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09 November 2007

Busyness Revisited

I've had a surprising number of people let me know that they were disappointed that I removed the posts about the church being a rather busy place. I have given them my reasoning, and I would remove them again under the same circumstances, but the posts sparked such interest that I believe I may have been onto something that's important to a lot of people (go figure).

So I'll restart (or "RESET," for those who remember the posts) that idea with a much more benign and hopefully delicate tone. I invite your comments -- that was one of the things that many readers were the most interested in. (Hey... that means they were more interested in other people's thoughts than mine! Ah, well. Being put in one's place is nearly always a good thing.)

Let me point out a couple of areas of folly in the original post(s):

- I unintentionally worded the post so that it seemed that I was intent on my own church fellowship implementing a "stop all programs" ... ah... program. That was not my intention. I was presenting thoughts, opinions, and "what if" scenarios. "All-stop" is really a very radical idea, and that may have hit the most nerves.

- Simply because I may not receive a response to a request for help via my church's e-mail distribution list does not necessarily mean that the recipients are too busy. I essentially painted this as an established fact, and it is not supportable as such.

- Some may have gotten the impression, although I don't think that it was ever implied, that I believe being busy is, in general, a bad thing. I do not espouse that view at all.

- I invite discussion and comments, but I do not want this post to be divisive in any way. I reserve the right to remove comments that may potentially lean that direction.

- I'm not suggesting here, nor was I in the previous posts, that any particular church-sponsored activity or program is of lesser import (or even export!) than another.

Hopefully those items will help clarify how to take this post and how not to take it.

Sheesh. Now I've almost forgotten what I was going to say. Let's see...

Something that Bill Fowler mentioned in a post to which I referred yesterday, though on a different topic, impacts this discussion. Regarding a typical day at Sunday services, he writes, "The fact is, I saw people going through the motions because I was the one going through the motions. I was seeing what I wanted to see apparently." Similarly, when I get too busy in ministry work, it's easy to assume that others are feeling the same way, when in fact it is quite possible that they are not. I hope that I'm not quite that myopic, but I'll grant that it's a possibility.

I don't ask this from a church leader's standpoint, but rather from a layperson's: how would we know if our particular church fellowship was too busy? What would the warning signs be? Or is that a lopsided question (i.e., does the word "warning" automatically assign negativity to the act of being busy)?

I've looked at a number of different denominations over the past few days where this subject is concerned, and I've found that we Baptists are not alone in tending to crank out high volumes of programs and ministries and instructional classes. It almost sounds like an epidemic that has been recognized for some time -- decades, in fact -- but little has been done to correct it (assuming it needs correction) because it seems that we assume that the Church will be less effective in spreading the Gospel if we ratchet the activity-o-meter down.

The idea of scaling back our level of activity should not assign value, or a lack of it, to any particular area. In the past I've had to make fairly comprehensive lists of the various programs and activities that my own church fellowship offers. I've thankfully seen that the purpose of each one, in every single instance, is solid and Biblical.

Does that alone -- a Scriptural and noble purpose -- mean that a given ministry, activity, or class should be started? As was asked in the comments days ago (and here I play devil's advocate), who decides what activities should be begun? And if scaling back is determined to be a valid direction for a church, who would decide which ministries should be scaled back first?

There. Six questions (or five, depending upon how you answer the second one). Reread this post if you need to pick 'em out, but don't feel like you have to address each one. I am interested in knowing the heart of the Church on this subject. While my readership is not quite that broad (I might miss one or two people in Kyrgyzstan or something), this is a great place to start.

(This graphic was something I came up with in what I thought to be one of my more inspired -- and goofy -- moments when I was brainstorming for church slogans some time ago.)

13 comments:

Leroy said...

Dean said..."And if scaling back is determined to be a valid direction for a church, who would decide which ministries should be scaled back first?"

Well DUH!! Form a committee!! Sorry, just couldn't resist.

List the ministries/programs/activities on a sheet of paper, ask the MEMBERS of the church to evaluate each one (rank them if you will) and their reasoning for the ranking. Oh, and have them sign it, no anonymous submissions.

Preston said...

Dean

This all reminds me of an acronym I heard years ago:

B-eing
U-nder
S-atan's
Y-oke

I think this really fits the church today. We have allowed the enemy (yes - the devil) to so preoccupy the church from doing what it was truly intended to do:

Mat 28:18-20 Then Jesus came up and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, as you go, disciple all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you each and every day until the end of the age."

A great filter for determing if a "program" is valid or not is to see if it meets up with the requirement Christ left behind for his church and disciples. If it doesn't 1. preach the gospel or 2. save people from their sins 3. TEACH people how to obey God's commands, well that pretty much sums it up. Granted we are also instructed to take care of the orphans and widows, but preaching the gospel is of high priority.

I can't speak for your church specifically, but it seems many churches in this area are more interested in "entertaining" their attendees rather than saving the lost and raising up spiritually mature Christians. I'll pray for your success in this endeavor - but realize you'll probably meet much resistance. Keep up the good fight!

Tony M said...

Preston, which translation is that you have listed for Matthew? My dad had mentioned to me that the phrase "Go ye therefore" (that's the King James, and most translations are similar) is really the participle form and should be translated "Going" or (as you have listed) "As you go" - the command being to disciple, baptize, and teach, and to do that wherever you are/happen to be (the command isn't to "go" as the translations such as King James imply). Just curious.

