April 2, 2014 § Leave a comment
This is a just a friendly note to let you know I’m blogging at a new site: micahpattisall.com
If you’ve been following here and didn’t get moved to the new site, please take a minute to subscribe there.
March 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
New post up at new site: Jesus | Shepherd, not CEO.
March 7, 2014 § Leave a comment
I wanted to let you know I’m moving the blog to a hosted WordPress site. Hopefully it will be seamless. If you are an email subscriber, you should be moved soon. I’m not exactly sure, but you may have to reconfirm that you want the emails. I hope you’ll make the jump.
Thanks for reading.
March 6, 2014 § 4 Comments
das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten
Legend, has it, or at least some random dude on Wikipedia, that this 16th century German phrase is the basis of our saying about babies and bathwater. Empty out the bathing-tub, but not the baby with it. I want to follow this axiom when addressing problems in the church. Not all churches, pastors or leaders are entrenched in the Church Industry.
Many faithful folk are working hard to bring God glory in their respective local assemblies. It would be wrong of me to imply that the sky is falling. I would also be remiss to avoid the fact that somewhere between 63% & 83% of the US doesn’t attend a weekend service, many of whom grew up in the church. They said goodbye for a reason.
How do we strike a balance? What is the purpose of the Church? What is the countenance of a local faith community? What is the Church Industry? How does it differ from a spiritual fellowship?
I would be doing you a disservice to come up with my own statement for purpose of the church. There are Disney length lines of fantastic writers who have defined Christ’s body over the years. Here’s a great description.
The Church is not a theological classroom. It is a conversion, confession, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness, and sanctification center, where flawed people place their trust in Christ, gather to know and love him better, and learn to love others as he has designed. The church is messy and inefficient, but it is God’s wonderful mess – the place where he radically transforms hearts and lives.
Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands – Paul David Tripp
Among all of the global expressions of Christian “church”, one thing is indisputable. Church exists as a result of the intersection of the spiritual and the physical. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Christ in us, the hope of glory.
Of the few prescriptive guidelines we do have relating to church structure, all seem to emphasize spiritual development. Personal faith strengthened in the church family, and exemplified in the community at large. The Bible, God’s voice to humanity, devotes most of its content to this spiritual nexus. God and People. Justification, Adoption, Sanctification: all relational terms*. Subsequently, this connection to God extends to relational interaction with others. Spiritual existence occurs in relationship.
This is of the utmost importance when assessing the modern church. God’s historical context for dealing with people is relationship. The church was designed for spiritual growth and community. The faith communities we must build, join and embrace should invest all of their time and energy creating relationship-focused ministries. Relationships are THE context for transformation.
In contrast, anything or anyone within a religious context – church, leader, conference, author, parachurch ministry – that hinders, jeopardizes, or fails to strengthen spiritual relationships and community runs counter to a biblical-historical paradigm.
Enter stage left – The Church Industry. CI leaders elevate the organization, structure, leadership authority, and programmatic religious activity above the relational context for spiritual growth. In other words, the CI’s purpose is the church proper, the entity. Not the people that actually comprise the church. It’s like a machine. CI leaders consider the machine the most important part of the production process. Unfortunately, sometimes people get crushed in the machinery. I guess you’ve gotta break some eggs to make an omelet, or so I’ve heard.
Therefore, my work in progress, technical definition of the Church Industry is:
Commercialization and enterprise management of a local church through an aggregate of traditions, interests and activities which assign greater value to self-promotion, self-empowerment, and self-preservation than the individuals in a local church, and the historical creeds of the universal church.
What would your definition of church industry look like?
Next steps. What CI Leadership looks like. After that, what church leadership should look like.
Simple but not easy.
* Summary of one of Tripp’s concepts.
February 28, 2014 § 3 Comments
Ah, the church industry. Like all power structures, it has its institutional defenders. The soldiers at the gate. The sentries in the yard. The inner Praetorian guard. Even the court jester will take up arms when the castle is under siege. Talking about problems in the church riles people up. I’m not referring to petty rumblings about sermon length, sound levels, or the color of the carpet in the office. I’m talking about serious issues like intimidation, hypocrisy, poor financial oversight and misleading the congregation.
