Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Congregation-Driven Church

OK so it's kind of a play on the popular "Purpose-Driven Life"
(a great read... I highly recommend it), but I've been thinking
lately more about this idea that the pastoral staff (the "Session",
in our case) should perhaps be more like facilitators rather
than "leaders" per se... Allow me explain:

Seems to me like a more negative spin on "sheep" (the congregation)
and the "Shepherds" (the pastors) is that THEY basically dictate
everything and WE just follow along... Oh now they're not "dictatorial",
to be sure; our Session is comprised of some very wise and very kind
men, and their leadership is comparatively sound and certainly biblical.

But here's what the "typical" approach to pastoring a church looks like:
They set the budget, determining (pretty much on their own) whom to
support, what programs to fund, who gets paid what salary and benfits,
etc.; they determine what Sermon Series gets preached; they decide
how worship will go, how Community Groups will be conducted, what material
will be covered in Sunday School, who will speak at the Men's Retreat,
etc. etc... In sum, pretty much every detail that is of any real concern
to the life of the church as a whole...

Perhaps a better approach would be a Community-driven approach,
that might look something like this:

The CONGREGATION tells the Session its will in the following:
    What topics they would like to hear preached on
    What subjects they'd like to study in Sunday School
    How often, and where, they'd like to meet
    Whom to support (i.e., missionaries and so forth)
    What Salaries -- if any! -- to pay the Staff
    What the Budget LIMIT will be (e.g., whatever gets collected and no more)
    Whom to invite to speak at retreats, breakfast meetings, etc.
    What gets studied in the Men's bible study and who will lead it
    What Community Groups will look like and how they will function
    What music is done during worship, and how worship is conducted

You get the idea. Now of course some will object, saying that such an
approach will quickly descend into chaos as everyone puts their two cents
in; but surely part of what should be imparted to the members is a sense
of Order, and surely a system of "getting your voice heard" in some
organized fashion could be constructed...

Others will object by saying that "if you want to get active in your
church, then DO it! Find a place to serve and go serve". There is definitely
a great deal of validity in that idea, but serve how? In what capacity?
In the programs and duties that the STAFF has set up? That seems to beg
the question, to me...

Instead, wouldn't it be refreshing to have a Session that continually and
regularly stresses, at every opportunity, the idea that "this is YOUR church,
folks; things are set in motion here because YOU have said that is what you'd
like to see in your church and because YOU make those things happen"?

Wouldn't it be good to hear the Staff routinely ASK the Congregation for its
input, its feedback, its ideas, its suggestions and constructive criticism?
Would you get some nasty notes, some complaints, some whining? Well certainly,
and yet those TOO would be opportunities for members to learn lessons in
Charity, and Humility, and Deference, and Patience...

These ideas are not directed at any particular church, but at what seems to
be the "norm" in MOST churches. Imagine a church where most members are
learning and practicing their Gifts, full of JOY in so doing, and where everyone
is routinely encouraged by the Staff to do so, where the Staff LISTENS to
the membership and guides them responsively?
    They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them,
    "What were you arguing about on the road?" But they kept quiet because
    on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down,
    Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first,
    he must be the very last, and the servant of all."
    -- Mark 9:33-35


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