Church leaders… yes, I mean you!

I think that the biggest challenge facing the next generation of church leaders today is to stick it out in their own churches and traditions and faithfully participate in the kingdom, patient that God will touch people’s heart to participate with them. One of the most disappointing aspects of my Christian education up this point has been the fueled alienation students garner towards the church, resulting in many graduates of bible school and even seminary who become so pessimistic about the contemporary church that they leave church altogether, or start their own “perfect” church community.

So my plea to all of you: please stick it out!!! The church needs you! Your church needs you! And as a fellow up and coming church leader, I need you! I need you so that I can persevere and be encouraged that I am not alone on this journey...

(This post is directed towards anyone who may be a “leader” in their church, not just towards pastors. I would define leadership pretty broadly in the context of this discussion; so basically, my plea goes out to all of you!)

(I also recognize that my idealistic plea cannot ignore the personal hurt suffered by many church leaders across traditions. There is no easy solution to these sad occurrences. My hope and prayer is that somewhere forgiveness and reconciliation will allow us all to continue hoping for God’s project to be evident in and through the church.)

(Lastly, I should also mention that some instances do require leaders or church members to leave their particular church or tradition, whether it is for personal or perhaps theological reasons. While this is often a necessary reality in the faith development of any Christian, my caution is against a sort of free floating, loosely committed form of church involvement where one can jump from church to church. [You may be able to tell that I am not a fan of frequent church shopping])

(Sorry my bracketed comments are longer than the actual post!)

4 comments:

J said...

Dave,

As one of your (alienated?) colleagues at Regent, I agree that we need to stick it out with the church. However, I'm wondering if the alienation present/future leaders feel is not toward the Church itself, but toward the institutional structures that exist today. In my view, there are a lot of things wrong with the way N. Americans "do church." For example, from a communications perspective, a Sunday morning service is not designed to train disciples b/c it's information dump, as opposed to an ongoing conversation in which a person can ask questions and have a wiser, more experienced Christian help them to integrate the gospel into his/her life.

Or, in my experience as a radio producer, most children's Sunday School programs are geared more towards entertainment as opposed to fostering creativity and community. (George Barna published a book a number of years ago detailing how the Sunday School system has largely failed to nurture disciples. In fact, the Canadian MB Conference has recently shifted its focus in child ministry b/c it was alarmed at how many children don't make the transition into jr. and sr. high youth group programs.)

All of this is to say that I'm not convinced that young Christian leaders are leaving the Church. I think their leaving a (modern-style) system of church that certainly needs a complete overhaul, and perhaps needs to be scrapped altogether. Faced with that prospect, it's a lot easier to simply start building from the ground up. Indeed, a number of church planters with whom I have spoken would suggest that despite the challenges of starting something new, it's a whole lot easier than having to overhaul an old, leaky boat while still trying to steer it in a new direction.

All of this is to say that I'm not bailing on you or the Church or the Kingdom of God, but I do have serious questions about the way N. American churches are running things...

dwark said...

Thanks for your support J!

Good point with regard to what the alienation is directed towards – “institutional structures” and negative ways in which we “do church.”

The difficulty which I am currently wondering about is how we appropriately respond to these obvious problems… Church planting, as you mention, is one option that has shown some great fruit in correcting some of the ills. However, I don’t think that is always the only or best solution. Now, I will admit, I do not have an easy solution, and I don’t want to say that I am opposed to everyone who leaves the institutional church, because I am not. However, I am opposed to people leaving the institutional church for the wrong reasons. Too many churches have been planted out of frustration, only to take the root of those frustrations to the new situation. Also, what is our responsibility to our Christian brothers and sisters who persist in the negative ways of doing church?

Not sure exactly where I am going with this. Perhaps we should chat more sometime. But I think what I am getting at is that I would rather have a bunch of “alienated” leaders trying to improve the institution, instead of having them congregate to create their own institution (although they probably wouldn’t call it that!)

j said...

Dave,

I hear what you're saying. I agree that there are too many church plants that are really the result of church splits, which seems to me to be a bad reason. Shoot, Mennonite history is full of this sort of thing, where each group says the other is not holy enough, and so they part ways.

The dilemma for me is this: how long do you remain tolerant, and what are the criteria for determining the point at which you say "enough is enough"?

I think there's a thesis in there...

dwark said...

Good question, because I know for me my tolerance levels are still pretty high. What happens 5-10 years down the road and I perhaps haven't seen the growth in my church that I was hoping for... Right now I don't know the answer, but at least when I get to that point I will have your thesis to refer to!:)

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