16 July 2009

"Under New Management"

It's supposed to really excite you when you see a sign like that outside a hotel or a restaurant that had previously offered dirty sheets, bad food and/or all-around crappy service. How would you feel if a sign like that were hanging in the front of your church next Sunday?

Ok, that's funny. Maybe it needs to happen some places, though.

Grant you, this blog post is really old, but I thought I'd share it with you anyway. It makes sense, I guess, to make sure your pastor or worship leader won't jump ship and take your valuable paying members with him. You know, the ones with jobs who actually tithe.

Friends, since I earn zero wages and have nothing to tithe UPON because my husband doesn't go to church, that would NOT be me. I'd be one of those bad risks that would be discouraged from becoming a "client" of said business. Just imagine. Very little money coming in. An autistic kid in the youth group. One in the elementary school group. One in the nursery. I think we can be honest and state for the record that that's a liability. People like that suck up church resources and give very little, so you're net negative with families like mine. Thankfully no one has said that, but I'm sure if I've thought of it, that I can't be the only one. I have to wonder sometimes if our last church had been hinting for a while that we weren't wanted. I'm not sure. I'd like to give the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, but I also know from bitter past experience that I am slow to take "hints."

So in any event, I'd be the family that the "church" looking only at its bottom line would want to drop. The one *good* thing about that is that you know when people are kind to you, they probably really mean it. One dear mom of a child who has never spoken or walked has told me that true love, real love... you know you have that for a child who will never pay that back to you with a hug or kiss or smile. True love is pouring out when there's no hope of getting back.

But maybe your family is one the competing "church" up the road wants to cultivate as a new member. It's called "church pirates" when they do that.

The Assemblies of God pastor where I used to attend wasn't called a pirate, though. He was called the "trash collector" because he took in all the "trash" from the other churches around. I'll tell you, this church grew so fast you wouldn't believe it. Is it because these are people who were dis-satisfied with their current church and hopped on over? It wasn't all new salvations, you know. What does that say about the people who called our pastor that?

We had a lot of "white trash" attenders, it's true. Their children were some of THE most precious people on earth, and I learned so much from them. And Pastor Ed was absolutely right when he looked out upon the folks in the sanctuary and said, "One man's trash is another man's treasure. And I'm looking at a whole roomful of treasure right now."

The strange thing about the "church pirate" post (if you watch the video) is the pastor is lamenting the "lack of loyalty" to the church. Odd, but I am thinking that we should be glad people are going somewhere rather than watching TV on Sunday morning. Isn't it just like changing car brands, but still driving a car? I don't know.

I'm also thinking that what with my having all these kiddos with special needs, there are some times you have to change churches to have those needs met. We left one place (I think I detailed this) because G kept getting stuck in with the babies, we were considered not as Christian because we didn't homeschool, and the other kids his age got to be with the bigger children. Maybe that's petty. (And looking back, I'd say, yep, homeschooling is better than public school. But when your child is ALREADY behind, things like this are particularly hurtful. Mind you, Patrick could kick the homeschoolers' butts academically, but he wasn't the one excluded from the parties and the big-kid class.)

Did I hurt feelings when I left? Oh, I'm sure I did. My children missed their friends. I can't say I'm sorry for it, though. I look back and wish I had left earlier. I think it would have been easier on everyone.

If you're looking at "the church" as the body of Christ, should it matter if people go elsewhere to get their needs met? I notice when people are gone. I can't say that I'm very sad about it, though. Then again, this could be my outlook on everything and everybody. We moved around a LOT when I was a little kid. Eventually, you figure out that you'll be moving on soon anyway, and not to get too heavily invested in relationships. That's probably the Christian way to be, being pilgrims and all. Sure, have friends. Love one another. But don't get too comfortable thinking it's going to last. You are one fallout, one misunderstanding, one job change away from losing it all.

7 comments:

  1. You know what I can't stand? All the Holier than thou types who go round thinking [& saying behind your back] poor so & so; she has to put up with [insert your own problem here] How dare you pity us! We get to learn things about God's goodness & grace you will never know with an attitude like that! And it's so patronising. And it is incredibly hurtful. And it doesn't *share one another's burdens* the way we are meant to. And then I get snarkey & behave in unChristlike ways too. *sigh* Not easy, this being a Christian lurk.

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  2. From a pastoral perspective I just want to say that it gets really frustrating when people leave a church (not directing this at you--I swear) because they aren't getting their needs met. I don't even mean spiritual needs--people church hop for really stupid reasons. We have always been the first to support people who find what they need spiritually some place else--for that very reason you mention. We are all the body of Christ. But it gets old when it comes down to really petty stuff.

