« Has "Modern Worship" Become Corrupt? (ThinkJump Journal #29 Kim Gentes) | Main | Reflections on Sacramental Care of the Dead (Thinkjump Journal #27 With Kim Gentes) »

Why Pastors Should Consider Quitting (Thinkjump Journal #28 With Kim Gentes)

Organic Church, Economics, Pastoral Ministry, Love & Trust and, oh ya, The History of the Church
or
"Why Pastors Should Consider Quitting"

 

Rethinking Church & Structure

Recently, I read a press release of a major ministry that was cutting back multi-millions of dollars in budget and staff to meet a falling income from giving donations. I was encouraged to see that a sizable ministry was acting wisely to manage the resources God had given them. Then, as I was considering that, and notion of various changes in the local, denominational and para-church structures around the North American church, a thousand thoughts came pouring into my mind. As I started to think on these subjects, I was forced to reconstruct a lot of assumptions I had made (which were mostly based on my beliefs as a 20 year old). Now at the ripe old age of 41, I started at the bottom of those beliefs and re-engaged the process of learning all over again. In the learning, I found I had a fundamental mistake in my core assumptions about the church. Difficult to admit, but it's true.

We desperately need the church, organism and organization. But we need it with a new heart, as desperately as each of us need a new heart in our journey from brokenness to God's love and wholeness. That church of wholeness is not primarily an organization, nor is it primarily represented in organizational forms. The church of God's love, trust and wholeness has organization for sure, but it exists with and without that in various forms (and various degrees of health) throughout history and throughout the earth today. I had believed that somehow the "sanctified" essence of the church was its structure. But it is not. The "sanctified" church is the people of its healthy, loving organic organism (read "community"). Jesus always built community, but rarely ever structure. Part of it was strategic, since He developed the core of a community at its infancy and that core would continue on multi-millennium afterwards. As we can see in his dealings with government officials (1), the Pharisees and even Pontius Pilate(2), He respected structure when it met its purpose. But where it was broken Christ tore against it. Paul sought to instill balanced organic/organizational community model(3) as he planted the church in the known world. And the ebb and flow of that community/structure balance has been at the crux of tension for nearly 2000 years.

Historical Perspective

I began my revisiting of these concepts because of recent study in Church history and practices. James White's "Introduction to Christian Worship" and Robert Webber's "Ancient Future Time" piqued my interest in the development of Christian practice, worship and community. For two thousand years, the Christian community has been looking for ways to reflect their sincere devotion, remember their historic foundations, and participate with their heritage (in both Christ and His historic Church) through the systematization of practices into such things as sacraments, rites and the Christian calendar year.

Systematization happens in all facets of life, but special care needs to be taken when applying it to relational areas. And there is nothing more relational than the Christian church. From its core, the church is built on two things: relationship with God and relationship with one another. For this reason, any system which is applied to the church requires careful scrutiny. Organizational systems, educational systems and even sacramental systems were developed over decades, centuries and millennia. They did not come about with the thought of one person or even one generation. Because of this the Christian community spans time as well as the spacial concept of distance. We participate, through Christian practice and sacrament, with the ancient church and future church to come- but more importantly we participate with Christ as he engages His church. And precisely because the purpose of practice and sacrament is to ultimately participate with Christ and his Church, we must be wary of systems that develop that lay footholds for disengaging the people from participating with Christ or one another.

I have quoted this before, but Robert Webber has articulated this so well, it bears repeating:

"The message of Easter is that the way of being in Jesus, the way of living the new resurrected life is through participation.... No one should deny the value of a good argument from Scripture for the resurrection nor should one negate the power of feeling the presence of the resurrected Christ in the songs sung, sermon preached and the Eucharist celebrated. But the emphasis of the early church fathers and the ancient church is knowing God through the way of participation."(4)


The primary cry of the Reformation was to correct the separation of the people from participating with one another and with God (primarily through the sacramental activities being placed in the hands of the clergy only). The fact that the Reformation happened speaks powerfully of the essential nature that participation has to us as humans and to the family we connect with call the Christian church.

The Church Amidst Other Systems

The church, however, exists on the very real place called "earth". And that fact forces us to look honestly at the church, especially as it tries to relate to the rest of the world. While the Christian community was building its systems for reflection, remembrance and participation, the rest of the world was building its systems of science, commerce and government.

So let's go back at that organization that was scaling back due to cash flow and budgeting concerns. Again, it is good that they were acting wisely their use of finances. But the problem with having an organization built on cash flow is that, when cash doesn't flow, bad things happen. At best, the organization deconstructs to its foundational elements. At worst, it collapses. I am sure that particular large ministry will do their best to keep their focus, and I for one am glad they are being good stewards with their resources. Still, living in America, you would be hard pressed to find an organization not held together by financial structure. This is the reason why almost everything begins to break apart in hard financial times.

