Category Archives: Church

Well Meaning Jerks

“No, no, no…let me get that for you!”Five-Stumbling-Blocks-towards-Law-Firm

I like to think of myself as a helpful neighbor, friend, father and husband. I do things for others…sometimes without them even asking. I cut them off and tell them what I think they want to hear without them even getting a chance to ask for what they really want or need.

I mean, I’m pretty awesome, eh?

As a pastor, I believe I am in a “helping profession.” It’s a good day when I feel like someone benefitted from the support of the church – and I love being that guy to represent said religious institution.

The problem I’m seeing lately?

The church tries to answer questions that aren’t asked.

The church tries to solve the wrong problems.

The church interrupts and gets in the way of the real conversations people want/need/hope to have.

And when I say the church, I’m mostly pointing at the pastor who is writing this little missive.

The sermon yesterday was based on the second half of Mark 5, which recounts two miraculous events – Jesus healing a woman who touches his cloak and then raising Jabirus’s twelve year old daughter from the dead. There’s a ton of stuff in these two stories but what jumped out at me this time around were the followers of Jesus who, in both circumstances, seem determined to bring different endings to the incidents. They doubt, they interrupt, the laugh, and they mock those who believe in Jesus’ power to heal, Jesus’ words, and Jesus himself. And they do it from a place of assumed faith and reason.

Do we doubt the belief of others?

Do we assume an outcome before it ever has a chance to go another direction? I do and I wish I didn’t.doubting

Like many other Christians, there a times when I reject the testimonies and utterances of another denomination, congregation, or community based on my assumptions about correct church behavior, theology, and thought. Why do we do that?

Jesus counters the doubts of his closest followers but showing them (again) there is a better way. Similarly, I want to believe Jesus takes my mistaken ramblings, doubts, and cynicism and turns it into something way more valuable and important.

My doubt shouldn’t get in the way of another’s belief. So why do I let it do that?

Mark 5:36 – But overhearing what they were saying, Jesus said to the synagogue leader, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”

 

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Laughing at/with/because of God?

Yes, there are still some upcoming Iceland/Scotland adventures to share. In the meantime, take a look at the teaser for this Sunday.

What do you think, is it ok to laugh at God?

Passive Aggressive Ministry

During the worship service two weeks at The Peoples Church, attendees were encouraged to fill out a card that was randomly inserted in the bulletins. There were three options – write your hopes and dreams for The Peoples Church 1 year, 10 years, or 100 years from now. I challenged the congregation to participate in a similar exercise during my first Sunday here in East Lansing. I asked the congregation to share their hopes and dreams for the future of the church without being so specific about the time frame. I took those pieces of paper and put them on bulletin boards all throughout my office for the first year. This time around, we are displaying all of the comments by the church welcome center.

All of them…without any exception…will be displayed.

That’s important because some of the hopes for the future were surprising, positive, negative, helpful, confusing, and a whole lot in between.

Some of my favorites? “In 10 years I hope we have chocolate cake after every service.” or “More transformers in the future.”

The kid ones were the best.

Some even contradicted one another. One said – “I’d like to be part of a church that doesn’t spend money on magnets and thank you notes.” Yep, earlier that week we spent $70 on magnets and hand written thank yous to everyone who participated in the annual campaign.

The comment right after that one? “I love the magnets and thank yous!”

(The magnets were a response to some in the congregation who hopes the leadership would do a better job of saying thank you to the gifts, talents, and time offered on behalf of the church.)

There is no winning.

Anonymous comments are a challenge to any organization I take full responsibility for this conundrum. I did not ask anyone to put their names on the dreams they offered to the church. So, there are very few ways to respond to the comments that are a bit more critical. I left myself in a bit of a hole. Is there a better way? A safe way for people to voice their ideas, concerns, and worries while trusting they will be heard, not ridiculed, and allowed to speak with authenticity?

Is anonymity the only safe way people have to reflect their concerns, ideas, and critique?

Every pastor has received something along the lines of this anonymous note in their time in ministry – “Pastor – I don’t want to cause any problems, but you need to know how rude/awful/bad/loud/quiet it is when (insert issue). Many people think this and wish it were different/better/the-way-it-used-to-be/a-new-way. Sincerely – no name”

If you haven’t received something like this, then you’re obviously not trying hard enough.

The problem is my reaction to said critiques – they kill me. I do not have thick skin and my ego is WAAAAAAY too attached to the church. That is a HUGE problem and one I am desperately trying to work through.

I can hear 400 people say, “Thank you,” but the one who says, “You’re the worst,” is the one I believe and internalize. And when there is no name attached, there is no chance for conversation, relationship, or dialogue.

So, this is my own passive-aggressive form of continuing the conversation. I’d like to post some of the hopes and dreams of The Peoples Church, but more importantly, I’d like to have genuine, honest conversations about our thoughts, ideas, and critiques of the local church in ways that allow us to still be the church at the end of the day.

Any suggestions how?