Monday, October 29, 2007

CEOs or Shepherds?

Today I write with a sense of trepidation and thoughts of self-examination. I have been thinking about this for a while. I have come to realize that Church is big business. The more I become familiar with the issues of budgets and buildings, the more I realize that Church is big business.

A church planter friend of mine who has been pastoring his church plant(well over 500 people attending his worship services in a plant that is only 7 years old) told me that his church will be building their first building in the next few months. The cost $3 million. His is a small church project. I am excited about the vision of his church and he volunteered the first 4 years, prior to being paid for being pastor. His wife works and he supplements his income by writing and speaking outside the church.

We also are in the middle of a couple of large projects in my realm of influence. Each of them will be $3 million or more. I deal with well over 600 employees in my position. I am also responsible to monitor and work with budgets that total multiple millions of dollars. Church is big business.

I thank God for the opportunity of ministry. I thank Him that He has blessed the church and particularly our movement with resources, beyond what we could ever imagine. Yet, with all of this, it is increasingly difficult for us to avoid the "corporate" mentality in our movement and in the Church. In other words, we find ourselves often managing with worldly methods instead of heavenly weapons. I am not so foolish as to believe there should not be procedures or accountability. I am also realize that corporation protects me from legal issues and in a way provides me with a comfortable life. I am grateful for that.

I think what scares me is that corporate mentality has crept into the Church at large. There are pastors and officers who see themselves more as administrators and CEOs than shepherds.

Let me illustrate. One of the people I work with attended a very large church in our area. 20 years into her time as a member, she introduced (yes that is right) introduced herself to her Sr. Pastor at the church. They had never even shaken hands. While he is a great preacher and writer, and I assume a great delegator and manager, he missed out on the pastor part, because of needing to be a corporate manager. His church is very much managed as a corporation.

Fortunately, I work with a leader who is very pastoral. If he errs he does so on the side of relationship. He visits his flock. He gets to know people. He does think through the corporate side of things, but sees the corporate side of things as a way to empower his flock instead of a way to control or just manage the business of over 40 congregations. In many cases, the corporate mentality would tell him to wash his hands of an issue and move forward. He instead sees his opportunity to defend and work with the situation in a pastoral way. He has not been infected with a corporate mentality.

He leaves the day to day business of things to others (that would include me). He is a leader not a manager.

We do have a big business going on here. Yet, I think we can avoid corporate mentality which will cause us I believe to function solely as CEOs. I want to be numbered among the leaders too, not just the CEOs.

I think corporate mentality has a way of watering down mission. I also think that when we become corporate in our thinking that we become more concerned with measurable results than being patient and prayerful about what the Spirit will do. As I said, I believe in accountability. I believe in good stewardship of the resources God has given. I just hope we have more shepherds than we do CEOS.

So with all my blogs, I have a couple of questions. Do you see corporate mentality in the Church? Do you think it has a place? How can people, especially in our Movement balance the issues of management and shepherding? Is being corporate really in line with the will of God for the Church and our movement? How can we hold ourselves accountable without developing a corporate mentality?

Friday, October 19, 2007

I learned something at Women's retreat?

This past Sunday, I went to a Women's retreat for our division. That's what happens when you are married to the Program Secretary and the Divisional Commander, who lives around the corner from you needs a ride when his car breaks down.

Let me say that the worship gathering was sincere and people were searching after God. It was what it should have been. People wanted to know Jesus more deeply. I was encouraged and moved by that. Many in the room made fresh commitment to God. It was a joy to see.

There were some funny moments. The first hymn from was "I am a Woman." My mentor, Bill, told me he would hit me with his cain and report me to the Personnel Secretary if I actually sang it. There was also the moment during the sermon when one of my pals came out with a crown and robe. Of course, I knew she was a bit shy about it. It gave me a great opportunity to kid around. I ordered a whopper with fries after the meeting. We had a great laugh. Well, at least I did.

I have often blogged about my reaction to different presentations of the Gospel. I love to tussle and struggle with the deep theology of the church. There wasn't much of that there. I am not saying for a moment that the Gospel was dumbed down or presented in a way that came as a result of a lack of preparation. It was simple.

Because of my ADHD, both physical (and sometimes spiritual), my attention wandered. My focus was lost. I was not challenged much.