That said, the Church has a real opportunity to shine in this time of world-based failure. Not because we can "show the world" by raising more money and making our budgets -as if there's some kudos for somehow proving how great an organization we can run. But more precisely because the church can truly step out of her culture comforts (that are eroding around her) and operate as the healing, touching, blessing, in-breaking, Kingdom-of-God family of agents in a broken world that we are called to be. The Church itself exists outside of any monetary needs, since Christ Himself said he would build and sustain her. That doesn't mean He doesn't encourage and bless a structure that works inside of our culture, one that requires structure and finance to operate. Quite the contrary, He certainly can and does bless that. But He isn't limited to that, and neither is His Church. Even if all the economic systems failed and we had 50% unemployment, the church still would be the Church. In fact, even more so. Even if all church buildings were repossessed (an ironic pun, if I have ever heard one) by the banks and all occupational ministers lose their employment, the Church itself would still rise and thrive. Not because it shouldn't or wouldn't take care of those who minister among them, but because in dire times people who follow Jesus care more about people and less about organizations. As organizations fail, people (and that, after all is what the church is) turn their trust to He who cares for their souls. And He always turns their hearts to others around them who are likewise hurting.

Jesus didn't need an economic crisis to awaken His church, but He is pleased to use it just the same. Jesus doesn't need to break down large para-church organizations so that ministry will be placed back in the hands of local believers, but He is pleased to work through such things to draw His conclusions on what is needed and what is not.

Deconstructing "Corporation Church"

What I believe this all points to is an opportunity for us as "leadership" people to let God somewhat deconstruct our definitions of structural church "needs", so that we become personally aware of our organic church ministry. The church as an organization is a needed thing, when its impact and effectiveness points to a Body of people who are ministering to one another and to the community into which God has sent them. When leaders and pastors are simply filling an executive position in a corporate structure, but have no direct personal ministry engagement in real people's lives the reality is that they are living in a glass house built on the comfort and excess money afforded their members. When people have no money what they spend on becomes much clearer. Also as clear is what they consider superfluous. To the degree that we see financial giving decline in American churches and ministries is an indicator of the value which Christians assign to structural church.

We can't go "back" to first century Christianity; we never had it to back to. But we can move forward to the organic nature of people gathering together to break bread, pray, encourage one another, and take care of the needs among them - this is what the church made up of people does. And when it can (as culture and persecution allowed throughout the centuries) it begins to meet in public (usually on Sundays), celebrating the goodness of God that is already being shown to God's people throughout the week. That celebratory, thankful, prayerful call was the primary attitude of the Christian church for centuries. In two phases of crystallization into structure (one in the 400- 600AD, another in the middle ages between 1300-1500AD) the church moved further from organic familial, community groups into "authorized", clergy-based organizations.

Growth & Ministry Propel Structure

I am not a post-modern "blow-em all to hell" deconstructionist, but I do believe the essence of our mission calls us to consider carefully how we do things. The closest centuries to Christ (first through fourth centuries, before the rise/authorization of Christianity in the Roman empire) show a church that didn't plan to create structure, though it was forced to apply structure to handle its amazing growth. What so often happens in later centuries is that we look back and assert each action was a brilliant application of some system, and that we should therefore apply that system as well. But the problem is the application of those structures and systems were meant to handle the overflowing ministry and move of the Holy Spirit that was happening among the people.

In our world today, we have reversed this by creating the systems and structures and believing it will somehow generate the ministry and move of the Holy Spirit. When it doesn't, we keep looking at the structure thinking there must be something wrong. We (church leaders) are like the car owner who beats his vehicle, opens up the hood, removes all the parts, replaces the engine and transmission- but the car never runs. He never thinks to check to see if there is any fuel. Looking at the church structures is not the problem; it’s an exercise that misses the issue completely. In fact, perhaps even maintaining it misses the point. The only reason to keep a structure is if the overwhelming ministry of the people and the move of the Holy Spirit cannot otherwise be wisely pastored without that structure.

Brokenness

Probably one of the main reasons that the organic church does not function in North America as well as it did for centuries in history, and as well as it does in third world and other cultures is our brokenness. This could be described in a lot of ways, from family to community to social, but the bottom line is this- we don't trust each other. For most of the history of the world, healthy communities existed as self-preserving micro-systems due to the social sub-structure created largely from the base of a family. The family lived, worked, grew, and hurt together. From there, the circle of care extended to relatives and inter-married families. Communities, likewise drew together, largely because they consisted of family connections. Tribes, cities and countries banded together, all for various reasons. It worked, partly out of need, partly out of care and connection. We still see this in more "primitive" cultures today or more patriarchal civilizations both now and in the past. There are a abhorrent exceptions of this, where those connections, trust and communities led to excesses and power-systems that were abused. But the core unit of family extending outward always provided a powerful basis of trust and care in healthy societies.

