Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Top Ten Small-Church Pastor Challenges (part three)

In this edition of my personal reflection on the Top Ten Small Church Pastor Challenges, courtesy of LifeWay, I’m taking four all together at once:

3. Lack of commitment from members. Many pastors said they deal with apathy and indifference. Waggoner said it doesn't matter what the size of the church is, but small churches feel it more.

4. Too few workers. If the church's philosophy is that the pastor is a hired gun, the professional, it will wear the pastor out, Waggoner said. He also said most churches do not have a strategy to equip the laity for ministry.

7. Worldliness of the church. Waggoner said he saw in the survey something he called "cultural seepage."

9. Too few people. In the survey, pastors said they couldn't get things done because not enough help was available.

I lump all of these together because in my mind they all fall into the same broad category. In this category, we have problems a pastor faces which (without honest reflection on his own part) can automatically look like what he’s dealing with is unregeneracy and false conversion in the congregation.

The truth is, though, that there may be other, more mundane answers which actually put the problem right in the pastor’s lap.

For instance, a church I attended faithfully some years ago suddenly decided to make a big push to become, first, a Contagious Church ™ and then later, when nobody seemed to “catch” anything from us, it went all Purpose Driven ™. Or, it tried to, anyway.

This was at the urging and behest of the pastor. I found it difficult (to say the least) to get on board with either bandwagon. In fact, at a couple of meetings on the topics, I argued against it.

Eventually, both programs fell by the wayside due to there being too little commitment to them from the laity.

I’m quite certain my pastors at the time felt frustrated over the lack of commitment displayed by us in the whole ordeal (my wife and I in particular.) They thought we evinced a galling inability to “get onboard” with what the Spirit was doing. We showed an appalling lack of zeal for the kingdom, etc. We were worldly, lazy, careless.

Here is my conviction, after having pastored a small congregation for just over a year. I realize, that still makes me a rookie and a novice, so take this for what it’s worth: We occupy ourselves with a lot of extraneous crap in Christian churches. (I use that term soberly, meaning by it what it means: excrement, dung, and so forth.)

We act like our church won’t survive if we can’t muster up a Vacation Bible School in the Summer. Or, horrors, if we can’t field a Sunday School that is thoroughly age-segregated. I mean, what if (gasp) the teenagers have to join in with the Adult class’s Bible Study?

I’m saying this: pastors, let’s make the main thing the main thing, especially on Sundays. The church exists to worship, to teach and guard the Truth of God, to preach the Gospel faithfully, and to love each other.

Building programs, softball and bowling teams, conventions, special events and speakers, committee meetings, block parties, Summer Youth activity schedules…at some point we have to pull back and wonder just how needful any of that is, and maybe God is trying to tell us by the reaction of His people when we try so hard to press those things.

So, when you meet with “lack of commitment” to your ambitious schedule of “stuff,” step back and re-evaluate. Maybe read through the book of Acts again.

Now, having said all of that, I am personally convinced that a very large portion of our typical SBC churches is in fact unregenerate and genuinely worldly.

Happily, both these issues have the same “fix.”

Whether the problem is that you, pastor, have been sucked into focusing on extraneous crap; or that your congregation is largely unsaved, the only solution is that we must repent and believe the Gospel. We must believe it is the power of God, and we must believe this strongly enough to motivate our constant study, and attention and care given to making certain we communicate it in the most Biblical way possible, via careful and prayerful exposition of the Text.


Pastor Bob Farmer said...

Hey Gordan,

I think you hit the nail on the head. Maybe "church" should equip members to be witnesses where they are at- work, play, etc. and not think that people are uncommitted if they are not at "church" every time the doors are open. This may seem radical, but I'm convinced that Jesus will build His Church; programs never built anything.

Gordan Runyan said...

Yeah, pretty radical there, Bob.

I don't want to be seen on the side of encouraging Christians to forsake the gathering together, etc, but I think our focus is much too much on the building that we call the "church."

I admit as well that I am puzzled and frustrated at having to urge the sheep to come and eat some grass (hear the Word preached.) All I know is that when I got converted, I desperately longed for the next opportunity to show up at church and hear the Word. When attendance is reduced to a matter of law, I think the disease has already progressed beyond what mere "encouragement" of our people can cure.

