Yesterday, I Went To Church: Duane W.H. Arnold,PhD
I’d not really planned to do it. Earlier in the week, I had been doing some research on the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). This is a breakaway Anglican group essentially formed in protest of the liberal direction of The Episcopal Church (TEC).
While ACNA is not formally recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury, this new breakaway movement has over 100,000 adherents and looks to a number of African Anglican bishops for oversight and a connection, albeit one step removed, with Canterbury.
In doing my research, I noticed that ACNA was involved in planting a new church in my area. In fact, they were meeting on Sunday afternoons just a couple of miles from my home. I noted the time of the service, 4:30 pm, and the address of the small public building in which they were meeting and then continued on with my research. As the weekend approached, however, I decided that I would attend their service. The theology of the group seemed to be right, they were using a version of the old prayer book – very similar to Rite 1 in the TEC’s Book of Common Prayer – and, who knows, I might find a church home where I felt comfortable with the theology and liturgy.
Sunday afternoon came around. I changed into a suit (yes, I’m still that old fashioned), got in the car and made my way to the location of the service. Well, first of all I struggled to find the building entrance, until I noticed a single, small realtor type of sign stuck in the grass at the edge of the parking lot. While the lettering was so small as to be unreadable, I did see a cross in the middle of the sign, so I assumed this was the place. When I looked around, however, there were only three other cars in the parking lot and the service was scheduled to begin in five minutes. Well, I thought, maybe there’s another parking area to the rear that I don’t know about.
I walked across the lot to the entrance of the building and went in. Standing in the foyer was a thirty-something young man wearing a tab clerical collar. His reaction on seeing me walk in was something along the lines of greeting an extra-terrestrial newly arrived from another solar system. Maybe it was my suit, maybe it was my long hair. We introduced ourselves. His first question was, “Are you an Anglican?” I said that I was, as well as being a clergyman for over thirty years. He asked, “Where have you served?” I gave him an abbreviated list and watched as his expression changed from one of anticipating a potential new member of his flock to one of concern that he was going to be observed by “someone in the game”. He directed me to the room where the service should have already begun (it was now 4:40) and I took a seat in the back row.
There were five rows of seats, lined up to imitate pews or chairs in a classroom. In the seats were eight adults (including myself) and six children. The pastor, his wife, his sister and brother-in-law and mother made up over half of the adults in the congregation. His four young children and the children of his sister – all present during most of the service – made up a good portion of the rest. That left three of us who were not members of the family to fill out the assembly.
By 4:45 the pastor announced that we would be using the long form for the Holy Eucharist and asked us to stand for the processional hymn – “Abide With Me”. Now, of course, there was no procession and, to be honest, in decades of attending church services, I had never heard of using that particular hymn – a favorite at funerals – as a processional hymn. There was no music to accompany the hymn. It was sung acapella… all four verses. I began to think, “This is going to be a long afternoon…”
I shook off the dread of a lengthy service and directed my gaze away from the door marked “Exit” to concentrate on the Prayer Book in my hands. Despite the few people, the lack of music, the lateness of the start, I could still say the prayers and, I thought, find a place of worship and consolation. So it continued through the readings, two more hymns (one wholly unfamiliar to myself and everyone else apart from the pastor and his wife) the Psalm said responsively, the Gospel and then on to the sermon. The sermon started with a special welcome to “all the visitors” (that would be me) and then continued on to the exposition of the Scripture set by the lectionary for the day.
The sermon was not written or, from what I could observe, even outlined. Instead, it was what I can only describe as a stream of consciousness which seemed more about the pastor applying his favorite themes and interests to the Gospel and readings for the day. “Choose this day who you will serve” provided a launching point for the Christian-Secular culture wars, churches that have abandoned the faith, etc. Philemon allowed for a description of the local church as a family and, with his wife almost ready to deliver their fifth child, the pastor explained how we could all join “his family”. The Gospel, telling us that we must “deny ourselves and take up our cross” became the platform for stories about the commitment of Navy Seals and their willingness to kill even a “nine year old sniper” if necessary. Bonhoeffer (his greatest hero, we learned) made it in, martyrs were extolled and then he read a three paragraph passage from a new book he had come across. All this went on for over twenty minutes.
The offering basket was passed about by the pastor’s eight year old son, the children screamed/sung the Doxology and we moved on to the celebration of the Eucharist.