We do not have that in North America today. It is long gone. In its place, we have brokenness and sickness at ever layer of community. Families are, as a rule, broken (over 50% of families end in divorce and brokenness). Extended families are, as a rule, scattered across the country- going wherever the next job or opportunity brings each person. Neighborhoods are as a rule, uncommunicative, and at worst fearful of each other. When we leave the local strata of family and neighborhood, the brokenness is magnified to a sadly comedic satire of state and national "leaders" who neither trust each other or the people they are "leading". Trust. It comes down to that.

Trust

In America, we don't trust. We don't trust our spouses, so we leave them. We don't trust that the neighborhood and extended family we grew up around is good enough for our kids, so we move across the country chasing "better" jobs, houses and lifestyles- leaving "home" as a trite vision of the past. We don't trust our communities so we lock our doors, we never borrow from anyone (or loan to them) in the neighborhood, we drive in our garages and teach our kids that the way we do things is better than our neighbors. We don't trust our "leaders" so we vote them in and out of office as quick as possible to hope for the least amount of damage. But what is it that we don't trust? Our spouses? Our families? Our communities? Our governments? Ironically, America has the answer in the palm of their hands. It stares them in the face every time they put their confidence in something that represents the antithesis of trust in God. This understanding of trust was clear to the forefathers of this country. During the period of the civil war, sentimentality about religion was strong (as practically everyone assume God was on their side, it was necessary to inscribe it). The history of the motto "in God we trust" began in 1861 and manifested itself in 1864 with the first coin application. It followed for years, expanding to all coins and eventually to paper money beginning in 1956.

In Whom Do We Trust?

So while our money declares it, it does so in vanity, for we do not trust God. America is a nation in which we do not trust our spouses, our families, our communities or our governments. But most of all, we do not trust God. For in Him, all the hope of our concentric circles of trust are held together. We can dabble at trying to band-aid the structures of union that are needed for a healthy society -marriage, family, community and government. But we will ultimately fail. For the ultimate steel ribbon of structure that can hold them together is an honest-to-goodness trust in God. All those structures will return as healthy concentric circles of His trust, as we can help bring people individually into a life of trust with Jesus. One at a time, we can help. One at a time, we can allow God to move us enough to love people to the point they begin to trust that God cares. From that center of God's love, will come trust in that foundational relationship. That will bring trust for marriages to stay together. That will bring trust that families and communities can help one another. That will bring trust that governments and organizations really are concerned with those they are serving, more than the reverse.

What does this all mean to the structured "church"? What does this mean to pastors and leaders of churches? Essentially this- if you and your local church are not primarily about restoring people into a healthy trust relationship with God by His love, then shut down. This is far too important a mission to be spent wasting it on self-serving empire-building or providing the palatable "creature comforts" for a broken generation who needs heart surgery, not breast augmentation and tummy tucks. The core of our mission as a local church is to find the move of the Holy Spirit and His specific work in our local community with each individual person He brings our way. We draw them specifically into an opportunity to accept, receive, live, grow and extend God's love. Each one that walks into God's love fully will learn to trust. From there, the concentric circles of trust will rebuild our marriages, families, communities and nation.

The historic church bears witness to us on these essential points:

Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.(5)


This passage from Acts may have cultural expositions related to why the Jewish Christians lived these ways, but one can scarcely read the books of Acts without getting the impression that being a normal, everyday Christian was simply a matter of devoting yourself to God and taking care of each other. There is nothing more communal than eating together. And in that deeply relational act, they bound themselves to one another, taking care of their physical bodies with food, their souls with relationship, and their spirits with an engaged praising and following of God.

Responsible to the Holy Spirit

Part of this reality is that as local churches we must take honest stock of our part in the Holy Spirit's work. Did He really call you to the nations? Or did He call you to just be the best friend you can be to the broken and hurting who call your phone, stand at your door, meet you at the marketplace and work with you on your job? This isn't a guilt trip about getting you to finally go out and find out your neighbors name. Start with those you know. Love on them. Be present to the people already in front of you, that have let you in, and that you have let in your life. Does your son need some time? Does your wife get your full attention when talking with you? Does your co-worker get the extra five minutes it would take to pray for them? Do your relatives get the respect (read "love") of seeing you on special holidays?

Is this all too personal? I hope so. It is for me. I fail a lot in these areas, and often times I write it off as though it somehow doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. It does. Don't worry about saving the world, my friend. Love those around you. That is your world. One person at a time. Not from a stage, but in a coffee shop, a work cube or in a living room. Not from a speech, but in a conversation. Not by spending money building edifices to our "rightness", but from buying groceries for a friend who has lost his job. Words and acts of personal love that start from God, go to us and flow out to others.

The Church - the spiritual family of God's Love.

