Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Shepherds & Backbone

When our church was less than one year old, a certain family got involved with helping us. I was grateful for the help. But within a couple of months I could sense that this couple would eventually cause some trouble. I could detect the “little moves” they were making. They seemed to be happy enough, but I noticed that they also kept trying to inject their traditions and preferences onto us. Eventually I had to have one of those painful conversations.

Year two, the same thing occurred but this time it was with someone else.

Year three, same thing. Different people.

Year four, five, six, seven and eight, same thing. Different people. Same song, second stanza.

Year nine and ten. Same thing. Louder voices. You get the idea.

Here’s the point. During the lifetime of a church there will always be people who show up with certain expectations that they want the church to meet. Often they have an agenda of their own – one that is different from the church. This agenda will eventually manifest itself in which they will try to steer the ship in the direction they think it should go. They gain leverage to do this by getting close to the pastor, volunteering for critical positions, or gathering a group of people together who see things their way. Or perhaps after having given money they gradually begin to feel emboldened (or entitled) to take a stand against the mission of the church.

In each instance, the only remedy is someone with backbone.

It doesn’t matter what the organizational flow chart says, what the vision says, what the church’s structure is, or what model of government they use. People know how to "massage" the system to get what they are after. But at the end of the day it takes someone with backbone who will to stand up to these challenges and look the person straight in the eye and communicate to them that what they are attempting to do is not permitted, nor will it be successful. Period.

This is not an easy thing to do. I wish there would be fewer instances of this as time goes by, but there is not. It happens every year, and I am certain will continue to do so.

For instance, this past week I was having a conversation in the atrium after 2nd service with a person who has been attending with us for about six months. This individual approached me and began to quiz me about our church. At some point in the conversation I was asked why we don’t use a worship style from the 70s. I explained that methods and styles are not sacred and churches should change them often in order to say fresh. But the message (God’s Word) never changes. Besides, we don’t use a 70s style worship because that was thirty years ago and we don’t live back then! At which point this person said they “strongly disagreed with me.” Are you frigging kidding me? Here we are eleven years into this work and this “six month wonder” shows up out of nowhere and wants to “strongly disagree” and take issue? Not to mention the fact that hundreds of people attend our church each week (who are happy) and have been radically changed by the power of God. The miracles of life-change and operations of the Holy Spirit are too numerous to mention. Yet, all this person was concerned about was our “style” and “methods.”

I think another painful conversation is in my near future. This is one I will probably enjoy.