Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Big Questions about Church

I spoke with a pastor yesterday who has given over 20 years of his life to pulling off the attractional church model. He was schooled and reproduced the seeker model in multiple locations. Then about ten years ago, he tried to merge the seeker model with a relational approach to small groups. In other words, the seeker service was used to lure them in and then they tried to group them in relational settings that moved beyond programmatic small groups. But he said that the seeker model was too much work and drained all their leadership from the energy needed to develop the relational wing of of church life.

Now he is burned out on programmatic church but remains committed to the church. I commend him for this. Many get to this place and just get mad at the church. He wants to participate in something relational and organic that is not dependent upon massive programs. He wants to quit splitting up the family in the church into life-stages and allow the family to seek God together. Hope mixed with huge questions swirl within him.

Hard questions!

Important questions!

Too often we stop asking them because it's just easier to fit within the status quo. After all he was successful in building churches. Why would he question it? Why would he look for something else when there are so many attractional churches that are still working, and working quite well?

Too often we provide easy answers to his very difficult questions. For instance:
  • Get back in the church and do the work.
  • Here's a model for doing what you want to do. Copy what this book tells you to do.
  • Throw out everything traditional and start over.
  • Get back to what they were doing in the New Testament. That's all you need to do.
  • Go to China and do what they do. Look how many Christians there are there and they don't have church programs.
  • And of course there is the "you don't need church" option.

In some way or another, I have participated in all but the last option. The inference I've been told and that I have told others is this: "Don't ask these hard questions. Just follow my answer, my plan and then we can get on with what God wants."

But what if God is in the questions? What if the way we discover God's future is through our tough, hard, uncomfortable questions. What if we have to face them even though we don't even know the exact nature of the problem, much less the solution. What if the seed-bed of creative answers will arise as we give space for people to ask such questions?

God is at work through his people in ways that make us feel out of control.


Blaising Jots said...

Wow - we could building a VERY LARGE church with people like you (and me).

My solution (seems to be working for me right now) is to back out of activities. I have been wounded so deeply that I will not allow myself to get into any giving relationship in the church. The leaders are only there to carry on their own mission and if I'm not a part of it, I get crucified.

I smile, talk nicely about what people want to hear(but nothing real). I will not get into any relationship that could lead to hurt.

I go to church every Sunday, smile and go home. What this does to my "call" to ministry, I have not dealt with yet. I will minister, counsel "one on one" but not in any official capacity.

I have forgive the people that have wounded me - but basically do not befriend them again.

looking in said...

I searched for living beyond disappointment with the church and found your blog. I am about 10 years on from the train wreck of seeking first the kingdom in relational church outside the structure etc with a genuine bunch talked, talked and discussed the whole aproach to everything non system developed such a system but no life group dissolved in stages with much greif moved on but shut down like blaising jots.

Having set off on a faith journey trusting receiving obeying to end in a wreck. Now 10 years on still playing it safe trusting talking with but not willing to ride the train of no control

How to move on or even admit to being stuck.

Living on the past joy of adventure, rememder when! but not bold enough to live now. The power and the moment to ride the train without fear and full of joy is ahead Somehow.

TonyWallace said...

I have been hurt. The church I was in seemed to operate by gossip. I was judged harshly behind my back, and no one had the courage to tell me to my face what was said in secret. This gossip went to the highest levels. In my hurt I judged them back seven fold. My opinion of the paster can be lower than prostitutes and outlaw gangs but above that of mass murderers.

I recognise that when we get judged we also get isolated and so in my hurt my sense of perspective got totally wrong.