The church, then, is the spiritual family of God's love. A family which is extending His kingdom through trust in Him and one another. As we love those around us, we see God's work displayed in each other's lives. This rises up within us to produce thankfulness. We gather together again in that celebratory, thankful, prayerful call that becomes the primary attitude of our local church. It may look different than it did in the first century. But in our lifetime, we have the opportunity to overwhelm the distrust, pain, brokenness and sickness of our world. How? With the love and trust of God. Spreading out from His family called the church as an organic gathering community. Placing structure and organization where needed to support the ongoing love, trust and gathering thankfulness of the community pursing Jesus. That kind of love- that kind of church- will overtake the world.

Where to Go Now.

If you are a church leader, pastor or minister you likely have one of three different responses to this whole topic.

"Thanks, but no thanks" - Some will have had all your ideas about church and structure and trust still safely intact- you weren't budged in your thinking by what was said here, and you still feel pretty confident that the structure and systems of your church are essentially "blessed" by God. If you just can tweak those mechanisms enough, all the ministry will begin flowing out of your system, and people will come. I do hope that you come to the end of yourself. I pray that you resign from your own efforts and quit being in charge of your church. Christ wants His church back. He wants His people back. If you are standing in the way, it's time to move aside. Then, as you wake up in the morning, recommit yourself to Him. Recommit yourself to the spiritual family of God's love that is your local congregation. Recommit yourself to His church, in His way, to participate with Him. And we must live this way, each day. Resigning ourselves each evening, and committing ourselves to Him anew each morning.

"Yes!"- Others of you have been resonating with this call to reform our spiritual communities. You don't want to just build another system, create another structure that ends up serving even less helpful than the structures of years before us. Look for ways to re-center your community life on building trust. Nothing can replace genuine application of God's love in a love-starved world. Your engagement with God and each other will produce an overflowing kind of trust that will change your portion of earth into God's kingdom made manifest right here, right now.

"I am ready to quit"- if you find yourself discouraged, know that Christ wants all your burden.  He never intended for you to hold the weight and responsibility of the church in your hands, on your shoulders. Like other systems we have described in this article, one system we have often assimilated into our lives is the pattern of "upward mobility".  We seek to succeed in earthly organizations by taking on more and more responsibility, performing tasks well, and laying claim to the rewards of completion. The implication in business and worldly matters is clear- your value is based on what you accomplish. In this system, the visible signs of accomplishment validate your efforts and move you "up" towards even more responsibility, tasks and rewards.  This system itself is a system of religion- a pattern of devoting your life to a central diety which eventually captures all of your being. This worldly system was not Christ's design, though it has often crept slyly into the church where humility, obedience and sacrifice have been left aside as trite visions of a distant past.

Here is the truth- Christ said "I will build my church"(6). He doesn't need any of us. Let that responsibility and desire for pursuing "success" in the organization of the church fall off of you and rest at the foot of the cross.  This was the painful reality that Peter encountered in the hours before Christ's death. His efforts, strength and desire to be God's "man of the hour" all failed him in the crucible of the moment(7). He walked away, and even denied Christ. But now realize this- Jesus is calling you back to Him- to love Him.  He reinstated Peter not based on his success or failure, but based on Christ's love. He called him to that love by asking "do you truly love me?" three times(8). Each time, Christ linked that call to love Him with serving the church (feed my sheep). Jesus wants the basis of all function in the local church to be centered on love of God.  Come back to Him, to loving Him.  Upon hearing His call to love Him, you may also hear Him call you to "feed my sheep".

Quit, but Don't Quit

The goal of this article was to challenge you to revisit whether your current service in the Christian church is centered in Christ's call to love Him, and thus serve His church.  The counter to that is a life built on service and hoping for Christ's love (perhaps as a reward for good service).  The latter leads to a number of insideous practices including empire-building, selfishness and religious oligarchies- all in an attempt to assuage the soul of its cavernous need for God's love.  But the former feeds our lives, centers our realities and forms our efforts as a result of being in God's family. His love propels us closer to Him, and rises up within us out of an overflowing river meant to bless others(9). Out of that river, we can certainly put our hand to the task.  There is no shame in working hard, when the work flows from love.  The work, then, is a means of expression; an expression of love, not a means to it. The work becomes as much an expression of worship as any song, and as much an act of Christ rememberance as any sacrament.

So, if you must quit to be free from a life of duty which you hoped would lead to love- then quit immediately. And once you have quit, hear Him call you back to His love. As you rejoin with Christ in love, so He will call you again to service. Not the kind of service to gain God's favor, but the thanksgiving kind of service that flows from having His favor profoundly present on your life already.  And it is present, for He profoundly loves you.


