I thought I would do something to keep me blogging on ministry leadership. So I have "questions that haunt a pastor."** These are things that would keep a pastor up at night, or at least continually searching. The way this will work is, at the beginning of each week I'll post a question, and then you can post your thoughts about it. At the end of the week, I'll post my reflection/answer about it. To give things a chance to catch on, I'll ask the question this week, but I would love people to submit questions here.
This week's question is "Am I Making A Difference?" I ask myself that at least weekly. Do you ask yourself that? How do you measure your effectiveness as a leader, pastor, teacher, minister?
I don't want to say too much now because I'll save it for the reflection/answer later.
**(I'm stealing the title from my friend and theologian, Tony Jones. His series "Questions that Haunt Christianity" focuses on issues that deal with Christian Theology and Spirituality. People submit questions that bug them about Christianity, and then Tony and his readers answer. It's been pretty good discussion over at Theoblogy, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/.)
Ok, I have another chart for you. The last one I stole from facebook.com/journeychurch.org but this time I just kept the layout and changed most of the words myself. I'm trying to highlight a key difference about how evangelism is viewed or done differently. I'm calling it Attractional vs. Relational Evangelism.
In the attractional model, it's all about getting people to come to you. In the relational model, it's about going to meet people where they are in ordinary life and living as a Christ follower. Attractional methodology works to draw a crowd as quick as possible and offer a product (give a sales pitch). Relational methodology takes an investment of time and friendship.
I'm not sure these are mutually exclusive. I think there is possibly a hybrid option here. BUT, I prefer the relational side. It makes sense. I've encountered Jesus Christ and that changes me and how I live. It should be natural that my relationship with Christ has an effect on all aspects of my life, especially all my other relationships. I do not draw myself out of culture, but I engage people through culture, at least the parts where my life intersects theirs.
Relational takes a long-term view of building a relationship. The aim is to populate the kingdom of heaven on earth, not simply fill pews. The Relational Evangelist (which every Christian should be) brings the kingdom of heaven to people where they are, much like Jesus is depicted doing in the Gospels. We work to bring to the world: peace, justice, beauty, creativity, love, blessing, health, reconciliation, forgiveness, redemption--the values/ideas/lifestyle of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of heaven. Relational methodology is about influencing the people around you by the way you live (as Christ).
The problem most of us "church people" face is that we "joined" a church and quit making new friends outside of church. We've disengaged. The way I've been taught to alleviate this problem as a leader is to have "bridge events" where we create space for "church people" to interact and build bridges with "non church people" (lack a good term for that). What if we took a different approach and used the events/activities that are already going on in our everyday ordinary lives?
For example, I recently convinced another church to open their gym for some time for men to play basketball. I saw it as a way to invite people and build relationships with guys I don't know well. It is working. That is happening. But now I feel like I have to pull a "bait-n-switch" tactic to get them to "come to church". A better way would probably have been to go join an already existing basketball league/program in my community. Then I could build relationships and live out my faith in noticeable ways that my new friends would want to investigate further.
A hybrid methodology is possible, but it is hard to avoid feeling a bit deceptive about a "bait-n-switch". The bridge event would need to have no hidden motive other than the stated good that the event does for the community. It would still provide a space for relational evangelists to mix and interact with "non church people" and begin building bridges and relationships. I consider this hybrid because you're still doing some marketing to get people to come to something instead of sending "church people" to go where "non church people" are and build relationships.
What do you think? Am I on target? Any adjustments that you would suggest?
This graphic captures exactly the transformation that I want the churches I lead to go through. This gives me lots of questions to answer:
How do I lead consumers who are so inundated with consumer culture to see church differently? We are so enveloped by consumerism, we don't even realize it. It is that pervasive here in the west as USAmericans. In fact, they way we typically describe the American Dream equivocates our ability to consume with success. So, how do I lead others to see things differently? It starts with me. Seek to consume less, and seek to serve/give more to/for/with God.
