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Community

Dan Haseltine, the lead singer for the Christian band Jars of Clay, did an interview with Christianity Today back in August 2006. The interview was for Jars’ CD, Good Monsters.

The most notable thing about that interview was a quote on community that has stuck with me when I consider the idea of community amongst believers.

We live in a culture that encourages individualism, and has creeped into the church. Yet, life as a Christian is best lived not as the proverbial Lone Ranger, but in conjunction with others.

Churches within the Acts29 Network of church-planting churches encourage their members to become involved in community groups, doing life together and ministering together to their communities. German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book, Life Together, examining the idea of community; more recently, British pastors Tim Chester and Steve Timmis cowrote a book titled Total Church, which examines in part how their churches do community.

The Bible does not seem to encourage the concept of “me and Jesus only”, but in fact in 1 Corinthians 12:14-28 (New Living Translation) refers to the church as a body made up of different parts, all working together, never working apart.

I believe that Haseltine hits the mark, as he expressed in this excerpt from the 2006 CT interview:

“The gospel never calls us to live our lives privately, but the idea of individualism and isolation has worked itself into our idea of what a good Christian life looks like—that it’s full of quiet times where it’s just us and God. But for me, when I get into that scenario, the only voice I’m really hearing is my own. And when I’m trying to wrestle with some truth of the gospel or some new element God is trying to teach me, it’s just me using my own knowledge base rather than living that out in community with other people. So it never really works. The kind of maturity that I hope for, the kinds of things I want to have freedom from, they never come, because it’s just me working it out by myself.” (boldface mine)

I (Brian) have found this to be true, personally. Of course, there are other responsibilities one has – abstaining and running from sin, talking to God, reading the Bible, among other things – in living the Christian life. But I have found that if you cut yourself off from other believers, you’ll inevitably drift in your relationship with Christ. Not to where you lose it altogether, but where whatever steps forward you made in your ‘walk’ with God seem to be erased.

Phoenix Preacher, and From the Ashes blog, were both tools God has used in my life to reconnect me to His body. As I’ve interacted with the people there, I was encouraged to grow in the Lord and to find a local church to become a part of. I did so, and eventually became a member.

Being connected with the body is vital to a Christian’s growth. Being here, on the blog, helps and is not something to dismiss because “it’s the internet”. There are real people behind each screen name, even if the very nature of the forum allows some to be anonymous jerks. But it is also important to have a offline, physical, body of Christians you can interact with, and make those connections with people whom you can hang out with, do life with, pray for and who can be there for you when you’re really in dire straits.

Whether that body is a small group in a megachurch, or as part of a small church, or as part of a house church, I strongly urge anyone who’s not part of a church to ask God to lead them somewhere, and to connect with a body of believers.

I’d like the discussion to focus in on Haseltine’s quote and how doing the Christian life alone inevitably leads nowhere, and how important it is to be involved in a church of some kind.

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  1. briwd2006
    June 21, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Good morning everyone…looking forward to the discussion.

    I’m convinced life alone will all but kill you…hence my involvement in community on and off line.

  2. Nonnie
    June 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    We are part of a wonderful little fellowship, but are quite insular. “We” are “we.” That is good as we are like-minded in our doctrines for the most part, but after living 15 years on the mission field, I discovered there was a vast land of Christianity outside of CC. I didn’t realize that a pastor who wore a collar could actually LOVE Jesus. We had friends there who told us that my husband was the first guy with long hair that they had ever met that loved Jesus. 🙂

    It was so enriching to discover the variety of methods and forms of worship, teaching, interacting that I found amongst a the missionary community. We ministered alongside Lutherans, Pentacostals, Methodists, Calvinists, Amilinialists, people who believed post- rapture, pre-rapture, old earth, young earth, etc, etc. But what we all had in common what JESUS and wanting Him to be known. We were united in our love for Christ and had a passion to preach Him in word and deed to the lost.
    That is something I don’t have in my church fellowship, but I find it here (and at the former PP site). The variety of believers and where we encourage and challenge one another in what we believe and how we worship. I so appreciate the different folks I have met online and how we “gather together” in His name.

  3. nomansapologist
    June 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Good morning, Big Guy!
    I am like you, in that my natural bent is solitude.
    Sometimes I think that is why the online community forum is so attractive to me. I can have contact, but on my terms. I can keep it clinical and sterile. I think God is calling me to change my mind about community interaction. I have seen so much in the great big world of christendom, and honestly all I have seen makes me feel like I could just leave it all…
    The Phoenix was a place where my hope in God’s children would be regularly restored.
    Rambling…
    Apologies 🙂

  4. Nene
    June 21, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Nonnie said: “I didn’t realize that a pastor who wore a collar could actually LOVE Jesus.”

    This was SO true for me as well. How ironic, as I had I been blessed by pastors who do wear collars! The Lord used so many, many here to show me the fallacies I deeply believed. You have no idea how blind I was, yet all those years I could hear the spirit telling me I was wrong.

    My physical church has changed, and I feel free there. I can randomly ponder a thought, and not have eyes rolling at me! 🙂 Oh yes, it is sooo important to have a physical connection with people. Let’s just hope the eyes don’t roll to much when we mention the Shack. 😉

  5. pstrmike
    June 21, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Nonnie,
    I have heard much the same from those who leave the states and serve in foreign countries. The things that separate (but not necessarily divide) us tend to be less important.

    I have some of the same perspective as nomans re on-line community. It’s easier from my office than face to face. Not sure what that says about community or me.

    Having grown up in the 60’s and lived through it’s aftermath both in the world and the church, I really question the degree of importance that community really is in our lives. Communes, both secular and christian were a strong expression , you could say the ultimate community; and they were really dismal failures. One word: Shiloh. I rest my case.

    Like anything in the church, we can replace our mission with something that is less than God intended. Community may fall in that category. Our calling as Christians is to make disciples yes, but primarily live our lives in the context of following Jesus which requires for us to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow in His steps. If community can be held in that context, great. But the challenge becomes intensely greater when you lump a bunch of sinners (albeit saved by grace) together in a tight place and force them to get along. It becomes contrived instead of an out flow of His life. And I thought I wa going to take a break from some of this… 8)

  6. Na'amah
    June 21, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    goood morning 🙂

    i continue in agreement w Nonnie and nomansapologist…

    i ‘feel’ alone w/in my church community and the PP was a discovered community where 1st we acknowledged Jesus, generally people were respected enough to be challenged/disagree, and still continue to be connected. I was ‘referred’ to PP by one of the members who heard my sense of isolation in my spiritual life.

    i am not by nature one who tends to isolate. But have found the need to do so because not ‘toeing the line in perspective/thought’ just creates too much ‘noise’ in the fellowship process. The online community restore/reassures me that there are other brothers and sisters who really are accepting and open.

  7. briwd2006
    June 21, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Good morning everyone!

    Speaking of the Shack 🙂

    …I need to write about my observations of the book after having read the whole thing. After three or so years, it’s still impacting people, and attracting criticism.

    Also…for some odd reason when you look at a post from this blog in Google Reader the blog is labeled BrianD Blog > The Shack. And I don’t know how that got there. Eric, Buster, or any other blog experts, any ideas on how to get rid of that?

  8. pstrmike
    June 21, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    oh no, not THe Shack!!! we’re doomed!! 8)

  9. briwd2006
    June 21, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Me too, Nonnie. I think, in America anyway, we tend to stick to our little tribes, and look at other Christians as those who will make it thru the pearly gates but aren’t quite as Christian as we are. You really have to think outside the box – or actually come into contact with those other Christians where you can see how more you are like them than unlike them – to get past that kind of thinking.

  10. briwd2006
    June 21, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    None necessary, Nomans.

    The alternative to church is the world, which ain’t the promised land our flesh can delude us into believing it is…

  11. briwd2006
    June 21, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Pstr, online community can be a bridge back into offline community, if you’re with the right people. Any environment can become dysfunctional. I guess what I’m trying to argue is that some form of community is vital – it doesn’t have to be huge, and it doesn’t necessarily have to have the stamp of approval from an organization. It does need to consist of more than one person, though…going thru life’s challenges alone can kill you.

  12. briwd2006
    June 21, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Amen, Na’amah. I do hope you can find a church, or at least a group of Christians, where you can be yourself and part of a healthy community.

    Finding a good online community – this one in particular I’m partial to 🙂 – can be a treasure, whatever your circumstances are offline.

  13. Na'amah
    June 21, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    🙂 i belong to a large community church for 20+ yrs now… i am “involved” 😀 i didn’t have a diagnosis for what was transpiring w/in the church community, i have now, its ODM disease!

    i am considering a move too another church. if i do now, i will go w/out my SO (significant other) and my move will impact the ministries of my children. I am hoping the process of my involving myself in another church community will transpire w/out too much attention… ummm…not bloody likely. 🙄

    and am growing partial to this one as well

  14. Nonnie
    June 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    “I didn’t have a diagnosis for what was transpiring w/in the church community, i have now, its ODM disease!”

    There can be sincere, loving and wonderful people in a church, but if they are into the ODM’s and bringing that back into the church, the atmosphere can become stifling and the fear and finger pointing that it brings in smells like diseased flesh rather that sweet fruit of the spirit.

  15. briwd2006
    June 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    ODM disease? Ugh…

  16. Buster
    June 21, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    For far too long the church has had the idea that its job was to just improve our relationship with God — it was just between the two if us, and maybe some fellowship was an added benefit. But our efforts are multiplied, and we learn so much more when we are working together toward some goal.

    The Internet has the capacity to help us connect in new ways with other believers. There are new opportunities for learning, fellowship, mutual encouragement, prayer, etc. We can use this to become better followers of Jesus, but I still have to ask, what are accomplishing? Could there be some way to better leverage this interaction to accomplish something bigger?

    Think of the other social networks that have developed to achieve specific goals: The SETI program, open-source development efforts (like Linux and Firefox), political activism, environmental activism, even eBay (which has reduced the cost of acquiring goods).

    But what are we doing? Arguing about doctrine, talking about books, condoning or condemning certain behavior, etc. I’m not trying to be critical here, but constructive.

    What could we do together to achieve some common goal? How could we combine those elements of technology, as others have done, to create something new? How can we extend the reign of God in the real world via the online world?

