Two Talents

Faith-based expressions of a Christian.

Misc. Church stuff

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Gee, it's been over a month since I posted here. I've become slothful.

My Church has been without a pastor for several months. It has been a time which tries men's souls. Okay, that's overly dramatic, but it's sort of revealed our mettle as a Church, and I have not liked all that I've seen. I finally called someone who holds a position in our Church that would make him familiar with the inner matters going on. I know I could trust him to give me straight answers and he did so. I have to say I'm confused and frustrated by what some folks have done and are still doing. So, here is a compilation of various things, not all of which my Church is dealing with.

There is an epidemic occurring right under the nose of church middle judicatories and no one seems to notice. Young pastors (less than five years in the ministry) are leaving in droves. The Lilly Foundation has poured millions of dollars into “Sustaining Pastoral Ministry” initiatives and it’s too soon to tell whether or not their approach is working. Aside from the obvious reasons pastors leave the ministry (sexual impropriety, financial mismanagement, and marital dissolution) here are the top ten reasons why young pastors call it quits:

1. The discontinuity between what they imagined ministry to be and what it actually is is too great.
2. A life without weekends sucks.
3. The pay is too low (most pastors in my denomination make less money than a school teacher with five years experience).
4. They are tired of driving ten year old cars while their congregations trade in their cars every two years.
5. Many young pastors are called into difficult congregations that chew pastors up and spit them out because experienced pastors know better.
6. Even though the search committee told them they wanted to reach young people, they didn’t really mean it.
7. When the pastor asked the search committee if they were an “emergent church”, the members of the search committee thought he said “divergent church” and agreed.
8. Nobody told the young pastor that cleaning the toilets was part of the job description.
9. The young pastor’s student loans came due and the amount of money he/she owes on a monthly basis exceeds his/her income.
10. Working at McDonalds has alot less stress.

The above was taken directly from another blog, found here. The comments are worth reading as well. My Church has a candidate in mind and just last night voted on a financial package to offer him. If he accepts I hope he doesn't wonder if he did the right thing a few months into it. The problems within my Church have even kept me from attending regularly. I realize that probably isn't a valid excuse for not going, but then I am one of those who believes Church should feed your faith, not harm it. If Church is the opposite of edification, why bother? 

Some would say, "Find another Church then", and they may be right. However, I would recall the words of Catholic writer Fr. Andrew Greely, who said (paraphrased), "Go and find the perfect Church, only realize that as soon as you join, it ceases to be perfect." Amen! I will admit, though, that the lack of a place to fellowship and worship in one's life can itself be bad for one's faithful walk and spiritual growth. In fact, a survey suggests that many Americans feel they can go it alone without a Church:

DALLAS (ABP) — Almost three-fourths of Americans claim to be Christians, but only a small fraction consider church the place to deepen their faith, a new survey says.

Less than 20 percent of American adults believe participation in a congregation is critical to spiritual growth, and just as few agree that only through participation in a faith community will they reach their full potential, the Barna Research Group reported April 18.

The full story can be found here. So, how do we walk the line between attending a flawed Church and not attending one at all? That can be as difficult a thing as being a pastor. Well, comparably as difficult; pastors in flawed Churches (all are flawed, but I speak of flaws that are dysfunctional) have tremendously challenging roles. 

Let's look at some of the characters one is apt to find in any given Christian Church:

  1. The Legalist
  2. The gossip
  3. The argumentative person
  4. The man or woman who believes their way is always the correct one
  5. The miser
  6. The crap disturber

The Legalist is someone who believes in strict rules that everyone should follow. This is the person who isn't actually a KJV-only heretic (i.e. all other translations are corrupt and the Devil's work), but they think that the pastor and everyone else should use the KJV because it's the best. Never mind that a hoard of credible scholars would disagree, and could point out flaws with the Received Text. The KJV is all they've ever known, and it's what their pastor should quote from when preaching! They also think that certain actions are inherently wrong, such as playing cards, dancing, attending movies, listening to secular music, etc. 

The gossip is as harmful to the local congregation as the Legalist is, only they probably don't realize it. Spreading information around that is true is bad enough, but when it's not true, or inaccurate, the damage is worse. If ten people hear that someone did something bad, but the information is not true, will all ten people find out that the information was wrong? Even if all ten do, will they all believe it, or will there be lingering doubts as to whether the person actually did the supposed wrong or not. Gossips can tear a Church apart as viciously as the Legalist can. And even if their gossip is accurate, the harm it causes is awful.

The argumentative person is, in fact, a prideful person. This is also true of the person who believes their way is always the right way, or the only way. This is someone rooted in pride, and who is unwilling to hear the viewpoints of others. The KJV-only advocate (be they heretic or legalist in that regard) is one of these people. So is the man or woman who gets put on committees and end up frequently being the lone voice of dissent on said committees. They are inflexible, stubborn and have a way of dismissing other points of view outright, often without giving other views a chance. Before someone with a differing view is even finished stating their case this person has already discounted it as wrong. They hear favorably only what they agree with and are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to sway from their positions.

The miser feels that the Church's money should never be spent….on anything. Apparently, when Christ returns our coffers are supposed to be full, at least according to this person. Need the Teen Room remodeled? Let the teens raise the money for that themselves! Is the Church's lawnmower 12 years old? It'll last another 12 years! Just keep getting it repaired because a new mower costs too much. Pay someone to plow snow from the parking lot? Why? Can't someone (not them) from the Church use the snowblower that we clean our sidewalks with to clear the lot? Or will anyone melt if forced to walk 50 feet in 4" of snow? You get the drift. Oddly, the miser is not always so miserly with his/her own money.

The crap disturber is an enigma. Every Church seems to have one, although they stir the crap to differing degrees. Whether it's done to get attention, out of spite or for some other reason, as soon as harmony seems to be prevailing this person (or, worse yet, persons) will break out their stir stick and start disturbing. Why do they do it? That's the enigma. All, or most, other aspects of this persons life probably indicate they are saved. That is why this person can be such a mystery.

Hopefully each Church also has the steadfast servant who makes an effort to prayerfully consider all matters, stay joyful and positive and is a wonderful example for young and old alike. We have a handful of those in my Church, and I thank God for them. We have at least one of every person on the above list too. I doubt any Church can say they don't have at least one of each also. 

So, how do we continue in such an environment? First of all, realize that no Church is perfect. If you leave for another Church when trouble rears it's ugly head you will be changing Churches frequently. Of course, the truly terminally dysfunctional Churches should be left, but don't think that because your Church has problems that it's a lost cause. Secondly, do what our fill-in pastor told us to do in his message yesterday: forget about yourself and serve the Lord. When we stand before Christ to be judged by Him we won't be able to say, "Lord, I'd have done better in service to you but these other people in my Church prevented it." Nope. He knows better. Church is 1-3 hours per week. What are you doing with the rest of the time?

Hmmmm. What am <u>I</u> doing with the rest of <u>my</u> time? Looks like I've given myself something to consider here.  

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Written by Shawn

April 24, 2006 at 1:49 pm

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