Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Top Ten Small-Church Pastor Challenges (part two)

Continuing on challenges faced by small church pastors, here is the second installment.


"2. Resistance. Small-church pastors said their congregation doesn't want to change, which leads to stagnation. Pastors have to deal with individuals who want to usurp authority from the pastor, forgetting that it's God who controls His church."

There are really two issues listed here. One is a reluctance to pursue change; and, the other is individuals in the church who want to stake out “turf” and be in charge of stuff.

I want to focus on the first issue. (The second one is pretty easy to fix, if God shows you mercy in His Providential handling of all things. Pastors, remember well Runyan's First Axiom of Ecclesiology: There are very few local-church problems that would not be instantly and greatly improved by one or two well-placed deaths. Not wishing anything on anyone, or advocating anything evil. Only stating a fact.)

The reluctance to change things in church is the brick wall into which your pastor keeps banging his head. But seeing and meeting that resistance is much easier than diagnosing it. There are several possible causes:

A. Simple inertia. Never underestimate the power of that cosmic force known cryptically as WNDITWB. (“We’ve never done it that way before!”) It’s always been like this, and we’ve gotten along just fine.

Now, don’t go jumping to the conclusion that the blue-haired old ladies who are nervous about change must therefore be unregenerate, and uninterested in being conformed to Christ. Even regenerate folk have a hard time, sometimes, with accepting the mandate to break all their routines, and all their habits (even the good ones.)

One way to tell is this: the regenerate will generally agree to the change in question if you can demonstrate that it is Biblical. Generally. Great patience is key here. Resistance doesn’t always imply they are lost.

B. But sometimes they are…unregenerate, that is. What you’re preaching as a need for repentance and for reformation of action or practice, they see as meddling, change-for-change’s sake. If this is the case…Rejoice. You’re doing something right. Keep it up. And, make sure you keep your resume’ updated.

C. Cultural Conditioning. This is the inertia of A above, inbred through several generations. They’ve been trained to accept that a good, American church does certain things at certain times, like decorate the sanctuary for Christmas, and fly the American flag in a position of superiority in relation to the Christian flag, etc. It becomes part of what it means, in their mind, to be a good church.

Some of these are more grievous to the Biblically-minded pastor than others. You must attack those worse examples, of course, but be forewarned: others have probably already died on the hill you plan on assaulting. So pick your battles wisely.

Personally, though I detest the aforementioned Christmas decoration, I let it slide last year and didn’t oppose it. However, I did manage to keep us from having a scheduled “revival” week this Summer, in which I would’ve had to sit through the infernal preaching of some “Cowboy evangelist,” or perhaps one with a sock puppet. I call that an overall win. I’m saying that it’s going to take some time to turn this wagon-train around, barring an Acts 2 sort of outpouring. So don’t push for everything at once. Prioritize.

We all meet that resistance, in one form or another. I humbly submit that the diagnosis of the source is of grave importance in dealing with it.

Also, to the credit of the referenced article, the suggested solution to Resistance was spot on. That was, patient, consistent expository preaching. I don’t know about you, but it does my soul good to see a Lifeway rep speak in such ways.


rhettsrants said...

Cultural Conditioning...

Would that include how certain majoritarian minded Southern Baptist Churches around here don't seem too fond of African-American children participating in their AWANA program??

Strong Tower said...

rhett, nah you're kiddin', right?

Gordan- You know, it takes a while to raise a family and you can't force a child to do what is beyond their capabilities. Also, being two-in-one-flesh, I have come to realize after twenty plus years, that you cannot scrub your wife with the fuller's soap incessantly unless you engender irritated thin skin. What we can do is to establish a vision, then goals, then the means to accomplish them. In all that though there must be confidence in relationship; a trust that someone knows what is right and that they are right in what they know. Otherwise no matter what is attempted it will fail. Like all discipline, discipleship takes submission, but the rule of Scripture is that we not Lord it over others. Instead we are given the tedious process of washing by the effectual water of the Word and doing so in such a way that it does not frustrate the children.

As you said, if the commitment is out of a true regenerate heart, a true dedication to the advancement of the Gospel, and if you can demonstrate the biblical validity, then a reasonable person will fall in line. For what other purpose do we have shepherds, appoint them to positions of lookout, leader and lecturer if we are not willing to go where they see is the best pasture? That being said, it does not exempt the body of Christ from taking on the character of the world. Like spoiled children, it is much harder to rediscipline, than it is to discipline correctly to begin with. And we all have the tendency to become settled in our ease.

Finally, it does take a generation to raise a family and what would help is if our churches adopted the attitude that we are in it for the long run like we are in marriage and for the purpose of preparing the next generation to take our place. If we did that, we would be more careful who we marry ourselves to in cooperative relationships. We would also be more diligent in achieving the common goal of bringing to maturity infants in Christ, esteeming others better than ourselves, rather than setting the goal as personal agenda.

Let the motto be: A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children...

Machine Gun Kelley said...

rhett, nah you're kiddin', right?

Not kidding. There are SBC churches that are fond of neither Calvinists nor African-Americans.

Sad but true...