Now, there was obviously no altar. There was a folding table covered with a white tablecloth and two candles (lit by the pastor with a Bic grill lighter). Inexplicably, there was a large brass Cross placed on the floor in front of the table. Once again, the longest form available for the consecration of the elements was used. Prior to the distribution, the pastor explained (for whom, I am not sure) the various ways in which one might partake of Communion – one kind, both kinds, intinction, crossed arms for a blessing, etc. Following distribution, rather than a time for prayer, a Nigerian church chorus was sung – a chorus apparently known only to the pastor and his family, followed by yet another hymn of five verses and then, at long last, came the final blessing.
I said my prayers as the children ran around the room and, as there was no coffee hour, prepared to depart. No one else greeted me. At the door, I thanked the pastor for the service. He asked nothing about why I was there. Nothing was said about hoping that I would return. No list was provided for my email address or phone number for future contact. As I tried to make some polite conversation with him, I did learn that he was bi-vocational – a software engineer during the week – and that he had been involved with trying to plant this new church for over two years. The conversation apparently at an end, I told him that I would remember him and his work in my prayers and left, walking through the empty parking lot to my car.
Now, before setting out a few observations – some with conclusions, some not – let me say that I admire the work that this pastor is attempting and I have no real doubts about his sincerity or his Christian commitment. That being said, here are some other thoughts that arose after this experience.
If, after two years, a congregation still mainly consists of a single extended family, is it perhaps time, at the very least, to change the approach? Something, obviously, is not working…
To emphasize, Sunday by Sunday, what we are “against”, rather than what we “affirm”, in my mind, is a losing game. It is a losing game for those within the church, creating a “bunker mentality” and it creates instant barriers for those outside the church that we hope to attract. While I hope that there is a different message on other Sundays, from the reaction of the congregation, I have my doubts.
If we truly wish to engage visitors… converts… new members… I think that we need to show that we are more concerned about them than we are concerned about ourselves. We might show this by a shorter service, familiar music and, especially, an opportunity for conversation with them and about them… not us.
The so-called “Moses model” of leadership is not confined to Calvary Chapel affiliates. I think it occurs when ever and/or where ever pastoral leadership is idiosyncratic, that is, emphasizing the particular interests, “hobby horses”, or concerns of the pastoral leadership over against the actual needs of the congregation at that given point in time. (For instance, I love Athanasius’ On the Incarnation, but I realize it is not exactly a “page turner” for most people in the pews.)
Finally, joining the “family” of the church is not joining the pastor’s family, however wonderful they may be. Many people are wary of relationships from past experience. For others, the word “family” has negative connotations. Still others are solitary by nature. Our outreach, in my opinion, should transcend our particular life experience to embrace “all sorts and conditions” of people.
Now, I realize that I only witnessed one Sunday service. Maybe it was a bad day, or a holiday weekend. Maybe other Sundays are different. Then again, in my experience, we often have only one chance of exposure to to a visitor. Moreover, every Sunday is important. Outside of the liturgical calendar, there is no “ordinary time” or “ordinary Sundays”, especially if we are looking to grow a church.
I am certain, that there are even yet more lessons to be learned and would invite comment.
Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
Apart from the homily, which Dr. Arnold perceived as self-centered on the part of the pastor, what’s the problem? Did he go there to join a family or did he go to pray and receive the Sacraments?
I hope the pastor of that small, hopeful church does not see Dr. Arnold’s article. How discouraging, when he’s doing the best he can.
Where do you usually go Duane? Is it different?
I think the key is that after two years the church still consists of the pastors family.
I know a church like this…much older…and unless you marry into the family,you’re not going to be accepted as part of the church family.
One of the reasons we have so much church hopping and transition between churches is that we fail to understand how connected the church is supposed to be with each other…
after i finished reading this my heart is pleading with the Reverend Arnold to find time to reach out to this young man, affirm his commitment and, with the insight and skill that God has given him, sit down with this young man and bring him the thoughts that i have just read here… perhaps, God wants the young fellow to be mentored by Arnold?
#3 I usually attend a larger church where, even with the early service crowd, it is different. That being said, I’ve seen numerous situation much like the one I described.
#2 Names and locations not given to protect the innocent.
I simply do not understand the purpose of this article.
