I am relatively new to the pastor thing… 11 years. I’ve got tee shirts (that don’t fit anymore) that have been in my life longer than the pastor gig. But time is definitely a relative thing. 11 years in some ways feels like a life time. Some of the issues I have walked through with families and individuals in that time frame are overwhelming… from both grief and celebration standpoints. You experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows with families – from births to deaths, weddings and divorces, heartbreak and joy and everything in between. I wouldn’t trade any of my time so far for anything else in the world. I love being a pastor and I love – loving people.
Loving church on the other hand sometimes gets sticky. Don’t hear me wrong – I love the church where I work. I have an amazing staff and our people are wonderful!! I also recognize Jesus established the church and we are His bride and I believe wholeheartedly in “The Church” corporately. But it’s that corporately part that seems to have been lost.
It’s just a very frustrating thing when you step back and look at how “The Church” has become something so radically different from Acts 2. “Church” has become lots of smaller – and not so small – collections of people each trying to do their own thing… Church B builds new building with newer better seats and better technology to grow to be a bigger better version of itself. All the while Church A that existed for years right down the road from Church B’s new location – is now struggling… eventually shutting it’s doors. Church B says well – Church A wasn’t relevant, they weren’t communicating the gospel effectively, they didn’t fit into the construct of the new world, their time was up… How many years until Church C opens in Church A’s original location and puts Church B under? It goes on and on and on… It’s all very frustrating.
I was approached a couple of years ago by another church in Cincinnati. They told me they were paying a courtesy call to give our church notice that they were planning to … insert dramatic piano chords here… open a branch down the street from us and they knew it would impact our attendance!! GASP!!! I laughed. Then I asked why they were opening a branch here in Milford, Ohio. Was it because they felt God leading them here? Did they see that we weren’t providing for the community effectively? Nope. They said it was because they had hired a consulting firm and the consulting firm felt that our area matched them well in per capita household income, education and other demographic data. I didn’t laugh that time. I felt overwhelming sadness. They were opening a satellite branch because a consulting firm said they should? Because it would help them grow? Because it would be people who could financially support them? Side note: I never heard from them again – and now 2 years later they have yet to open their branch here. Maybe the demographics shifted…
Another church that I didn’t work at but attended for a few years before going into ministry had a similar experience. They had broken ground on expanding their new auditorium and then received a phone call from a gigantic “sister” church in a neighboring community. The sister church – same denomination – told them they wanted to give them a courtesy call as well. They had just purchased acreage that was adjoining to their church. They planned on building a multi-million dollar satellite site next to them and they thought it might be a good idea that cancel their expansion project – or at least downsize it. They didn’t want to see them take on debt that they wouldn’t be able to repay in the shadow of their colosseum. Good thing we look out for one another.
Can you tell that this stuff drives me crazy? Why in the world are we planting churches in communities where there are already churches?!? Communities need Jesus… not trendier pastors with bigger and better equipped technologically advanced church buildings! What happened to “I must decrease so that He might increase?” If I ever start a Bible College (and no I can promise you that will never happen) requirement number 1 is that every student gets John 3:30 tattooed on their wrist.
What would it look like if Church B went to Church A and said HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?!? How can we come along side you and help so you can better reach the world around you? What needs do you have? Where are you struggling? The only reason not to do that is if we are too concerned with having more members, more money and more influence. The world doesn’t need our mega-churches… they need to experience our mega-love.
Yes I have heard all of the arguments about competing with the world for the attention of the people. I used to make that same lame argument but the truth is the way we are currently “doing” church – we are losing the battle. In 1990, church attendance in the US was about 20% of all households – meaning those people would attend some weekends of the year… It’s estimated at the current rate of decline that figure will be about 10% by 2050. Not only does trying to build bigger fancier buildings with cooler toys and technology not win their attention… we shouldn’t want to compete for their attention in the first place… we need to want their hearts… We need to want the world to embrace the love of Christ. To find Him in our community. To find Him in our actions.
I’m sick and tired of it. I’m ready to see all of our churches become “The Church” … to lay down our own agendas of bigger, better and just be real with one another. Today I am praying for Milford Christian Church, Rivertree Church, Faith Church, St. Andrew the Apostle Church, Milford United Methodist, Calvary United Methodist, First Baptist Church of Milford, Harvest Pointe Christian Church, United Church of God… all of the churches around me… and Eastside Christian Church where I work. I pray that we all introduce people missing from God to the amazingly abundant love of His Son Jesus Christ… Helping one another as we go… Sharing our blessings and carrying one another’s burdens…
It’s time for a revolution.