Ministering upside down
Sometimes I wonder about the penchant for ministering down. Why is it that if someone has some sort of financial success that they assume more privilege in the area of ministry and service. Take a look at your elder board. (or its equivalent) are people honestly into serving the church or achieving. Take a closer look and see how your church looks. The parallels can be frightening from a spiritual standpoint. Is there competition for resources? Internal politicking to making pet programs and projects go. What about competition between church’s for resources? Are they trying to attract the best talent and the most customers. That’s how people learned to advance in industry and they get financially rewarded for it. To hold good standing in the community these achieving types readily get involved on various boards and committees and put themselves in positions of authority and as a result wind up being decision makers in our churches.
No wonder so many of our churches here in America operate on corporate principles and on the principle bigger/more is better.
Here are some presupposed assumptions that I see that are made.
-The more people who come to service more successful our church is
-The better the public speaker is the better the pastoring is
-The better the music production the better the worship
-The more programs and services offered the better the ministry’
Add in book stores, once a year mission trips, (only for the most devout) and a once a year can food drive, hopefully by now you can see where im coming from.
Now here is where I am going
As the achieving types lead such busy “successful” lives they are likely not to slow down enough to hear what God may be saying to them. They will sucessfully tell you different and you will belive them. just sayn…
I have heard it said that the church is the people and not the steeple. I have seen so many people in my life go from one steeple to another wanting to be part of something but never really intergrating. They tend to wait for the edification that they desire and the “steeples” out there in competion with each other for customers encorage this. In the long run, what has this done to the church? Are we ever integrated with our neighbors long enough that we can learn to love them? Or learn to be loved by them? if we keep switching our spiritual neighborhoods by jumping form steeple to steeple then what?
If the church is the “people’ that means community, bearing with each other instead of leaving an “unsuccessful” community to join the winners which have already attracted all the achievers anyway. The achievers who are leading such institutions will tout themselves as successful. At what cost. How many struggling people lose the chance to sacrifice and struggle together with the people in their neighborhood, because they have been lured away by something more convenient and anonymous in the “mega church”. now thee are pooled resouces in place like this that don’e exist elswhere but there is a huge problem when this is the predomiant modle that churches aim at. The anonymity thing is something else. anonumity can lead to lack of accountability.
If church is about the “people ” we should not be trying to lure each other away from each others buildings for one reason or another. The number of Christians has not significantly changed in the US for many years but there are always new buildings that swell with new members to fill the pews. And these churches are noted as a success. How many failures were created in the building of these successes?
I would think we should be in service of supporting other communities instead of building our own empires by drawing away from the “little” guys. (which in the end is what happens as people go church shopping they look for something that connects with them in stead of looking to their neighbors). How many churches will say wow you came 45 miles to visit our church thank you and we are willing to help but, we know of a good church 3 blocks form you house that would be alot more personal and sane logistiacally. they take on the challenge…”we’ll save you bu giving you progams and preaching and good music!!! have no fear o learning to love your meighbor across the street we will keep you well isolated form them.” yes i am the sarcastic one but have you heard esle wise?
How many people do you know that travel more than 30 min to attend services and then from how many different directions. A person who travels 30 min form the south and meets someone in Sunday school that travels 30 min from the north (or more in many cases) so now you have two people an hour away form each other. This is not uncommon. And it is not “community”. Can you honestly be involved is someone’s life who lives 20-30-40 miles away? How many people say oh sure if you make the commitment and then don’t live their life that way.
Community is not knowing “about ” the people you worship with but living “with” them. Why would you avoid your own community? Just so you can hear a hot shot public speaker and a polished production when it comes to music. Why is it we attend steeples as Christians anyway?
Do you go so far as to carve out an additional hour to attend a “small group” in addition to a weekly service to “plug in”. its amazing at how many of us can stay anonymous in the process.
How many of us can say we spend every day with multiple people we worship with? Especially, outside planed “steeple” events. Isn’t that community? How about just sitting on the porch watching each others kids play after work, not at the one time summer barbeque but several times a week just cause its good to be together. Does your house have to be clean to have “steple” friends over? Is you ability to be hospitable limited to how “prepared” you feel you have made yourself. Wouldn’t it be nice if your relationships were such that anyone could just walk in and if you in the middle of chores you do them together and enjoy the visit anyway.
Do we have to meet in coffee shops to have face to face time?
How can we truly know each others needs if we are performing in front of each other all the time.
Get a map of the city and put some push pins in the map and see how distant the attendees are from each other or the building proper. Is the only time they get to spend time together when the leave their house holds and go to planed meetings in the church building or the local coffee shop? Many have moved away form the neighborhood near the steeple and the rest of the people as their careers have progressed, and have chosen to be further away. Success? In who’s terms. I wonder.
Yes, there is so much more involved, but at some point I think in many subtle ways we touting success in the church and not service and sacrifice to each other and our neighbors.
1: peter 4
8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
As I see love as an action I find it difficult to think that we can love people we don’t spend time with. Will they know the love of God by how we love each other? Its probably the best way to speak into someone’s life what the love of God is like. and it requires no words formal education, certificates, degrees. I find it difficult to love my neighbor or my brother if I never spend any time with them. Remember God is always with us whether we are aware of him or not. Love the one your with… he’s your neighbor. And he lives in your neighborhood and is part of your community. Remember Jesus said he’d be with us from now to the end of the age, so you’re not ever alone.