The purpose is to say that planting a church requires more than enthusiasm and good-will. It is also to say that even good theology must be presented in a way that connects with those to whom we are presenting that theology. I think there are also lessons to be learned with regard to us thinking that if planted, a church will simply grow of its own accord – this is not generally the case. As I say, I think there are other lessons to be learned…
We are members of a small parish where most of the services are conducted in Old Church Slavonic. The pastor has a huge family and often, they make up a large percentage of attendees. We do not have a big sign out front; our church is located inside a city park and we have a big “No Trespassing” sign out front. On my first visit 16 years ago, no one said a word to me yet I felt the presence of God in a way I had never felt before and I was “instantly Orthodox.” It took a while before they warmed up to me and my husband, but I am now the god-mother of one of the pastor’s grandchildren and my husband has been made the warden. We are very much in the thick of everything at this parish. Also, the parish has quadrupled in size (probably more) since my first visit, something I can only tribute to God honoring the faithfulness of our pastor who is also bi-vocational. We have a thriving parish now.
So yes, that pastor’s enthusiasm (zeal for God) and good-will (love for others) might just be enough.
Wow. If this author ever visited my church and gave his critique of my ministry, I am in big trouble!
Churches are as diverse as the people who band together to form each faith community. They also make different statements, usually to the great dismay of those who are of the ODM types. I think the oft quoted observation remains true, “I rejoice that (Jesus) Christ is preached!” May all who gather to seek Jesus & experience Him in the sacraments recognize that, greater than any other thing, they are already family.
Costco, yeah, you’re not sticking to that liturgy much these days! 😉
“….usually to the dismay of those who are of the ODM types.”
First, I totally agree with that statement.
Second, I need to evaluate how critical I might be of other ministries.
I need Grace. And therefore, I need to show it.
Kevin…I told you. I am in big trouble!
Some times the real issue can be the lengths small churches will go in order to grow their congregation.
Typically when you are a visitor at a tiny church you feel like a movie star as everyone moves in for the close! 🙂
If, after two years, a congregation still mainly consists of a single extended family, is it perhaps time, at the very least, to change the approach? Something, obviously, is not working…
You guys want a chuckle. I personally asked Chuck Smith in class once when the topic was church planting if he felt there was a certain time when one can start to conclude that maybe the Lord had not called you to plant that church after all…..and Chuck said he thought in general it would be about two years.
Many times, often to much villification, I and others have pointed out that while mega church numbers are not necessarily a direct sign of God’s blessing – nevertheless, nobody coming to church may be a sign the Lord has other plans….
Needless to say it is interesting to see Dr. Arnold expressing a similar conclusion in a decidedly non-evangelical (and non CC) church situation.
Is someone gonna state the obvious here, or do I have to do it again?
“Many times, often to much villification, I and others have pointed out that while mega church numbers are not necessarily a direct sign of God’s blessing – nevertheless, nobody coming to church may be a sign the Lord has other plans….”
It also could be a sign that the church planter may be lacking in training or some other gift or talent which is needed for a successful plant.
For some reason, there seem to be a good number of seriously introverted pastors in churches. Many of them may serve well in certain roles, but church planting, for example, would be a stretch.
Josh. Give it to us! Seriously.
Uh, our host has Pastored a 12 member for church for like the last 20 years.
Josh. Nice. I really do wonder if the Lord prefers a small church or a mega church for me and my family. I can see the pro’s and the con’s to either.
Over twenty years.
A home church.
Restricted by design by me.
Not even in the same category.
I think your church is a perfectly valid expression of faith. I don’t see why it is so different from the guy in the article.
It’s very different.
He wants to grow numerically.
The thought gives me hives.
It’s an entirely different paradigm.
I think a home church is entirely different than the church in the article. A home church is intentionally by design intended for a small group. It literally cannot grow beyond a room’s accommodation, it is typically a more intimate set of relationships, so there must be interpersonal trust and harmony
If you are renting a commercial space, then you apparently are seeking to grow into that space. You are (or should) be thinking about getting your name out, signage, hospitality, etc.
Well, in that case I’ll say the guy should just move to a house until it outgrows it. I don’t know the guy in question. May be a total loser. But it may be that God has called him to walk faithfully with these 8 people for a season. To that, I’d say keep on going. Be faithful. Trust God for the fruit.
I agree with Josh.
Frankly, the Episcopal/ Anglican world has many problems far more serious than this fellow and his small church.