You can disagree, or offer a different point of view, but you better have evidence. Too many people are being shattered by the Church Industry and its leaders. I’ve escaped the industry. I was on the inside. I saw the whole operation. Please don’t bother trying to shout me down simply because you don’t like what you hear.
When someone raises a hand and asks a question, the CI cranks up its spin machine. “That’s mean” or “Who are you to judge?” or “We should love everyone” or “Nobody’s perfect.” Those types of phrases are ingrained cultural gobbledygook. “Turn the other cheek” or “Love your enemies” or “He who is without sin”. Ripped from their context, these phrases are eddies in a pool of nonsensical gibberish; an amalgamation of bible words and psychobabble.
- It’s not mean to call out abuse. A pastor who takes advantage of his congregation is wrong.
- It’s not judgmental to use common sense and watch someone’s behavior as evidence of their motives. If you punch your wife in the face, you’re an abusive jerk who needs to spend time in jail.
- It’s not unloving to correct problems. Parents who love their children correct them. It’s for their own good.
- Of course, nobody is perfect, but that argument is a cop out. On the count of Felony Larceny, how does the defendant plead? Your honor, my client pleads not guilty on account of Nobody’s Perfect. Uh, and the Prosecutor is mean. Very mean. A real mean meanie. She says she can prove my client is guilty. Who is she to judge?
Why are people so afraid of drawing lines? Right is right. Wrong is wrong. Facts are facts. Some people seem to live in a shapeless amoeba-like state of perpetual nuance. The church industry embraces this sand loam foundation mentality. It’s apparently one of their core values. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Some CI defenders try a slightly different tact, dusted with enough bible fairy dust to make it sound religious. Here are some examples.
- “You’ve spoken your mind. Please go away.”
- “You’re sowing discord and dissension in the body of Christ.”
- “You’re gossiping.”
- “You’re so angry and bitter.”
- “Pointing out problems is destructive.”
- “Tone down your rhetoric.”
- “You’ve just gone about this the wrong way.”
- “Every church has flaws.”
- “God is at work in our problems.”
- “I don’t like your personal agenda.”
- “Why not concentrate on what you’re doing now?”
- “Why bring these things back to the surface? It’s not helpful to the unity of the church.”
- “Why not let God sort out his church?”
Let’s take a closer look at these comments. What do they all have in common? They do not address the substance of the problem, complaint, accusation, concern, recommendation or insight. They are passive aggressive defenses. They deflect. Instead of dealing with the issue, the messenger becomes the issue. The issue is too scary, or too close to home, or rocks the boat too much. It’s easier to throw darts at the person bringing a matter to light, than to actually deal with the truth.
The kingdom of heaven is near you. Jesus, Jesus, your disciples didn’t wash their hands before they ate. I am the way, the truth and the life. Jesus, Jesus, your disciples aren’t fasting properly. Build your house on a firm foundation. Jesus, Jesus, you’re casting out demons because you’re from the devil. The religious establishment tends to focus on ancillary details to avoid dealing with the truths in front of them.
Let’s go deeper. These defense mechanisms, usually employed by those surrounding contaminated trees, are designed to control others. It is groupthink. It’s also referred to as milieu, or environmental control. Inside the industry, no one is to be critical of anything said or done by the leadership. Criticism is considered an attack on the leader(s). Doesn’t matter if it’s thoughtful, constructive or beneficial. It’s criticism of the leader(s), and it will not be tolerated. When someone does leave the industry, all attempts are made to silence them.
Note the goal: Silence. Not: Maybe we should explore what this vested leader just brought to our attention. Nope. Just keep the critics silent. Critics of an industry leader will often be labeled as a part of “Satan’s Attack.” It’s a standard third and long play for desperate religious managers. Dissenters are the devil. Rally the troops. Pastor’s been attacked. Tell them Satan is trying to destroy the unity of our church. That’s an easy one for the defenders. Home team versus Lucifer.
Can’t imagine this happening in a church? I’ve personally seen this method employed. A vested church staff member pointed out some flaws in the church’s leadership, and suddenly he was BFF’s with the Angel of Darkness. Cue up AC/DC. It happened. It’s still happening.
