Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Cutting To The Heart Of It
All of them have been at it long enough to collect wounds, and many have not healed well. Some of the wounds came from the congregation. Some were self-inflicted. For too long many have been dancing on the borders of total burnout, trying to fulfill the contradictory expectations of the congregation and their own expectations about success. None of them wants to be remembered as the pastor who was there when the church closed its doors. So they are compelled to succeed, which means they have to do something to keep people coming in those doors. But here's the rub: Whenever they succeed in meeting the expectations of either the older parishioners or the desired visitors, pastors feel deep in their souls that they are simply con artists. They hate having to be whatever is necessary to keep the old guard reassured and the seekers enticed. They learn to be strong but sensitive, profound but playful, prophetic but consensus-building, always available with an open door but always in touch with the sacred -- whatever is necessary to engender approval, no matter how inherently inconsistent, all for the elusive prize of being liked.I cannot help but reflect that somewhere in there the math is wrong. I agree with the analysis, but see so many wrong assumptions:
- The church is not to be consumed by the "old-timers" or the seekers - it is to be joined by all.
- Church does not emanate from the pastor, the pastor leads a flock of priest/believers
- Churches that make disciples do not fail, even if the go broke and close the doors
These feelings so well described illustrate a false understanding of the church, the role of the pastor and most importantly, the role fo the congregation.
Here's how I analyze it. Every congregation is full of members, old and new, that do not pony up, which makes the pastor feel that he/she has to make all these difficult choices. But there are always a few that are truly committed. The problem is, most pastors view those few as a threat to authority rather than as the partners they should view them as. I wonder what would happen if a pastor truly and humbly partnered with those few and together they dreamed dreams and cast visions and did ministry? I wonder what would happen if rather than compete with those few, they set them free, even at the cost of the church looking radically different than their personal vision?
I wonder what would happen if rather than trying to organize the church, we set it free to reach every corner of creation?
I think God might change the world.