I agree with Michael that there is a big difference between the two and I also agree with Josh as well.
Once more, the manner I was raised in and I practiced myself was this. Start as a home Bible study. At some point if (and if is the key) the people who come begin to look to you as their pastor and THEY have a desire to plant a church (outside the home) then that would be the time to think about doing so.
We had a home Bible study for close to 4 years and it got to that point for me – people looking to me to marry them, counsel them, answer their Bible questions etc. We then took the next step and began to look for space to rent….
Not saying it is THE one and only way…but it certainly is a way.
As an aside, during that time my wife and I were still serving and worshipping at our local church. We never saw our Friday night Bible study as a church….
Steve #30, #31
Exactly… Perhaps the model of a home Bible study that grows into a church with the common consent of those in the Bible study is the right direction…
It may be that he is getting the space for free, or close to it, and if so I see no difference in this and the home fellowship.
Josh, don’t most home fellowships meet on days besides Sunday and don’t most of the people who go to those home fellowships have a church where they worship on Sunday (whether that church is connected to the home fellowship or not)
Don’t know. Though if that is the case I would be against going from a home fellowship to a church plant, because you are simply taking people away from other churches. Usually when you plant a church, you are trying to reach people who don’t have a home church to attend.
And this one meets on Sunday evenings, so wouldn’t interfere with someone going elsewhere on Sunday morning.
Josh, we planted from our home study, leaving a mega church, and then the new church proceeded to reach some people who did not have a home church.
And some of our home study regulars did not join us in the plant, not wanting to leave their present church. And that was completely affirmed and there was no weirdness or illwill (one family was my next door neighbor and we never missed a beat in our friendship). Like I said before, it was not MY idea to plant the church but the majority of the people at the home study who wanted to.
I’m just saying, I don’t see why this guy can’t still have the same experience.
I don’t know much about how Anglican parishes are born, but I can tell you that an Orthodox Church would not grow out of a home Bible study. One wouldn’t morph into the other if there were enough people. Orthodox church services, and I suspect Anglican church services, are not Bible studies, they are Liturgies. Wouldn’t there need to be a bishop involved? The pastor in the article almost certainly has a bishop (maybe an African bishop!) overseeing his parish.
I’m big on church planting and have no problem with new churches arising where there are old churches because I firmly believe the Lord guides His sheep and also that the Lord calls people into ministry and there will be fruit if He has called you (and again, that fruit is not DIRECTLY connected to numbers per se, but people coming and staying is certainly a component of it)
Maybe those old churches are resting on their laurels, maybe the leadership is in sin or abusive in some way, maybe they have lost focus or are drifting into heresy or apostasy. Maybe they are getting too political. There are lots of reasons Christians might stay at a church, grudgingly, for a season but finally move on when a new church is where the Lord leads them.
But having said that, it is a tragedy that so many guys insist on being the top dog, starting THEIR own church, and maybe stepping out where the Lord has not led and continuing in futility, when they could be a HUGE asset to another healthy church in some servant capacity.
When we had the home study, I was also leading Sunday services at the nursing home, teaching Bible classes midweek at CCCM, teaching in the School of Ministry there as well – and all of that ended when we planted the church, by necessity.
Fast forward to when we closed that church plant and I moved on to a Baptist church for a couple years, I had opportunity to minister to more people, combined, in the two groups I lead there than we had coming on Sundays at the church plant. And I assume I was an asset to that church who needed a good leader in those two ministries – and had no such leader/ministry before my family showed up, joined, and offered to serve.
A lot of good, faithful men are struggling as the top dog out there when their service might be greatly used and valued elsewhere, and the few people attending might likewise also be better fitted to worship and serve in a new church home.
I make no comment on this church in the article – I am not looking to judge the Lord’s servant and maybe this is a time of refining and paying dues and this church a year from now will have a nice sized, healthy, blessed congregation.
I do think we need to REALLY seek the Lord in such things – and make sure we are doing what He has called us to do, and not just trying to fulfill our own personal dreams in Jesus Name.
Let’s not make the assumption that pastors of small churches are ego-driven dreamers. They may be exactly where God wants them. This may be counter-intuitive today, when numbers matter, probably more than they should.
Totally agree with Xenia, and I think it describes Michael and quite possibly the subject of this post.
