Friday, October 29, 2010

The Church Disfunctional

Another-one bites the dust. A recently hired youth minister here in Western North Carolina is out of a job. Although the details are sketchy the fact is he is gone. I know about some of this churches process because I had spoken to the search committee about the youth minister position and after they hired this young man this spring they assured me that they had found "Gods man" for the job. Yikes!

The church is losing youth by car loads. They are tired of the drama and politics of the "church tradition" and just don't want to deal with it in church. So they don't come to church. In this blog I'm going to put some thoughts out and I hope you respond with your views on this delima facing our churches today.

Let's look at a two areas affecting church growth in today's generation. The is first is structure and the second is format.

No one will admit it but it is widely known that if you make the wrong person upset in the church it could mean your job as a staff member is short lived. Why is this happening? The church staff should run the church operations not the congregation. Churches here in Western North Carolina are about ten years behind the worship styles in other cities. This may be upsetting to those of you who think that a piano and organ are the only acceptable forms for worship. If this is the case then I would submit that the worship styles in many churches is thirty years behind. If you walk into any Red Brick church in this area you will understand what I am saying. The music is driven by a 50 or 60 year old choir director and being accompanied by a piano or organist. And the music being played is from the Hymn Book. The young people that are there are dying from boredom. This is the thirty year gap I am speaking of. If the staff were to understand the need to reach today's generation and make the necessary changes to the worship format the church council would call an emergency meeting and discuss the future employment of their pastor, and choir director. And afterwards they (pastor, music minister, youth minister) may not have a job.

A youth minster will not be allowed to operate any program that would reach today's youth without upsetting the church body, if that church body is made up of traditional or older members. Don't get me wrong a mature church body is needed to pass on the knowledge of the scripture and relationship with Christ. A church stuck in a 1975 style it is not growing. Don't believe me, just look at how empty churches are today or just go and try to sit through a service. Most services are boring and cold. There are very few churches that are really reaching young families.

It's time to make room for the next generation and stop threatening to stop tithing if it doesn't go you way.

Second is format. Let's look at the youth ministry. Many churches youth format is lacking in depth and substance. So a youth minister begins to format a weekly program to fit the community. Well meaning church members begin to criticize the program and next thing you know your youth program is over and families are leaving. The youth ministry will never succeed like this. If the church body voted the minister in then they should be smart enough to know that it takes time to work out a new position. The opposite usually happens, the youth minister, at least here in Asheville, is gone within a few months of hire. This is not because of the youth minister causing problems, it is usually a result of the church body and staff feeling threatened by new formats and programs.

It is sad to see so many churches dying on the vine because they won't allow the staff to do their job. We have started 4 Cowboy Churches and even in the Cowboy Church this has been something we have faced. The cowboy churches here in North Carolina are just duplicates of the churches the pastors come from. Same old music and format. So how are we going to bring in young families, those that don't attend church now?

It is my observation that we need to update our delivery. The message doesn't change but the way we get it out needs to. Duplicating the church of our youth is not reaching the family of today. The baptist convention will say the same thing and everyone in attendance will nod their heads in agreement and whisper to their neighbor, "yes brother", but after they get back home and someone suggests changing the worship format you'll be the first one to assemble the search committee for a replacement staff member because someones on the way out.

If your church is losing members or not growing it's time to think about who the problem is. You'll either grow or make excuses for the short fall.

Yeah, I'm talking to you!

Monday, October 18, 2010


"Membership has it's rewards", one business quotes to entice consumers to use it's services. Recently I have had some interesting conversations about membership in a church. And the responses I get are as varied as the number of people I have spoken too.

Does church membership equal rewards, earthly or eternally? Since I began my journey as a church planter I have encountered some, well-meaning, misinformed, yet educated men who have tried to set me straight, as it were, on how to "do" church, (cowboy church). Some have said, "if it doesn't meet on a Sunday then it's not church", others have said because we have church at a rodeo arena or outdoor venue that it is not church. I've been told that it's more of a "service" but it's not church. Most of these guys are career pastors with a salary and retirement plan. Most have never gone out and planted a church without a full time income to back them. It would be safe to say that most would not even venture into that arena for fear of losing their car or home.

So back to membership. If a church requires membership to participate in it's activities or voting power in which color the carpeting will be, or will the pastor be here next week or not, does this entitlement into the hallowed halls of church life provide a proper setting for christian service or social posturing?

Look at the following example. Recently I ran into a friend who is familiar with our church planting efforts here in Western North Carolina. To which our conversation began on the lack of vision residing in many of the nearly empty pews in the established church venues. In order to fulfil their desire to worship the Living God they go to a large church where they find comfort in just going in to worship and then leave with out making contact with another person upon entry and exit. Now what I know of church is the exact opposite of that experience. Church should be a place of sharing and carrying one anothers burdens. Instead church, in many eyes, is a social networking location of the popular and posturing population.

Any wonder why church is not meeting it's intended mission in our communities. Each week an email from the NC State Baptist Convention Worship consultant fills my in-box saying the same thing, maybe a little nicer but he is going around and hawking church services to observe their worship style or lack of and then sends his thoughts through the world wide web on how our churches are missing the mark in worship.

Like my friend who shows up each Sunday to the Mega Church, (because it's easy to be as face in the crowd), only to get fed and leave without any other contact save than that of the Holy Spirit. Do you get the picture yet? This is the coming generation of leaders in our churches. Why is the picture of so many of our churches filled with members only? I'll never forget Mark, the pastor of Victory Baptist here in Asheville said to me when I brought one of my ministry leaders and best friends to church one Sunday, Mark took me to the side and said,"You may not want to bring visitors with you right away until people get used to you being here." No kidding, this pastor was afraid of new people coming in and upsetting the "membership". Yikes!

Does membership have it's rewards in church? Where will the leaders of the church in 10 years come from?

Matthew 15:8 "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
Matthew 15:9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"

The Lord desires your authentic worship. John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

The one membership that counts is the Grace of Christ and the salvation from our sins He gave us from the cross. Bring your worship and that is the membership with eternal rewards. Popular and posturing have no room in Gods Kingdom, His arms provide plenty of space for your worship, come as you are. Allow Christ into your heart to make you into the kind of person He wants you to be

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Church Signs

Have you ever driven by a church and read the marquee. Some have quaint phrases or some profound message in a single sentence. Does it make you wonder, "who writes this stuff?", or "wow! I never knew that!", better yet, "what?!". Do you think Jesus carved a plaque for the front of his house with some deep thought from the writings of Moses, so that everyone who walked in would know he knew the "Book"?

It makes one think, doesn't it. Is there a book somewhere with these phrases listed by month and day, topic or doctrine? Maybe there is one for Southern Baptist, Mega Baptist, Methodist, or some variation of your denomination. What would the sign read if were layed out by the facilities neighbors, former members or past employees? Should churches even have a sign out front that is able to be changed daily or even weekly? Some mega churches have billboard size signs that splay it's activities for all that pass by.

So next time on your way to church think about the signs God is trying to get you to read. I'm not talking about words on a board but the words God is speaking to you each and every day through the life you live.

Look at this verse, Jesus said, Matthew 12:39 But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah."

The people that put signs out for you to read may be as wayward as the passer-by. If you want the true word read the Bible, learn Gods word from the source. God may be putting signs in your path right now, the way you respond to His prompting is make Christ first in your life. Then you will be able to understand the signs that you pass by each day and determine which ones matter and the ones that mean nothing.

Don't be distracted by words on a marquee read what really matters. Gods words is a sign of His love for you and I. That's a sign worth a second look.