Disclaimer: I wrote this in my journal late, late last night (around 4am). It’s a glimpse into things I’m thinking and feeling — it is not meant to critique or attack other churches/ministers. Please read through this filter.
Do you remember when God called you?
- was it after getting the results of your ACT or SAT exam?
- did it come in a certified letter?
- were you walking through a job fair?
- did it come with a paycheck?
Probably not, right? It was probably more spontaneous, crazy and epic than a human designed promotion. It was supernatural, right? It made you insanely excited and totally overwhelmed all at the same time! You had the thought, ‘there’s no way I can do this’ and yet, you also KNEW, ‘ there’s no way that I CAN’T do this!’
Maybe I’m just weird, but I’m more than a little concerned about what’s happening in what we call ‘Christianity’ – specifically within our leadership. Way too many pastors seem too burned out, depressed, suicidal, wimpy and self-loathing. Some have begun to sound like excuse-making complainers. They’re lonely, hated, misunderstood, tapped-out, and overwhelmed. I hate seeing this! I want to help!!
Yep, I too have been beaten-up (a little bit physically, somewhat spiritually and a lot emotionally). I’ve been robbed, betrayed and played. I’ve been out of money, abandoned, over-worked and super tired. SO WHAT!
It’s not like Jesus and the Bible didn’t warn us. And, it’s not like Jesus and the Bible didn’t tell us what to do when this stuff happened. Jesus said, “Take heart!” not “take cover!”
Being miserable, cynical or sarcastic IS NOT the answer! Neither is quitting.
Turning the body of Christ into God’s robot isn’t the answer, either! Our need to control is making our lives out-of-control and stressed out.
“Doing church” was never God’s plan… the church is a living organism that’s growing, changing and functioning through the authority of God, the leading of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
I’m really concerned about the structure, professionalism and business-like approach to ministry that has become commonplace in our churches – and, more personally, in our lives.
Yes, many are producing churches that are big, well-oiled-machines, that function with precision and reliability. We run staff gatherings and board meetings like Fortune 500 think-tanks… little risk or faith desired or required.
Checks and balances. Budgets. Protocol, precedents and procedures. We’ve got manuals and job descriptions for everything. We can’t have chaos after all.
Hmmm… have you ever been in a father’s (or grandfather’s) house? Does he give job descriptions to his grand kids? Things are messy, loud, unorganized and spontaneous. Yet, laughter and love are everywhere! Now, I’m not saying that’s, exactly, what church should be like… but, I do think Jesus was saying something when He rebuked His disciples by saying, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 17 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Luke 18:16-17 Speaking of kid’s with callings…
I’m also concerned about how we train those called into ministry. $100,000+ for a Bible College/University degree is the norm. Student loans, classroom lectures, test taking and term-paper writing may not provide proper training or evaluation. Remember, some of the original disciples, church-leaders and church planters were ‘untrained’ — They had not attended the rabbinical schools of their day, yet they knew how to quote and explain scripture better than the rabbis. They were discipled. I’m not hating on seminary — I attended one and I was a professor at another — what I’m saying is that these institutions are not the only (or always the best) way to develop the calling in someone’s life. Discipleship must still trump diploma. Ministers should be active learners not those that think they have all the answers.
Maybe we’re too serious, controlled and up-tight? Maybe we’ve lost the adventure of our calling and turned it into a job? Maybe we’re more full of ourselves than we are the Holy Spirit?
Here’s some specific things that concern me in our pastors, churches and ministries…
- We give them instructions, but not purpose. We say ‘what’ to do without answering the ‘why’ we do it. Pray this. Read this. Attend this. Do this. Don’t do this. And, then, when you complete this; do more of this! Few people seem to be discovering who they are because we’re telling them what to ‘do.’ As a result …
- We develop systems to evaluate the success and efficiency of everything. But, we’re making disciples not employees… we’re making missionaries not machines. As a result …
- We create check-lists, measurements and levels to show maturity and progress. We require classes, tests, attendance and conformity before most ministry opportunites can be considered. As a result …
- We give out titles, positions and leadership like awards or promotions. There’s an elite aura around most upper-level pastors & leaders. There are people who may achieve board or staff level because of their faithfulness to a system or generosity (of time, talent or treasure). As a result …
- People are confused about how to love God and their neighbors without losing their minds. They can operate their ministry in the church with precision but never talk to their next-door neighbors. Their cars are used for multiple church events like a soccer-mom’s van in the summer! They’re too focused and busy to play with their kids, date their spouse, go to the park, or sleep in on Saturday morning As a result …
- Insecurity, Stress, Fatigue are having a party just on the other side of fake smiles. Ouch. Or, maybe the manifestation is pride, control and rules. Either way, both have roots in FEAR. And, fear has NOTHING to do with the adventure of God’s calling. His perfect love drives away ALL fear (1 John 4:18).
I don’t want a job. I want an adventure!
I want to wake up each day FULL of wonder, passion, energy and joy!
I want to pray because it’s fun and because Jesus talks to me! I want to read the Bible because it’s alive and it rocks my world every single time I read it! I want to make disciples because I’m called to do it and because I’m uniquely designed to reach, love, mentor, train and help others become disciples.
I want my wife, kids and friends to LOVE living life together. I want church to be about who we are becoming not what we are doing. I want the community to change through love, miracles, kindness, compassion and friendship.
I want other young Christians to WANT God to call them into the ministry even before it happens simply because they’re around the adventure of my life!
This is NOT a depressing view or rebuke of others, church, ministry or whatever … nope! I, obviously, know that some systems, structure and planning are needed in ALL ministries. Please don’t get all worked up or defensive. I wrote this in my journal — and, my journal is not the Bible! I’m simply asking questions because, asking questions is how we get answers.
Ultimately, this article, is just me saying that I’m CHOOSING to keep living the adventure and inviting others to join me! It WILL be imperfect, it will include failing and it will be unpredictable. It WILL not pay much in money but it will be INSANELY rewarding and super exciting!
The ADVENTURE continues!