“To emphasize, Sunday by Sunday, what we are “against”, rather than what we “affirm”, in my mind, is a losing game. It is a losing game for those within the church, creating a “bunker mentality” and it creates instant barriers for those outside the church that we hope to attract. ”
This…is where the conversation needs to go in my opinion.
The church as I hear it majors on law(what we’re against) and leaves out the Gospel far too often.
Did I make that assumption at all? Did I not go out of my way to state that is not what I was saying.
However, do Xenia and Josh admit that there are at least SOME pastors out there, especially in evangelical land, who decided to plant churches for their own reasons and not the Lord’s reasons – and who continue to struggle on because they simply do not want to join another church and sit under someone else’s leadership and not get to call all the shots?
Rest assured, they are not unicorns. They do exist out there. Michael and I (and no doubt others of you) have had a fair share of sightings
So here on the PhxP:
We are critical of mega-churches.
We are critical of small churches.
We are critical of churches that cave to the culture
We are critical of churches that refuse to be “relevant”
We are critical of churches that are too intrusively friendly
We are critical of churches that are not friendly enough
Ok, Goldilocks of the PhxP, what size/ level of relevance/ gregariousness is just right?
When I was invited to my current church I had no desire to ever pastor, ever again.
I’d been booted from two denominations and was finished with it all.
I did it as a favor and thought it would be a one night deal.
Now, it’s been twenty years…I’ve baptized, married, and buried some of the flock.
It’s the only way that works for me…and I’m lucky for some others as well.
My thoughts exactly Xenia!
“Did I make that assumption at all? Did I not go out of my way to state that is not what I was saying.”
Sorry Steve, I wasn’t really responding to you specifically. I’m sure people plant churches for the wrong reason all the time. I just can’t possibly know this about the guy in the article, nor can Duane Arnold.
I don’t think Duane wrote this as a critic…that’s far more my standard than his.
This was to spark a conversation about the various issues in play…and we’re doing that.
I’m thankful for your faithfulness to that congregation Michael.
I know some small church pastors that are doing great work…the call of God is all over them.
I’m also dealing offline with some guys who would sell their souls to have the title of “senior pastor”… and can’t understand why no one else is affirming what’s obvious to them…
Trust me, they’re the ones who have been faithful.
I’m about as warm and fuzzy offline as I am on…
Faithful is mostly about showing up. Well done.
Small churches are just a fact of life in Lutheran circles. So many are in rural areas where perhaps 3 churches are served by one pastor (not Rick Warren , Greg Laurie styles multi churches.). This is where the liturgy serves it’s purpose – the pastor can drive the 95miles between each church on a Sunday morning – preside over the liturgy at each and the people are served.
There really is no thought to closing the churches, because size it not the issue – the small church is like an outpost.
It’s funny. The reason I left my last church and visited CCLE was motivated by a desire for what was best for my family, especially my then 8 year old son, in a church home (the Baptist church was not it)
I thought I would be soon going to Iraq….
Of course, had I never shut the doors on the small church plant, and not listened to God, choosing rather to struggle on endlessly there, the Lord never would have led me to serve at the Baptist church as low man on the totem pole, and I never would have left it to find a good church for my family and never would have become the Sr. Pastor of this church.
MLD – Google is filled with articles of older Lutheran churches closing their doors – typically for financial reasons.
I hear you on the rural church, shared pastor, thing – remember my OK roots….but your churches are not immune to this issue – namely not enough people coming so the bills aren’t paid.
No, this wasn’t meant to be a Kierkegaard styled critique…. As you say, I hoped to raise some issues that might be relevant.
Perhaps the planting of a church requires a certain “gift” (Chrism as opposed to Charisma) in terms of both the pastoral AND lay leadership and part of that gift is pastoral engagement with visitors and newcomers… which is a bit different that pastoral leadership.
Just a thought.
I echo Josh, Michael, when I say that is a great testimony of your church!
Indeed. The small Lutheran church I was baptized in decades ago is closing it’s doors this fall, due to a very aged congregation, low numbers, etc… just in the next town south of where I am now.
“Ok, Goldilocks of the PhxP, what size/ level of relevance/ gregariousness is just right?”
Thanks Dan…they are a special group of people.
Steve @55 – my point of the rural church comment was that by nature they are small – when you have perhaps 20 families per square mile. The principle of the parish church.
All small churches face the same issue – especially when the Wal Mart church moves in.
