Back in March of this year, the Lord began to lay on my heart what I would soon understand to be His calling to plant a new church. I never would have imagined such an assignment and up to this very moment still feel quite inadequate and unprepared to attempt such a task. Still, I have an unshakeable peace that Jesus has sent me to Morgan County and that my work here has just begun. Arriving at that assurance has been both the most difficult journey and greatest blessing of my ministry. There were no expectations, conversations, or manipulations. There were no contacts. No committees. No connections. I stand on the certainty that God alone has personally arranged this next phase of my ministry. That certainty is perhaps the most rewarding spiritual discovery of my life.
One by one, my friends, heroes, and mentors have prayed with me and affirmed this calling, offering support and suggestions that have blessed me immeasurably. However, one statement has been made to me with shocking regularity by friends in ministry. I have heard this phrase, in different forms, often: “I envy you.”
Wow. That’s what I think every time I hear that statement. Wow. How could that be? How could so many pastors and ministers today feel that way about the church?
I believe the answer to that question is the basis of the calling God has given me to Redeemer Church. For the past three months, I have had opportunity to visit many churches in Georgia, whether preaching or just worshipping. Some of those churches have been fantastic and life changing. Others have…..not. It has been an informative study for me to be able to attend other churches and just watch. What I have discovered when combined with my own recent experiences has changed the way I think about church.
A simple truth has emerged in my quest: eventually, churches tend to become organizations. You can sense it when you walk through the door! God’s plan for the church is that it is an organism. Alive. Engaging. Dynamic. But it seems that many, if not most, churches today are static; more interested in systems than sanctification. More concerned with the regulars than with redemption. More self-aggrandizing than sacrificially selfless. More geared to making the powers-that-be happy than the down-and-outs holy. The world has noticed – and is increasingly shunning the church. My heart aches for those who are being lost in this generation.
How does that happen? How does a church founded with the highest of spiritual intentions end up becoming so man-centered, system-driven, politically governed, and inward focused? The more difficult question follows: How can it ever be changed once it has assumed that model?
I’ve learned that my pastor buddies have been implying that it is difficult, if not nearly impossible to really effect change in an established church today. I acknowledge this to be a generalized, non-absolute statement. But consider this: The average tenure of a pastor in America today is three years. Youth pastors generally last eighteen months. While conveniently dressed in many different explanations or accusations, those brief tenures can quite often be explained by an incompatibility between the minister and the church “powers” in the area of change. We all want to change until it is we who have to change!
God willing, I want to lead Redeemer to be different. How? By keeping it simple. How simple? Three words: love, lift, and lead. We will seek to Love the Lord, Lift the Fallen, and Lead the Saints. Our vision is to be disciples and make disciples. We will seek to embrace prophetic ministry while battling political machinations. We will seek to elevate redeeming above ruling. We will seek to be guided by Spirit and governed by the congregation. We will try to honor the spiritual needs of the many over the stolid desires of the few. We will work daily to keep it simple!
Coming up….. Part Two….. “Back to the Future”