Kim Gentes


(1) Bible, Luke 20:20-26
(2) Bible, Matthew 27:10-24
(3) Bible, 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13
(4) Robert E. Webber, Ancient Future Time, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006), P. 147
(5) Bible, Acts 2:45-47
(6) Bible, Matthew 6:18
(7) Bible, Mark 14:66-72
(8) Bible, John 21:15-17
(9) Bible, John 7:38


"FINAL PROJECT for: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studiesm, St. Stephen's UniversityEssentials Red Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt"

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (27)

Wow, Kim, quite a post. You've got a lot of thoughts stirring! And you got a lot of my thoughts stirring too!

In the Vineyard in Canada, as we've changed our church structure, we've wrestled with a lot of these ideas that you're expressing. The church is first and foremost an organism. Structure should only exist to support the organism, enable it's vibrant life and growth. If the tables turn and the organism serves the structure, death follows.

Like you, I'm not a "post modern blow it all to hell deconstructionist." While our misuse of structure (or our worldview of it's purpose and proper place) can bring death to the organism, structure is necessary to help an organism grow to it's full potential and maturity. To use a poor analogy, the same could be said of a person. If a person is to come to full maturity, they do need to have some structure in their life to support and enable to growth of a vibrant and health family. Being structureless stunts our growth and never allows us to fully mature.

But the issue is not really the structure itself, but our heart towards it and the why and how we use it.

One point where I would disagree is with your purposefully controversial title that "Pastors should consider quitting." For one example, it takes about 20-30 hours to put together a well researched, well constructed teaching (sermon). There's no way good, orthodox teaching like that could continue if there were no support. I could think of many other similar tasks that would disappear from church life should there be no more 'professional clergy.' There are a number of things that pastors do that are taken for granted and aren't necessarily recognized until their gone. To refer to the previous example, I know of one structureless church without a full time pastor where the members recognize the lack of good solid teaching.

All that to say, I enjoyed reading what you had to say! (And to show you're not the only one who likes to write long passages! Ha! And you thought YOU were verbose...)

Peace -

Nathan

December 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNathan Rousu

Kim,

I enjoyed your post. Your "church as an organism" and "church as a community" thoughts resonate with my understanding.

I was reminded of an article by Thomas F. O'Dea called Five Dilemmas in the Institutionalization of Religion as I read your post. O'Dea explores the necessity of adding structure to a group over time and how it is this structure that eventually kills it. I found it to bring a bit more balance to what you are saying here. We need some amount of structure but always need to be watching that it doesn't come back and bite us.

A bold statement that you're making here. Maybe it's time for churches to give some serious consideration to what a healthy amount of structure would look like that allows the community to thrive.

Will

December 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWill Bernard

Nathan & Will,

Great points. My primary goal with the article was to challenge pastors who have found themselves drifting into painfully destructive territory by serving for the wrong reasons. No good hearted pastor starts like that. But we become bent, from the nearness of the evil "image bearing" that the world does (in reverse to the good image-bearing we are meant to do). The worldly "image bearing" is simply the world's systems imposing their will and practices on the Christian church. That imposition has flooded the church with worldly systems, and burdened pastors down with responsibilities they were never meant to carry. My desire here is to somewhat "clear the deck", look back briefly, and re-assert the centrality of the church as a community, and re-assert the foundation of love in the pastoral call.

I definitely chose the controversial title knowing it would raise awareness, but I hoped the article would communicate the heart of the issue.

That said, in light of your and Will's response (and others I have heard from), I added some more clarity and content to the article, especially in regards to the pastoral call. I think the article becomes more helpful, though more lengthy (Nathan, sounds like you and I should write a book!).

bless you
Kim

December 13, 2008 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Kim,

Good stuff. I've written a lot on this subject myself lately.

Keep at it.

My wife and I have been hosting a house church in our home for over 3 years now and we've loved giving 100% of our offering to the poor in our community while I work in a non-christian environment and re-learn to relate to people as a human being to a human being, not a christian to a non-christian.

I sincerely believe that the Holy Spirit is leading His Bride to leave the business of church in favor of learning to "be" the Church in community, as a family, as part of the priesthood of believers and the living temples of His Holy Spirit.

Blessings,
Keith

December 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Giles

When I saw the title of this Blog I just had to read it because the last couple of weeks I have had many of the same thoughts. Add to that some very powerful experiences with God in the context of relationships (I wrote some stuff about this on a recent blog http://crispinschroeder.blogspot.com/2008/12/they-kept-shopping.html ). I feel torn some times because I feel that I am connecting more and more with folks outside of church services and events. I still feel that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, but I do feel I could walk away and be happy. I have thought these same things sometimes from a very negative place but I do not think I'm in a negative place at the moment. I very much agree that is easy (and likely) to get very distracted by the busyness of ministry and miss the heart of it or stay in it for the same reasons that anyone wants to keep a job (like a steady check, benefits, etc.)