How does being Missional change the time that we gather together on Sunday mornings? If an hour or so on Sunday morning is no longer a religious service to be consumed, what drives what we do during that hour or so? In the past, it seems like the songs we sing were chosen largely in part because they were consumable for people. You could probably say something similar about the sermons that are preached. It was an effort to sell God to consumers for what God can do for them. This is so different from the attractional, worship-driven model of evangelism. Is an average attendance number a good indicator for church health? Yes, but is worship the doorway to the Christian life as it has been in the past? It is a good indicator because it means you have more people who are being sent on mission. It can still function as a doorway for some (and even many), but maybe not in the way we've seen in the past. Why do I say this? Because if we're not trying to put out a product for consumption, then are we going to invest so much in doing over-the-top performance type of stuff? Let's be honest, the church cannot compete with Hollywood and professional concert venues--although we've done fairly well in many churches across the country. AND, I just don't think we SHOULD be trying to compete with the professional entertainers because we're not trying to put out a product to be consumed. However, we are trying to communicate and help people experience an Awesome God who can do more than any high-tech entertainment could even dream of. So I'm not saying we abandon all technology and excellence and professionalism. I'm just saying our motivations are different for using it, which will probably change the way we use it. What does that look like? I think we create it as we go in the context we are in, so it will look different for each group of people that gathers. One of my fears with stating it that way, though, is how do we keep worship from devolving into a product to be consumed.
I think this graphic also indicates another shift (transformation) that needs to happen in the churches I lead. A movement away from programs, and a greater focus on people. I feel like we get so attached to our programs so much that we'll do anything to keep them going even though they're not reaching people. The example I've seen is Sunday School. Let me first say that I don't think Sunday School is inherently bad. People learning the bible and growing in their relationship with God is good. The problem is Sunday School has become an institution that we expect new people to be willing to jump into. I've heard church members complain and say, "I wish we had more people in Sunday School." Usually it's "I wish those young people would come to Sunday School." Those of you who are leaders of established churches with declining Sunday School know exactly what I'm talking about. Like I said, people growing in their relationship with God is a good thing. Let's find ways for people to be a part of a group where that happens in their context, whether or not it's a part of the institutional Sunday School--who cares? The important thing is people are growing in their faith and supporting one another in ways that they can't (or won't) in a large group of people.
My one last reflection on this for today is applying this to Holy Communion/Eucharist/The Lord's Supper (or whatever you call the sacrament with bread and wine). The way I've experienced this sacrament in the churches I've been a part of is very individualistic and consumery (yes, I made that word up). Most of the time, it seems like communion is focused on me getting right with God. I remember what God has done for me in Jesus Christ. I consume the gift God gives, and it is my individual transaction. How is the Sacrament of Bread & Wine different when being Sent on mission is emphasized? How is it more communal encouragement and still personal?
I've had more questions than answers, but it's discussion that we need to have.
At the end of October, one of the churches I serve held a Vision Workshop. We welcomed a guest presenter, to teach us and guide us in prayer. He helped us get a sense of what God is calling us to do and be in our local community. I was impressed by the conversations our church was having. One group of folks could see us reaching 770 people in the next 3-5 years, another group was more conservative at 300 people (which is still 3 times our regular attendance right now). I'm not sure even I fully understand the changes we'd need to undertake in order to get there from here, but it is always fun to dream and discern what God is calling us to.
Out of that workshop came several drafts of a vision statement. The first rough draft came from a group of about 6 of us. The many drafts after that were a product of my praying and thoughtful reflection. Through all of it, I saw a few areas of focus rise to the top:
"Our vision is to bring hope to our local community by building new relationships so that future generations will experience God and become followers of Jesus Christ."
What do you think? On one hand, it seems small compared to the great big God that we serve, on another hand, it's going to take a lot for our church to get there from here--nothing short of a miracle.
Then, I stumble upon a blog post by J.R. Miller that talks about Vision: http://www.morethancake.org/archives/1470. I like his reminder to focus on God as the leader and primary vision-caster for the church. It is easy to get dragged into a man-made business model of church. God's vision of a new creation is so much more compelling than having an organization full of people. Whether it's 770 people, 300, 150, or 5, all I really long for is to see The New Creation (Revelation 21 & 22) in my life and yours, and I want to be a part of God's activity, making The New Creation here in this time and place. So I guess this Vision Statement is simply an attempt to put into words what it would look like when our church is doing that--participating with God in The New Creation.
I am a Software Developer, a career shift made in 2018. So far, I have experience with C# .Net and Angular. I continue to let curiosity lead me into learning new technologies. I plan to share what I learn along the way about technology and personal/career life. Previously, my vocation was United Methodist pastor. So in addition to coding, I'll share about theology, the Church and The Bible. I also enjoy running, music, and I'm a deeply committed father and husband. Maybe my experiences will help you. I know it helps me to share.