Satan uses many tools (any available tool?) to distract Christians from doing the "real work of God" - busyness is definitely one of them. Not that a "busy church program" isn't doing God's work (as Dean definitely stated in his post), but it can be used as a distraction and/or to tire out the members of the body who are doing that work.

I like Leroy's idea of listing the programs/ministries and having the congregation rank them. That being said, the church leadership is there for a reason... to make the hard decisions, right? Who ultimately makes the call? Probably God, through prayer and communication with His people in the church (and in the church leadership). At least, I hope that's the case... :)

Tony M said...

By the way, on a slightly unrelated note, have you ever wondered, really, why Satan attacks Christians and the church? I personally don't think that Satan really cares about us at all. That is, I don't think Satan tries to hurt us just to hurt us. I think his ultimate motive is to hurt God, and we are the tool that he uses to do that. If he can cause one of God's children to do something that causes grief to God (would that be "caused" since Jesus paid the price once and for all for our sin?), or causes more of humanity to turn away from God, he does it - that is the purpose of Satan's attacks on Christians and the church. Not (I think) to hurt Christians, but ultimately and primarily to hurt God.

Just thought I'd throw that out there... feel free to shoot all kinds of holes in my theory...

Preston said...

Tony - I think I used the NASB translation for that quote from Matt.

As for Satan,I think he does what he does because he wants to BE God! He lies and deceives people so they will do the one thing he loves - worship anything or anybody other than God.

Tony M said...

True enough, he wants to be God. That's what got him in trouble in the first place. But he's not dumb; he knows his end. I think he works in the meantime trying to do as much to cause pain to God as he can, especially now, knowing how short his time is...

As for the translation... the NASB (according to Biblegateway.com says "Go therefore..." - I tried all their English versions and never quite got the one you posted (the Young's Literal was closer, but not quite it). So, I don't think it was NASB, but then again, maybe it's an earlier version (?) of NASB? Anyway, if you have a link to it, that would be great! Thanks.

Tony M said...

Ok, I did a search... looks like your translation is "ISV" (see this pdf). Info on ISV is here.

Preston said...

Yep - indeed ISV. I use a software known as e-sword and I just pulled the first one that came up. Normally I use NASB. Sorry for any confusion. :)

Tony M said...

Thanks for the implied recommendation for e-sword - think I'll download that and a zillion free bibles and commentaries to go with it... :)

Sorry for hijacking your blog, Dean... but now we're getting back to the subject - I'm going to be really "busy" comparing all the various translations locally on my PC instead of on the BibleGateway.com site...

Dean Lusk said...

No hijacking felt here! I'm about to watch a movie with my wife, so I won't chime in on stuff at this point, though the comments are good.

E-Sword is fantastic, by the way. The KJV, in particular, is very cool. Built-in Greek and Hebrew dictionaries -- mouse over an English word and you can immediately see the Greek/Hebrew, see notes on its similar uses, etc.

And much, much more. As many features as some of the rather expensive Bible software I've seen.

Anonymous said...

test to see if it works before i take the time again to write a 4 page repsonse...

Anonymous said...

Hey all
Dean I apprecaite your willingness to put yourself out there for others to examine the state of "the church."

If we are to take a good look at our culture, it is busy. Busy at getting fast food, busy at leaving late and getting to work, busy at 'life.' We know that our lives even as christains are busy. We seem to at many times be at our wits ends because we are in such a time crunch...Why because, we try to cram too much into our lives.

Even if we dont have families we have work, church, friends, activities, and so on. And if we do have families add about another 10-20 hours on the week for pracitices, school funtions, games and it can be countless. We have stopped learning what it is like to just relax and listen to life. We are afraid that "LIFE" will pass us by.

Now as pastors, is it responsible for us to try to cram the already busy week,(your choice, not ours) to make it even busier? Does God want us to make sure there are 3 services, 3 prayer meetings, 2 visitation times, bible studies, recreational activities at the church just so someone has something else to do?

I find it hard to believe that God wants us to make it even harder for you to choose. I think He has called us to disciple. We have lost the art of "making disciples" for "making ministry happen." God is a jealous God, He demands and desires our attentiona and our time...We as pastors need to help people draw their attention to Him rather than drawing it away from Him for good ativities, or programs, that declares His name.

The Church (not just Wall highway) has got to stopped adding "more." A little "more" is still "more."

There are a lot of very good programs that we could add to the church. And people will come and get saved, and plug in. We may even continue to see growth. But the "more" we do the "more" our staff, volunteers, and programs get wore out.

God called us to make disciples, not have the best youth program, or upwards basketball, Awanas, small greetings or etc. Yes all of them could change lives, but how much more effective could 'we' (the church not wall highway) be if we got more simple and focused on discipling others through Gods word. Yes we still need programs to make that happen, but not every program. We need to pick and choose the appropriate vision/purpose for each of ourchurches.

Programs can and are a great tool. But that is all they should be a "tool." If we have too many tools to choose from, we may not get a lot occomplished because we are always searching for the "right" tool.

Tom Parker

Dean Lusk said...

Thanks! Tom is the youth pastor at my church, and I want to note that he's not aiming at a particular church or even a particular program with his comments. Some of the programs he noted are ones that he facilitates himself.

One of the purposes of this blog is to allow and to help us as the church to take a step back and have a look at ourselves. It is a place for the exchange of ideas on
"church culture," some that may or may not be agreed upon by everyone.

I do appreciate all the insights and thoughts!

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