  17. Na'amah
    June 21, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    i understand your concern Buster…and i need the anonymity of the online community at this time for both personal and professional reasons.

    and arguing about doctrine, talking about books, considering different POV, sharing experiences is exactly what i am missing in my church community right now. For 18 yrs i was part of a home bible study group, we chose books by consensus of the group…and then suddenly one day we were informed our choice wasn’t ‘approved’ from a list and now all home bible study groups must read the same book at the same time… it’s been a subtle change but is impacting the entire culture. I am assertive and struggle w the seeming adaptation from Asian culture of leaving ones shoes outside the door to leaving ones brains outside the door at my church.

    i suppose we could create some way to financially support different ministries or offer commitments to become involved in community service, if we are not already. I am part of different internet communities, not Christian based, that bring together lots of different peeps to provide service and funding for a variety of reasons… perhaps this is a new calling for you

  18. briwd2006
    June 21, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Good questions, Buster. Perhaps some kind of group project, done by people in their locales. I remember when I “attended” LifeChurch.tv they attempted to organize a service project for their online campus. You’d do this thing in your community (let’s say, serve at a homeless shelter), then report back. It requires individual initiative and follow through.

  19. Nene
    June 21, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Buster: “We can use this to become better followers of Jesus, but I still have to ask, what are accomplishing?”

    Hi Buster! My words might just be too simple and plain, but the words “encourage each other/pray” stand out strong. There are many times my arthritis flares so bad, I do not want to go out after work. All I want to do is zone out on days like that. 🙂

    Of course encouraging/prayer can be done in sites like fb, but I am not into them due to my privacy/work.

  20. Na'amah
    June 21, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Nonnie @ #9

    precise and accurate description of what is slowly transpiring this once incredible community… large church w 12 pastors the ‘rules’ list is growing i understand as the congregation becomes larger there is less personableness due to sheer numbers… i started noticing the ‘attitude’ change about a decade ago… sent one 13 yr old child to gather up 9 yr old child… was not allowed to get sibling as she was NOT the parent. The teacher was someone our family spent social time w…these were the RULES! My children laughed at the refusal to allow the younger one to leave thinking it was silly and a joke. i won’t even go into the silliness that transpired w my seeking to reinstate less ridgidity on this small issue.

    and then my teaching has been ‘reviewed’ due to discussion i allowed during a class, providing accepted professional standards regarding a topic and accepted Biblical/theological viewpoints. Hmmm, i guess there are a limited identified acceptable theologans now as well.

  21. Sarah
    June 21, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Just poking my head in for a second….Nene, I don’t think Psalmy is going to be on the other blogs, but if you’d like to be in touch with her send me an email.

    i.b.a.sarah@gmail.com

    Community is such a vast topic, and so driven by our experiences and our hopes. I’ve been a part of a commune for a short time, part of several churches that achieved community to varying degrees, and part of other “communities.” Right now, honestly, walking through the flood rebuilding with our congregation has been an amazing experience of community. I think often when we are able to face a great struggle with a group of people it deepens the community aspect in ways that take much longer in the absence of struggle.

  22. briwd2006
    June 21, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Things become more and more impersonal in growing churches is something every church growing into a mega church deals with, Na’amah. I can understand your frustration over the kids, but can also understand where a church might want to be a little more stringent especially in regards to children.

    I believe that if members and attendees have a responsibility to honor their church’s guidelines and rules, then their church equally has a responsibility to exercise those guidelines and rules in a reasonable manner. Micromanaging community groups, even who people like to read and get taught by, is a bit excessive.

  23. June 21, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    not sure Brian, I dont use google reader, does it show in your RSS feed elsewhere, ill see what I can figure out.

    Maybe instead of mega-churches and megachurch pastors who draw thousands from every community we should once again focus on the local church serving the local community…might help take the focus off the pastor and put it back on the Savior.

  24. June 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Just set up google reader and added your feed and it says BrianD blog but no mention of the shack

  25. briwd2006
    June 21, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Thanks, Eric. Maybe it’s just something on my end….which RSS reader do you use, if you don’t mind answering?

  26. June 21, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    I dont until now, usually just play jumping links from sites I read regularly and discover new stuff

  27. briwd2006
    June 21, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    That’s a pain, though….I did that for a long time. It was interesting to compare the different blog themes, and look at different people’s blogrolls (that would be how I found a number of blogs). But when you follow 300 some sites, you have to use an aggregator.

  28. Na'amah
    June 21, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Brian

    i thought i stated i was aware that things need to change as the church grew larger (we weren’t even close to Mega at that time) It was the ‘attitude’ that the rules were being implemented. A 13 yr old is legally allowed to babysit past midnight in the state, both children were well KNOWN to the teacher and it had not been a RULE before for children 7 yrs – 12 yrs. It was being implemented illogically. The rule was instituted so a child would not accidentally be released to someone not known or approved to have contact w the child. Infants and pre-schooler are signed in and out with a number tag id that must be matched and a parent.

    Becoming a larger congregation had little to do w the approved/non approved reading teaching list and then everyone must study the same book @ the same time in our small bible groups, nor my being reviewed, questioned due to a discussion that took place (unplanned) during one of my classes of a 12 week course. It became rather obvious to me during that meeting that a growing division w/in the leadership was brewing. One of the 6 lead pastors (been there 2 yrs at the time and did not know me) was insistent that unless previously approved, he did not think i should ‘ad lib’ from the intended course 🙄 and he did not approve of my offered varied theological viewpoints (and he definitely did not think my ‘profession’ had much to contribute) it was a course regarding sexuality w/in marriage 🙂 yeah, a pretty “hot” topic shame the one pastor was so dismissive…i probably could of improve this aspect of his life immensely w my follow up course for women 🙂 He never allows his wife to attend any of my classes…the ‘allows’ thing annoys me to no end and it is a growing ‘attitude’ w/in our church.

    And why didn’t the person who had the “issue” w the discussion come to me 1st or be directed to do so by whomever she expressed her concerns about the discussion? I guess it also could of been one of the women discussing it w husband who then expressed concern to one of the pastors… don’t know it was just very odd as in the past 15 yrs prior to this any concern about a class discussion or content was handled very differently.

    i earn my living observing behavior in others and within this outwardly ‘open’ and ‘loving’ church i am seeing a legalistic spirit that is creating a required inauthenticity to ‘be a part of’ the ‘inner’ church community. i have been instructed, not just me, that when members or non members speak w us we are to notify a senior pastor of the information/discussion if it appears to be a potential false belief…i am waiting to receive a specific list about what are to be considered ‘false’ beliefs any day now.

    because we are so large i understand that the only way the 12 pastors of our church can address any such growing issue is if other leaders in contact w the congregation bring it to their attention. it’s just starting to ‘feel’ controlling and that truely legitimate differing viewpoints are increasingly not allowed.

    ok gone on way too long… i do not want to present here as unsupportive of those called to pastor… my dad in law is one, as are many of my out laws, and a few of my best friends. i am if anything sympathetic to the burden they carry. I found myself supporting many of shaunsells POV in one discussion.

  29. briwd2006
    June 21, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    I’m sorry I misunderstood you, Na’amah 😦

  30. briwd2006
    June 21, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    I couldn’t support what you say the church leadership is trying to put forth, Na’amah. Sounds like you understand what’s going on and the ramifications of staying versus leaving…all I can say is, trust the Holy Spirit…He’ll guide you through this.

  31. June 21, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Wait em was Psalm??

  32. briwd2006
    June 21, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    Yes.

  33. pstrmike
    June 22, 2010 at 12:00 am

    price you pay for leaving the room

  34. Nene
    June 22, 2010 at 1:13 am

    thanks Sarah!

    I must share this!! My substitute job ended last week, the weekend job did not work out, and there was no unemployment through either! How cool is this? My own dentist called me out of the blue, and offered me a summer job! Amazing! Thank you Lord.

  35. Nonnie
    June 22, 2010 at 2:01 am

    Thanking God with you Nene!!! He is our Jehovah Jireh!

  36. Nene
    June 22, 2010 at 2:07 am

    Nonnie, I imagine I’ll be smiling as I sleep tonight! 🙂

  37. [o_O]
    June 22, 2010 at 3:20 am

    Na’amah,
    “i have been instructed, not just me, that when members or non members speak w us we are to notify a senior pastor of the information/discussion if it appears to be a potential false belief…i am waiting to receive a specific list about what are to be considered ‘false’ beliefs any day now.”

    That is chilling to me.

    That would be my cue to find a community that was less like a police state and more like a rave 😉

    As I’m getting older I find that I have many individual relationships that are resonant and spiritual, sometimes spread across time zones, sometimes not seeing each other for long stretches, but the greatest reassurance is the feeling of picking right back up where we left off, that it feels like a never ending conversation of mind and soul
    [o_O] | ( | o )====:::

  38. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 3:46 am

    [o_O](formerly known as) ( |o )====:::

    there is a small difficulty w my SO not finding it ‘chilling’ he isn’t experiencing it yet… my son was before he was assigned overseas daughter is managing to ‘stay under the radar’ which i really do not like as i raised both kids to be ‘authentic’ in their thoughts/questions especially w God!

    …sigh still some of the pastors are waking up i think…there was an issue of a very charismatic leader in the church that did lead to less than spiritually correct rationalization of behavior (although i have NO doubts those involved experienced some definite ‘spiritual’ moments, sorry i just cannot remain outraged by adults doing what they choose to do) this allowed the really ridgid, see what happens when you let your defenses/attention fall, into more power

    hey, been there for 26 yrs now…ready to move

  39. Buster
    June 22, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Na’amah,
    How do the others in your small group feel? Take them with you!

  40. [o_O]
    June 22, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Wow, 26 years?

  41. Sarah
    June 22, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Nene…that is fantastic news.

  42. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    🙂 26 yrs… eeks it is a long time isn’t it?

