/worship time they marched up and down the aisles with flags. This was simply not how this church or it's pastors do things. I'm not saying it's wrong at another church, but it simply wasn't the vision of that house. My friend and her spouse met with them and told them it was simply not the direction their church was headed, their mission, vision, etc. and that they probably would be more comfortable in a different place of worship, but to please respect the wishes of the leadership there and the way they do things. I do not have a problem with that at all. I myself am a very demonstrative worshipper. I jump up and down in church and shout, and have been known to take a run around the sanctuary if a healing like that or something occurs. But I would never do that in some of my friend's churches out of respect realizing that it is not how they do things there, and out of respect for them, I don't. I do not believe pastors should just accept anything as acceptable behavior that walks in the door. Every church has it's culture and ways of doing things and that's what makes the body of Christ unique and also the reason there are different churches to select from, to find a place we all fit best, root there, and bloom where we are planted.

Re: the tithing. I don't believe mine or my husband's salary has a thing to do with the needs of the church or whether people should give/not give. Honestly, we make a very good salary and up until the time my son had a car accident in my car a few months ago, I drove a Mustang Convertible. When my husband or I or one of our staff gets up to take the offering and makes the church aware of the need that our air conditioner needs to be replaced in the fellowship hall or we are doing a new remodeling project and we ask everyone to be faithful and give I don't think it should matter where I live or what kind of car I drive. I believe pastors should be well taken care of, and thank God everyday our church loves and cares for us where mine and Larry's minds can be on the work of the Lord, and caring for the people and not worried about how our next bill is going to be paid. We are so blessed. I don't think it's a sin to live in a nice house. My house right now appraises at $340,000. I didn't pay that for it, (home values have skyrocketed here over the last five years) however, that's beside the point. At least 80% of our congregation live in the same type of house I do, and many beyond what I currently live in. I would think it a blessing that a church would make it possible for a pastor who loves and cares for them so much to live in a $450,000 house. Should someone think twice about giving to our next financial need because I drive a Mustang and live in a house worth $340,000? I don't think so...I look at the two as apples and oranges and completely irrelevant. You don't tithe or give based on what your pastors receives or doesn't receive. You tithe and give because it's a scriptural command. And the fact is, churches always have needs and what is so wrong with bringing it before the people? No, not tell them they are catching hell as you say, for not giving, but letting them know there is a need and we need everyone to step up and give...

But maybe we just have to agree to disagree.

I agree there are sometimes moral issues and unresolved things where people feel led to leave and should. If my pastor was involved in proven sexual sin, financial impropriety or heresy and it was not confronted or resolved, I would definitely leave. But I can assure you this, it would be quietly - I would not discuss it with anyone, nor would I take anyone from the church with me except my immediate family. My role at that time would be to move on quietly and find another place to plant my family and grow.

Pastor L said...

Yup...with 62+ churches to pick from in the community I serve (not to mention a ton more in the surrounding areas!), it would be pretty foolish to get a fat head from this "counterfeit praise." I also tend to distrust people who (since I've only been here a year!) say, "I like you better than the last CP because of x, y, or z..." They're still in the honeymoon phase with me, and one of these days I'm going to make a call that they don't like (discipline their kid; hold Christmas play practice on a day that they don't like; whatever!!), and then they'll start storing up their beefs with me and unload them on the next person who comes along, should I be called away from here someday...

As far as the comment about the type of car the pastor drives, I totally agree. When I went into the ministry, I told my mom, "Well, I guess that means I'm going to be dirt poor!" She said, "Don't say that...God can bless pastors just as well as He can bless anyone else!" It is also our responsibility as church members to be obedient to God's word and trust the leadership of the church to manage the tithe money that we owe God. If they're mishandling it, God will judge THEM, not the ones who obediently gave!