I debated with myself whether to give the following the time of day, but decided to address it in general for those who really do desire to grow in the Lord.
Awesome, I’m always willing to give it one more try with people in the hopes that they will change their spots (even knowing what they say about leopards!).
So…with no further adieu, “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” part three. Oh, one more thing. I decided to leave Ebert’s (not his real name because he wouldn’t use it) final jab posted so everyone can see that unfortunately, most critics’ method of choice is gossip — a sniper approach, stealthy stuff, you know, hiding.
The theme for today’s post hit me today as I ran into a contractor who heard I was a pastor of a large church (their words) and wanted me to know that he believed large churches were bad. He said he’d been a Christian all his life and had finally found the ONLY church he’s EVER been to where he felt the Spirit’s presence. To which, I replied, “Oh, you’ve never felt like God was part of any other church? Especially the big ones?
“That’s right,” he said “They aren’t doing what they are supposed to. Our church is several years old, about 130 people and our pastor doesn’t want it to grow any bigger than that and neither do we. He says that’s the only way that he can take care of everyone’s needs in the church and make sure that they are happy.”
I was stunned. I could hardly believe my good fortune. Here was a real live “I-Chair” (similar to high-chair but more selfish) Christian, an honest to goodness adult/baby. I had to recover quickly though because I didn’t want the interview to end prematurely (which, in retrospect, was probably unlikely since I was a pastor and he was, well, nevermind).
“Your pastor actually says that?” I asked.
“Yeah, and he’s there for me and everyone else whenever we need them.”
“Do you have any other pastors there?” I inquired.
“Nope, don’t need any. He can do it all. Pastor Joe (not his real name) does ALL THE MINISTRY.”
I won’t bore you all with the details. You can probably see where this is going. But the good news is this. He did start to come around as I explained to him how the first church (Acts 2) was actually a mega church in one day! And if Peter decided to start scheduling out all the lunches, funerals, weddings, etc. himself (because, after all, he preached the first sermon, he was the pastor so…) the church would not only have entered the record books as the fastest growing, but also as the fastest dying!
Friends, one man can’t do it all. In fact, it’s been shown time and time again in religious studies and secular studies alike that one person can meet the needs of a group of up to between 80-100 before there will be grumbling and complaining about how poorly he’s doing his job.
Unfortunately, the greatest victims of pastors following the American business model of church leadership rather than the biblical model is his own family. His wife ends up feeling distant after just a few short years of it. His kids become rebellious and disrespectful from the neglect, and, in the end there is even divorce and finally loss of a job because of the marriage dissolving.
Sounds fun! Sign me up for that…NOT! (<– I know, I know. I really date myself with that one). Seriosly, thousands of ministers end up leaving the ministry because they tried to be the one superhero pastor instead of doing what they were called to do in the first place. Which is, Ephesians 4:11-12, 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (NLT)
11Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers, 12so that his people would learn to serve and his body would grow strong. (ESV)
and in the Message,
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
and in the NIV,
and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Surprisingly, even though I’ve already got my work orders directly from God there are always a few folks who claim to have intercepted a heavenly telegram addressed to me (there must have been a lot of copies of this sent out because the message is always the same). The telegram (thank goodness it’s never a singing telegram) goes something like this,
Pastor, you are not doing your job right as the pastor of this church. You need to be the one doing the ministry. That’s what we pay you for. It’s your job. We’re just suppose to learn and tithe so that the pastors can be supported and properly equipped to do the ministry of this church.
Hmm…That’s sounds familiar, but there’s something wrong with it. Did you catch what it was? First, if the sheep are just suppossed to “learn” as these people say, then what pray tell, are they learning? To ‘pass’ on ministry? To redirect God’s purposes for their lives to the hired seminary grad?
It’s upside down. The individual who says this just took Ephesians 4:11-12 and reversed the roles. They are essentially sayinthe sheep should equip the shepherd, the players should direct the coach, the, well you get the idea. And the idea is wrong.
But you know what? It’s not something I believe people are doing on purpose, or to get out of God’s assignments for them, or out of anger or pride or any of that. I believe we see this so much in America because we have (as I said before) elevated the business model over the church.
A lot of Christians in this country are not even aware of the what Christ has called them to do in the context of the local church. But ignorance is only a good excuse as long as you are ignorant.
We know the truth at SCC and have been going over it again in this months vision series. You and I were made to worship. You and I were made for ministry. You and I were made for fellowship. You and I were made to be a witness and you and I were made to grow into full maturity in Christ Jesus.
Here’s another truth for you. I really do love ministering to the people of Southbrook. My heart goes out to each and every need and hurt — every broken family, every sick and striken individual, every hurting spouse whose marriage is in shambles…EVERYONE — even the sheep who bite! And now we come to the great irony of it all.
A few years ago a pastor friend confronted me with the fact that I was saying one thing and still trying to do another. He pointed out to me that I was teaching Ehesians 4: 11-12 but still trying to be the only one who did all funerals all weddings all counseling all…EVERYTHING.
I’d heard it all before but here’s how he made the message hit home. He said, “Rob, do you realize that at the size SCC is now you are doing your sheep more harm than good? You are dissappointing more people than you’re helping, neglecting sermon preperation time, and taking your eyes off the vision because you won’t shift gears and fulfill the ministry obligation that God said you must — EQUIP THE SAINTS!!”
Wow. It kinda stung, but he was right. I didn’t want to let anyone down, but the truth is, I was letting almost everyone down by spreading myself so thin.
So, I made the shift, and we have never looked back. In the place of an army of one we now have that same army of one (me…hi) and the real army of 3,000 plus! And the real army of 60 plus small groups and midsize groups, and the real army of youth taking mission trips and reaching people in inner city ministry, and the army of praise bands leading the masses in worship and praise, and many, many more!
My friend gave me one more warning that really helped. He said, “Don’t expect everyone to stand up and cheer the new you. There will be those who absolutely hate you because you won’t be the kind of pastor they think you should be. They will resent you for not being there for them at a moments notice and they will never consider the impossibility of the math, the wear and tere to your family or even the hundreds or even thousands that would go neglected if you really did go down their sadly misguided path. Be ready for them. They are wolves among the sheep, and you’re called to deal with them quickly and in no uncertain terms.”
As ready as I tried to get for that, it still stings. To listen to people tell you all about your heart and what’s wrong with it like they were spiritual heart sugeons never gets easy. But I think it will now becasue I’m making another shift.
There will be no more time given to spiritual snipers, no more letting my guts churn over gossips. For this new phenomenun to our blog at SCC I give you the mighty DELETE button (my new favorite key).
Sorry for the Looooooong blog Brookies! And I’m sorry it had to taste like niquill. But, in the end, you’ll feel better. I know I do! So let’s keep looking up to Him and running this race for an audience of one.
Remember, to do this Ya gotta “Wanna Grow Up!”
Tough words, but some of the best truth (the kind that’s life changing) is.
I love you, Brookies! You all Rock and you’re doing great things to
build His kingdom!