This week, I heard news of yet another local congregation in our region that has been going through difficult times – “falling apart” as it was put to me.
Every time I hear about something like this, it grieves my heart. I wonder, often out loud, how this could happen and what Jesus must think. The local congregation is a part of His Church, His Body. And if we are His Body, then what pain it must be when part of that body is sick or dying. The apostle Paul calls ungodly division in the Church gangrene, so I don’t think I am that far from the truth. (2 Timothy 2:16-17)
Although I have only been a “senior” pastor since 2004, I grew up in the Church. I am all too intimately involved with the dark side of the Church. The division and pettiness of some people who claim to be Christians was one of the reasons that I walked away from the faith for a little while and refused to accept the call into vocational ministry.
It is easy to see that I get pretty worked up about this issue.
So, how can you ensure that your local congregation will crumble into division and strife? How can you be sure to leave a mess of broken hearts and lives in your wake? Here are just some suggestions. Pastors, this post is aimed straight at you.
- Focus intensely on building YOUR CHURCH regardless what happens elsewhere. If you make sure you have the opinion that your local assembly is the best (or even only) congregation in the area, you are sure to make a mess.
- Have a program for everything and use guilt and manipulation to staff the programs. Don’t waste your time trying to find out what is unique about the people you shepherd. Just emulate every program you can find and tell your people to make it happen.
- Treat people as a resource to be consumed rather than build relationships with them. Keep your distance from the “regular” people and run the place as a CEO of a salvation factory.
- Act like you are too busy for people. Make sure people have layers of bureaucracy to go through to get to you. That way, they will know you don’t care about them.
- Worry more about your reputation than about your congregation. Take every opportunity to get better known among your peers. Be an expert. Accept every invitation to speak somewhere else.
- Change your vision so often no one knows what they’re supposed to be doing. Create confusion by issuing new ideas for the church as often as you can. Attend lots of seminars and conferences so you can reorganize the church leadership often.
- Don’t hold leaders accountable. Get people who want to do “their” ministry and let them do it. Let them run their little kingdoms without any kind of coordination so your congregation is a collection of little ministries rather than one united congregation.
- Abandon your family. Make sure you work so hard at #1-7 that your wife is lonely and your kids are neglected. That way, they are sure to hate your mistress – aka the congregation.
Michael Card, John Michael Talbot and Phil Keaggy performing “One Faith.” (Sadly, there are no videos of them performing this, so this youtube video is their audio and some pictures.