Strong Tower said...

Some missionaries worked for years before seeing the results, some died not seeing results at all.

As I responded on my own post (gotta do that you know so it looks like someone is interested) there are basic requirements to be a church and you listed them here. I have alway liked those who say that we must preach the Gospel faithfully and not just to the unsaved but to those who are and to ourselves. It is a quaint idea to think that the deeper things are really just things that ought to be preached and taught constantly and consistently, but it is the right idea.

Can you really say ***p in the Christian meta?

Pastor Bob Farmer said...

The best Church growth stategy I know is to preach the word! God is going to bless His word after all 'it does not go out void'. People get caught up in programs but when the pastor is faithful to preach the Word line by line, precept upon precept God will move. even if a passtor preaches a congregation down to two; if he continues to be faithful in the exposition of God's Word it will not be two for long. I am convinced that the Ministry of the Word, the Ministry of Prayer and living a Godly life (not a perfect life, but a tranparent one) will result in growth of the Kingdom.

I didn't mean that they shouldn't show up for church at all to hear the Word, but that we should'nt begin a new program every night of the week and be suprised at low attendance. What I try to encourage people to do in our congregation is to start in home Bible studies or at least a family worship time.

Hope that clarifies my position.

Strong Tower- you are right about some not seeing much growth a good example is the famous Dr. Livingstone, but our job is not growth of the kingdom, it is planting seeds andd the missionary or pastor who plants faithfully IS sucessful. We must get all the worldly models of success out of our heads and take up the cross.

Pastor Bob Farmer said...

Now I'm preaching to the chour- Can I get an Amen!

Pastor Bob Farmer said...

Chour is a "souther slang for choir.

Gordan Runyan said...

Amen, brother. I agree with all you've said here.

The stickler for me is that it's much easier said than done. As Dan Phillips over at Pyromaniacs discussed recently, it's more than just getting rid of church growth and success models in our minds.

It's really about eliminating ALL ideas of vocational success. Period.

It seems that maybe some pastors are more gifted for that, having the ability to cruise along, confident that they're doing well, even with no objective means of determing that. I don't seem to have that gift.

I admit that I struggle greatly with this. I am by nature a pretty introspective, self-critical sort; so, left to my own devices to evaluate how the ministry is going, I'm always going to come up with the worst possible judgment. I could wish maybe that I had just a hint more of a Pollyanna sort of outlook: yes, I might go on quite deluded, but I'd be cheery about it.

Machine Gun Kelley said...

I mean, what if (gasp) the teenagers have to join in with the Adult class’s Bible Study?

After having been a youth minister at two seperate churches, more and more I am doubting the wisdom of all the age segregation in the church today.

We have a church here in town that has built a seperate sanctuary for youth and children. People are often impressed with this, but I think it's an abomination.

Call me a legalist or whatever, but I think the family ought to worship as a family.

Gordan Runyan said...

According to Way of the Master Radio, Rev. Voddie Bauchum (sp?) has been making a lot of noise lately about the whole age segregation idea in education. Apparently, it has its roots in Evolutionary sociology, where the theory used to be that each individual human being "relives" all the stages of human biological evolution, from conception onward. Thus, the teenage years correspond to, oh say, the caveman days, or the Cromagnon man or whatever. That's why we segregate by age, because of the notion that the different ages are practically like different species.

Strong Tower said...

MGK- you're a legalist!

Gordan- Isn't that kinda the idea behind the manshift of Wild at Heart stuff? You know we men learn from manly examples... The women from Beth Moore ;)

It just keeps getting strangererer...

Gordan Runyan said...

No doubt, ST. On the topic of what it means to be a manly man, it seems Christians are compelled to go to one of two extremes:

Either, the Wild at Heart thing you mentioned here, where manliness is basically known by its Tim The Tool-Man grunting; or, let's just dissolve any differences between the sexes altogether.

Machine Gun Kelley said...

Voddie is probably correct. I have read that somewhere before... HIs video Children of Caesar is awesome.