I’ve been largely silent on the blogging front over the past few months, and I guess that’s for good reason. For the past 8 1/2 years I have served as a part-time music director, both to supplement my income and as a way for me to do ministry. This past fall, however, the church I’ve been at for the last 3 1/2 years cut my position due to “budget concerns”. So I’ve tried to keep my comments and thoughts largely to myself throughout the last several months.
But now that we’ve left that church we are in the process of finding a new one – and so that means I’ll be blogging more often. After a lot of prayer and discussion we’ve decided that for the time being I’m not going to pursue another church job – for now we’re going to take a break as a family and focus on finding a church where we can get plugged in and become members. All this raises the question of “where”? To that, I don’t yet have an answer. It is opening some some great conversations about what we are looking for in a church, what a church is, and what the church’s role in our lives is. I’ll be sharing about our search for a new church home, but in the interest of protecting both the innocent (and maybe the guilty), I won’t share names of pastors or churches. Please also understand that anything I write is not meant as a slam against any individual church (including my former one) – while I’m not sure what I’ll be writing (since I haven’t visited all the churches we want to visit), sometimes people can take these types of comments as a slam against someone in particular. They won’t be – I can assure you of that. I’m just going to share our journey as we seek God’s direction in our lives for a church home.
With that said, I’m actually going to share something I experienced several months ago while visiting a church while on vacation…. This church (which, for the record, is a pretty good size church) was in the process of starting a church plant – but the amazing thing was that they were starting a church plant not only in the same city as them, but literally in a building only about a 1/2 mile down the road from them (which they happened to own). So many churches I have attended over the years seem to compete for congregants like McDonald’s and Burger King compete for customers that the thought of doing a church plant in the same geographical area where they draw “customers” from would seem counter-intuitive. Yet that is exactly what this church was doing. Not only that, but a current member of their pastoral staff was going to be leading this new church – and not as a break-off church over some disagreement, but as a missionary the church was sending out to reach unsaved souls. To top it all off, the church even asked current congregants to consider committing to attend this new church as their new home church for one year as a starter congregation. At the service I attended they called forward the pastor they were sending off on mission as well as the 40 or so families who had signed up to go support and attend this new church and ended the service by laying hands on them and praying God would bless their efforts.
Let’s compare that to how many churches seem to function: someone gets mad, they leave the church, they take a bunch of people with them, then begin attending (or form) a new church. People from the old church call the people who have left and beg them to come back (“Things have changed” they tell them or “So-and-so has left so you’ll be happy now” they say) because they are “missed”. What about when people visit our churches – how do we counsel them? “Let’s find a ministry to plug them into so they’ll stay.” I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard someone counsel a person to seek the “church God has for them” – even if it’s not the current church!
Church leaders (and that includes pastors, music directors, deacons, councils, elders – whatever your particular church/denomination calls them) need to get over themselves and their in-securities and realize that God moves people around from one church to another and that God calls people to churches to fulfill certain functions – and that sometimes he then calls them to another church to minister there. We need to stop being afraid of letting someone go (if God has called them to go) and instead of chastising or condemning them praying God’s blessing on them. We need to stop praying only for “our” church and pray more for The Church (which is the bride of Christ). The excitement I experienced while visiting this church I mentioned was infectious – everyone was ecstatic about the possibilities a new church in town presented for reaching unsaved people whom this particular church couldn’t reach.
That’s the type of church I want to attend – one that has it’s eyes and focus on the Gospel. One that understands our goal is not to build our kingdom here but to build God’s Kingdom. One that understands that different church buildings are not competitors but partners in the call to reach the unsaved and lead both Christians and non-Christians into a transformational relationship with Jesus. A church that says to someone, “If you don’t believe this is the church for you, let me help you find the one that is right.” In short, the church that is more interested in developing people spiritually – even if the physical location isn’t their building.