    Buster, that small home bible study group is no more… a “new” ministry to help decrease the anonyminity of attending large mega churches was the ‘little church’. Our bible study group was visited 2-3 times by various pastors and then deemed leaders all and assigned to manage little churches… we could not sustain our regular weekly mtgs and manage the little church concept… there are only so many hours in a month! we tried to demonstrate how the old bible study program worked in addressing the need for personal relationships.. but the ‘little church’ program was ‘sold’ to our pastoral team by another successful mega church pastoral team…

    we went from a 90 minute wkly mtg w childcare/program covered at the main campus to 3-4 hr meeting time every other week w/out any childcare/programs and kids were not to participate in the ‘adult’ time as the goal was for open, connected communication (the small church connection) in one of our homes. So approx 20 of us (seed group included usually 8-12 couples)were planning for childcare/program for infant-17 yrs, music and study (this approx time we had receive book/study approval) dinner and transportation of our kids from one home, back to the house dinner was taking place in… we lost a lot of our core group at that time as they dropped out of attending, probably from exhaustion 🙂 or moved to other churches in the community.

    it effectively ‘killed’ time for our other relationships along w other commitments we had during the week in church ministries… not to mention most worked at least part time as well… we attempted to meet on off weeks but the logistics of planning for little church took lots out of us and we opted for ‘just being at home’ it wasn’t enjoyable at all the program ended after 3 yrs (and situation that transpired w one of our more charismatic little church leaders) and when we were all to study from same book.

    my significant other is one of the “team” focused on building plans and the vision of one of our senior pastors the new campus is only 2 yrs old and still in development he’s functioning in kind of a separate world w/in our church culture and he is not being impacted by what is happening

    🙂 it will be an interesting transition when i finally choose to make one…i have already decreased my commitments w/in the system and w the kids no longer kids it also decreases my involvements… sad thing is one of the most ODM effected ministry is the music/drama dept 🙄

    so looking for a new place to eventually light

  43. pstrmike
    June 22, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    sounds like the pastoral team was sold a bill of goods……

  44. Buster
    June 22, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    That is really sad. Why do these planners think they need to “fix” everything? Why does everything have to be controlled, monitored and subjected to analysis? Sometimes I think persecution wouldn’t be so bad…. moving the church underground would make central planning impractical…

  45. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    i just miss the community that used to be, the access, the openess. The closest of my Christian friends have left the state… hmmm, imagine that!

  46. briwd2006
    June 22, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    When you disregard the human element in favor of the corporate structure, you have gone off the rails.

  47. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Buster! wow, what a great reframe of a difficult situation 🙂

    I misinterpreted a dynamic once, the mistake of seeing someone who needs control vs someone who is in control. I think a lot of the control, monitoring, need to direct others how they should think,act, believe is an expression of their own security.

  48. pstrmike
    June 22, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Chilling ? hmmm…
    It is an interesting thing within the dymanic of church growth. The larger a church gets, the greater the systems of control really need to be. When ther ewas only 20 of us, it wasn’t a big deal that the musicians always wanted to jam after the service, although I was concerned that they wouldrather do that than fellowshp with others.

    As the church grew, it was no longer feasible. People were using the sanctuary to visit, to pray, etc and having music blaring in the background may that difficult. I was surprised at the insensitivity of the musicians ( of course , I shouldn’t have, musicians are the most self centered group of people I know), so I made it rule that there would be no playing before or after the service. I tried to carefully express the reason why I wanted “church” to extend beyond the message and closing prayer so that fellowship and ministry amongst the body could take place and they would not be disturbed by musicians banging on instruments. I wanted to maintain an atmosphere that people could genuinely interact.

    The fact that they all had keys to the building and were told they could come down and play to their heart’s content at a different time wasn’t good enough. I really questioned whether they just wanted a captive audience. I have to ask if the focus was more about the performance of “church” rather than the expression of the body of Christ assembling together.

    So, then I was accused of controlling, infringing on their liberty. One guy even left the church over it. All this btw, in a church of under 100. Some people just want to do whatever the hell they want to do with no consideration for the bigger picture. And when they are asked to limit their own self expression, then the accusation of “lording it over” is the common card to play.

  49. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    oops.. correction their own insecurity

  50. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    pstrmike, ‘I was surprised at the insensitivity of the musicians ( of course , I shouldn’t have, musicians are the most self centered group of people I know)” 😀 sounds like personal knowledge to me… and it’s cause they all dream of being rock stars! all musicians at some point practice in front of a reflective surface.

    your actions were not the practice of the currently overused word “controlling” it is the reality you are the pastor, therefore the leader (aka boss) and peeps that need/want control are usually the 1st to yell control freak or as you stated ‘lording it over”

  51. [o_O]
    June 22, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    pstrmike,
    “I was surprised at the insensitivity of the musicians ( of course , I shouldn’t have, musicians are the most self centered group of people I know)…”

    Na’amah,
    “…they all dream of being rock stars! all musicians at some point practice in front of a reflective surface.”

    Ok you two! LOL! Too funny.

    Having been a worship leader and in a worship band I want to tell you that your characterization is mostly true, except now we practice in front of our video cameras and post to YouTube 😉

    Question,
    “How many worship leaders does it take to change a light bulb?”

    Answer,
    “One, and a band’s shoulders to stand on to reach the bulb…”

  52. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    the word ‘controlling’ is over used today. Anyone in a position of authority, who is expected to create and enforce rules gets identified as ‘controlling’ rather than being responsible. I think people in church have forgotten that the pastor is responsible for setting boundaries, i and it is a form of control, but that is not a negative thing

    And it’s like the word judgmental…oh (s)he is being so judgmental about (fill in the blank)and this is a negative or bad thing.

    uh i hope people are being judgmental. It is sort of required in making a decision about anything in one’s day. And it is truely required in really important decisions. But the pluralistic attitude/thought process in our society that all thoughts, beliefs and decisions have the same worth/value (so not true) is prevalent.

    pstrmike said, “I was surprised at the insensitivity of the musicians ( of course , I shouldn’t have, musicians are the most self centered group of people I know)” …sounds like personal knowledge to me 🙂 and hey every musician at some point practices in front of a reflective surface and dreams of being a Rock Star

  53. [o_O]
    June 22, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    pstrmike,
    your thinking & heart were about serving your greater congregation. if I was part of that band I would have tried to ‘splain to the others why pstrmike wanted the vibe before and after the service. it’s called creating a “sacred space” and that is directly linked to the idea of “hallowed”. it’s something we must learn to do by watching others. You did the right thing (IMHO)

  54. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    sorry my computer is blinking in and out so i ended up posting twice

  55. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    oh wow what an improvement video cameras instead of a reflective surface!

  56. [o_O]
    June 22, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    except when you have a face for radio, like me

  57. [o_O]
    June 22, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    pstrmike,
    I said “chilling” because I am, at heart, a pusher of boundaries. Rest assured, I am far more a peacemaker than a rebel these days. I’ve lived thru one too many church dramas to contribute to anything other than the coffee fund

  58. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    [o_O] fna ( | o )====::: ‘a face for radio, like me’ there ya go again Grendal makin’ up stories to get compliments or you be a bit psychotic/delusioned seen your pic you won’t break the camera

  59. [o_O]
    June 22, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Na’amah,
    nahhh, just trying to keep it light, insult fellow musicians & worship leaders, y’know, my typical non-abrasive style

  60. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    you are fun as most of the interaction is here…this is like the original church community was… lots of laughing and playing and well, joy and happiness. Along w serious study, prayer and discussions when needed.

    Our music and drama dept was well known and respected in the community. Our last sanctuary had an incredible stage, so does our new sanctuary. But the acceptable way to express one’s holiness has become very conservative. Liturigal dance is not allowed any longer (someone found the body movements not conducive to pure thought…) 🙄 goodness gracious that was from either a man projecting or a woman uncomfortable what her mate might be thinking. The music and theatric choices are bland and there are very ridgid interactions allowed…lots of adolescents in this dept…why i loooove it soo much! Senior music minister informed one youth worship leader that band members bringing girls to church to hear them play was inappropriate? hah! this is precisely how i heard the Word and accepted Christ. I sure wasn’t attending church to hear the message! 😀 I was attending to get time with my hot musician boyfriend. lol

  61. Buster
    June 22, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    I sometimes manage software development projects. The largest of these was an eight month project that had around 75 people working on it. The biggest problem on projects like these (outside of politics) is communication. These things become so complex that no one person can “control” or manage them. But you certainly can’t leave things to themselves, or trust that people will talk or work together. There has to be project management, but it can’t be the old-style dictatorships.

    The key is to get people to agree before-hand what the rules or going to be. How we communicate, and how often. How we reach group decisions, how we address risk, how we ensure quality, etc. We had written plans for each of these areas. My job was simply to make sure that everyone followed what they had already agreed to. You even have plans for addressing the unexpected, so that arbitrary or default decisions don’t get made.

    This project happened to be one of the most successful ones that I’ve worked on.

    So, my point is that we don’t need bosses/controllers/judges if can obtain agreements among the parties on things like communication, use of resources, schedules, roles, responsibilities, etc. So instead of being able to blame the boss for making bad decisions, the participants start to realize that they have to get along together.

    But in this case, I would also have to ask the larger question of why we feel the need to have large churches anyway…

  62. briwd2006
    June 22, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    That was 75 people. How on earth does that work with 2,000?

  63. Buster
    June 22, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    95% of those are spectators. 🙂

  64. briwd2006
    June 22, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Still, they agree to something, even if it’s spectating 🙂

  65. Buster
    June 22, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Seriously, it’s very scalable, especially since it’s recurring tasks (almost same thing every week) as opposed the almost daily novelty of software development.

  66. Buster
    June 22, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Look at some of the open source software development projects, which don’t have any bosses. It’s all voluntary coordination.

  67. Buster
    June 22, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Some of those have hundreds of participants. Maybe thousands over time? I don’t know.

  68. [o_O]
    June 22, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    “I would also have to ask the larger question of why we feel the need to have large churches anyway…”

    Right on!

    The church is each individual, then the church gathers, expresses itself as a community. if the goal of that community is an ersatz “college” or “theological union” then ushering in the students into lecture halls and making recordings of the lectures and publishing the media is the goal. If the goal is community interaction, grassroots involvment, the gathering will look and act differently.

    If it is about music, the arts, then again, different. I experienced the transition of the “musician’s fellowship” at a particular church (one that I moved 450 miles to become a part of) in my past and it was sad because the paradigm shifted from musicians fellowshipping in freedom to musicians being taught how they were of the worst class of believer, full of shortcomings because they drew attention to themselves, yadda yadda yadda. Talk about a buzz kill! It was soon after that the creative community left that particular church and began hanging out at The Vineyard where freedom of expression and to make mistakes while being creative and to seek the Holy Spirit and commune with God during the music and arts was encouraged.

    The size of a church is based on needs, goals & vision of the willing participants. The effectiveness of a church is measured by translating community into action, teaching into equipped mature individuals who are better off than worse off for having participated. The “sweet and fun” part of a church is the effect of the sum total of like minded individuals who share a vision, encourage the dreaming of big dreams, and freely pour out mutual support when life’s troubles arise.

    IMHO 😉

  69. Buster
    June 22, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    I like that, Grendal. And your last paragraph applies to us PP refugees, as well, I think!

