I’ve been involved in church since I was 1 week old. Attending, volunteering, on staff. Had many family members and friends as pastors, staff members. I know enough to know that those within leadership have flaws like everyone else.
So why do I think I have the ability to write this and why? Well, I’m in a unique place right now. Not on staff, have time to reflect over years of involvement with many many churches and why not. This is not out of anger, bitterness, rejection – just plain contemplation.
And, chances are I am not talking about your church. This is multiple churches and 50+ years (oh my Gosh! Am I that old????) worth of reflections.
First of all, the church (which is flesh and blood) has many components and within those are many pieces. You have leadership in general, the pastor, the assistants, the staff, the teachers, the volunteers, the pew sitters, the C & E Christians (Christmas and Easter) and hopefully the curious new ones who want to find out what this Christianity is all about.
The first thing we need to realize (and this is 100% my opinion so if you don’t want to know what I think – and there are many of you who couldn’t care less – then you can stop reading now. For the rest of you wonderful people – carry on.) is that there is no difference in one’s value based on a title or job within the church walls. And, there are times that the casual pew sitter may have a better handle on what Jesus wants than the most esteemed pastor.
So here goes . . .
Leadership should be known. The general congregation should see and know who does what and why. If you’re a small church introduce a few each Sunday on a continual basis. If you’re larger highlight them in the bulletin or video announcements. Make them known and accessible.
Leadership needs to be held accountable. There should be no one person to make major decisions. Every person should be held in check.
Every leader should be able to be challenged – maybe a strong word – should be able to be questioned about any decision and be willing to hear and consider what is brought to them.
Pastors – you may have the toughest job of any. You can’t please everyone and that is not your job. There is One you are to strive to please and that is God alone. Your message should be offensive at times to some of us. And, please don’t just tell us how wonderful your marriage is or that your everyday activities are so holy that there is a bright light following you. We need to hear where you mess up. We need to hear that you might slip and cuss, get angry or be rude with someone. Once we hear that then you can show us how you – with the help of the Holy Spirit – corrected your mess ups.
I don’t know if this falls under leadership or pastor, but shape your church around your congregation, leaving room to expand to other people groups and culture. Do not try to make your church a hip, young, college church if the demographics are families with young kids. Do not try to push people into the newest electronic device or app when there are many who don’t use or don’t have access. The only direction we should be a proponent of is towards God. We should be leading (which means we are in front of) everyone towards God. Don’t remove the Word of God, tracts or any other helpful resources from a convenient place for people to retrieve just because it doesn’t match your décor. Do get out in your community and invite them in. Do have special events of all genre to see what brings results. And for goodness sakes, if you hit upon an event that fills your church – continue – maybe that’s the area God has given you to use.
Assistants and departments within the church – the minute you think you are more important than ANY other person on staff, you’ve failed. If your department provides a service for other departments, you should have no favorite kids. We are all family. Our goal is for all to succeed and committing to do whatever it takes for each other to excel is a win win for ALL – especially those in the pews (who happen to be our real bosses anyway).
I love music and the all the lights and special effects in the sanctuary – but not at the expense of those sitting in the pews. We get it that you are trying to create something TV worthy but not at the expense of those sitting right in front of you. Singing in the dark is no more holy than in the light. And, if the decibel reader is continually on the dangerous level then we are not serving those within our walls. When you are truly real and raw is when Jesus shows up and we are blessed beyond any words. Your beautiful God loving voice and spirit brings us all together in the most precious part of worship.
There will be a special place in heaven for teachers and volunteers, I think. You are at times the first “Jesus” person some see when they walk in the door. You may be the first person to introduce God’s love to those – young and old. You could be the only person to smile at a child, reach out and physically touch someone, or actually listen to an older person. There is so much Jesus happening with you and it happens best when you leave you behind and keep Jesus between you and those you are serving.
For those of us sitting in the pews, we experience the best when we forget about those around us. Yes, there are those who look different than us, act differently than us and may even smell differently than we do. And, when service is over, we don’t need to compare notes with others about what we didn’t like. Perhaps, what we didn’t like is exactly what God wanted us to hear and mull over.
And, this is the final, touchy one. I think we as a church leave out the “communities” we are uncomfortable with. The handicapped, the homeless, the gay/lesbian, the “don’t fit in” people. I get it that we preach the gospel and it does have passages against some of these life styles, but there is absolutely no passage against their life. We need to get uncomfortable and invite, welcome and love ALL people into our group.
If we are concerned about a certain sin over another other then we’ve really missed our calling. God called us to love him and love one another. And, we can’t do that with exclusion. We can’t bring people in with the idea that we are going to change the way they live. We should be bringing people in to introduce them to God and to help them have a real, honest connection to the Holy Spirit. It’s his job to do the changing. No where do I read that I’m supposed to chastise, convict or point out another one’s sin and minister to his need to change. Some of us Christians feel like that’s our job. I really don’t think so – and it’s my opinion again.
And, the church is not just Sunday within the walls. Church is you in the grocery line behind a harried mother offering to help. Church is you in the parking lot waving someone into the parking spot you wanted. Church is you holding open a door, picking up litter, putting that grocery cart wandering around the parking lot back into its place. Church is you smiling and telling the cashier they are doing a good job. Church is you paying a bill for someone anonymously. Church is you driving someone to their appointment, making a meal, offering to take kids for a few hours to give parents a break. Church is sending cards in the mail, stopping for a short visit. Church is NEVER done.
I’m not sure why I wrote this – but I hope I’ve encouraged someone to get out there and be a better church. A more deliberate church. A church that others want to spend time with. A church that makes God smile.