Thursday, March 29, 2012

Please Stop the Insanity!

Lest you be disappointed... this note has nothing to doing with the present physical fitness craze. So you may want to click off now.

I am writing not so much to air out the sour grapes of my own experience, but rather to expose an insanity I see in churches. By insanity, I mean... doing the same thing the same way and expecting different results. How long will this continue? How much more damage will be done before someone shouts... "Enough!"?

While there are many "insanities" in the church, the one in my cross hairs this morning is what I will call Pastor Replacement. Right or wrong, pastoral transition is a part of the church. Pastors come and pastors go for a multitude of reasons. My beef isn't with the fact that pastors leave, or even why they leave. However for clarity, I must interject, sometimes a pastor leaves because he no longer "fits." When this occurs, typically the church quickly forms a search committee and begins the covert operation of "finding God's next man for their church." And this they do with out any consideration of carefully and prayerfully analyzing who they are, what their mission is, whether they are on task, what went wrong (if anything) between them and their last pastor, etc. This I say is INSANE.

Think with me for a moment. Though the two are distinctly different entities, parrallells do exist between churches/pastors and college athletics/coaches. Occassionally a coach transitions. When this happens a new coach is sought out and eventually hired. When he or she takes the reins radical changes are often made. New systems are installed, sometimes new assistants are brought on board, and the work begin with a clear goal in mind... win games. Rare(and unsuccessful) is the school who would hire a new coach and then expect him to win with the existing systems and personnel. But this is exactally what many churches do.

Without ever once thinking the proverbial fly in the ointment could be their outdated systems and procedures, many churches seek to bring "God's man" on board to run their system, which may not be a winning (read mission accomplishing) approach. Of course this isn't discussed in the courting phase. So... the candidate is called and begins work only to learn, after some time, that the church who courted him isn't really interested in mission but is rather in love with "the way things have always been"... whether Biblical or not. Sometimes the difference can be worked through to a win/win, but more often than not, at this point (usually 1-2 years in), the battle begins... sides are formed and lines are drawn in the sand. Too often the outcome is carnage... colateral damage. And the community looks on.

It doesn't have to be this way nor should it. Before any church moves on to "whoever is next" let that church take sufficient time to examine everything... to ask hard questions of themselves. This will most likely require help from the outside... someone who isn't emotionally invested. Perhaps a consultant, or transitional pastor. It will mean they won't have a pastor on the field again for 12-18 months or maybe longer. But it will also mean the cessation of an insanity.

Note: I haven't written this to (or about) FBC Woodward from which I recently resigned. But there is probably something helpful here for them too.