  70. Another Voice
    June 22, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    One reason we have large churches is that it is against the law to close the doors to the public! If enough people want to worship somewhere, the place will grow. Our church would not be described as a “mega-church” by anybody, but it is probably larger than 90-95% of the churches in America (not sure the current cut-off point on those stats).

    Buster, your description of your work is quite similar to how a larger church can (and should be) run. A church should first have WRITTEN by-laws that actually relate to the church’s functioning. Most pastors have no clue what is even in the by-laws.

    A large church needs to delegate with all that term truly entails (i.e. responsibility, authority, ownership of decisions etc.).

    As far as what you said about everyone agreeing beforehand on the rules…I assume it is safe to say that everyone does not agree on each rule, but that once a decision is made “this is how we do it” they agree to abide by (submit to?) that standard. Otherwise, they can go out looking for another paycheck, right?

    The problem often in the church is what I wrote in one of my last PP posts. Not everyone can get their way on how to do things, and someone “at the top” ends up making a decision. If others don’t like it (and don’t want to submit to that rule) – there is not much else to do except find another church.

    Of course, when it comes to that in the church-world, the pastor can be described by a disgruntled member as “not listening, power-hungry, control-freak” etc.

  71. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Buster i completely agree w your management style, especially w educated professional and/or people committed to a project. And a paycheck attached to quality of effort/cooperation contributes a great deal to compliance to an agreed upon standard.

    I think there are two different issues i’ve observed that pastors’ are confronted with. First most of all of their workers on any project are volunteers, they can walk pretty much any time they choose to for whatever reason they choose to.

    Actually the more important issue to me regarding a pastor being a ‘boss’ or seeking agreement w the members of his congregation… is he has a calling from God to be a pastor. He is to bring God’s word to the people in attendance, whether it is a “pleasant” word or a “hard” word. There are going to be situations where he will need to make decisions that will certainly be unpopular w all around him, either cause he was not hard enough on some issue on the same issue too hard. I think it is important for the members of the congregation to accept that the pastor is the boss so to speak…and no, it does not need to be the old style dictatorship.

    and i can tell you there are some demographics that the only style respected by them is if you take on what you and i would despise and not respect and that is a pretty much dictator style. Learned the hard way in several arbitrations and as a supervisor ‘nice’ and ‘reasonable’ does not work.

  72. Buster
    June 22, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    AV,
    There is an alternative than ever-expanding facilities. At the church I belong to, when the small groups get too large for the living room, they split. When they got too big for the church building on Sundays, they split. We have three locations on Sundays now (no video conferencing).

    You are correct that not everyone may like all the rules, but they agree to them for the sake of the project. There were agreements I that I still had strong concerns about (with regard to the project mentioned above), but I went along with as a part of the negotiations and to show I trusted the experience of others. There was still a means for me to voice and document my concerns by way of the risk management plan. We had a risk review board whose task it was to decide if any risk needed to be monitored or addressed. It helped us avoid what commonly happens on such projects: some manager making ill-informed or arbitrary decisions — or even worse, avoiding making any decision.

    Yes, there were a few that still didn’t want to go along with our plans, but then it wasn’t just me they were opposing, but the entire team. And when you have groups that are dependent on one another, then they will start to enforce the rules, and I don’t have to be the bad guy.

  73. Buster
    June 22, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Na’amah,
    Up until a few years ago, the software industry was working pretty much on a volunteer basis — demand was such that the majority of the team members knew they could go out and get higher paying jobs almost immediately. You had to have other ways to convince them to stay. Sometimes it was friendships, new technology, free food, the chance to work on something important, etc. Say they wrong thing to somebody, and they might be out the door, and now your schedule is messed up, because you have to find, hire and orient a new person. I had to learn lots of motivational skills…

    But I still have trouble with the pastor=boss thing…

  74. Another Voice
    June 22, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Buster, no doubt there is an alternative to ever-growing churches. However, such splitting may not actually be the best course for the people – or put another way, just because a church has become fairly large, does not mean it can’t be effective in edifying the members for the worship and service to the Lord.

    This of course is where the many sub-ministries, small groups and the like come into play.

    I don’t think there is a right/wrong on the issue. The key probably is WHY did/is the church getting bigger. What is unique about that church which the Lord is blessing?

    I have a book in my library that describes a variety of churches, across denominational lines, that are ALL growing and healthy, and that all have totally different “styles” of ministry.

  75. Another Voice
    June 22, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    The word, pastor, literally is the word, shepherd. In the context of the New Testament, more accurately is the idea of “under-shepherd” to the One True Shepherd of all the sheep.

    Under-shepherds in the Body of Christ, like myself, are still sheep.

    But at the same time, not everyone in the Body of Christ is an under-shepherd. Yes, we are all priests, children, members of the One True Body – but not under-shepherds.

    I would urge us not to think of the pastor as “boss”, but to not abandon the Bible’s perspective on this relationship.

  76. [o_O]
    June 22, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Another Voice,
    I would like to bring just another shading to the conversation, that of being aware of the overuse of single images to describe us and our relationships. Yes, we are “sheep”, but we are so much more and part of the difficulty is when we overlook the broader view from the entire survey of scripture which calls us each, individually, by many names & titles. Where I have seen the church leadership fail is when those individuals neglect the idea that we are partnering with complex individuals who are humans, who have been made in the image of God, extremely valuable just in our personhood. A person may be acting “pastorly” when it is not called for, but rather just being a peer would result in a greater motivation and impact in the life of the fellow believer. It all depends on the individual and as we had seen at that other blog, sometimes the use of labels is very counterproductive.

    maybe worth .02?

  77. Another Voice
    June 22, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    My point was that I am just as much a “sheep” as anybody I might pastor in my congregation. We are ALL sheep.

    Maybe my point would be made by use of the term “Father” – Everyone in the Body of Christ has God as a Father. That includes all of my children too.

    Yet, I have a special responsibility, under certain Biblical guidelines, to be a father to my children on this earth. Yes, the comparison has its weaker points, but maybe it too is worth .02?

    I do agree with the single image error – which is why I included the fact that we are all priests, members of His Body and the like. Every member of the Body is needed for the Body to function. No pastor should ever serve in a priestly relationship for the believer.

    Oh, and one other thing. That term “sheeple” is an abomination. If I hear it in my presence by a pastor, I will call him out on it.

  78. [o_O]
    June 22, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Another Voice,
    Thanks SO MUCH for your view on the “sheeple” thing! That is huge and I am thankful that you find it problematic as well.

    Yes, I love it that you bring all the titles, descriptions and offices into your relationships with your community. The beauty is that though people often step up and function in roles that they are naturally gifted in by temperament and upbringing, yet they rise to the occasion when needed to in ways they never expected.

    Sometimes I think the description Paul used about The Body of Christ can be seen in a different light, not so much “I am an arm and that’s all I am or do” as “cool, today I got to be an arm, wow”! It speaks beyond our self imposed limitations and leaves us open to a willingness to be enthusiastic about God’s adventure.

  79. June 22, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    My questions, is church growth really a sign of God blessinga ministry and not attraction and the cult of personality?? I ask this because the Largest church in America, which, if growth is a sign of blessing is truly blessed by God beyond any others, would be held in a stadium and is Pastored by Joel Osteen.

  80. Another Voice
    June 22, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Eric, once more there is not one right answer. CERTAINLY, blessing is not directly connected to size (i.e. a church of 5000 is 10x as blessed as a church of 500).

    Forget Osteen – what about Mormon fellowships, theologically hyper-liberal churches that deny the deity of Christ and the like…

    But it is too much a reach to conclude that all the larger churches are cult of personality situations. Some are. Sometimes people want to sit in the back and disappear at church too. Especially those who have been burned out by overly aggressive solicitations to serve under the guise of ‘community’ in prior churches.

    Plus, some of it is simple demographics as to the overall population density.

  81. June 22, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    hey now, didnt say anything of the sort. There are large churches that do a great job, and others not so much. Just saw a “What is unique about that church which the Lord is blessing?” and felt it needed a little clarification. However I dont think Houston has more poulation density than Los Angeles/Orange county.

  82. Another Voice
    June 22, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    I ask this because the Largest church in America, which, if growth is a sign of blessing is truly blessed by God beyond any others, would be held in a stadium and is Pastored by Joel Osteen.
    ——————————————————
    Your ‘beyond all others’ confused me then. I think we can say the same thing in agreement while speaking past each other.

    If size were ONLY a blessing of God – then all non-Christian religious groups should have ZERO attendance!

    There is a theological point here too – where Scripture reminds us that people often have itching ears to hear certain things and thus gravitate to those men who will “scratch” them.

    As to population density – a church of 100 in a major metropolitan area might (again…MIGHT) want to look in the mirror if they never seem to grow after many years. Whereas, in smaller communities, a church of 100 could be the biggest one in town.

    Having said all this..I should go on the record as saying I am not into numbers and I would actually like our church to be smaller so I could know everybody better. At the same time, I want to be used by the Lord to the fullest in whatever way He deems to make an impact in the lives of as many people as possible.

    The larger the church, the more of a missional impact we have in the world and in our local community.

  83. briwd2006
    June 22, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    I tend to agree with AV, but Eric asked a good question.

    In defense of large churches: not only is AV right about people burnt out at their previous church, people also may feel most comfortable in an environment where they don’t feel under the gun and can blend into the background, listening to the talk and enjoying the music. Some people feel more comfortable in a larger sanctuary (some, like myself, feel totally lost in the crowd and want a smaller, more personal church experience).

    Large churches not only attract people because of the preacher, but also because of the numerous services they offer. I made the mistake of leaving a smaller church for a very big one because of the latter’s singles ministry, and my delusion that I would find a woman there 🙂 There were women, but what I really needed were not things that church could provide.

  84. briwd2006
    June 22, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Buster, having an executive pastor as the ‘boss’ and the senior/lead pastor as the shepherd sounds better to me. But I continue to have trouble wrapping my head around accepting the idea of church as a religious corporation…you may need to run a church like a business, but it’s not a business.

  85. June 22, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    s’all good, but we certainly have differing opinions on size v. impact. Maybe the fact that you want a smaller fellowship is a sign God is calling you to plant a second church and send off a few peeps with an elder to grow it

  86. jlo
    June 22, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Personally, I’d rather be a church that was growing in depth, instead of width, regardless of the size in numbers.

  87. jlo
    June 22, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    “The larger the church, the more of a missional impact we have in the world and in our local community.”

    I think I would have to disagree with this. Think of London and all her small group of people are doing in their own communities and in the world. Her little group does more than the 6000 plus member church that I used to belong to.

