Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sixty-Six Reasons People are Leaving the Church! (this is going to be good;)

Sixty-six reasons people are leaving the church today…kind of catchy isn’t it. Do I have sixty-six reasons to write down…maybe, but my ADD would kick in way before I could get to ten so let me just confess to you that I am trying to ride the wave of popularity right now. Yep…I am going to throw my hat into the ring as an expert on why people…young…old…black…white…you know, people, are leaving the Church. First off, the people leaving are obviously not Calvinist because they would know they are pre-destined to be in church…well, maybe they are pre-destined to leave. Oh, this gives me a headache. Let me start over. I am a persistent checker of all things Facebook, which may be my biggest problem, or at least does not help. I would say on the average I will see one or two posts a day where someone is posting an article on why people are leaving the church…or not worshipping…or why men hate it…or why women hate it. You get the point. The Church is a mess. I get it. I think I can help out here a little bit…not a lot but I think I have some deep insight into the problem with the church. I know who to blame here, who has screwed it up. Could it be the “seeker sensitive” church? Or the crazy “charismatics”? Maybe the traditional churches with their hymns and liturgy? The ones where the sermons are too long…or maybe where they are too short? Where they preach the real word of God, the Bible…or the guys who are nicer and use the Message? 

Listen can I take a short cut here and just get it out in the open? The real reason people are leaving the church…well other than they are spoiled? The problem with the church: People. Yep, that is it. The church is full of people…if we can clear them all out the church will be a much better place. Think about it. If you have left the building it is because of a person…someone did not preach good enough, no real fellowship, the music was too loud or they sang it in too high of a key. No one said hello to me or too many people said hello, some fellow human failed you. Most likely it was the Pastor…he let you down. 

So that leads me to the second problem: it is run by people, kind of similar to the first I suppose. Pastors, Reverends, Priests, Ministers, whatever you call them are first and foremost…people…human beings. I am going to blow the cover off a deep, hidden secret…we are not special because we are Pastors. Now I know this will offend some of the people in this group but get over it…you are human. Sure the church is messed up…God left it in the hands of people. I am pretty sure I am the number one reason people leave our fellowship…I could give you a litany of reasons but for my sanity I won’t. As I see it God is not the problem…so it has to be us…people…and pastors are a big part of it. If only when a person said yes to being a pastor the Spirit would swoop in and do a total make over. We could be Billy Graham, Andy Stanley, T.D Jakes, Joel Osteen all rolled into one. We would have all of John  Maxwell’s leadership principles memorized and worked out, we could walk on water if need be and turn water into wine for communion. If only…He doesn’t. So let’s quit beating around the bush on why people are leaving…just come out and say it…people are leaving because of…people…humans in leadership has to be a problem. There…it is out in the open…maybe now we can see the end of the seven reason why articles. The elephant in the room has been revealed. 

As a pastor I take this seriously and personally. I spent the first half of my life as a Jesus follower not as a pastor but as a participant. We served wherever needed. Later in life I responded to the call or maybe I just filled a need but I became a pastor. Funny thing is, I never wanted to be one…that was never a goal. And even funnier, God did not “fix” me when I said yes, He took me as I was. I surely was not perfect. There were much better prospects out there besides me…and we have to know that is how it is in every church. Every leader is just human…not super-human…human. With cracks and flaws. I think then as we try to make up for our flaws, if we are not careful our role becomes more important than God’s role. We are not the head of the Church, Jesus is. I am not that important…He is. When I read criticism of the Church, I do take it personal and I am offended when we try to fix it with new gadgets and ideas. The Church belongs to Jesus…it is His. I think maybe we should give it back. I think when I read the criticisms they reek of our selfishness and if we could stop for a moment and remember the Head we might see our criticism is pointed towards Him. I love the line, “I love Jesus just not the Church.” Tell me…how does that work? I try to imagine me going to Barb and saying, “ I really love your head, but the rest of you is not so good.” After I picked myself back up off the floor I could try to explain myself…or just see the idiocy of the comment. So you can take the Head…just leave the body flop around on the ground. Sounds weird to me. “If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. (now that is not very kind John) For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” 
1Jn.4:20  I will get accused of taking this out of context but read it again…John is writing to the Church…he is taking away your/our right to say, “I love Jesus just not the church.”  Let me close with the words from a modern poet.