CI Insider Tip: When a pastor speaks of “unity” as it relates to criticism or questions, what he really means is control. Do not question the leader and we’ll all be unified.
These are some of the ways institutional defenders surround contaminated trees, and cover up problems with gelatin-spined, silence-the-haters accusations. I thought that groundwork needed to be laid prior to moving forward.
Simple but not easy.
February 27, 2014 § 15 Comments
Jesus once warned his followers that a diseased tree cannot produce good fruit. He referred specifically to religious leaders who appeared to be one thing, but were another. I know some of you who read this blog don’t share my faith in Jesus Christ. However, one thing we can agree on, is that Jesus had nothing but harsh words for the religious hypocrites of his day. Whether it was public lengthy prayers, holding standards for others that were not self-imposed, or granting themselves and their teaching godlike authority, Jesus did not mince words. He challenged. He embarrassed. He destroyed their arguments. Jesus never read any of Dale Carnegie’s writings apparently.
Donald Miller caused no little churn in the evangelical ecosystem with a blog explaining why he doesn’t attend traditional church all that often. See it here. When he received blowback from the Church Industry crowd (which I’ll refer to as CI), he followed up with a classic exposition on why people leave the church. Read it here.
Definitely ten years ago, and most likely five years ago, I would have probably joined the CI chorus announcing Miller’s comments as misguided. How dare he not submit to the authority of the church? This is not about him. It’s about God. Huffing and puffing like an overweight school principal venting to his secretary about a ninth grader’s behavior. I’m not planning to interact with his statements. He stands for himself. Yet he is not alone in his approach to church. He wrote a phrase that resonated with me.
Reading the comments from Monday’s blog let me know how far my personal spiritual journey has taken me from modern evangelicalism. Theologically, I find myself in the evangelical camp in many ways, but as for the “one way to do life and church” I’ve gone a different path.
What I want you to see, especially those of you — who, like me, grew up in church, and cannot imagine life outside of a local assembly — is that much of what we call “church” could be more accurately described as an industry. And that is the church to which so many are saying goodbye. And for good reason.
Back to Jesus’s words. When he came on the scene, the religious leaders were part of a centuries old religious establishment. Israel, a nation founded in theocracy, was led by priests and religious orders who interpreted the law, and were THE authorities. Jesus rattled their little cage because he chose not play in their playground. Yet, he spoke plain truth into their world with real authority. And they hated him for it. It wasn’t their truth. It wasn’t their traditions.
The people were amazed because Jesus taught with authority, unlike their scribes and rabbis. The establishment recognized they couldn’t win the debate on substantive argument. With their authority shaken, they shifted their attention to silly trick questions and accusations of rule violations. Your followers don’t wash their hands. What’s the greatest commandment? Why do you hang out with losers? You can’t heal on Sabbath, mister. This day is much more important than that guy’s deformed hand. For the religious establishment, truth didn’t matter. What was important was their playground rules, and their pecking order of authority. Their stubbornness angered Jesus.
One consistent thread from 30 AD to today, is that when you speak out against the CI establishment, and/or the leaders in this industry, you’ll see a lot of forehead veins protruding. (Check out many of the responses to Miller’s blog.) To explore this is to rattle the cage of the industry managers. They’ll whip themselves and their minions into a Piranha frenzy.
Over the next few weeks, I want to explain what I’ve seen in the church industry. I’ll detail the evidence of contaminated trees. That is, the religious leaders in the industry who benefit personally by packaging a version of the gospel as a product, but do not abide by the gospel they proclaim. A great Old Testament prophet once found himself depressed and isolated. He baked a cake and hung streamers for his backwoods pity party. He was prepping pin the tail on the donkey when God showed him that he wasn’t alone. (I think Elijah still played the game. I don’t think his donkey liked it.) My point is that you aren’t alone. There are healthy trees, and communities that are doing things well. Jesus hasn’t written off his body.
Why write about it? The broader church is served by addressing its problems and dirty little secrets. Jesus is the light of life, and by bringing problems, sins and abuse to light it offers guidance, hope, protection, and escape for those who have suffered, or are suffering under the weight of the church industry. I also hope that some of those deluded by the smoke and mirrors of the industry may see an escape route. I hope you’ll join me as we explore.
Simple but not easy.