  88. pstrmike
    June 22, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    looks like this thread has gotten really interesting, been out all day and have anothe appointment, so will read later…..

    thanks -g and naamah 8)

  89. pstrmike
    June 22, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    btw -g…. sacred space…. I like that one…… I might give you credit as long as they don’t find out how you feel about The Shack……….. gotta go 8)

  90. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Buster @ 73 and AV @ 75

    i said pastor (executive) is ‘boss so to speak’ i like AV’s descripiton of the pastor being the under shepherd, much clearer description/definition of what i was unclearly refering to. He is responsible for those under him to God. Our church also has a board members are elected every two years. The board recommends candidates for election as pastor, we, the members, elect our pastors into their positions. And i think maybe 30% of the ‘official’ membership role actually participates in this process. The majority of our regularly attending peeps are not official members and do not vote in elections. And each pastor/asst. pastor must read and sign each page of the church by-laws,

    i just observe that the use of the accusation of over lording/controlling pastor is frequently by an individual that sees ‘being controlled’ in other venues as well. There is a process for members to address issues of disagreement and appeal the pastor of a department if (s)he feels their words are unheard. However, this process seems to be being effected in some depts. and the elected board members are being impacted by a new streak of REALLY conservative interpretation. It is becoming less open and accessible process.

    and just to assure any survivors here, at every single door on our campus where the public may enter there is permanent sign that states “We are morally and legally required to report all suspected forms of childabuse of any child.”

    i love this church and have been very involved at all levels. I guess cause i have been on the ‘inside’ it’s like watching sausage being made at times…and we are all fallible and self serving and hopefully striving to make ourselves more like Christ. I just think it is at a ‘tipping point’ of changing into really legalistic forum.

  91. Another Voice
    June 22, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    jlo – my comments assumed the same leadership commitment to mission work. Put another way, I’m sure London would say that if her fellowship had more money, they could do more good. I actually was thinking of her when I wrote that and a conversation she and I had on PP about her relying on other churches to co-support missionaries and how one of those churches was starting to flake.

    Any church of 6000 doing less than London is under poor stewardship. For starters, they probably have a HUGE debt service on their building and autos, then HUGE overhead, possibly huge salaries and benefits – and just an all around misplaced priority mindset. I don’t doubt that there are many such churches. But it is apples to oranges.

    Give the same leadership team X dollars, 10X dollars, or 100X dollars, there is no question where the most good will be done, IF (a BIG IF) the extra money does not change the leadership, which it often does. Money is a BIG temptation, and when there is actually a financial possibility for a TV ministry, sometimes the poor are forgotten in the excitement. A shame.

  92. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    pstrmike ‘drive by’ comments and vrooom off again

  93. Buster
    June 22, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Na’amah,

    Church does offer some stability for our lives in a sea of change, but I’m not sure if that’s really best for us.

    “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Jn 3:8

    I’m starting to see the body of Christ as less of a standing army with columns and pennants, than a guerrilla force that appears out of nowhere and then vanishes. I think we’re supposed to be more fluid. if we’re not tied down into patterns, we can be more available for altering plans and meeting needs. At least, that’s been my experience lately.

    And I think I see this in the dispersal of the PP faithful, as well. We’ve been in one place for a long time; maybe it’s time to go out and learn new things and expand our circles of influence.

    But change is hard…

  94. briwd2006
    June 22, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Na’amah, pstrmike’s cool…he probably is juggling this and any number of other things at the moment. I’ve had to do that myself quite a bit.

    This is a really good conversation…learning so much here.

    A big church is going to likely meet in a large complex with not only a large auditorium but offices, etc. necessary for the organization to run efficiently. That in itself leads to large overhead and benefits and salaries that may not make the senior pastor rich but are a significant expense just to give the various employees a decent living wage and medical benefits.

    That’s a large amount of money each month. No wonder so many of these churches press tithing (how does MacArthur get away with not doing this?). And I wonder if it is a factor in so many megachurches not having TV ministries.

  95. briwd2006
    June 22, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Buster, fess up. You want to post pics on as many blogs as possible 😉

  96. briwd2006
    June 22, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Seriously…I think you’re on to something.

    I myself am excited, in putting forth ideas and examining things here, in a way that perhaps I couldn’t do as effectively before. And in ways that not a lot of Christians seem willing to discuss.

    That’s not a slam on Michael…more of an observation that God takes out of situations we grow comfortable in, into situations we’d initially rather not be, so we end up being more productive for the kingdom.

  97. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    BrianD @ #84 said,
    “you may need to run a church like a business, but it’s not a business.”

    seems to be a missing fact in some minds… and it has been a very big issue in the past, how we were being manipulative(and successfully manipulated)things to obtain the land our current campus is on. I challenged it along w others. It was definitely a “regular” business practice and i found it to be in a spirit of dishonest. I was identified as not very pragmatic or realistic!

    🙄 i’ve been denied access to the inside process of the business aspects since ok, i was the ‘ringleader’ when i was made aware of what was happening… and my SO was asked by a couple of men why he can’t ‘control’ his wife 😆 one of the other pastors spoke up saying that was an inappropriate statement and then acknowledged one had been married for a year and the other was single

  98. Buster
    June 22, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    AV,
    I think that’s a definite advantage for large organizations: they are able to gather, organize and manage resources so that the group becomes far more effective than individuals operating. I just don’t see it working out that way very often. 😦

    I can’t really judge how “effective” Olsteen’s Lakewood church is in terms of its impact on the community, but consider this: their annual budget is something like $70M. If the 43,500 attendees didn’t go to the arena, but met in homes (say 20 per house), then each group would have $32,183 to spend each year reaching their community. I can’t help but think that would have a noticeable impact. And I’d bet that if people could actually see where their money went, they’d be giving a lot more, too.

  99. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    BrianD giving multitasking pstrmike a hard time 🙂

  100. Believe
    June 22, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Hi All…just popped in to say hi…good discussion going on, IMO, FWIW. 🙂

  101. [o_O]
    June 22, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Believe,
    g here (new “demented robot” icon. Retired the guitar… I’ll tell ya later)

  102. jlo
    June 22, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Buster :AV,I think that’s a definite advantage for large organizations: they are able to gather, organize and manage resources so that the group becomes far more effective than individuals operating. I just don’t see it working out that way very often.
    I can’t really judge how “effective” Olsteen’s Lakewood church is in terms of its impact on the community, but consider this: their annual budget is something like $70M. If the 43,500 attendees didn’t go to the arena, but met in homes (say 20 per house), then each group would have $32,183 to spend each year reaching their community. I can’t help but think that would have a noticeable impact. And I’d bet that if people could actually see where their money went, they’d be giving a lot more, too.

    I concur

  103. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Buster @ #93

    I’m starting to see the body of Christ as less of a standing army with columns and pennants, than a guerrilla force that appears out of nowhere and then vanishes. I think we’re supposed to be more fluid. if we’re not tied down into patterns, we can be more available for altering plans and meeting needs. At least, that’s been my experience lately.

    [o_O] shared on another thread a comment made to him by a brother:
    “we’re the temples of the Holy Spirit and that is why we need guns, to stop these socialists…”

    oooh, lets not get these two peeps together 🙂 i am just kidding! 🙂 it’s kind of how i see some arguements being presented/supported elsewhere

    Buster… this is a very interesting concept/thought to me. as i began to disengage from ministries at my home church i’ve become involved in community service groups, non christian organizations, mostly politically involved young pro peeps giving back to their community….the majority are completely unchurched w even their parents never involved in any identified religion/church (this is a very significant demographic change in American society by the way) These are very well educated and thoughtful adults… and very prejudice against organized religion, especially Christian.

    i’ve heard “wow, you’re a Christian?! but you’re educated” “you’re so funny and laugh at stuff” “you aren’t judgmental” “you’re openminded and listen” “you really ‘fit’ in” i think that one means i am properly socialized 😀

  104. jlo
    June 22, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Na’amah, you go girl. That’s what a Christian should be known for.

  105. jlo
    June 22, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    AV, not busting you chops.

    I was not quite in the inner circle at my previous church, but close enough to see some ugly things. Then when my husband, who was unpaid pastoral staff, and I married, I was able to witness even more. After we moved into the new building (in order to accommodate the growth we were experiencing) things changed greatly. This church says they are all about “missions” but what that really means is they take multiple 2 week trips to other churches/countries in order to preach the Gospel, which is not bad in and of itself. In full discloser I went on many such trips and trained others to serve over a 6 year period. Most of the people who go on these trips finance them themselves, or fund raise from friends and family. When it come to financial support of full time missionaries out in the field little can be expected. As far as I know they do not do any outreach to the direct community.

    I could spill my guts and tell all the horror stories, but that’s not really what this is all about. And honestly I have moved past most of it, most being the operative word. . I like, love, and previously respected my former pastor, that’s what makes the whole thing so difficult.

    AV am I correct in my understanding that you are trying to work all this out? Sometime in your posts I see a man struggling with what God has set before him and what he has experienced or been taught in a system. I’ve actually been praying for you for some time. When you first started posting I even thought you could be my former pastor, but along the way you said something about your location and church size that lead me to believe otherwise.

  106. Buster
    June 22, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Na’amah.
    There’s a thread on fiftyhours.com where Esther brought up spiritual warfare, so I guess I have the military stuff on my mind. But no, this has nothing to do with politics or civil governments.

    I’ve been honored to be a part of an urban outreach in the past. It had almost no organization but by word of mouth people from a number of churches would show up (or sometimes just me and one other guy), and we’d had out sandwiches (that he made) and clothes (that I brought). But the social outreach part was just cover for the spiritual battle. We’d pray for the power of evil to be broken, and people would show up, and we’d pray with them. I saw people set free and healed. Pretty powerful.

  107. London
    June 22, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Since my group is being discussed, I guess I should catch AV up. 😉
    I THOUGHT that the one church was flaking out. I was inncorrect. In fact, we now have more commitment to partner with that group. Instead of just one “department” that is going to work with us, we now have 3 separate groups that want to partner out of that church.

    The question that was on the table last time was if it was possible for a small church to support a missionary.

    The answer remains yes.

  108. jlo
    June 22, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    woo hoo London.

  109. Sarah
    June 22, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Jlo & Buster ( #103)….I’m really thankful to say that at our church of around 1000 I’ve seen the church use their resources really well. The flood is one prominent example, but there have been many others. It’s very encouraging.