Michael (60)..sounds like a great bunch of people indeed! I know we all spend so much time on here and other blogs decrying big churches and celebrity pastors, and mostly with good reason. What really encourages me and probably many others here are the people who are faithful behind-the-scenes, so to speak, and with nearly invisible ministries, and with no cameras on them, who are doing the Lord’s work!
I have visited a few churches that are this size or smaller. One closed brethren church I visited was much like the one described here. The saddest thing was seeing how bored the children looked. My advice is, when there are under 20 people, you don’t need to preach the same way or do singing the same way as in a church of 50.
Another 10-person church I visited did things well. They actually did work like a family, very informal and very sincere. I played the keyboard there (often happens when I visit small churches!). The best thing in my view was that it engaged the children well.
“The so-called “Moses model” of leadership is not confined to Calvary Chapel affiliates. I think it occurs when ever and/or where ever pastoral leadership is idiosyncratic, that is, emphasizing the particular interests, “hobby horses”, or concerns of the pastoral leadership over against the actual needs of the congregation at that given point in time. (For instance, I love Athanasius’ On the Incarnation, but I realize it is not exactly a “page turner” for most people in the pews.)”
Agreed. Excellent insight.
You can observe a similar mindset and dynamic in Business and Politics as well.
In Political Structures it’s called a Dictatorship.
Though, in the Church Constructs where I observe the bad dynamic as in Calvary Chapel….it is one part Dictatorship and one part followers/”sheep” who require a strong-arm Dictator b/c that is what they gravitate toward due to their own personal psychological co-dependency and personal desire for someone to worship and someone to tell them what to do.
The good news is you see some Calvary Chapels really rebelling against the Old Guard Moses Model old way of doing things and you see Calvary Chapel pretty much becoming a truly non-Denomination with no real agreement and hegemony any longer.
It’s truly becoming the Wild West, which is great b/c the Old Calvary Chapel was pretty cult-like if you drilled down about a half inch. Very Celebrity-man-idol driven and really quite bizarre and unhealthy.
Glad to see the Old Calvary Chapel continue to be rejected. The Old Guard is steadily dying off. in 10 years, Calvary Chapel as we once knew it will be no more.
History will not look kindly on Calvary Chapel. Bad semi-cult stuff among the Old Guard.
They are dying off, good riddance.
“If we truly wish to engage visitors… converts… new members… I think that we need to show that we are more concerned about them than we are concerned about ourselves.”
Good advice to comment sections of blogs too, that is unless it is to be only a few principle characters, outsiders to be ignored.
I like Michael’s closed style of home church.
We had a small group that met once a month for a few decades.
It was mostly the same people but every now and then others came.
The flow of the meeting always got disrupted by some of the newer visitors.
While we never really closed the doors we were grateful that the Lord kept it manageable as it were.
Too many people in a small group can change the dynamics to the point that the loving family atmosphere gets real diluted and the group is no longer small.
Since I was in on the beginning of Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa from the start I saw it go from a very loving and friendly family type of atmosphere to a totally changed one.
Growing may be a pastors delight, making and building something big, it sure is not all that great for those who are attendees.
Honestly everything changes.
Smith acknowledged this, and to his credit he always emphasized getting involved in home groups where the loving family atmosphere could be experienced.
While he continued to build and grow his vision and become what he had set his goal to be.
Arnold has great insight and is articulate and honest about his observations.
While God does at times give us an assignment to sort of mentor younger brothers in ministry, I don’t really believe Arnold would be called to do it for the young man in the post as Em has suggested as a possibility.
Most people are set in their ways and it is all but impossible to change that out side of an act of God.
Calvary Chapel went along it’s merry way becoming more and more fundamentally religious with a strong religious spirit as each year went by.
No one could call that church back to its non judgemental loving early days no matter how hard they tried.
This is often the fate when a small group grows and becomes a much larger group.
Ya I really like Michael’s small church model.
Everyone gets to know one another and there is love along with accountability.
The carnal idea of building a “Brand name” church and having lots of members and lots of resources to build impressive brick and mortar is not the best we can do.
All reasons why a small church group that is not after these things is something I admire.
It seems rare to see ministers who are totally content to have a small flock and be unknown nameless faceless, not writing books or giving seminars or making videos.
The young man has a great start and Arnold could be a blessing there if so inclined…
“You can observe a similar mindset and dynamic in Business and Politics as well.”
