Building an institution – my journey
After my last post, on not being sure that I want to build a church, Ronz asked:
what’s happening to you?!?! it’s amazing how perspectives shift. how do you communicate that to those around you? or do you?
The recent online discussion on church co-incided with some events in my own life. One was a day that I arrived at the office with a pretty clear idea of what I should be doing that day. I spent all day – all of it – working on building, staffing, and administrative issues. It’s not that these are bad, but I realized that a pastor’s job can so easily change from one of spiritual leadership to institutional maintenance. The challenges kept flying: a challenge by Erwin McManus at a tape I showed our board; the comments from one of our board members; the realization of how easy it is to be sucked into maintenance mode. At the same time, I was growing more troubled about some of my old approaches (church growth and some of the other trends that pastors tend to follow), and more drawn (ironically) to stuff that Eugene Peterson had written about pastoral work years ago. I came home from a business meeting a week ago, and my 8-year-old daughter asked me what it means to second a motion. I’m not sure I want Robert’s Rules of Order to be part of her education on what it means to be a church. It has its place, but that stuff can so easily take over. Bill Easum’s book Beyond the Box is helping flesh out some of the ideas in my context. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to quit my role, although it does mean that I’m willing to if that’s what God wants. The structure of the church can hinder or help, but in itself it isn’t wrong. I’ve got a great group of leaders who have the same heart. It’s not to scary to communicate some of this in my context. The real question at this point is if, in North America today, a pastor can be more focused on moving beyond the structures and buildings and techniques and lay oneself completely on the table to do what God wants. In essence, I think the call to the church is the same as to each of us individually: to die to itself, to take up the cross daily, to leave all the stuff Jesus calls us to leave. Individually, that’s father and mother, husband/wife and children, brother and sister, even one’s own life. As churches, it might be buildings and budgets, committees and growth, ambitions and security. Whatever church wants to save its life will lose it, but the church that loses its life for Christ will find it.