I probably shouldn’t write this blog post… woops, my finger slipped and I just clicked “send.”
Seriously though, I’d like to start off this post with a quote from my good friend Kenny Burchard: “If we’re talking about how to “do” church in North America, I get it. Been there, done that, got a drawer full of T-Shirts.”
So what about church T-shirts? OK, some of this makes sense from the perspective of visitors coming to a new church and being able to easily identify who can point help them in the right direction to find children’s ministry check-in. But what about for team-building and group identification? What message does this send? Doesn’t it bring glory to/point people toward the organization rather than pointing them to Jesus? ‘Look at us! Don’t you want to be part of this group?’ Or ‘we need to get our name out there in the community.’
And where did the money come from to pay for the church T-shirts? Out of the church budget, which comes from… the people’s tithes and offerings. Anyone who has studied the Old Testament knows that tithing is essentially a social welfare system for the poor (Deut. 26:12-14), not for the support of the religious establishment. But what about the Levites? Remember, ancient Israel was an agrarian society and the Levites had no inheritance in the land (Num. 18:20-24)! When you live in an agricultural society and you have no land you are poor! The Levites were dependent upon the gifts of the people of God for their livelihood. So if you’re going to use the Old Testament as your standard, then use it! My point is that using God’s money to pay for something for ourselves hardly serves the poor.
Another one of my peeves is the volunteer appreciation banquet. This is a church fellowship event where not everyone is invited – only those who serve (a great way to make those who aren’t currently serving feel like second class citizens in the kingdom of God). So we take money out of the church budget that the people of the church (including some of those uninvited folks above) have given for the work of God and use it to throw a party for ourselves (or at least a certain special group of us). How is this good news, missional? Let’s call it what it is: Team building is good organizational leadership. But what it’s not is making and deploying disciples of Jesus!
I’m trying to picture Jesus holding an “Appreciation of the 12 for their Servant Leadership” banquet, but its just not coming to me?!? I’m looking for some scriptural basis. I guess I could try to make the Last Supper into a ‘Thank You for your Service Farewell’ ceremony but I just feel like I’d be engaging in scripture twisting to fit my agenda.
With all of the effort we put into Team-building, it seems likely that some people might be drawn to join the team because they want to be part of something, especially something that they feel is accomplishing something good in the world, without ever actually becoming a follower of Jesus them self. Our church bumper stickers cry out: “Come be part of us. We’re a cool, fun organization that you want to be a part of. We are welcoming and you’ll be loved” (the attractional model). And by implication “No, we’re better than that other church down the street (they have bumper stickers too) so come here instead!” [The way you know that is because our logo is way cooler than theirs!] Even church names point us toward the organization (now I know I’m going over the edge) not toward following Jesus.
So here’s what I think (and I’m gonna need some help here) but my inclination is that many Pastors see themselves primarily as organizational leaders, moreso than (personal) disciple makers. If we set up systems within our organization, then disciples will be made. Thus we kind of are placing our faith in the organization and its systems to make disciples. ==> Result: Programmatic Christianity!
My friends in the Multiply Vineyard Small Town USA Partnership like to say that ‘if we make disciples, the church will result.’ That is to say that disciples will naturally gather together and be the church, do church stuff. But the opposite, I think, is not necessarily true: If you set out to build the church (organization), disciples will not necessarily result!
So Pastors, and church leaders, seriously, to what degree do you see your role primarily as an organizational leader? How much of your time, effort and attention is taken up by organizational leadership issues and how much of your time is spent actually discipling people (i.e. teaching people how to live as followers of Jesus). Keep in mind that I’m not really counting training up leaders for your organization as necessarily making disciples (and sending them out). What percentage of your time is taken up with Church programmatics, sermon prep (Heck yeah, I’m counting this as part, but not all, of the discipleship process – following Jesus’ model of 1-on-1 , 1-on-3, 1-on-12, 1-on-many), Pastoral care and counsel, Church business, discipling, etcetera?
I’ll close with this quote from one of my Pastor friends (who shall remain nameless): ‘Discipleship happens best over a cup of coffee.’ Hmm…
Ranting Mode Off!!