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10 Terrible Reasons to Be Done with Church

historical-sculpture-religion

The “Dones.” It’s a term sociologists and researchers use to describe those who are done with church. The Dones were once part of a church, but have become disillusioned for a variety of reasons and have decided to be spiritual without the help of a local congregation. And the Dones are growing in number.

I’m a Pastor, and I’ve seen the church from every angle. I’ve been a church kid, a kid whose family left the church, and a young adult who found my way back to the church. I’ve been the Pastor of smaller, more traditional churches, on staff at a megachurch, and a planter of a new church unlike any other I’ve ever been part of. And there have been, in my twenty years of ministry, quite a few Sunday nights when I’ve felt the desire to be Done again.

But I’m here. And I’m committed. And I’ll share why, but first, I want to address some of the most common reasons you might think you’re Done with the church.

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Pointers for Pastors: Lead Better by Understanding Basic Psychology

PointersNot all change leads to growth, obviously, but growth never happens without change. So leadership is, in large part, motivating and organizing a group of people to change and grow. But… nobody likes change. Even people who say they like change don’t like it naturally. They’ve just developed a good attitude about embracing it.

As a Pastor, I used to take it quite personally when someone was afraid of the change I was urging for our church. While it doesn’t always solve all the issues, I finally came to understand that there is a psychology behind leadership that needs to be understood, even by shepherd-theologians leading a church. We must understand that people resist leadership for two big reasons: they’re afraid, and they’re hurt.

People are afraid when their sense of security is challenged, and security is a basic need of the human soul. We are naturally protective of the status quo, so we resist change that challenges us to move out of what is comfortable, safe, and familiar.

And people are hurt when their sense of significance is damaged. This happens when we feel ignored or invisible, or left out of the equation of a decision that affects our sense of security. We are supposed to have both of these needs met through our relationship with God as we seek our shelter in him and serve his people. But we naturally seek significance in superficial ways, which leads to trouble.

Why does all of this matter so much? Can’t we just push people by virtue of our position of authority? Shouldn’t people just get in line behind us and follow us in spite of their feelings? Maybe, but that’s not really leadership. Leadership is instigating and motivating people to move, then organizing them to move in the right direction with a clear picture of the destination. Charles Stone addressed this well in a piece on the six brain barriers to healthy church change.

If you want to lead better, understand what motivates people to resist you. When you bring comfort and encouragement to people who feel insecure or insignificant, you have a highly increased chance of leading them to do what you believe you’ve been called to do.

To lead better, understand how and why people think the way they do.

Here’s an audio clip in which I expand on this a bit…

Meekness is the Leverage of Leadership

In today’s world, meekness = weakness. God does not view it that way, however. The Bible says of Moses,”Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3) And in a world where power is everything, Jesus entered the scene in a wooden manger surrounded by barnyard animals. He grew up in an humble village, the son of a carpenter, of modest means. He lived His life serving others, yet Jesus was certainly the most influential leader in all of history.

If you study the lives of Moses and Jesus you’ll find something interesting – they were both great leaders. Both were willing to boldly confront sin and error. Both would rebuke those who believed and lived lies. Both were willing to venture out into the future with faith. Yet they were the meekest men in history. How can this be? You see, we’ve misdefined meekness. Biblical meekness is not weakness, it is really just the opposite.

The Bible’s word for meekness is used in reference to a broken horse, which has all the power to destroy its rider but refrains out of respect for authority. The word is also used to refer to a soldier who has all the might to take on the enemy, yet submits himself completely to the authority of his commanding officer. Meekness is the key to having leverage in leadership. It’s the refusal to demand respect in exchange for commanding it with a life of integrity. It is “controlled power.” Meekness is the willingness to supress those urges to lash out at the wrong time, opting instead to wait for further orders from our commanding officer, Jesus.

Is meekness displayed in your life? How can you submit yourself to Jesus more today? How can you lead others with boldness and courage?

How to Bring Joy to Your City

The City of Vancouver

photo credit: ecstaticist

I love that part of the story of the early church in which God allows persecution to scatter the Christians from Jerusalem like ants. The Bible says that everywhere they went, they preached the gospel (see Acts chapter 8). Phillip, in particular, headed to a city in Samaria and became the earliest cross-cultural missionary. When he preached there, the citizens listened and embraced Jesus. The Bible sums it up by saying, “So there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8:8 NLT)

I’ve spent a lot of time lately reading Acts and other sources of early church history. I’ve found this theme to be recurring. The apostles enter a city and preach Jesus against the backdrop of creation and the story of God. People embrace Jesus and the city takes on new life.

