Bad moon rising...

Tonight I came home from a long regional church meeting feeling sad:  so many churches are in so many different kinds of trouble.  Pastors and leadership in crisis, financial despair, no clear sense of a mission except keeping the doors open like a burial society rather than a community of faith - and so much more.  After the official business, someone asked me: Is it just the luck of the draw that some pastors "get lucky" or what?

My answer, based on four very different congregations - as well as serving the regional church in Ohio, Arizona and Massachusetts - boils down to this:

+ Some churches are toxic.  Thanks be to God I've never served one but let's be honest: some churches need to be closed ASAP.

+ Most churches, however, can be nourished into health if the leadership is willing to take risks built on faith AND the pastor has earned trust.  Most of the times pastors try to push programming without nourishing trust - it never works - because trust takes time.  Some-times pastors don't train and hold their leaders accountable to living by faith - and that doesn't work either.  And from time to time, the entrenched leadership is too afraid or caught in the glory days to be open to Christ's spirit of resurrection in the present moment - and that won't work either.

In the four different congregation's I've served in 30 years, I've learned that I must trust God deeply, I must train my leadership to take risks by faith and I must deliver on being trustworthy.  I have to preach and teach the way of Jesus without apology.  And I have to be certain both to avoid doing "therapy" in church (there is a time and place for it but not in worship or church administration) and find ways to manage discouragement - for myself and others. As I listen to congregation's in trouble, they often come down to:  a) lay leadership that isn't being faithful to Christ; b) clergy who are afraid or arrogant; or c) a vision for the church that is based mostly on secular models rather than the guidance of the Spirit.

Please don't get me wrong:  my churches have never been "successful" like the mega-churches.  But they have all grown in faith and numbers, they have all deepened their inner journey with the Lord and they have all found new and creative ways of bringing a measure of healing to the world.  The love of God in Christ can heal broken hearts, bodies and souls - and I've been blessed to see this in action. 

But tonight I am grieving for many of my friends, colleagues and their congregations:  the church is in trouble and only Jesus can make us well.


RJ said…
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