I’m in a larger church these days…but there are times when I miss the days when I knew everyone and we could call the pastor “Pastor” instead of Jim or Bob or whatever. Even the term “pastor” has taken on an almost counter-culture meaning along with the term “Reverend” or any title that smacks of “religion” or “traditional religiosity” and could potentially distance them from real life and the people who come every Sunday. I get the “I’m just one of you” thing. But here’s the real thing (in my humble opinion)…a pastor, is called by God (or should be) and should be recognized as such. Not just because he’s the one with the mic on stage Sunday mornings. His life, his actions, his personal culture should reflect the calling. Not that he should look constipated or act “holier” than anyone else…but this is his calling…his mission…his flock. It’s a high calling of God thing…not simply a building and a body of people he manages with the help of his happy minions (who tend to look and act like him.)
Big Church tends toward the formulaic these days…and it’s a formula that targets the mission and obstacles to it…. but sometimes misses the people. A movement often so single-minded, driven by adherence to it… that it often and willfully strips itself of the many activities and ministries that helped build it and provided connection to the community in the first place.
We all need to apply what the Bible teaches. Lead teachers or lead pastors have become experts at teaching application. But where has the expository preaching gone? You know line upon line, truth upon truth… I hear pastor/teachers apologize for using Greek words in their teaching to better explain the meaning of a word or phrase in context or… our lead pastor uses the terminology… taking a “theological break” to explain a difficult concept to the crowd. We have Scripture in the language of the people…the language of the street even…can’t we just preach from an open Bible? I can’t remember the last time I saw a pastor with a Bible in his hand and not an iPad on a podium.
And what about an opportunity for people to respond to the gospel? I left a church where at every service there was an opportunity to receive Christ as Savior. Every service. Isn’t that what we are here for? But these days we’re so worried about offending or making someone uncomfortable that we play down the fact that you really can’t be saved until you are offended. Offended by the fact that we are dirty, filthy, miserable sinners unable to save ourselves and headed straight to hell apart from God’s amazing grace found in the Gospel message. That is not a popular statement these days. We’d rather soft-sell, befriend people…make them comfortable, entertain them. Make them wait for a future face-to-face encounter when we’ve “earned the right” to actually talk to them about their relationship with God. What if that is too late? What if they were ready to hear the gospel the very first time they walked through the door? Why can’t we do both things well?
But this model is how many churches are growing… God seems to be blessing. And…there’s nothing wrong with that whole way of doing church at all…just because I struggle with it…
for that person who finally came to church to see what God was all about…left impressed with the music, the lights, the sound…even the message…but left without Jesus… and got hit by a bus on the way home.
He went straight from church to hell.
Some would want to argue my point and say that we don’t or shouldn’t plan and program for just one person…really? Our audiences are a just group of “one persons.”
I guess I’m old fashioned. I think the few extra few minutes every Sunday to ask people to take a look at their lives to see if they know Christ as Savior… then give them a chance to respond is worth it. I’m not talking about making them walk the aisle or jump a pew. I’m talking about simply asking the question and let the Holy Spirit work. Where’s the problem in that?
So…am I leaving my church? Nope. Am I going to send a nasty email to the Executive Pastor or the Lead Pastor? Nah. The fact is I think we do a pretty good job of being culturally relevant without being ineffective. Would I change some stuff? Of course.
But regardless of what I think or feel about our church or any church, I still have a personal responsibility to share my faith…to make disciples…to live a life that honors God and presents a life committed to serving him attractive to those far from him.
I’ll be 61 in a couple of months and I’m sure that my thinking is influenced by the piling on of years. What do I know really? Not a heck of a lot. I do know I love the Lord and I know that without the Lord people go to hell. And I know that God was not willing that ANY should perish but that all would come to repentance. And I know that real life can’t start until the work of preaching and teaching the Gospel is done. So let’s get to it!