Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Don't Look Like Wal-Mart

I don't know what the longest time has been between me writing posts before, but I feel that this one could be a new record, so once again, I apologize. If there is one overriding theme of my blog, it is that life is crazy and out-of-control and you never have as much time to do the things you would like to do as you wish you had. So for the past several several weeks, the aspect of my life I have needed to cut out has been all of you. But don't feel too bad for yourselves. I'm sure you all have plenty of other things going for you. Now, a few items in the way of announcements:

Yesterday I signed away my summer when I mailed in a contract to do a youth ministry internship at Suburban Christian Church in Corvallis, Oregon. I'm really stoked about this opportunity. I had been talking to the youth minister there for a few months trying to get it all figured out, so I'm definitely glad it worked out. I was in the Northwest when I was on camp teams two years ago and loved it, and since then I have thought a lot about the possibility of doing ministry in that region after I graduate, so this summer will give me a chance to see if I can hack it up there or if I should just stay in Topeka and get my job at Blockbuster back. So please be praying for that whole situation as I start making more plans for this summer. Also, be praying for all of the other Ozark students who are going to be doing all sorts of different things in ministry this summer and beyond. This is my fourth year at Ozark, which means that a lot of the people I came in with my freshman year and graduating and are looking for jobs and all that. Makes me glad that I decided to extend my youth and stay in school an extra year.

This morning I watched an episode of House in which the patient was an avid blogger. She was a pretty sad case, actually, broadcasting all the intimate details of her life to the world every thirty minutes. But her zeal paid off because one of her readers in Asia volunteered to give her one of their kidneys when hers were failing. So the moral of this story is that I fully expect all of you to give me your organs if I should need them.

Criticizing the church in any way is normally a pretty dangerous undertaking, but a lot of people do it. It's sort of a filthy habit for Bible college students. We spend all week huddled in our classrooms and libraries and dorm rooms talking about how to be good ministers and then we size up churches according to our expertise. Because heaven knows that guys who have been doing ministry in churches for years don't know as much as a student that has read a few Andy Stanley books. So we have this poisonous tendency to walk around and compare churches with one another and gripe about how none of them are really "being the kingdom."

With all of that in mind, I in no way want to come across as a church-thrasher. But there has been an issue that has been on my mind lately. At times, I am confused about why we in the church do things the way that we do, particularly with regard to church structure and staff management. Here's how a lot of American churches seem to be organized: First, there is a senior minister. This person preaches on Sundays and maybe at other times throughout the week. They also often steer the ship, so to speak. Major decisions go through them, and their vision sets the course for the church. Second, there are elders. They are hopefully active in caring for and teaching the people in the congregation, but they also make the yearly budget and hire new staff members and take care of many of the "nuts and bolts" of what makes a church run (which is good, considering many of those on church staffs haven't taken a math class since high school). Third, there are other various ministers over specific ministries--the youth minister and the worship minister and the children's minister, etc. These people oversee their sphere of the church's mission, giving attention to a specific focus group.

My fear is that, in many cases, we've taken the traditional leadership model seen in corporate businesses and transposed it onto the church, cramming the church into a mold it maybe isn't designed to fit into. And I'm not sure why we do this. Consider the parallels: Corporations have boards of trustees; we have boards of elders. Corporations have CEO's; we have senior ministers. Corporations have departmental vice-presidents; we have youth ministers and worship ministers. There's a definite flow of power and decision-making. That in itself isn't a bad thing; we sure need someone to make decisions, but the manner in which we decide who does so doesn't always make sense.

Like I said, normally the senior/preaching minister more or less directs the day-to-day decisions of the church. What sort of new carpet should we get? Should we do this outreach program? How should a situation with this staff member be handled? These ultimately fall into the preacher's realm of leadership. But from what I can see from Scripture, the gifts of preaching/teaching and administration/leadership are not directly linked, but that's how we've designed it in the contemporary church. If you preach, you administrate. So what does a person do if he's a great preacher and teacher with an extensive knowledge of Scripture and heart for bringing the truth of God's Word to others, but who is not a good administrator and has no desire for such responsibilities? Unless he can get a job at a larger church that has a position like "Adult Education Minister" or "Assistant Preaching Minister," that person is left to either accept duties he's not gifted for or changes to being a youth minister or something. On the other side of the coin, what do you do with a guy who's awesome with teenagers and loves youth ministry, and he's also a great leader and administrator? In how many churches is the youth minister the one who primarily makes decisions for the whole church or manages the staff?

Don't misunderstand me. I am not intending to criticize the persons who are are elders or ministers. Just about all of those in church leadership that I know are fantastic people who are earnest and passionate about serving Christ. I'm only questioning the system that we've built because I feel it pigeonholes ministers into roles that may not best utilize the way in which God has gifted them. We don't need CEO's or trustees. We need servant-leaders who are bringing their gifts to God for him to use to their fullest.

Connor and I were recently talking about how, not really all that long ago, it was really cool to sit in chairs backwards. You remember those days, when if you approached a table of friends talking, you would grab the chair, flip it around, and straddle its back. And somehow, you just looked so much cooler that you had thirty seconds previously. But how often do you see people doing this now? What happened to this global custom? If I were to start it back up, would people finally think I'm cool? And is this in anyway related to church leadership structure? Not at all. But is it important food for thought? Definitely.

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