    That being said--I am so glad that you seem to have found a church where you and your children are better supported. I loved your post a few weeks back about one of the ladies who helps with Elf's (?) class. As far as the bottom line business--you should never have to worry about that. Churches shouldn't be keeping score about input or output. I am sure that your family adds to the church in ways you don't even realize.

    Blessings to you!!! Bonnie

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  3. Churches in my town are in different tiers socially. The top level churches in the social food chain are older and established and more like country clubs. We spent four years at one and, even though we have the income to swim with the social sharks, we did not have a sense of belonging. They did not see them as building people up spiritually. Their Bible studies were more like devotionals, and their youth program was basically entertainment with a teeny tiny message. Sunday school was like being in a sitcom: battle between the sexes and competition to see who could come up with the best zinger. They were a church that was all grace and no truth.

    Last winter, we left the church, disgusted at the final straw with their youth program. We purposely avoided the top tier churches because we suspected it would be more of the same. We are now at a church that does not have the wealthiest, most prominent families in town, and we love it! At first, I was concerned about them being legalistic because they do take God's word seriously but that is not the case. It is a nice balance: grace and truth, walking in such a way as to avoid "anything goes" mentality and legalism.

    The oddest thing to me was how offended people in our church would get when you left their church. They have called my husband a couple of times, "Hey, we have a new youth pastor! Changed your mind." They are miffed when he tells them we are very content where we are. I will never go back to their church, and they have no idea why. If I told them, they would not get it.

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  4. We are "in-between churches" right now. We attended the same church for 10 years and then changed to a cell church. Then someone in that church wanted us to leave and so we did.

    I don't particularly care to church hop, but if your needs aren't being met then it is time too. Also the first church we went too welcomes everyone and never, ever mentions the bottom line. The pastor has a paid full-time job. So they just need enough to pay the utilities, etc. We only left because there wasn't a nursery and I never was able to sit through a service and hear the teaching.

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  5. I really like this definition of why Churches exist: The purpose of church is to equip the saints for ministry.

    And it is an excellent place to practice ministry too before you step out and try to do it elsewhere.

    ~Luke

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  6. Ganeida, I have BTDT. It would be nice for struggles to be acknowledged in a non-patronizing way.

    Bonnie, I think sometimes it is also because we might define "church" differently. If you're just looking for a place to hang out and "fellowship" (sorry!), you're going to jump ship for the next place with the better program or more dynamic speaker, etc. or where your friends are going.

    Anonymous, I've heard of these "tiers" from various other folks. And if I were to mention "this" church, I'd hear that that's where the rich people go. Or "that" church is where the black folks go.

    What is sad is that it is true. BUT there is a history behind it. Actually, the "black" church was here first, and so it gets to be called "First Baptist Church." When the white people wanted to go to a Baptist church, do you think they settled in under a black pastor?

    Nope.

    "Second Baptist" is a few blocks away. It is still segregated, but no one (of course!) would tell a white person wandering into First Baptist that he is unwelcome or vice-versa. I think we segregate ourselves, and I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable busting into First Baptist... maybe it is just me, but I would feel like an intruder. That's "their" space, and I don't belong.

    Maybe it is wrong of me to feel that way, or maybe that's a way that we practically respect the boundaries of others without speaking of the boundaries. We worship the same God! :]

    Zimms, I positively loathe church shopping. You HAVE to go with a critical spirit and evaluate every stupid word spoken at the new church for a while. Not that I don't listen and evaluate for myself anyway... but... you know what I'm saying. You don't want to wake up three years from now and realize you're suddenly a Mormon. :]

    Luke, I like that definition. I think that serving in a church can be a very important ministry. Honestly, it is the only time Elf and Emperor can see other children, and I know that they are not easy little Sunday Schoolers sometimes. :p

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  7. I agree with Bonnie. I've seen people leave because there was not as many "programs" to get involved with. We have kids with special needs in our church and you know what? They're just as precious as the doctor in the church who hugely tithes. My pastor emphasizes on that. He's talked about it on the pulpit. Every single person is precious whether they are a huge tither or none at all. He says anyone who would try to take someone down for a cause like that, their "tribe" should decrease. I love the atmoshere in our church. We don't have a lot of programs, but we are all there for the same reason. To hear from God.

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Non-troll comments always welcome! :)