  110. jlo
    June 22, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    Sorry to post and run, gotta go. Have one dog pacing, one barking his head off at the kids skateboarding on the street, and a fat cat trying to eat the dogs food. Time to corral my animals. And I just might have a shot of jack in the mean time. 🙂

  111. Another Voice
    June 22, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Glad you showed up London. Glad to hear the good report. I have some other comments that I will share later on some of these points. Good discussion..

  112. jlo
    June 22, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    Sarah, i am very encouraged by the reports you post on your church, it gives me hope. Hope all is well with you.

  113. London
    June 22, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    and AV, I’m not sure that I’d agree with what you said I’d agree with if I was speaking for myself which now I am…

    More money is definately NOT the answer to everything, nor is it the guarantee that more will get done! I’ve learned this lesson the hard way over the last year and 1/2. Some times more money is a hinderance and causes an awful lot of arrogance in people. Also, sometimes mega churches (or any large group) is bogged down by committee decisions.
    We don’t have committees or voting on stuff. There’s a need and we can fill it, we do. End of decussion. We can move rapidly and we can cover alot more ground because of that.
    There’s an interesting book called something like “the elephant and the rabbitt” which talks about just how long it takes big churches to move on something because of all the layers of folks involved vs the rapid deployment of small connected groups.
    That’s what I”m hoping we’ll be..
    Networked through relationships and covering alot of ground quickly.

  114. London
    June 22, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Thanks AV.
    I’m afraid that this discussion about whether big church or little church is “better” in the areas of “missional” living isn’t really going to be helpful in the long run.

    The fact is, that each group and individual is responsible for being as “missional” as they are capable of being.

    More will be asked of those who have been given more etc….It won’t lead to anything good to be trying to have a competition about who is better.

    Although…personally…I LOVED Jlo’s earlier comment 🙂

  115. London
    June 22, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Not only that…(sorry, now I can’t shut up) one of the keys to what has worked out for us, without any of us having done any of the work, is that based out of relationships, which ironically started on PP, we support a national “missionary”.
    We don’t have to pay for an American to go over to another country and learn language, culture etc. We were “gifted” an amazing young man that truly wants to change his country (and may well do it)..we’re able to be the family and support he needed. We’re able to send him some $ and we’re able to send someone over to help him out on occassion.
    Would we be able to single handedly support an American missionary? Not likely…but, that isn’t who God “sent” to us, so it’s a moot point for us.

  116. Na'amah
    June 22, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    jlo @ 104

    i am also thinking that it is indicative of how remaining/creating our own community service organizations are missed opportunities for people w no contact or knowledge of ‘real’ Christians to perhaps stimulate curiosity…and maybe even jealousy of our relationship w the Lord.

    have one for me too

  117. Na'amah
    June 23, 2010 at 12:01 am

    glad to see you here London.. you contribute much to the calibre of the discussions

  118. Buster
    June 23, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Sarah,
    That’s true — I have heard about the good work that churches have done to help out there, and I recall all that was done for Katrina, too (my larger church helped with that, too). I like hearing things like that!

  119. London
    June 23, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Thanks Na’amah
    Not planning on hanging out here too much, but this topic is one I can always spout off about since it’s pretty much what I’m doing right now.

  120. Sarah
    June 23, 2010 at 12:17 am

    Buster….it’s been really cool. Not just “big things”….we have been able to give about $20,000 to various individuals. We’ve taken on 3 women who don’t have other resources and are going to take them all the way until, as our pastor’s wife says, the welcome mat is out. We’ve also taken a whole neighborhood in a lower income area and just worked our way down the street doing all the demolition.

    More than that though…in a congregation of about 900 we’ve had 450 volunteers. We’ve had a whole team who does nothing but prepare lunches for the teams that are working. It really has been great to be a part of.

    I don’t want it to sound like we’re patting ourselves on the back…but it does change the worship and the dynamic when you serve together. Anyone who has done missions probably can relate, or with the inner city work that you and Dusty did. London too….there is something completely different about worshiping with people you’ve served with compared to just coming on Sundays and trying to be part of a group of people with common beliefs.

  121. London
    June 23, 2010 at 12:36 am

    Ok…so…6-8 months ago, Michael and I talked a bit about doing a “blog wide” missions project. He told me to write the article and he’d back it, but I never did cause I wimped out.
    I saw mention of something on one of the millions of blogs we’ve got going now, about maybe trying something like that, where everyone in their own community does something and then reports back with pictures etc…
    Would anyone be interested in something like that?
    My non-profit/ministry group is putting backpacks together for 120 kids this year.

    Buster- we’re a program of the org. that sent you guys backpacks, so they would look just like that.

    Maybe we could each agree to a certain number of bags and over the next 6 weeks, gather supplies and distribute them to needy kids in our own communities.

    I’d be happy to put up the images and stories on our non-profit site if no one wants to host that.

    Certainly don’t think anyone has to try to put 120 together (I lost my mind when I picked that number) but even if it’s 5 or 10, it would be helpful.

    Or…maybe there’s another project folks would rather do…I dunno..

    thoughts?

  122. Buster
    June 23, 2010 at 12:42 am

    London,
    I’m up for anything like that. I think it’s a great idea.

  123. London
    June 23, 2010 at 12:44 am

    Another REALLY helpful thing is to do a sock drive for homeless folks. I’ve been talking to alot of people who work in homeless agencies and they say that the one thing that is always in demand is clean socks.
    Homeless folks use their feet to get around most places and they tend to not be able to get clean socks very easily. That leads to all kinds of health issues, especially if they have diabetes or substance abuse issues which mess with their overall health.

    Easier to get a box together to get socks than school supplies maybe?? Dunno….

  124. Buster
    June 23, 2010 at 12:44 am

    If it’s backpacks, we’ll have someone sew little doves on one of the flaps. Put “CC Internet” under it, just for fun. 😀

  125. Buster
    June 23, 2010 at 12:46 am

    Socks and hygiene items (toothpase, deodorant, razors, etc.) are always in demand. But socks would be very light for shipping.

    Maybe BrianD can create a new thread for this, if he approves?

  126. London
    June 23, 2010 at 12:47 am

    Ummmmm…..You could do that….or…you could just use our name or the name of the organization that sent them to you before.
    None of us get any money out of it, and I certainly don’t care who gets “credit” for it. I just think it would be fun to set a goal and see if we can do it.

    I however, should not be the goal setter…I’ve already done enough damage by tripling our output in one year 🙂

  127. London
    June 23, 2010 at 12:48 am

    We don’t even put a name on it…we just give them out. The only people we give our organizational name to are people that ask so they can write thank you notes.
    So…obviously…that’s not very many 😉

  128. June 23, 2010 at 12:51 am

    London said, “but I never did cause I wimped out.”

    London – wimped out??!! Didn’t think that would ever happen -ever…

    no…are you sure you didn’t just put it off a few weeks? 😉

  129. London
    June 23, 2010 at 12:51 am

    Buster, we don’t need to ship anything. (unless you all want to provide New Mexico’s homeless population with socks)
    I think the idea is to get people to do something in their own communities. So, you and your buddies there where you are set a goal and collect X number of socks or backpacks or whatever…and you hand them out there.

    We do it here and hand them out here….

    No competitions! just everyone working on the same little project for X number of weeks. We can compare notes when we’re done.

  130. June 23, 2010 at 12:52 am

    “We don’t even put a name on it…we just give them out.”

    I’m all for that. 🙂

  131. London
    June 23, 2010 at 12:52 am

    No, I definately wimped out.

  132. London
    June 23, 2010 at 12:54 am

    It would be awesome for me if it were backpacks, cause I’m already in the midst of doing that,making cloth drawstring bags for hygenie products for the local homeless shelter and sorting out art supplies for my Ukrainian boyz…but, socks are good too. We’ve talked about doing a sock drive soon, so that would work too.

    Let’s vote though so we can start 🙂

  133. June 23, 2010 at 12:55 am

    School supplies should be going on sale soon…for real cheap…

  134. London
    June 23, 2010 at 12:56 am

    AND…if people want to send me their goal via email so there isn’t any competition or feelings of inadequacy or embarrassement that you can’t do more (believe me…I get that) then that would be good too.

    I could just say what the total goal was and we could all work towards that…

  135. London
    June 23, 2010 at 1:02 am

    We don’t need a new thread I don’t think..the thread is called “community” and this is about community..plus, it’s easier to just keep momentum going and not spend time writing when we could be doing 🙂

    sorry…I’d rather be doing this kind of stuff than just about anything else, so I get a bit wired.

  136. Na'amah
    June 23, 2010 at 1:06 am

    ok so we vote on what the project is or we choose something here… need clarification and then we give it to an agency? or hand it out directly?

    lol

  137. London
    June 23, 2010 at 1:14 am

    I guess there’s 2 answers

    1) do we want to try to do something as a group. Everyone doing a similar project for a specific length of time and then comparing notes.

    If so…

    2) Do you want to do backpacks? (I have a list of supplies already)
    3) Do you want to do socks?

    4) Is there another idea that we could all do?

    Whether you hand it to an agency (like mine ahem);-) or give it out directly is totally up to you. It just matters that we do something.

  138. London
    June 23, 2010 at 1:16 am

    I also guess I can’t count 😳

    there were 2 answers when I started.

    1) do you want to do something together
    2) do you want me to shut up and leave you alone about this.

    🙂

    The rest were just free flowing brain storming

  139. June 23, 2010 at 1:21 am

    my vote

    1. yes
    2. yes
    3. yes
    4. we can do the sleeping bags around Christmas (I think) that we did a few years ago…

    I like the group goal idea…I think we could do 1000 pr. of socks.

  140. London
    June 23, 2010 at 1:26 am

    We need to pick one project to start with I think.

  141. June 23, 2010 at 1:28 am

    socks – 1000 pr.- pass them out ourselves…or donate to our local homeless shelter.

  142. June 23, 2010 at 1:29 am

    1000 pr. by ummmmm….Aug. 31

  143. June 23, 2010 at 1:29 am

    is that simple enough?

  144. London
    June 23, 2010 at 1:38 am

    So the vote is do you want to, as a group, collect and distribute 1000 pairs of NEW socks, to be given out by Aug. 31, to homeless people in your own communities?

    Works for me. Will be finishing up our backpack stuff by Mid August (if anyone wants to send stuff to us we’d be hugely grateful 🙂 so that should work for me.

    What about everyone else? or did they go to bed already?

  145. pstrmike
    June 23, 2010 at 1:39 am

    I don’t multi-task, but no harm no foul. Just figured out this blog is on Central time…… no wonder I feel jet lagged.

