Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Deceit and Tragedy of the Wrong Attribution of Success or a Wrong View of Success in Church Leadership, part two

Part One

You've heard that "Americans love a winner."  Sounds good.  Who wants to be a loser?  Capital "L".  Not me.  I'm very competitive.  But what is winning?  That's important to figure out, and when it comes to God and church, most people are getting it wrong.  Of course, the point of the Christian life, of church, isn't winning in the same sense that men think, but you might not know that by the way it is treated.  I say "in the same sense" because we are running for a prize, but not in a way that we are trying to beat everyone to a finish line.  You can't 'bear one another's burdens' and just get there first.

Winning in and with church also dovetails with a man's career.  Striving for success and then succeeding seem to be definitional in manhood, especially in the United States.  It might not be your paycheck, but it is the respect that you get because you've succeeded.  The money might come with it and maybe fame.

I know that God will make the final evaluation of success.  As I project myself into eternity, I know that whatever short term assessment is made by men, the bottom line is what God knows and judges and says.  It is difficult to keep that in the forefront, but it is what all of us should do, who think they are in the work of the Lord.

In part one I introduced a kind of thought experiment to explain why churches get bigger or stay smaller, or never make it -- what those say about the qualifications of the man leading.  I hope that most of the readers believe in the perspecuity of scripture.  God's Word is plain.  There isn't some special recipe for success that only certain men can know.  We have what we need to be a success and to evaluate whether someone is succeeding.

I presented five explanations that I have heard many times for what is judged a lack of success in church work.  I explained the thinking on those five, and then I began to criticize those, ending with the third.  I'm going to continue with that, finishing up some thoughts about that one:  the man is lacking in gifts.  When someone says that a man is lacking in gifts, in my experience he means that he is not a dynamic communicator.  He is not good at persuading people to do things.  Neither might he be skilled at management.  Perhaps he lacks confidence in himself, which manifests itself in regular self-doubt.

Of the five that I mentioned, "lacking in gifts" can be legitimate.  Qualified, Godly men should observe the giftedness necessary to pastor, before laying hands on someone who says he wants to start or lead a church.  It's true that some men cannot teach.  Not everyone will be able to do that in a sufficiently competent manner.  Some men are not meant to lead a church.  That doesn't make them lesser men.  Their gifts are in other places, and their gifts should be used in those ways.

However, very often I don't think this "lacking in gifts" evaluation is related to a biblical idea of gifts.   The thought is that if a man doesn't see his church grow, he's deficient in some way in the way of giftedness for church leadership.   Get big -- he's got what it takes or more of what it takes.   Not get big -- he doesn't have what it takes or he has less of it.  In fact, from my observation, most of the churches that get big, don't get there resulting from what the Bible describes as giftedness.  Many of those churches are led by dynamic communicators.  People may want to come and hear them.  That doesn't mean they are even better preachers, because biblical communication is often different than what these men do.

Fourth, he doesn't know what he's doing.  Everything someone needs to know in order to do God's work, to pastor, to plant a church, is in the Bible.  So an accurate assessment of someone not knowing really means that he doesn't know the Bible or how to apply it.  He also might lack in the discipline to put it into practice, which is perhaps nothing more than not loving God to the extent that he would become disciplined.

"Not knowing what he is doing" isn't "not knowing the Bible" unfortunately, but not knowing how to draw a crowd of people.   What might be the case, perhaps what is occurring, is that he in fact does know how to draw a crowd, but he refuses to use those methods, because he sees them as wrong.  He doesn't use bait and switch.  He doesn't design his services like a variety show.  Maybe he isn't good at comedy, so he won't attract the crowd that wants to come and yuck it up on Sunday.  But I haven't noticed comedy as a qualification, or anything else like that.

Fifth, he's majoring on minors and minoring on majors.

Certain biblical teachings are unpopular.  If a church practices them, the church won't get as big.   Even one of them could effect the numbers.

The idea here is that "people getting saved" is more important than other teachings of the Bible, so in order to see people get saved, you leave out teachings in the Bible that are offensive to the lost.  You might have to give up lesser doctrines for the major ones.  If you want to keep growing and get bigger, you have to allow certain practices or use methods that will discourage people from interest in your church.  It might seem like a bad thing to ignore certain biblical teachings, but you are really just prioritizing the more important doctrines, which in this system is good.

Not only is this not the model for church growth from the New Testament, but the Bible teaches against it.   Nowhere does the Bible even teach us to relegate something God said to secondary status.  A lot of the biggest churches do this though.  They are strong in a few select doctrines and weak on all the others.

These five reasons, explaining why some men are not succeeding, are not the correct explanation for what is happening most of the time.  Next time we'll talk about the problem and the solution. 

More to Come.


Steve Rogers said...

One of your best series so far IMHO. I've been teaching on some of these same wrong ideas of success in a new SS class on evangelism. Look forward to the rest.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Bro.

I think these are important thoughts too. The most significant part is to come, however, probably starting with part three.