The difference is that in business the position calls for leaders and vision casters and if they are a jerk along the way itr does not matter at all.
However, a Christian pastor is not called to be a leader or a vision caster – he is called to be a servant.
So in my opinion if your pastor is the leader and the visionary for your church, he should step down because just by the position he has claimed, he is a jerk.
MLD, well said and agreed.
The reason there is so much energy poured into church vision and vision casting is because we find the biblical mission of the church is too boring or intimidating or culturally irrelevant. The Bibke does a fine job pointing us our calling.
Personally, I recall Chuck sharing his thoughts on church planting: (a) fire a pastor; or (b) Paul and Barnabas = church split = one more new church.
Lastly, unlike most here, I do not get repulsed by the term “Moses model.” I got one for my bar mitzvah and since I did such a good job, I got the glue, paint and paint brushes also. Still have it and keep it in my bookcase next the picture of PC and Captain Steubing from the Love Boat.
Sheck! Hahahaha that is classic Sheckstein.
I’ve learned a lot more about our buddy Jeff. I know how the money was lent to McIntosh by Costa Mecca to then pay to Jeff to buy the radio properties…and was told McIntosh had to essentially pledge his church property and church assets/equipment etc as collateral.
How many tithing/giving member at Costa Mecca or Horizon had a clue about any of this? My guess is zero other than the hand-picked Moses Model boards.
Chuck Smith told me in my “meeting” with him that he never lent money to other Calvary Chapels, they were all so independent etc.
Bob G. had to give it up in his deposition that he did in fact get a loan of money from Costa Mecca.
Chuck Smith sure lied a lot.
It is a puzzle… How do you help in a situation such as I described? The young man’s sincerity was, in my mind, obvious. But, two years out of seminary and trying to plant a church with very little oversight is seldom a formula for success – especially if success is equated with growth.
The point that I was hoping to make in this piece is that which you quoted… “I think that we need to show that we are more concerned about them than we are concerned about ourselves.” This, in my mind, is not merely about church growth or church planting, it is about evangelism and discipling. The concern cannot be about us, it has to be about the people we are trying to reach.
I found your comments insightful…
with very little oversight<<<
Does he have a bishop?
Yes, but he is resident in Ohio and his diocese encompasses five states and a Canadian province…
“The concern cannot be about us, it has to be about the people we are trying to reach.” <—That is the Secret Sauce.
My litmus test is this: Would you "serve Jesus" and others in a Gospel/Jesus context free of charge?
True Servants hearts' would go: "Yup! Not an issue!" and they'd find a way and it wouldn't be about money or fame or buildings etc.
Unfortunately, many pastors and Church Sects are not truly "Servants" they are Career-minded folks and essentially run Social Clubs.
I still assert the Jesus Model is the superior Model to all others I see perpetuated out there in Christian Land.
“Be like Christ!”
Okey dokey. Then do “Church” like he did. Learn from his Example and teachings.
“This, in my mind, is not merely about church growth or church planting, it is about evangelism and discipling. The concern cannot be about us, it has to be about the people we are trying to reach.”
I agree with Dr. Arnold with one caveat. There are certain aspects of church, such as “hospitality”, which definitely should be outward looking, but when it comes to the content of the service, then it has to be about Christ and His Word. Otherwise, he will get shoved to the side in the interest if seeker sensitivity.
Here’s C.S. Lewis’ take on the matter:
“I didn’t go to religion to make me ‘happy.’ I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
“Okey dokey. Then do “Church” like he did. Learn from his Example and teachings.”
OK, but Jesus did a lot of yelling at and whipping folks who didn’t do things his way – sounds like the Jesus Model of doing church may be a little tough for Americans to handle. Also, his preaching style chases away ‘seekers’
Are you sure you want the pastors doing this?
MLD said, “OK, but Jesus did a lot of yelling at and whipping folks who didn’t do things his way”
Yes, he sure did. And who were his only targets of such?
How did he treat EVERYONE else?
I try to be like Jesus. I treat the Money-changers and the Pharisees the way Jesus did.
And, I treat the regular sinners and publicans the way Jesus did.
“Be like Christ!”
OK, now your turn. (directed at the general so-called “Church”)
I have to echo Al with this one… the only people I recall Jesus yelling at were the “religious right” and those trying to make money off of it.
Everyone else, He loved on. Accepted.