  146. Na'amah
    June 23, 2010 at 3:04 am

    well, we all now know you at least have a very well developed and decent imagination if looking at a CT clock makes you feel jet lagged…

  147. Na'amah
    June 23, 2010 at 3:05 am

    i vote for socks!

  148. briwd2006
    June 23, 2010 at 9:09 am

    You folks steer this and let me know how I can help.

  149. briwd2006
    June 23, 2010 at 9:09 am

    By the way, the clock is Eastern time.

  150. pstrmike
    June 23, 2010 at 11:18 am

    like I said briand, I’m jet lagged…………. 8)

  151. Na'amah
    June 23, 2010 at 11:38 am

    so i can’t read and pstrmike is tactically imaginative…

  152. Another Voice
    June 23, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Hi London, I was certainly not arguing big versus little church as to missional impact. It is all about the heart of the people. I learn from your perspective and hopefully you all can learn a thing or two from my perspective. And for the record, we are not a BIG churh – offerings are well under a million dollars a year – but are still several hundred thousand total – just so everyone knows where I am coming from. We don’t have “Osteen money”

    Certainly you agree that if you are doing an outreach to as many people as you can afford to reach, knowing there is always a lot more who need your help that you can’t reach, and someone says “Here is a one-time check for $50,000 to reach as many as you can – no strings attached” that is a GOOD thing. If all things are otherwise equal (a big IF) then more money equals more impact.

    However, you might have a problem if this guy says “London, I am going to give you guys $50,000 a month for the next several years” – The one outreach is now over and you have to come up with ways to spend that money, and like you said, money can change people – this is the problem with some big churches.

    The committee thing is no big deal, since that is not REQUIRED of big churches. We have a Board and they vote. We have done things within a 24 hour period on more than one occasion. Yes, a lot of churches bog themselves down in committees, but even really small churches are guilty there too on occasion.

  153. jlo
    June 23, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    I’m in for whatever the group wants.

    London, could you email the list/details for the kids back packs. I think I’m going to do something on a small scale locally.

  154. Another Voice
    June 23, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I want to leave Osteen out of it, but comment on the idea of thousands of small groups with tens of thousands of dollars versus one church with many millions of dollars. I think that sounds good on paper, but is not going to happen in the real world.

    For starters, in huge churches a lot of people attend who would never participate in a 20 person group – just like many of you would never go to a mega church.

    Tax deductibility is huge in giving. Not just the fact that a lot of people in a huge church would not give without the deduction (which is a shame of course) – but a more practical aspect that you have MORE to give when you can deduct. Deductibility on a $1000 donation might save an additional $250-$300 in taxes for a lot of people, and many of them will thus make a donation of $1300. I don’t know how you get tax exemption for 2,000+ small groups.

    Let me ask this – those of you with experience in a small group setting of 20 or so people – do you guys have annual offerings anywhere like $30,000 a year (as was assumed in the example above).

    I am NOT being critical of the small group church, or exalting the mega church. Just pointing out you can’t transfer one to the other by simple math. They have a different dynamic.

  155. Another Voice
    June 23, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Now – what if the large church wants to have a battered womens shelter, homeless shelter, rehab facility or whatever run on Christian principles (i.e. mandatory Bible studies etc.). A property is available for $600,000 and the annual budget is expected at $200,000 a year. A large church can easily make this happen.

    Maybe I can be enlightened, but I know that enough small groups could come together and do this too, but I don’t see how they could without a whole lot more problems. Who would own the property? What would happen if someone does not come through with their financial commitment?

    I also think such a ministry requires one or more fulltime employees, likely living at the facility. Who employs them and provides the workers comp and other legal obligations needed for such a situation.

    I’m just giving a perspective here. Even if each of those 2000 groups had $30,000 coming in each year, I don’t know if they would make a more “noticeable” impact – just a different impact.

    All this said…I am the first to raise my hand in opposition to the manner in which so much money is spent by large churches. It is appalling.

  156. London
    June 23, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    AV re your #152 –
    Well, you were a bit arguing big vs little church impact really though. 😉
    You said the other day that a little church couldn’t support a missionary so a big church was better in that respect. We covered that already though so no worries.

    My concern was that this conversation could easily turn into yet another “us vs them” with people choosing sides on whether big or little is better. The answer to that, IMO, is yes. For some people, little churches are exactly the thing for others large churches.
    Right now, I’m in the middle camp. I love what the house church I “belong” to does and for the most part who they are, but…I don’t live in the same state so there’s lots of limitations for me.
    Big churches sometimes offer more opportunity for meeting like minded people, have cooler media content so it’s possible to get involved in more creative projects and there’s more variety of what goes on.

    I just didn’t want to see this turn into another thread full of labels and choosing up of sides.

  157. London
    June 23, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    You: Certainly you agree that if you are doing an outreach to as many people as you can afford to reach, knowing there is always a lot more who need your help that you can’t reach, and someone says “Here is a one-time check for $50,000 to reach as many as you can – no strings attached” that is a GOOD thing. If all things are otherwise equal (a big IF) then more money equals more impact.

    You: Well yeah, of course. All things being equal then more money means more people reached. But would you please stop saying what I think or believe. I can do that for myself 🙂

    You: However, you might have a problem if this guy says “London, I am going to give you guys $50,000 a month for the next several years” – The one outreach is now over and you have to come up with ways to spend that money, and like you said, money can change people – this is the problem with some big churches.

    Me: Hell no, I would have ZERO problem figuring out how to spend that money! The thing you assume is that everyone is the same. There are people out there, me included, that have had large sums of money to work with professionally (my last project budget was $9 million with a staff of about 60 people) as well as a much lesser, but ok amount, personally. If you have a missions coordinator on your staff that isn’t able to know how to budget and use that money wisely, then you need to hire someone else.

    You: The committee thing is no big deal, since that is not REQUIRED of big churches. We have a Board and they vote. We have done things within a 24 hour period on more than one occasion. Yes, a lot of churches bog themselves down in committees, but even really small churches are guilty there too on occasion.

    Me: we do things within 24 minutes 🙂
    The committee thing is a big deal to us. But granted, it may not be for you so that’s cool too

  158. London
    June 23, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    AV-
    “Let me ask this – those of you with experience in a small group setting of 20 or so people – do you guys have annual offerings anywhere like $30,000 a year (as was assumed in the example above).”

    Yes.

    We have that in savings the last time I heard.

  159. London
    June 23, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Ok AV, after reading through all your posts, I still think you are absolutely arguing in favor of large churches.

    Let’s look at your example of opening a homeless shelter or battered woman’s shelter. You are correct that a large church could swing that. However, you are incorrect in your assumption that a small church couldn’t.

    About a million years ago, I belonged to a church of about 150 people. We met on Sundays but during the week, we hung out in small groups like “life groups” of mmaybe 15 or so people.
    Our group was talking quite a bit about social justice. One young gal (28) had just started working again and having to pay for day care. She wondered how homeless or low income people could afford it and wanted to volunteer to work at a daycare serving that population.
    Well..long story short, there was no such thing, so she started one!
    She did pretty much all the work, with a bit of help from us for fundraising etc…
    She got grants, donations, volunteers etc and that daycare is still up and running 21 years later! They are about to build 2 more in the state and it’s a model for other cities around the country.

    Large churches can have lots of money…but a small group can have passion, creativity and determination. That trumps money every time…

    It just takes one person with those attributes to make a huge impact.

    You can not measure impact using $ only.

  160. London
    June 23, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    In other words, your specific examples of battered women’s shelter or homeless shelters can be done with grants, so a large church budget is not mandatory.

  161. Na'amah
    June 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    London and AV

    i think there is a bell curve in regards to the pros and cons regarding large churches and small home churches/groups and providing ministry. i think there is a diminishing return at some point in both models.

    and somewhere way up above it was mentioned, i think it was [o O}, that whatever the “heart” of the group/church is, is where the money is going to allocated to, whether it is support of missionaries, or education etc.

    🙂 i am glad there are both. i am fortunate enough to reside near large city, suburban and rural areas so i could commute to participate in a variety of church configurations.

    i do know that the income of my now mega church continues to support many missionaries and the training of leaders in each country. it is a huge overhead indeed and at business mtgs there are financial and budget reports provided. if the membership is so interested, they can see where their giving is going.

  162. Another Voice
    June 23, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks London! A lot of times I use the indefinite, grammatical “you” and I need to be more careful about that when I am clearly interacting with another like yourself.

    You wrote “Large churches can have lots of money…but a small group can have passion, creativity and determination. That trumps money every time…”

    I would add that a large church can have passion, creativity and determination too, and clearly a small group can have lots of money!

    Your savings account is larger than ours. 🙂

  163. Na'amah
    June 23, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    London, a lot of grant money has federal connections so mandatory bible study or church attendance cannot be a part of any program. The advantage of being financed by a church means freedom to develop a Christian program.

  164. [o_O]
    June 23, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    “We care about the small people.”
    Carl-Henric Svanberg

    We are all small people with the ability to do big things when we think out of the box. London, Buster, Dusty, a guy named Dave brisbin from http://www.theeffect.org, these are fellow small people who dream big dreams, and make things happen for others.

    AV, you has been at it longer then the rest of us, your org has grown, but I’ll bet you you’ll be tempted to streamline any policy / procedure that gets in the way of your seeing empowered & creative individuals within your community act as quickly as these folks have.

    This is so cool to see the synergy among this group!
    Way to go!

  165. London
    June 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    I knew that you were going to say that large churches can have those things, but thought I’d better not write another post. Yes, of course they can.
    My point was that you appear to keep equating large impact with large amounts of money. I disagree that those things are equal.

    Re your #163…
    Sure, if you want to have stipulations about what kind of impact and limit it to places that force people to attend Bible Study, then you should have to rely on church money.
    There’s lots of grants without federal connections though.

    You keep changing the rules. You want to say that a small church can’t do a specific thing, ie soley fund an American missionary family with 2 adults and 2.4 children, can’t soley build a homeless shelter that forces people to attend bible studies etc. Well, that would likely be true.

    We have different interests and have no inclination to do those things, so it’s kind of a moot point really.

  166. London
    June 23, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    jlo- yes, I’ll send you the list

  167. London
    June 23, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    AV – fwiw
    I agree with your point in #154 that many small groups trying to pool their money into one HUGE project would be a paperwork and logistical night mare. I think if anything, that’s where we fall down with the “model” we have going on. We definately have some communications issues. I think partially it’s because for the most part, the core group is located in one place so they talk to each other all the time and forget anyone else even exists. We have a pretty cool social network site set up, which gets used pretty regularly, it’s just not what we’d envisioned when we set it up. Many of the folks in the groups are young folks, and contrary to what I thought, have little interest or skill in using the computer to community. It’s the weirdest thing….