The other reaction that happens is riots break out and people get upset, but it’s usually the established religious leadership, feeling threatened by the dethroning power of this new gospel, that stir up the crowds. As I’ve looked over the stories, from Samaria to Athens all the way to Rome, I see some recurring themes.

  • The apostles establish trust and common ground, often hearing local leaders in the synagogue before engaging.
  • They start with the story of creation (with Gentiles) and with Abraham (with Jews).
  • As they present the gospel, their message is accompanied by signs and wonders, especially with the Jews.
  • Some respond by embracing Jesus. Others reject the gospel. Everyone is free to decide without coercion.
  • Churches are formed as disciple-making, disciple-maturing, and disciple-multiplying centers.
  • Cities and cultures are transformed as people are influenced with the gospel.
  • The gospel travels beyond that city into the surrounding territories and to new fields.

As I try to learn from the early church and make application to where my church and your church exist today, I think we often bring about reactions other than joy in our cities. Sometimes we ignore the city by taking up the best land, paying no taxes, and keeping to ourselves as though we’re better than everything around us. Sometimes we imitate the city and lose any distinction as a community of Christian believers with a new, biblical code. And often, we irritate the city by shouting at all the nonbelievers who, to our dismay, don’t act like believers.

I think there’s still a way to capture the essence of apostolic mission, which infiltrates cities with the gospel as new believers develop a sense of mission in every realm in which they live. From within political structures, schools and education boards, workplaces, social services, and other realms of city life, the gospel earns a hearing and makes a difference. And in the end, great joy comes to the city.

As we work through these issues in the context of a new church plant that gathers in a movie theater and scatters all week long, we’ve developed a bit of a philosophy about how we want to transform northwest Arkansas in a positive way. Specifically, we want to…

  • Plant a church that makes the good news both visible and audible to our community.
  • Scatter throughout the community as small groups that grow spiritually and serve practically.
  • Live the gospel, love people, and share Jesus as individuals.
  • Bring down the cultural barriers that keep ethnicities separated on Sunday mornings.
  • Partner with the city’s governmental leaders to address real issues that affect local residents.
  • Partner with local charitable organizations, Christian or not, that address problems like hunger and homelessness.
  • Partner with local schools to improve education, minister to teachers, and help hurting families.
  • Partner with other local churches in kingdom-focused projects.
  • Multiply as individuals, as small groups, and as a church through new worship services, venues, locations, and autonomous daughter church plants.
  • Minister to the hurting, the broken, the mentally ill and emotionally unhealthy through counseling and recovery ministries.
  • Support families, not by replacing parents as disciplers, but by supplementing and aiding parents in the discipleship process.

Is there more? Sure. This is not some to-do list or official statement we’ve adopted. And it’s not comprehensive. It’s just a list of priorities that I, as Lead Pastor, am thinking through continually.

I love northwest Arkansas with my whole heart. I loved living in Kentucky, and I definitely loved the humidity-free beach culture of southern California. But the Bentonville-Rogers area is my city. It’s my home. and I want to bring great joy to every neighbor I possibly can.

Today, after the morning service was over, a single Mom came to let me know that after struggling to feel at home in any church setting, she and her daughter agreed they had found a home at Grace Hills. I love that! That’s the joy of just one person who finds life in the gospel and in a church family. May that joy spread and not stop spreading until Jesus comes again!

Living In Continual Repentance

The Protestant Reformation’s beginning is usually marked by the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church of Wittenburg on October 31, 1517. He began the document with these words,

When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt. 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

A life of repentance? Really? Doesn’t that seem… sad? Not if we understand what repentance really means. Repentance isn’t sorrow, though it certainly includes sorrow over our sin. And repentance isn’t confession, though confession of sin is often the immediate fruit of repentance.

Repentance is change. Literally, it’s a change of the mind. And there is a sense in which repentance happens in a moment of time, but there is also a posture of repentance, of continual change into what God wants us to become. It’s a continual changing and shaping of the mind, the heart, and the will of a person.

This kind of repentance isn’t sad. It isn’t oppressive. Instead, it’s freeing. It’s liberating and life-giving. It’s grace-welcoming and light-seeking. And for the believer who wants to leave behind the former self and embrace the character and identity of Christ, it’s the only way of life worth traveling.

photo credit: thoughtquotient.com