I love to play music and write songs. I have been paid good money on more than one occasion to play music. But sometimes I have been lucky to make enough at a gig for Taco Bell on the way home. And then still other times I actually go in the hole on a gig. But music to me has never been about money. It's something in me that I just have got to get out. I feel the same way about ministry. The circumstances are always changing but I am compelled by God to help people know His love. Sometimes I make a living telling people. Sometimes I make enough for Taco Bell. Sometimes it costs me a good bit (in actuality it always costs, but sometimes it hurts the wallet as well). But at the end of the day it is just something that I have got to do. Like music, I can't not do it.

December 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCrispin Schroeder

Crispin,

I appreciate that thought so much. Ultimately, we are created by God, and given purpose that (when we are in life with Christ) becomes as much what we naturally do as walking and breathing. You saying "I can't not do it" is a key to where your heart is. Being drawn by the deepest sense of identity in Christ, propelled by His love, you have the fuel that can last a lifetime. Stay the course, my friend. I will browse over to your blog and see what has been happening .. thanks for the link!

Kim

December 14, 2008 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Jean Vanier says "Community is a place for people and their growth, before being a place for laws and rules. Leaders must keep a wise balance between respect for individuals, with their hurts and difficulties, and respect for the rules and structures. Rules and structures are necessary; there can be exceptions only if they are there. But rules are for the life of the people and the development of their gifts, and not people for the rules."

Paul gave plenty of systematic instructions for "doing church," - such as having qualified elders and deacons. And he defended paying ministers - and put the "heat" on the church to send back money to certain churches - and we see in the epistles that many of the outside churches had to send back money to maintain the early church system in Jerusalem. Likewise, the ancient benedictines - had rules and order - and it has always been so. I do not believe we are today less or more organic or oganizational then we ever have been. Maybe the pre-reformation days were the peak of organizational chaos. But there is always the tension between "worshipping in an orderly manner," and "letting community and the Holy Spirit flow." I don't think the church example of cutting back on ministry expenses is anything other than good stewardship. There is a time to grow and a time to prune. A time to be blessed the minister and a time to tent make.

It is important to always reflect on what we are doing.

Thanks for speaking

December 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBen Cloud

Ben,

Paul defends paying apostles (travelling house church-planting missionaries). He doesn't defend paying the stay-at-home teachers who minister weekly within the Body.

The instructions from Paul, Peter and other Apostles on Church had much more to do with "one another" type of ministry where the Body itself ministered to the Body.

1 Cor 12 shows us a Body of Believers who, in community, care for and minister to one another. It doesn't show us one person through whom all of those various gifts flow to the Body, which is what we have today.

Being the Church is still a lost art in today's Christianity and the priesthood of the Believer has become something most never understand, practice or believe.

-kg

December 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Giles

Kim,

In my mind, you are dead on. There is church structure, then there are thousands and thousands of sub-structures in that paradigm. It's as if each time a person found something they didn't like about church structure, they started one of their own...another structure. It's internal discord in the Body of Christ, and it totally defeats the Church's credibility outside our walls...we can't even agree on what our structures are or should be. I think it's often driven by the way things have been done, but more often driven by human nature impacting God's direction. Church leadership doesn't check human nature at the door.

As I think you pointed out, we are called and saved as individuals, not as members of an organization. Our relationship with Jesus is on an individual level, notwithstanding our communion with the Body. Though the church is a support and facilitator of ministry, if often holds back more than it propels the ministry of Jesus. When that happens, it's time to go back to the drawing board on the church structure.

I like where you're going with it.

Brock

December 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBrock

Amazing how God leads. I ended up reading your blog as the result of the free Christmas song download. Just finished reading "The Shack" and "So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore.' I think that God is calling His church to a much more relationship based foundation. Grace. Huge Grace. Thought passed through my head the other day. If God gave us gifts in the form of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers; Why I am I having to pay for the gifts? I think that it is our lack of trust in the function of the Holy Spirit that causes us to seek structure. I don't see any balance in Jesus between structure and the leading of the Holy Spirit. I would submit that the Holy Spirit is sufficient. The Church, as an organism, has huge potential to do things that no organization could ever do. As an organism led by God we have the ability to Rock this world. If Jesus told us all to jump at once the entire world would reverberate as we responded. Visualize that!!! No compromise...

December 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPat Boyt

Kim,
For the record (since I've told you privately), I believe a good alternate title for this would be:
"The trap of doing CHURCH for a living".

Taking God's Kingdom things, and turning them into Men's kingdom things has been going on for a very long time.
The hope I see is that there seems to be an opening of the eyes and hearts of the body of Christ to the simplicity of the work of Jesus. He devoted his life to twelve, and there by changed the lives of countless numbers, which continues even today.
Maybe it's foolish to think that we could improve on a method with such a great track record.
Praise God, the body grows in spite of our best efforts. ; )
Happy New Year!
Eric

December 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEric Hasslacher

Very good article. I agree with just about 100% of it. In my mind the machine of church rose up and went haywire when the professional pastor rose up and displaced the body who were all sharing the duties and functions that are now rolled into one person or a select few. With a properly functioning, properly mentored and released body of believers, there is absolutely no need for one person to do all the tasks the modern pastors either demand they do, or are expected to do. Christianity was never meant to be a spectator sport, and in fact wasn't one until well into the 4th century AD. It amazes me how many people I run into who say the Bible contains God's plan for mankind, and then turn around and ignore the very plan within it's pages on how to fellowship.

