I was a church planting conference today. People might have to take my post here with a grain of salt. I’ve been a house church guy for a long time and typical patterns and personalities found in conventional church circles are starting to feel foreign to me. I feel out of place when I go to a place like this. I tend to connect with the thinker/academic types more but your typical pastor irritates me.
There is a quote that made rounds a few years ago that is supposedly attributed to a Japanese businessman “Whenever I meet a Buddhist leader, I meet a holy man. Whenever I meet a Christian leader, I meet a manager.”
I had one encounter over a lunch. The guy started grilling me about the nature of the house church I’m a part of. He actually talked about the need for the church to be missional. I actually confessed that my particular church isn’t terribly “missional” because I refuse to redefine the word so I can label everything we do under a buzzword label. When I asked about how his church had become “Missional” he couldn’t point to anything. I wonder why the conversation goes in this direction so often. I don’t always feel like I’m being inspected when people ask me about my church but when I do it usually is some pastor sifting through the legitimacy the ministry I’m involved with.
There is a terrible irony to the whole process. What we do looks remarkably like the churches of the New Testament. I’m always entertained at the notion that the legitimacy of a house church is in question given that the church met in homes for hundreds of years.
I have to admit I did hold back in the conversation. I didn’t tell this guy that my primary efforts outside of our local fellowship have been to minister to those who have been spiritually abused by church leaders. I figured that might be an awkward conversation to have with a church leader. This ministry is deeply rewarding if not heartbreaking at times. It isn’t much of a church growth initiative though as it takes years to walk with deeply wounded people. Often they never even join us for our gatherings. I do it because God loves these people, and He is the good shepherd that would leave the 99 for the 1.
This brings me to my major frustration with all our conversation on changing the church. It is like we have all kinds of thinkers and practitioners offering us new and improved missional pumps or neo-reformed pumps to gather water in our tanks all the while water is gushing out the bottom of the tank through unrepaired cracks and holes. The biggest crisis in the church today isn’t our lack of willingness to engage missionally in our communities, it is the reality that we can’t effectively engage in the mission of reconciling people to God in our very own fellowships.
Over the last 50 years church membership among mainline denominations like the Anglican church of Canada or United church dropped about 50%. Evangelicals have largely stayed the same with most dropping less than 10%. However the population of Canada has almost doubled in the same time period. If we were just to keep pace with our birthrate we’d be much larger than we are.
I think one of the presenters, Skye (cool name huh) does nail things on the head when he said we’ve commoditized people and even God. We care much more about our programs than our people. The people exist to support the organization rather than constructing and organization that supports the people. When people fall out the back we return to tinkering with the system.
Now that I’ve vented a bit. My most memorable part of the conference was the end. I picked up two homeless hitchhikers and drove them to Regina through terrible weather. They were musicians, I got to listen to their music, we made fun of Regina! A good time was had by all. I even got a CD!