Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How to structure a church without using the Bible

As stated previously, this blog series is written from the perspective of someone that does not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. The manner in which it is written is meant to bring to light some issues that are not readily spoken of but are absolutely evident. In particular, this blog will focus on how many are attempting to structure and organize local churches without using Scripture as the foundation. With no further ado let me introduce our fictional character for this blog, Pastor Doe.

I was excited when I heard they were looking for a Pastor. This group of believers had been struggling for several years and just couldn’t get off the ground. The previous Pastor left on good terms but decided that the church needed someone else to lead. The Deacons called a meeting and told me exactly what they expected of me. I agreed with what they were saying and the Senior Deacon called for a vote from the other two Deacons to have me as Pastor. Their vote was unanimous and the congregation was informed the very next Sunday.

The first thing on my agenda was to reformat the church’s direction. What they were doing just wasn’t working. Thankfully, I had access to numerous Christian books about church growth and tapped into this vital resource for several weeks before implementing anything. Of course, before I mentioned anything to the church I spoke with the Deacons first. They agreed that change was needed and told me to move ahead. With their blessing I presented a new church structure. I knew I would not face much opposition because most of the members were just there to hear the preaching and were willing to follow anyone who promised to help grow the church. I broke my plan down into stages:

Stage 1: Create Deacon Assistant (DA) positions. Assistance Deacons would serve in an almost administrative service to the Deacons helping to handle what I call the “manual labor” of their position. Since most of the Deacons were busy running other areas of the church, they would need someone to help along the way.

Stage 2: Develop age specific worship services. It should not surprise us that most kids just don’t pay attention or can’t comprehend the worship service. Take the teens for example. I see them sitting in the service in their group picking their nails, staring at the ceiling, and just outright showing how bored they really are. They just aren’t on the same level of comprehension as the adults and we shouldn’t expect them to just sit in the service with us. I read several books on intellectual development which support this idea. We already have a children’s church so adding a youth church seems the next logical step. They could even leave the service the same time as the kids.

Stage 3: Create any new positions anyone wanted. If someone believed they were gifted to do a certain task, we should create a position for them. One example came to me the very first week I was in the church. One young man, a son of one of the Deacons, said he had the spiritual gift of “motocross”. I had never heard of this particular gift but who was I to question someone who believed they were gifted by the Holy Spirit in this way. When I started opening up to this, I found more people saying they had gifts I had never heard of. One lady said she knew God was calling her to be a Pastor and that He had given her the spiritual gift of pasturing. This led me to the final step.

Stage 4: Rethink the “traditional” roles of women in the church. I know the Scripture speaks of only men serving in the positions of Pastor and Deacon but that was written during a different time and culture. Our culture sees women as powerful leaders and telling them they can’t serve in these positions is just archaic.

Some were a little apprehensive at first but they soon took a backseat to this changing church structure.

The DA positions soon became a great help and freed the Deacons up to be involved in more decision making and closed-door meetings. The Deacon position soon became so elevated that more men were coming forward to volunteer. Within two months our 3 person Deacon board became a 10 person board with a waiting list of men following.

Our age specific worship services were probably the biggest improvement and showed us other needs in the church. Some of the children’s church workers commented on how the 4-9 age group was just too large to be in on group together. After consulting several new childhood development books that updated those which I had already read I decided that, because of their cognitive abilities, we would divide the kids off by school grades. That gave us 6 news children’s churches needing 10 new workers.

The teen church became a big hit also. Before we knew it, we had teens coming on a regular basis every Sunday. While their parents never darkened the doorway, it was great to see the large crowd of them leave during regular worship service to have their own time of worship. During one week, when I allowed our newest female pastoral candidate to preach, I stepped back to watch one of their worship services. I don’t know what I liked the most; the trays of food and snacks they had available or the fact that they were watching some of the coolest wrestling matches of all time. Unfortunately though, some of the teens were not in to wrestling and decided to start another teen church for gamers. There they were able to play whatever game the youth leader brought for that morning. They enjoyed their worship service so much that they often stayed for hours after the adult worship service ended. Soon other teens divided off and we now have 4 youth churches happening at the same time. Unlike the children’s church though, we didn’t have enough workers. The solution was a no-brainer. I just appointed the oldest teen in each group to be the new youth leader for that group. This meant the regular youth leader could float between the groups each Sunday morning.

What a great encouragement to see our children’s church group grow from one to 6 and our youth church from 1 to 4. That meant during any given Sunday we had 11 different worship services happening at the same time. But I don’t think it will stop there. Several young adults are now talking about having their own worship service apart from the older adults. How exciting!