I do agree that under the current system, if a pastor were to quit or step back that a whole host of important things wouldn't get done. However, that's assuming the same system that has set up the pastor as the one man show still exists and keeps the believers from rising up and filling the void of hospital visits, chairing meetings, prayer group leading, bible teachings, small group leading, worship team guidance, counselling, budgetary planning, vision planning, etc... - all things that every church has many gifted and talented believers who could easily fill the void. However, the current system of church hasn't allowed much of these to be in the hands of the 'pew people' and instead has lumped them into the hands of one or a select few.

Earlier I said the 'machine' of church, and that's what it is. It just rolls along, being tended to and lubricated and maintained by good and well meaning people. The problem is that for many, the real purpose of the machine has long been forgotten.

peace;

Jim

January 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJim Sutherland

Good thought provoking stuff. More food for thought in Frank Viola and George Barna's book Pagan Christianity. Not quite as outrageous as the title sounds - a comprehensive review of our church practices and their roots. Encourages us to focus on a dynamic, organic model of church. I am convinced that it is in gatherings centred around relationships and community (rather than meetings and structure) that our church future lies in these changing times.

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarie Page

Thanks for the note Marie! Sounds like those are some good resources to investigate.

kg

September 19, 2009 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Kim,
I resonate with a lot of what you've shared here. The testimony of the New Testament and of Church history does indeed stand at odds with a lot of today's conventions.

So often we take aspects of our received tradition and read them back into Scripture - so that when we read the word "church" - for example - we already have a concept in our minds which the word on the page gets replaced by - same with words like "prayer" or "worship" and many others besdies. By dint of this the Scriptures are allowed only to modify what's already in our heads.

That is why from time to time we each need, as you have done, to stop for a moment and say, "What if I put aside what I think I already know, and build up a picture from the ground up just from what I find in the Scriptures." That, in theory, is the reformation hermeneutic. We each need to be "semper reformandum" - letting the Scriptures reshape us - heart, soul, mind and structure...I mean strength! (Actually I mean structure too!)

My most recent book "THE NEW MONASTIC" picks up on everything you've shared here unpacking in the shape of a story just what that process of personal reinvention might mean for a leader of worship and worshipping communities. (Can't remember if I sent you a copy, Kim. If not let me know and I shall get one in the mail to you.)

Thanks for sticking your neck out with this post - what you've said and how you've said it - and I really hear where you're coming from.

Blessings bro,

Paul
www.paulwallis.net

October 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Anthony Wallis

Thanks Paul... well spoken thoughts.. appreciate the clear response... keep chiming in where I make enough sense to warrant a response :)

I have to admit, I can't remember if I received a copy of the book or not.. the problem is that if I did have one, it was packed away with my move from Arizona to Tennessee.. so far, my entire collection of books and resource materials is still in boxes... once my home office is in shape, I will be extracting my books and should get to reading yours...

kg

October 18, 2009 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

wow...this really provokes me. I'm fully aware that I'm not really close to being an official leader of any kind, but what I do know is that this resonates with my spirit.
I really believe that God's heart is aching for His church and that He wishes us to live in community and love.

I am going to have to talk to God about this, and maybe buy one of those books.

God bless you bro,
Bryant

November 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBryant Chatley

Kim,
Great words! I have traveled so far since we last talked and the Father has shown me more of His love, more of His grace, more of His mercy that I could ever have imagined. I have always valued your words though time and circumstance separated us.
These words that you have written are a confirmation in my heart to what I believe God has been speaking for years.
I'm sorry I only now found your page.
I look forward to hearing more of what the Father is speaking to you.
Thank you for your sincere yearning for more of Him.

Don

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDon Altman

I am so glad to have been led to this post.

I recently spent an evening at a secular social gathering talking with a very nice man who described himself as agnostic. But he kept asking me about my beliefs - I am a writer and independent Christian musician. Over the course of the conversation, he revealed himself to be a former Christian who had been so deeply wounded by "the church" that he found himself no longer able to believe in God. Sadly, I meet people like him all the time. I believe that part of my call is to encounter and encourage people like this man not to give up on God, because God operates very differently from "the church."

This is a broad generalization, but if we really examine the teachings of Jesus, it was the failings and hypocrisy of the institution of religion that he spoke against most often. When the buildings and seminaries and rules and spectacle and OUR judgments about someone else's worthiness become more important than God, we have made a major and very, very serious mistake. Unfortunately, this oft-repeated has tragic consequences for the very people God wishes to reach.