But I agree with you on the Jesus model being a little tough for some Americans to handle – mainly some of the pastors and leaders.
““I didn’t go to religion to make me ‘happy.’ I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
Jean, absolutely. Christianity was never meant to be comfortable. Gotta love Lewis for stuff like this…..
“Everyone else, He loved on. Accepted.”
I find many, many cases where Jesus tells the ordinary man that it is his way or the highway. How about the poor guy who had to go check out the ox he bought – or the guy who wanted to bury his dead – he just wanted to put Jesus on hold for a little while.
How about that rich young guy who kept all of Jesus’ commandments – and Jesus would not let him in the kingdom. I am not even going to mention the poor common menand women who refused his invitation to a wedding feast.
None of these were publicans, republicans, pharisees or money changers – just your average Joes having a hard time figuring out the Jesus model.
Ok, fair enough. But your comment was that “Jesus did a lot of yelling at and whipping folks who didn’t do things his way” – so I was responding to that, primarily, when I said “the only people I recall Jesus yelling at were the “religious right” and those trying to make money off of it.”
I can concede the point that not everyone else was accepted, fair enough. But most weren’t yelled at and whipped, either.
Owen – in that same post #81 I also said “Also, his preaching style chases away ‘seekers’”
But mostly my comment was tongue in cheek – in opposition to Al’s account of the warm fuzzie Jesus way of doing church. 😉
I hate to point out this obvious fact, but Jesus did not “minister” to anyone who already was not on board with the God of Israel. They may have had some serious misconceptions and errors, but He did not spend a moment of time “ministering” to any pagans.
The few Gentiles He dealt with already were glorifying the God of Israel when He dealt with them.
Hard to square that reality to the worldwide mission of the Church.
Ah, okay – I’m still getting to know you, figuring out when your tongue is in your cheek, or elsewhere.. 😉
I believe the woman at the well was a Samaritan, if I recall properly…
I just taught on the Gentile woman who literally was following after Jesus and the disciples, crying out for help, and ignored until finally she caught up to Him and worshiped Him. Even then He did not grant her request without calling her, in effect, 2nd class – comparing her to a household dog whereas the Jews were the children of the house.
(I didn’t leave the teaching as blunt as that by the way – but that is the starting point of the text..the facts that took place)
Forgive me, Steve, I’m not quite seeing your point yet…
So, when He did things like sitting and eating with the “sinners” – how were they already glorifying God?
Michael, yes, however I would not equate Samaritans with pagan Gentiles, which was my comment. Samaritans had “serious misconceptions and errors” about the God of Israel.
They weren’t worshiping Jupiter or Diana…
I’m just pointing out that Jesus was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (His words, not mine) and we never read Him going anywhere except within Israel and its outer borders (like the region of Tyre or the Decapolis)
The Church is to go into all the world and preach to every creature.
Why didn’t Jesus get on a boat and take His message to Rome for example, the most influential city in the world?
Why did Paul, on the other hand, write “I must see Rome!”
Different missions…different ministries.
Jesus came to die on the cross for the sins of the world as the Savior of mankind. The ministry of healings and teachings was always secondary to that primary purpose – and done to in effect authenticate that He was indeed the Son of God
Thank you for furthering my education. 🙂
While generally speaking I agree with the value of pastoral leadership exemplified by our Lord, I think the great commission still has to do with all nations… it may have started in Judea, but it was not meant to end there…
So, when He did things like sitting and eating with the “sinners” – how were they already glorifying God?
I said the few Gentiles he dealt with were already glorifying the God of Israel.
Not the Jewish “sinners”….but they were JEWISH sinners.
He didn’t travel to sit and eat with the prostitutes and tax collectors in Ephesus.
Agree on #95
I’m off now…
“I hate to point out this obvious fact, but Jesus did not “minister” to anyone who already was not on board with the God of Israel.”
And you and Greg Laurie are out witnessing to the Atheists and Muslims etc. Riiiiigggghhhhhttttt.
Jesus spent time with the Sinners, the Tax Collectors, the Publicans, the Prostitutes and the dirty stinky “Multitude”. Heck, his entourage was bunch of salty dirty fishermen.
Not buying your angle.
To assert that Jesus and his example and Model and teaching “Is NOT!” relevant to a discussion on “Church” is pretty telling….and actually supports why “church” is such a mess.