    So, not everything is perfect in what we’re doing, and there’s frustrations just like every other group of human beings.

  168. Another Voice
    June 23, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    My point was that you appear to keep equating large impact with large amounts of money. I disagree that those things are equal.
    ——————————————————–
    London. We will have to agree to disagree then. I have been clear throughout that ASSUMING ALL THINGS ARE EQUAL more money equals more impact. NOT big church versus little church. You brought committees and money making people arrogant into the picture. That is not “all things being equal” You also made it clear that more money would lead to more impact in YOUR ministry, and that you would have no problem finding needs to fill with $50,000 a month extra. Why don’t you grant others the same privilege you grant yourself 🙂

    And as God is my witness, back on the PP I was claiming ignorance not knowing HOW a small group could support a missionary with the same effectiveness. If I came off defiant, it was not my intent.

    And throughout these posts I have tried to bend over backwards saying I don’t know much about the small group church – enlighten me – and that big churches are not the answer.

    I write what I mean – always. If I felt that big churches were somehow “better” you would read it clearly and obviously from my posts. If you try to interpret something contrary to the words, then things go sideways fast.

  169. London
    June 23, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    If you ALWAYS write what you mean…then good on you. You’re probably the only person on the planet that can do so.

    You got it all figured out so there’s no point in continuing the discussion.

  170. Another Voice
    June 23, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    (sigh) – I meant these statements (from above). Believe them or not. Your choice…

    1) I am NOT being critical of the small group church, or exalting the mega church.
    2) I was certainly not arguing big versus little church as to missional impact. It is all about the heart of the people
    3) I learn from your perspective
    4) Glad to hear the good report…Good discussion
    5) I should go on the record as saying I am not into numbers and I would actually like our church to be smaller so I could know everybody better.

  171. pstrmike
    June 23, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    hey AV!

    I’d actually like my church to be a little larger. Can you send some of them my way? 8)

  172. Another Voice
    June 23, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    LOL. I think we are at a point, assuming people stick around long enough, that I can learn everybody’s name before I die, assuming the Lord has a few more years for me – at least their first names. I can’t imagine having thousands in the congegation.

  173. London
    June 23, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    AV – I never doubted that you meant what you said. What I find very hard to believe is that someone is able to always write exactly what they mean. But, since you can..that’s great for you.

    It seems that you have pretty rigidly defined the boundries of the conversation with your statement that “all things being equal, more money = more impact.”

    The discussion would go something like this:

    You: “all things being equal, more money=more impact”
    Responder: “yes”

    There’s not alot else to discuss really after that.

  174. London
    June 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    So it looks like socks it is.
    Someone tell me how this is gonna work. Are we just reporting back as we go or are we all waiting until the 31st of August to say what happened.

    I have too much going on right now to be making up the “rules”, but will be happy to participate if someone else says what we’re doing.

  175. pstrmike
    June 23, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    AV,
    I’ll talk big church/little church with ya. And I think we’ll both come away with better understanding. You have my e-mail. Peace.

  176. [o_O]
    June 23, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    How about this,
    “all things being equal, more money equals the POTENTIAL for more impact”?

    Then, it’s solely up to the people with the passion & vision to maximize the opportunity, sort of like inheriting a bunch of $ but deciding to invest it wisely, live below one’s means, and watch the budget so there’s cause to celebrate instead of having to hit folks up for tithes, offerings, special offerings, fund raisers, etc.

    Here’s the cool thing, AV is maximizing opportunity, so is London, Dusty & Buster, my pal Dave Brisbin, probably most who are in any facet of ministry who hang out here. Kudos to y’all! I admire ya and may your tribe increase!

    Now, Benny Hinn, across town, and TBN, and the crazies in the Federal Gov & the State of California who want $ by manipulation, well, may they be held accountable by those who they squeeze mercilessly!

  177. Another Voice
    June 23, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Ok AV, after reading through all your posts, I still think you are absolutely arguing in favor of large churches.
    ———————————————
    AV – I never doubted that you meant what you said
    ——————————————————

    (this is where if I knew how to do the little “zoned-out” emoticon, I would.)

    London, I love what you are doing, and you are my sister in the Lord. In this sort of format, our words are always capable of being misunderstood.

    I will try to give you the benefit of the doubt, try not to read more into innocent comments and anecdotes, and try to be as clear on my end as possible.

    I HAVE learned a lot from our discussions.

    Peace.

  178. Buster
    June 23, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    AV,
    The home church groups that I’ve been a part of have not had that kind of money to play around with, either because 1) the members had no money, 2) they had other charitable commitments, or 3) they were afraid to pool donations due to prior bad experience. But it is also true that none of the groups I’ve been a part of use sales pressure or guilt tactics to keep donations high. 🙂 No, not all churches use those tactics, but people are aware of the ongoing debt and expense obligations.

    The tax issue is a hindrance — that’s why I’d be in favor of a more level playing field! 🙂 But dollar for dollar, I receive far more gratification per dollar donated when I can actually shake somebody’s hand and see how people are being affected.

    Your saying that some people would never attend small church groups is like saying that some cafeteria diners would never eat at a small diner or cafe. It’s true, but the cafeteria folks don’t know what they’re missing! 🙂

    Big projects (orphanages, hospitals, missions boards, etc.) could still be run by independent parachurch organizations or non-profit corporations formed by small groups getting together. They’d be even more accountable to the supporting groups if they had a limited scope or lifespan.

    Big churches will never go away, and I’m OK with that, but I expect that the trend we’ve seen toward bigger and bigger will soon start to be reversed.

    Until recently (and for the majority of church history), I think most people saw their choice as being either (within their denomination) go to the smaller local church in their neighborhood, or spend some more traveling to get to the bigger church, with the nicer pews, choir, stained glass, or better preacher, nicer people, better programs, etc. Economies of scale, better transportation and technology have permitted this trend to grow, and the more popular churches with it. It’s a natural thing that I would expect to happen.

    But I would suggest that the local church / big church choice is not an important one, and that there’s a choice that leaders of each of these would prefer that people didn’t know about: the home church alternative.

  179. Another Voice
    June 23, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    I expect that the trend we’ve seen toward bigger and bigger will soon start to be reversed.
    ——————–
    I hope so.

    Good commentary Buster. Let me ask you one thing about your ministry philosophy. In the proposed parachurch organization formed for the big projects, would you support fully paid staff to oversee the ministry – or would you want it to be all volunteer.

    Not a trick question, or looking for a gotcha, I promise.

  180. briwd2006
    June 23, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Please, by all means, continue this conversation.

  181. [o_O]
    June 23, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    this is a very cool discussion! People actually experiencing theEffect of God in your lives is really difficult to argue with on a theological level. They may dismiss your beliefs but they cannot dismiss your actions

  182. briwd2006
    June 23, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    I said earlier that I would help with any project that the folks here decided to take on.

    Many of you know that for a few months I attended lifechurch.tv’s internet campus. Being the internet, everything – church, small groups – was done online.

    Of course, you can’t virtually feed people, or reach out and minister to the homeless thru your laptop. So the church organized outreaches, to be done individually by each member/attendee in their own communities.

    What did that look like?

    One thing I remember was you could order a set of lifechurch.tv cards from the church to pass out or leave in coffee shops. Another I think was serving in homeless shelters.

    I looked back in the lifechurch.tv blog and found this article which comes as close as I’ve seen to describing how an online-only church would do volunteer service:

    http://internet.lifechurch.tv/2009/06/thoughts-on-missional-lifegroups/#more-2443

    Perhaps, that will be helpful to you in deciding if, and how, you would do your own service project.

  183. London
    June 23, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I’m jumping in on that question in #179 cause there’s room for discussion there 😉

    I would absolutely recommend that a parachurch organization have a full time paid staff, at least exec. director, to over see it.

    That’s exactly what I’m trying to do at the moment, while looking for employment. We’ve started our own non-profit, in conjunction and under the umbrella of Gren’s friend Dave. I’m easily able to put in 40+ hours a week in pulling projects together, getting volunteers, networking with churches and community agencies etc…

    I would LOVE more than anything if I was able sustain a living doing this. Unfortunately, unless AV’s imaginary (I assume) person wants to throw a couple month’s worth of money at us, that’s not going to happen, and there’s a very real possibility that if I get the kind of work I have had in the past, the group will fold. Don’t want it to…but, it’s a very real possibility.

    If there were anyway a person in charge of a parachurch organization could be freed from having to worry about paying bills, then, of course they should have that burden lifted. it’s no different, imo, than a pastor needing to have time freed up.

    Running an organization, even as small as what I’m doing, takes ALOT more time that one would imagine.

  184. Buster
    June 23, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks AV. I have no doubt that your church is having a positive effect on the community and the lives of those who attend, and don’t want to disrespect anyone’s involvement with bigger churches. Sometimes I get enthusiastic about my own positive experiences. 🙂

    Yes, I think a professional paid staff would be more effective at running a parachurch organization. If they are open enough, then the funds would tend to flow to the orgs that are more efficient or are showing better results in terms of their stated goals.

  185. Another Voice
    June 23, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    If there were anyway a person in charge of a parachurch organization could be freed from having to worry about paying bills, then, of course they should have that burden lifted. it’s no different, imo, than a pastor needing to have time freed up.
    ————————————–
    London, what is your opinion on a pastor being supported by the church.

  186. London
    June 23, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    I think that it depends on the church.
    The one I’m hanging out with currently, the guys is a fully employed out side the church, hence the rather large savings account. It’s good in that he has the ability to minister to people at his work, it’s negative in that he’s not always availble when I want him to be avialable 😉
    He requests that anyone that’s in leadership in his group, be bi-vocational, even if it’s just part-time. I think that has some advantages in that it keeps folks in touch with “the real world” and it keeps the level of arrogance and entitlement down.

    On the other hand, I’ve been in situations where the pastor is full time paid by the church and that has worked well too. The church I’m thinking of the pastor was also the guy that pulled the worship team together and the guy that did most of the counseling for folks. Those were just areas he was gifted in, so he did them. Wasn’t a control issue..just worked out that way.

    I don’t think that’s a one size fits all question.

  187. Na'amah
    June 23, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    AV @ #172 it’s why we wear name badges impersonal? yes and practical too

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