“I never understood why going to church made you a hypocrite. Because nobody goes to church because they are perfect. If you’ve got it all together, you don’t need to go. You can go jogging with all the other perfect people on Sunday morning. Every time you go to church you’re confessing again to yourself, to your family, to the people you pass on the way there, to the people who greet you there, that you don’t have it all together. And that you need their support. You need their direction. You need some accountability. You need some help.” - Rich Mullins    

Obviously I have about sixty-four more reasons to point out…so maybe I will re-visit this subject again. But let me ask some of you a favor…especially if you are one who has posted the famous “Seven reason why” posts…re-post this. Maybe Charisma News will notice…or Christianity today. This could be my be break…and if you will not re-post this…then stop posting the others. It really does not help.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Ian teaches on leadership

A while back my grandson Ian and I wrote stories together about our adventures. He would take them in to have his grade school teachers read and we got great reviews;) I am going to share a few of them on my blog and work them into some leadership thoughts. Here goes!

A long, long time ago there was a man called Papa…well that is what his grandson, Ian called him. Ian and his mom lived with Papa and grandma for a while and there was a special bond between grandpa and grandson. Now there is a special bond with all grandkids and grandparents but, I have to admit, a little more when they are under your feet, I mean roof. I am Papa…and I want to talk a little about our story…Ian and me. See we did lots of stuff together, vacations and mowing the grass and even writing some stories. I wish we had written more…see when you have a little boy or girl they do not stay little for long. They grow up and move to bigger and better things. Oh, I see him a lot but it is different…he is getting older. But we have great stories. Stories of snake catching (Ian not me), rafting down a river, fishing for flounder late at night. Lots of stories. I am sure I taught Ian a lot of things but he taught me a lot also. 

Let me tell you about the fishing for flounder night…in Papa’s eyes an awful night…in Ian’s…an adventure. 
One evening, in North Carolina, everyone was sitting around doing very little when all of the sudden Chris brought his big, flat boat up to the dock. He said he was going fishing for flounder and wanted to know if anyone wanted to go. Of course Ian said yes and grandma said she did but Papa, well I said no thanks. As I looked out towards the boat I saw Grandma coming back.  “Aren’t you going out on the boat?” I asked. “No,” she said, “ they are going to be out way too late for me.” Well, I could see Ian still wanted to go so I grudgingly headed out to the boat. Uncle Butch and John were going and Ian was already in the boat so I thought I better go so I could be with Ian.Now looking for flounder is kind of a slow thing to do and takes a lot of patience. You go out at night in a boat with these big, bright lights that shine in the water. Flounders lay on the bottom and if you spot one you take this long spear they call a gig and you plunge it into the water and try to spear the fish. We had to point the boat towards the shore and then just drift along the shoreline with the lights shining in the water. Chris would shut the boat motor off and then start a generator on the boat to send electricity to the lights. The generator was loud and the heat from the motor was blowing right on me. Butch, John and Chris were pushing the boat along the shoreline with their long poles. Ian was up front watching everything going on. They saw crabs, cans, cups, bottles, and some fish but no flounder. John speared cups and cans but no fish. Ian then came back to where Papa was and laid down and fell asleep. The heat and the roar from the motor put him to sleep. He slept and slept. My back ached, I could not move, the hot air off the generator was blowing right on me. Finally we headed back with no fish. Hallelujah! Next, I had to carry Ian out of the boat, up the steps and into the bedroom with grandma and great-grandma. Grandma asked me how it went. I said it was awful. It was hot and it was noisy. It was boring and I never want to do it again! I was kind of cranky that she had tricked me into going. I left the room and grandma asked Ian what he thought. Ian sat up and said it was awesome. He saw crabs and he saw fish and he saw cans and bottles and he saw a stingray. It was so much fun! He loved it! It was a big adventure and in his eyes it was an amazing trip.  Great-grandma and grandma laughed and laughed. It was as if Ian and I had been on two different trips but they had been on the same one…the same boat! Ian saw it through the eyes of a young adventurer and I saw it through the eyes of a bored adult. I wished I could see through Ian’s eyes because those are the same kind of eyes God Himself has. We all need to see this wonderful world through the eyes of a child filled with wonder. Jesus said we are to come as little children…and I think he means like Ian…eyes filled with wonder and awe. Filled with innocence and joy. I learned so much from being with Ian. 

That story right there is filled with patience, wonder and awe. I find as I move along in life, wonder and awe can be taken from you so easily. We take the beautiful sunrises for granted or the colors of the trees in Fall. We see through eyes that have been trained not to trust anything or anyone. Loss of innocence. That is what being with Ian helped me hang on to I think…innocence…child like trust. 

Leaders tend to lose their innocence pretty quickly I think…if we are not careful the disappointments of this world make us skeptics. We become cynical and view things through a dark colored lens. Hanging out with kids helps me to lose some of my cynicism…I remember the movie “50 First Dates” where everyday the girl woke up not remembering anything from her past. It was frustrating for the boyfriend  but think about not having to unpack all the things we have been through to see the world the way Ian did…it was a blast. Why? His lens was not corrupted…I think a leader has to fight to keep our lenses clean of the past to enjoy each day for its own. Thanks Ian! I will never forget that trip…though I have tried;)