At this point in my blogs I would probably launch into some thesis on the need for us to get beyond the basics and go to the deep. I do believe we have bred in our Movement inch-deep Christians over the years. This was different.

For one of the first times in a very long time, even though I was not challenged by what was going on, I was challenged by a Voice deep within. I heard almost as clear as day, "Stop being selfish. It is not about you."

I count myself among those who believe the Church needs to change and deepen. I am one who believes that we do so many things out of rote actions that our worship is shallow. I believe that we can do so much more. I am somewhat of a cynic when it comes to Evangelicalism as it has evolved over the years. I believe a watered-down theology has led us to be ultra-conservatives, who barely resemble what our forerunners like John Wesley who were progressive in their views. We also need to value the opinions and views of other traditions. It sharpens us.

Yet for that moment, I believe that simple and traditional worked. Maybe it was the crowd. Maybe it was the loss of my pre-conceived emergent ideas. It worked.

The fact is, it was not the style. It was not the content. God worked because or in spite of all that went on.

I learned something at Women's retreat about God's moving. I do have questions though. Of course, I have. Is simple always best? How much does depend on us when it comes to the presentation of the Gospel? Are we too self-important? Has the church become too concerned about style of worship? Is a church meeting all that important?

As with all my blogs I want to know, what do you think?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Movement or Organization?

I have just returned from Greece. While there, Janet and I were on an educational tour. We went with many friends, who, with us retraced the steps of Paul on his missionary journey to Greece and Turkey. We also visited some ancient Greek Temples to Poseidon, Apollo and the Parthenon. I actually ran around a track at Delfi, where games honoring the god Apollo were held. I took it easy on Rick Munn, who ran with me, so as not to embarrass him. After a moving and adventuresome experience in Thessloniki, I will never sing, "Knowing You Jesus" by Graham Kendrick the same way again.

Janet and I were privileged to stand in Ephesus, Corinth, on Mars Hill, Berea and Phillipi, among other places. We were given a great opportunity to conduct a devotional period at the place where it is believed, with some certainty, that Lydia the first convert to Christianity in Europe was baptized. I will blog more on this life-changing experience soon. The depth of emotion in me was incredible.

It was clear on my journey that the church in Paul's day was vibrant, even in the face of persecution. It was a movement. It was alive and fluid. It changed daily and it changed the world daily as the Holy Spirit led a revival that changed history.

Recently, on my blog, Phil commented. He wondered if the Army and the church for that matter were still a Movement or and organization. I recently heard a leader indicate that he believed that The Army was not an organization. His take was that we are a dynamic and unafraid. He asserted that we are a Movement. I would like to think of us that way.

It is interesting that both comments both came within a few days of each other. Frankly, this is something that has been on my mind for a while. Movements are dynamic, life altering and change the landscape of the sphere of influence where they are. They are unafraid of change and undetered in their fulfillment of mission.

Organizations on the other hand, can be slaves to tradition. They honor conformity to process and rarely have tolerance for those that step outside the predeterminded steps aimed at there preservation. Organizations are safe. Movements take chances. Organizations go into protection mode when things get hard. Movements move forward with abandon and challenge the status quo, in order to fulfill missional priorities.

There is no doubt that in many parts of the world, the church and our part of it is a Movement. There is a courage and confidence in the Spirit that has sparked incredible change in the face of persecution. The underground church in China is growing at an amazing rate. Africa and South America are realizing revival.

The West seems to not be seeing this type of movement, even though there are some signs of the rust being shaken off, where there is freedom to move ahead. I am wondering about us though. We have procedures in place for a reason. They are there to help protect our integrity and ensure accountability. They are there to make sure there are not any people who feel that they have freedom to do anything they want without any confirmation from the community of Christ. Procedures are not there for us to be slaves to them. My fear is that in many places the honor of procedure has limited the fulfillment of mission and made us an organization.

In those places where people feel freedom the movement goes on. In those places where people on all levels feel part of the process of decision making and feel empowered by the community and the Spirit, the idea of Movement is something that makes sense. Organizations have very little in the way of power-sharing.

I long for the church and our part of it to be a Movement. So the question is very simple for us to consider. Are we an organization or a movement? From your experience and your observations do you think we are the vibrant life-changing organism we ought to be? Or are we the slaves to procedure and tradition?

What do you think?