New church positions have been popping up all over the place. We now have a Church Executive Officer position who heads up all the church activities including picking out my sermons every week. This was quickly filled by a woman who had recently left her corporate job of 10 years to enter into full time ministry. She has me meeting with her twice a week to discuss church issues. It has freed me up to do many other things and connect more with our growing congregation.

I never expected the incredible response when we opened up the pastoral ministry to women. In the first three months alone we had two women step forward for ordination. Thankfully, one of them was a Deacon’s wife and knew the pressure that came with leadership. After their ordination they both stepped in to preach not only in our pulpit but in those of other churches as well.

A few Sunday’s ago a couple visited our church. They said they were once members almost a decade ago. They were amazed to see how we had added on to the existing structure of the church. I explained how new rooms were needed to accommodate our 11 worship service groups. They were a little wide-eyed when they saw over three quarters of the church, teens and kids, leave after the morning prayer and announcements to have fun in their own services. As Mary, our Second Affirmed Associate Pastor, stepped up to preach I noticed they had stood up and were making their way to the door.

I was able to get to them in the parking lot just before they opened their car doors.

Pastor: “Sorry to see you leave so early. You were going to miss a great worship service. We just installed a new mixer board and the worship band knows how to lift some praise.”

Man: “Thank you. I’m sure they lead some great worship songs but this church is just not what it should be.”

Pastor: “What do you mean? Look at how we’ve grown. This building is six times the size it was when you were here. Look at all the different ministries we have now. Eleven worship services at one time? Come on, who else has that?”

Man: “I can tell you who didn’t have that; the early church.”

Pastor: “That was then, this is now. We need to move along with the times.” “

Man: “What happened to having everyone come together for worship?”

Pastor: “These kids today don’t want to sit in some service where the message is over their heads and the teens don’t want to be bored to tears. The parents love it. They get to enjoy the service and the kids get something on their level.”

Man: “Where is that in the Bible?”

Pastor: “It doesn’t have to be in the Bible. It works.”

Woman: “I guess you also don’t care that women pastors are not in the Bible either?”

Pastor: “I’m not going to stifle their gifts. If someone comes to me and says God has gifted them to do something, then they should do just that. If we need to create a new position for them, then we will.”

Women: “So it doesn’t matter if what they desire to do is biblically based in principle, command, or godly example?”

Pastor: “We rely on the Bible. But where the Bible is silent we have liberty to do as we see fit.”

Man: “Are you so sure that the Bible is silent? Doesn’t the Word speak to every facet of our lives, especially when it comes to the church? Do you think you know better than nearly 1900 years of church history? You can’t just redefine how the church is structured just because you think you’ve found a better way. You can’t just split off the worship service into multiple camps just because someone with a degree says they know better.”

Pastor: “Okay. You can do it your way and we’ll do it our way. Maybe this church just isn’t for you anymore. We respect that.”

Man: “First, we don’t do it our way and you shouldn’t do it your way. We should all be seeking to do it God’s way. Second, church isn’t about being for us or anyone else. What the church does is for the glory of God. If you start with the Bible you would never come to a church model like you have in there.”

Pastor: “Well…thank you for visiting.”

The man seemed to want to speak to me more and even offered his card so we could talk later. I declined as I shook their hands and proceeded back into the sanctuary.

After the service that day I thought about what the man and his wife had said. It saddened me to think of how outdated their ideals were. That afternoon I sat in my office and stared at my large bookshelf wondering how someone could try and compare the success of the church today with the antiquated churches of the past. Our church was growing and that was enough to prove that we were doing what God wanted.

I pushed aside all these thoughts and grabbed the latest book I was working through “Making your church more like the world”. I suddenly realized that I had left my Bible in the church that morning. Oh well, I’ll get it next Sunday.

I realize that some will read this and think I have gone to an extreme when it comes to the worship service. Some sincerely believe that children have no place in the worship service and need a “church” that is designed to them and their level of understanding. However, if we are to be a people who rely on Scripture we must admit that this type of thinking is found nowhere in Scripture. In fact, it runs contrary to the theme we find of unity in the church and the younger learning from the older.

Defining church on what we want is a slippery slope that will eventually lead to redefining others areas of ministry in the church. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at all the churches today that condone homosexuality. At some point in their history they forsook the sufficiency of Scripture in regards to the internal structure and order of the church for what they deemed as more practical and relevant. This led to redefining roles in both the church and the family which soon led to a watering down of the reality of sin and its definition.

Which leads me up to the topic for the next blog: the sufficiency of Scripture in preaching the Gospel.

Thanks for stopping by!

In Christ,
Adam Gray

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, I've recently been speaking with someone who has this kind of mentality...