Is Church Broken?

The question of the day this, is the way we do church broken? Is your church broken? And by broken, I mean, is it accomplishing the purpose for which it is intended or is it doing something else?

I had a call the other day with a coach/consultant and I was talking about the challenges of pursuing alternative models of church life in such a way that wasn’t unnecessarily subversive, damaging to existing churches, Christians, pastors and didn’t discourage and undermine them.

I will share more in the future, but I’m currently pursuing alternative models of church life and have been working on an alternative model of church that you might categorize as house church, though it’s not. You might categorize it as missional community, though it’s not exactly that, though it probably leans more towards missional community than house church.

Actually, there’s a church that has agreed to partner with us in that in a kind of oversight way, which we’re so grateful, and our denomination, as well, is looking at a partnership that way. As I’ve been looking at what it means to pursue, to aggressively seek, to build a different kind of church, I’ve been wrestling with that question: how do I do this without being a jerk? I refer to this as “jerk free subversion”, because in a way, any alternative model undermines or challenges existing models, and how do you do that without being a jerk?

Anyway, I was chatting with this consultant who I highly respect. and I asked the question, how do you do this? How do we go about this properly without unnecessarily damaging and discouraging existing churches and pastors. His response, and I’m paraphrasing, was this. “We know that the traditional way of doing church is broken. It’s a broken model. We know it’s a broken model. We have lots of data to show it’s a broken model and any objective person would conclude that it’s a broken model. Billions and billions of dollars are being spent on this model with very little return from a kingdom standpoint and very few disciples being made.”

That really was the metric we were talking about, making disciples. We’re called to be disciples who make disciples. His point was that the way we do church is not generally effective in making disciples who make disciples, I have to agree with him.

I have to look at myself and say, how much of a disciple am I? How much of a disciple maker have I been in my pastoral ministry over the years? When you dig down and do the heart introspection, at least for myself, the answer is not terribly flattering.

Looking back at the churches I pastored, even the most effective moments in the lives of the churches I pastored as a regular pastor saw some people being saved, sometimes a lot of people being saved. But honestly, very few became people who actually were passionately following Jesus as a way of life and brought others with them.

A lot of times in my most effective churches, a lot of people were coming to faith, and that was kind of the end game. Praying a prayer, and maybe even truly repenting, believing, and being baptized. A few of them got involved in reaching other people, but the true disciple-making reproduction really wasn’t happening.

The multiplication and reproduction was happening where some people were getting saved and becoming followers, but the multiplication where someone who becomes a disciple creates another disciple who creates another disciple wasn’t happening that well.

So my question is, if you look at your ministry or the church you’re involved at, or yourself personally, is something systemically broken? Is there something going on that’s interfering with making disciples or is it just not even on the radar?

A lot of churches we know are optimized or were optimized around the weekend event, and doing a good, what we believe a good service with good music and good teaching. Maybe some true interaction after or before the gathering and some vision casting. They were great events for what they were trying to accomplish. But in a lot of cases, maybe if we’re honest it’s most cases, disciple-making wasn’t happening.

So that’s really just a question the mull on right now. Again, I’m wrestling with the issue of how do we honestly discuss these things without becoming unnecessarily discouraging and unnecessarily subversive?

Another part of the answer this fellow made in the call was because we know it’s broken, he no longer walks on eggshells around the topic. He said we just need to address it head on. So I’m wrestling that through even as I look at doing alternative kind of church working in areas and regions where there are existing churches with good hearted people serving God often at great physical, financial, relational and health costs.

I’m wrestling through how do we do this without being jerks and if you have any easy answers to that, let me know. I think we, at least on the personal level, need to be honest and evaluate our disciple-making or not, and begin to shift our lives and our ministries toward that, because that is the call. It’s a high call.

I look forward to sharing with you more in the future about some of the steps we’re taking to build that kind of a ministry. Wisdom and grace to you as you keep on figuring out what it means to be a disciple who makes disciples.

God bless, press on.

The Art of Plain Talk

Way back when I was a young pastor, I came across a book called “The Art of Plain Talk” by Rudolph Flesch. You might recognize the name Flesch from hearing of the Flesch Kincaid scale for reading levels that is used by speakers, copywriters and others to check the level of their communications. It’s also not a bad thing for preachers to use as well.

I found this book by Rudolph Flesch in a library somewhere. In fact, in my mind, I found a discarded copy, but I don’t have it on me now. It highlighted some of the principles of just talking plainly and clearly.

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Who Are The Fish?

The big question of the day is who are the fish? Who are you fishing for? I was going to call this topic, who are you hunting, but the appropriate bit of biblical metaphor is fishing. He calls us to fish for people, not hunt for people though. Perhaps if Jesus was in a different cultural context, he would have used the phraseology of hunting and made it work.

But we will stick with the biblical picture of fishing and ask the question who are the fish, you know, in business and marketing. There’s a lot of talk about target audience and customer avatar. It almost sounds like a new agey kind of thing.

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Unprecedented Pivot to the New Normal

Do you have a growing list of words you never want to hear again?

This past fall, I very quickly ran out of patience for the words “pivot” and “unprecedented” and “new normal.” These words have gotten old pretty quick partly from over-use, but also because when reflecting on life and history and the nature of the world, the fact is that things are always changing. There are events almost every year, and certainly every decade, that have completely changed everything.

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