Friday, April 06, 2012

Is There a Doctor in the House?

A few years ago, a booth at the Missouri Baptist State Evangelism Conference (I know it was at least three years ago since we haven't had a State Conference for the past two years) was set up to look like a medical station. There was a "doctor" and a "nurse" and a bunch of medical tools like stethoscopes, sphygmomanometer (blood pressure machine), those kinds of things. There were also books and pamphlets that were about church health.

Healthy churches have been a great topic over the past few years--and they should be. The real problem is that there are lots of churches, but very few healthy ones. There are approximately 2000 churches affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention, but most of them are either stagnant or declining. All of us that are in ministry in some form are very much aware of others that are hurting or have been hurt by the practices of unhealthy churches.

I know of churches that have lied to pastors and/or staff or forced them to lie about why they were leaving to protect the decision makers from looking bad or having to answer questions about why they were being let go.

I know of members that have withheld their tithes and offerings in order to get their way or have certain staff members let go.

I know that even the threat of monetary action is often enough to bring an innovative pastor back into the status quo and leave the lost souls of the community to fend for themselves.

Churches and church members often find themselves too uncomfortable to make the necessary changes to get healthy and thrive in the way God desires for them. I have talked with pastors that ache for their communities and are paralyzed from helping them. I know pastors that are told how they should preach, how long they should preach and which parts of the Bible they preach! Churches will all tell you that they want to grow, but they won't tell you that they only want to add people that are like themselves. (Surely, there are other churches for those "other" people.)

This morning, church health is on my mind for a couple of reasons. First because there are just too many people that have left churches because they've been hurt by churches and church people. Most of them are just regular people that are looking for a place to worship and belong. Some have been called to ministry and are beaten up and abused by those that they serve. Many of these people (both laymen and ministers) have decided that they'll never go back to church life. How sad for them. How sad for us.

Other than contacts that I've had in the past several months with people that have vowed to never go back to church for a variety reasons, just yesterday I was talking with a church staff member about guests that weren't being welcomed at his church in the manner that guests need to be acknowledged. Then I received an message about a minister that had been let go suddenly after reaching youth for Jesus and changing the make up of the congregation. I've had conversations about staff changes in churches and religious organizations that make me cringe.

As is often the case, when a certain matter seems to grab my attention, I seem to find articles or people that are also addressing the same issue. Here are two that I just found last night and this morning.

The first is from Ed Stetzer. I really like his blog and his thoughts. Through his work with other denominations, he is able to offer a unique perspective on church/religious organization health.

The second is a well written post about the way we treat people that are a little different than us. The post is long and was written several months ago. Read it anyway.

If we can address some of the things in these two posts, we can go a long way towards better relationships with each other and better health in our churches. If we cannot love our own, we cannot love others. If we do not love one another, then we have no part with our God that commands us to love one another.



John said...

I should add that there are some very encouraging things, as well. I know of many pastors and ministry workers that are in healthy churches. It sometimes just seems like a small number because of the greater number of unhealthy churches.

There are also church members that are seriously looking for guidance in reaching others. One brother recently told me that he was no longer comfortable with being comfortable. He wants to grow in his personal life so that he can be a servant of the King and help to grow the kingdom.

After re-reading the post, I felt that maybe it was too negative. There are certainly some very positive activities in the church life at Hopedale and some of the other churches in the area.

Celebrate Our Risen Savior!

Anonymous said...

Your post is not too negative. It is the truth. There are far too many churches in an unhealthy state. Hopedale has the exceptional leadership and congregation that keep God and His Word first place in their endeavors to reach people (all people). All of us need reminders to help us stay on task.

Let's focus on Jesus and the price He paid on our behalf!