If we truly believe in a sovereign God, we surely better follow the trail of the church's "walking wounded" and change.

April 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris Anderson

well said Chris. Well said.

April 6, 2010 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Do you all know your scriptures? Much of what you are saying is NOT scriptural.

One said, "He doesn't defend paying the stay-at-home teachers who minister weekly within the Body."

Shour we pay our pastors?? Scripture says YES. Read 1 Corinthians 9 (whole chapter) but 9:13Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

The purpose of trhe organized church is to TEACH/PREACH the Bible. Administer the Lords' Supper and organized church discipline. Those only 3 points to a church. There are about 9. The leadership is clearly spelled out in the Bible. Pastor/deacon/elders.

April 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Use some discretion with the "new books" out there (Pagan Christianity) as they may create more disatisfaction with your church fellowship than you can handle.
That said, the book is interesting and should be read with "Reimagining Church" apparently. I've read Pagan Chr, but not the sequel. Again, use discernment, and remember - It's easier to tear down than to build.

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterInterested Reader

Hey Kim,

After all these years (since pre-web worship mailing list), your thinking and writing have only gotten better. I praise God for his continuing work in you!

Your title reminds me of a pastor who quit (19th in an unbroken line of generations of pastors). Tim Mather, descendant of Cotton. He lived to write about it:

My review:
https://dl.dropbox.com/u/8432316/Thriving%20as%20a%20Church%20Refugee.pdf
Link to ebook:
http://www.bearcreekportal.com/bookstore.html

God has been leading you and me down the same road. For me it was reading the likes of James Rutz and David Bercot (about the structure of the initial church). Also the transformation of our meaningful Christian fellowship in Chicago from "inside the building" to "network of beloved friends across the region." In partial response, we decided to split our tithe into shares, most of which go to incredible one-person ministries that God has blessed us to know. Some of these men and women don't even have a non-profit vehicle! No matter; I figure a kingdom dollar is a kingdom dollar whether Caesar taxes on top of it or not!

The irony is, now we've moved to Puerto Rico, a VERY traditional church environment. Like the worship team is as close to a small group as I can get. That and my still improving Spanish demands more initiative for meta-church fellowship than I can yet muster. I wouldn't mind prayer for the matter.

Nevertheless, I was given opportunity to speak a little to this matter (wife translating):

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/8432316/Carnal%20in%20Ministry.pdf


Blessings brother! I need to come back and read your words more often.
--M

October 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Richter

Pastoring is a part time job. Even Paul supplemented his income with mending nets.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterR.M

Kim,
I happened on to your blog by way of a FB posting about worship. My eye then caught your article here. In many ways I feel like you cut out my heart, poked around and wrote down what you found. "The core of our mission as a local church is to find the move of the Holy Spirit and His specific work in our local community with each individual person He brings our way." If I had to highlight one sentence this would have been it. I have been for over a long long time, been seeking him and his Kingdom, looking to serve others and do life together. Sometimes I've done it better than others. Currently I am technically "planting a church". In reality I'm seeking him and his direction with others in a community. I was approached this past weekend ironically by someone with a building that would be a great offer structure wise. It has a lot of potential, but I realize with the ones I'm relating to, and where the HS has been leading, I'm not sure at this point if it would be beneficial. Many would say your crazy to pass it up, maybe, but I'm looking for the organism to grow to the point it couldn't function without a space that serves the organism well. I believe your article is a timely reminder for me. Thanks http://kingdomstuff.blogspot.com/

October 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Devlin

Terry,

What you are doing is amazingly brave, unbelievably difficult and eternally significant. Having been involved in two church plants myself, I understand some of what you are going through. But at the same time, I have parts of it that I didn't do directly. I say this so you know that I have nothing but admiration to anyone who ventures the way towards expanding the kingdom of God impact in the real world. Planting a church is truly the work of an apostle and pastor, in my opinion. Be heartened brother. Walk towards Him. He will lead. May the Lord meet all your needs and supply all you need. He is good.

Kim

October 8, 2013 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

All

To be clear, I DO support paying people who work full time in the ministry of the church. Nothing in this article says that isn't a component of God's architecture of the church or that we should abuse those who serve among us by expecting them to work without having a way to support their families from ministry. The article digs into heart issues, why we develop systems and how those same systems can become the enemy of people who wish to serve God in a kingdom perspective. If you are living to build your own kingdom, systems are great and can be used to make your kingdom flourish. But if you are living to build God's kingdom, beware of switching allegiances in midstream and feeding your own success. If we keep our hearts and priorities clear, the machinations of church systems do not need to overcome us with their tyrannical self-indulgence, as they have in the worldly business and cultures settings in which we find ourselves.

Kim

October 8, 2013 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>