16 February, 2015

Maybe We've Been Wrong All Along?

My wife is off work today and since she is home I've kind of taken the morning to do nothing. I've been sitting here at my desk just thinking back over my years of ministry and the things I've been taught and learned over the years, especially in the area of church growth. I have to say that as I think back, I am deeply saddened by the realization that we've done a lot of "stuff" and labeled it "ministry" when in reality what we've been doing has had little to do with ministry at all. For example, one of the men that I really looked p to as a pastor and leader once taught a seminar that I was in back in the early 1990's and the crux of his entire session was to keep the church people so busy that they would not leave. He spoke of constantly having a new project in the planning session even while working on the current one because, as he put it, "if you ever stop working and give them a break, they will leave your church quicker than a flash." He spoke about the need to always be building, adding on to the church building or remodeling... anything that gave them something to keep their hands and minds busy so that they felt like they were accomplishing something. The sad truth is... this works. If you want to get a church excited and "growing" then start building. The problem is, we are not making disciples in this method. It reminds me of the old vaudeville act where the guy would spin as many plates as possible. Sooner or later, the plates are going to begin to fall. The church where the man I was speaking off went through this. Eventually the plates began to fall, the  man left and the church lost more than 90% of those who attended as they left and went on to a church with a new act. I've seen this play out over and over again over the years. Ask any pastor and he will tell you that when he first went to almost any church, there was an influx of growth. Most of them started using these people to remodel nurseries, kitchens, fellowship halls or sanctuaries, because we've been taught to "get them busy." And for awhile, it works. But that pace simply cannot be maintained and people leave OR the pastor leaves and repeats his 2-3 year run at  new church. This might have a lot to do with the fact that the average pastor, across denominational lines, stays at a church approximately 3.6 years. Considering the number of guys who stay much longer, it means that the overwhelming majority of pastors stay less than 2 years to come to that average! We've learned how to draw crowds and how to manipulate them with strategy... but maybe it's time we start learning to make disciples who will follow Christ and become committed to the church. Maybe it's time to realize that having 50 genuine followers of Christ is of more value than having 200 people who have come to see the show and will leave you as soon as a bigger, better show comes to town. 

I'm just thinking out loud here... but something tells me that the church should be more than a place to keep people busy. It should be a place of training and equipping the people to do the work of Christ, not the busy work around the church. 

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